Loser’s Club

LOSER’S CLUB: Or, Eşşek Var


ERNIE: Bad dog, dirt bird, vagabond.

ANNA: Hunter-of-donkeys and wind-seeker.

RACHEL: German for Revenge.

PHILLIP: German by birth.

KANYE WEST: Kanye West.

SETTING: The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Kuzey Kibris Turk Cumhuriyeti)

“You want to go to fucking KARPAZ??!” the man shouted at us from the bus. He looked like he’d been traveling through Nepal for ten years and had only now arrived back into civilization. The wind howled above our heads. “You have to drive…all day! All day to get there! Only the fucking DONkeys live there!!” It sounded like he was shouting about Vietnam. The other bus passengers were staring.

“Yes, we are trying to find the donkeys,” I said.

“You cannot! You have to go…you have to go to Famagusta! And then take a BUS!” Spittle flew from the guy’s mouth. “There is no public transportation to Karpaz. No one lives there. No one goes there. Fucking KARPAZ!” He pulled the folding bus doors closed. We were outside at the bus stop. After a few more minutes of searching, a different bus driver agreed to take us 3 km outside of town, to a village along his route.

The Karpaz Peninsula is a hundred kilometer long spit of land ejecting into the mediterranean from mainland cyprus. On the tip, there is a wilderness preserve with genuine Cypriot Yaban Eşşekler: wild donkeys. The donkeys are the size of large dogs. We were in Cyprus to see the donkeys. And for Beach Time. Anna and I wanted to get out of Istanbul for election day, and had convinced Phillip to come join us. Rachel was on her way back to the states from a volunteer program in Italy, and agreed to come with us as well. Rachel was pining for her Italian boyfriend whom she’d left behind, and Phillip had just broken up entirely with his. Anna had just gotten fired. Everyone was looking for no-frills escapism. Donkeys and beach time are absolutely good enough reasons to leave the country.

The previous day we’d landed and gone straight to the beach—our bus took us from the Ercan International Airport to Magusa (or Famagusta, depending on whether you ask the Greeks or the Turks). We had no idea where we were or where we were going, other than the name of the town. we rolled through flat scabby green fields, and listened to turkish pop. (one song which stuck out was a woman bellowing SEN AAAAAAAAŞŞŞŞŞŞŞŞŞŞŞK!! in every line of every chorus.) Our first impression of the town of Famagusta was an ornate and vaguely Indic monument to Ataturk protruding from the middle of a roundabout. The roundabout was bordered by the minibus station, a walled castle, and a two-floor mini mall.

We went to the top floor of the mini mall and got the best gozleme I’ve ever had—sour, salty cheese tucked in pastry, with fresher vegetables than I’d had in Turkey. It was sunny and hot. The tablecloth was a clear vinyl with pink flower prints, and a dirty ruffled pink cloth edge, and it will haunt me forever. Phillip spoke to the women who ran the place, and learned that Famagusta had been a Crusader outpost, and several Christian kings had ruled here and left their fortresses and churches behind. After breakfast, we strolled across a dry moat into the walled city, which turned out to be a struggling shopping core. Old ladies sold floppy hats and jacked CDs along the cobblestone street. Beyond the pale commerical lining of its single boulevard, the city flatlined into featureless white buildings.

We made it to the beach (and accidentally encountered a falling-down red brick monastery on the way) and acted like children. Anna and I crawled across the sand to the water as giant turtles. The beach was pretty empty–only a few other turkish families and one British one were reclining under the umbrellas.  More than half the beach was fenced off–by falling down scraps of barbed wire and green canvas–and we could see a glittering stretch of sand behind it, presided over by empty buildings. We slowly realized that all of the resorts behind us were empty. A ghost city. It was eerie.

After beach time, we took a minibus to Girne, on the northern coast, as there was supposed to be a neat city there where we could stay the night. We had all planned on sleeping outside, since it was actually warm here, compared to Istanbul’s miserable April. On our drive into the city we kept spotting half-finished concrete buildings and saying, “yes, we can sleep there no problem.” HOWever, it was super windy, super super windy, and when we arrived it was no longer warm. We got off the bus–

{a note about Cyprus: No public transport developed because a lot of rich people live there, and they all own cars, so the existing buses are all forty years old and look like they belong in cuba. They are colorful majestic wagons with big triangles on the doors and windows, which makes me believe the illuminati run the entire island.}

–we got off the bus at a beautiful town set at the foot of a mountain range next to the sea. Curiously, most of the town was abandoned concrete construction sites. Having no idea on where to stay, nor where to go, nor even really an idea of where we were, we found a sign pointing for

“LOSER’S CLUB –> 159 steps”

We followed it to a bar set in a gravel alleyway. The owner spoke fluent english and said he’d been unconsciously collecting decor for the bar for 14 years. He’d been a college professor, but his real dream was to open a bar.

