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While I wasn't sleeping

ALANYA, Turkey - I've taken to waking up early here, much to my regret. Nights in Alanya aren't as peaceful as they once were, and I could use the extra sleep.

Every night, apparently, is Akon night at the discos along the beach, and "Smack That" doesn't stop playing until about three in the morning. Every week there's a fresh batch of German tourists looking for a cheap but exotic "Oriental" experience. After a day at the beach, they slake their thirst in truly authentic fashion at the Havana Club, the Robin Hood Bar and the James Dean.

Just after I finally nod off, a Whitney Houston techno remix still bouncing through my brain, the dawn call to prayer comes on. The muezzin's pre-recorded, throaty voice crackles over the loudspeakers of each mosque in the city in concert, at once bracing and calming.

At this point, around 5:30 a.m., I generally have two thoughts. One: I can't imagine leaving this strange but delightful city, let alone leaving Turkey. Two: I wish I were asleep right now. I wonder if today, my last day in Alanya, I'll finally manage to sleep in.

Nope. I make it till 7:12 a.m.

I grumpily get up and go for a run. My morning surliness dissipates as I follow my usual route. Down the hill, past the neighbor's heady-smelling orange trees, past the fig trees and the olives. Past the 24-hour market that somehow never opens before eight, past the kids waiting for the school bus in their cheery Duke-blue uniforms.

I run by the centuries-old Seljuk tower and past the Red Tower Brewery named after it. As I traverse the boardwalk between the discos and the Mediterranean, men ready their boats for another day on the sea. Some men fish; others, with boats like the Black Pearl II or the Buyuk Baba (Big Daddy), captain tourist booze cruises. They'll probably play "Smack That." I sure hope so.

There aren't many tourists out yet, but the boardwalk is hardly deserted. The simit vendors sell their rings of sesame-coated bread. Middle-aged women, some in headscarves and nearly all in tracksuits, stroll arm-in-arm to one of Alanya's exercise parks, the bizarre and colorful adult playgrounds filled with fitness equipment. A silver-haired and flabby male tourist struts by in short white shorts my high school dress code would have forbidden.

I look away, but it's too late; his image is burned into my retinas. I overcome my gag reflex, turn around and return to my apartment for the last time.

I've been studying in Alanya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast for four months now. The Alanya I first came to, however, is not the Alanya I will leave tomorrow. February's silent nights and shuttered windows have by May given way to bright new restaurant facades, ice cream shops and, of course, "Smack That." Block upon block of once-empty apartments are gradually filling with seasonal tourism workers; by midsummer this group will double Alanya's population.

This metamorphosis that has so bemused me must be still more surreal for Alanya natives, who just two decades ago lived in a small agricultural village. This town, with its omnipresent German and English signage, bears little resemblance to either Turkey's cosmopolitan capital or its poor southeast. Alanya, Istanbul and distant Sanliurfa do share one trait, however-change.

I arrived in Turkey in the wake of the murder of a prominent ethnically Armenian journalist, whose killing by an ultranationalist youth horrified the international community and sparked huge mourning demonstrations in Turkey.

I'm leaving amid the "battle for Turkey's soul," as The Economist magazine put it a tad dramatically. The governing party's nomination of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as its presidential candidate provoked massive protest rallies across the country from those who fear the erosion of the secular state. The military, which has removed four civilian governments in the past 50 years, strongly hinted it would not tolerate a president whose wife wears the Muslim headscarf as Gul's wife does. The government has scheduled early parliamentary elections for July, hoping to break the standoff.

A foreign journalist based in Turkey spoke to our class last month. "When you stand still in Turkey you feel like you're falling through air," he said.

My feet will touch the ground again when I land back in the States, but I will soon return to Turkey for the summer. After three weeks spent eating peanut butter and watching "Dawson's Creek" reruns, I'll likely be just the same. I wonder, though, how Turkey will have changed.

Leslie Griffith is a Trinity junior and editorial page managing editor of The Chronicle. Her column runs every other week during the summer.


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