“What are all these words on the wall?” Anna asked.

“It’s from the movie!” the owner said, and pointed to a movie poster in the corner. “Loser’s club!” And he went behind the bar and grabbed a stack of burned dvds and gave us one. “It’s a pirated copy. This is a pirate island, don’t you know?” and he laughed. It was his favorite movie. We promised to watch it as soon as we got the chance.

The bartender saw us looking lost, and she invited us to stay at her flat within four seconds of meeting her. She drove us there and said to eat or drink whatever, and to shower, and then come back to Loser’s club. We listened to more Kanye and returned. The owner was being social, and invited us into a separate den in the bar, where about 12 cypriot girls were talking about cypriot things. One of them told me that in cypriot turkish, “napang” is “what’s up,” which was an exciting language discovery. We were in there, making awkward conversation for like half an hour (the owner had vanished) when the waitress came by, and said, “There are lots of open spaces at the bar, if you want to sit down now.” I thought to myself, we are sitting down? Wait, what–

And then one of the plumper Cypriot girls said “BYEEEEEEEE!!!” with a big fake sarcasm smile. We left, ruffled and upset. She I guess had asked the waitress to ask us to move, instead of asking for some time alone with her friends. It was then I reached my conclusion: Turkish culture, as an aggregate, behaves with the logic of middle-schoolers. We went to the bartender’s flat and slept luxuriously. (at least she was nice.) It was this night we found the trip’s soundtrack: Bound 2 and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, both by Kanye West. We replaced many of the words with “dog,” “bark,” or “donkey.”

The next morning, we left at about ten (or maybe eleven—the local elections were happening at the same time as Daylight Savings, and Erdogan had decided to delay the clock’s progression for a day, and it was unclear as to whether northern cyprus was on the same schedule.)  That was the day we had set aside for Donkey Quest. We played games with the bakery owner’s four year old and drank nescafe. We left, and found the bus station, which is where we met the aforementioned Karpaz Guy, yelling about the Cypriot peninsula as if it were ‘Nam.

We consulted maps on iPhones, and got a local bus up to a “village,” which was a place for rich people to vacation in nice houses. We found a fancy restaurant in between vineyards, and the owner spoke german. He and Phillip had a reserved and friendly conversation, and the owner gave us lunch materials: bread, cheese, tomato, and the best most glorious red pepper I’ve ever had. They were sweet, rich, and crunchy. We ate everything sitting down by the side of the road.

The rest of the afternoon was spent hitchiking up to Karpaz.  We never made it. We only saw fields of waving wheat and a withered tree. We walked along a path from one highway to its brother, and along the way, bought giant circular pretzels from a village baker. We met a baby goat on their porch. No donkeys. We gave up next to a stack of stones by the side of the road, and waited for a ride back to the capital.

A brother and his two sisters picked us up, and all seven of us crammed into the car. They gave us fresh Cypriot Lahmacun their mom had baked an hour ago. It remains the best lahmacun I’ve tasted. Puffy, tangy flatbread with spicy ground meat and greens on top. On the road back, I caught a glimpse of a herdette of three horsey animals–donkeys? Maybe? I pointed them out, but by the time the others had turned, they were gone.

They dropped us off in Nicosia, (or Lefkosa, depending on whether you ask the Greeks or the Turks.)  Unable to get a couchsurfer, we pooled our funds and got a cheap hotel room at Hotel Gold. We finished the last of our duty free rum. Phillip went off to the hamams to get lucky. Anna wasn’t feeling well, so she went to sleep, and Rachel and I wandered outside of the city walls and played in a rusty playground and got a waffle with ice cream. At a Lokanta near our hotel, we saw Phillip, who had not gotten lucky at all, and we all went back to Hotel gold, where there were no donkeys, and where we would await the morning of shuttling ourselves to the airport yet again. We’d gone to a loser’s beach and went on a loser’s quest. We were all losers. It was a wonderful trip.

We watched the movie a few nights later. It was about old men trying to be young on their late-night radio talk show. It was terrible.

  1. this was so bad i just wasted so much of my time reading about you wasting your and your friends time how dumb

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