Stranger things have happened…

The condensed version
I have just come from chatting with another Aussie, Kylie, and several other foreigners who are part of a crew of about 250 cruising around the world on a boat selling books. It sounds too good to be true, especially for Mersin, a city it seems nobody knows or visits.

The long version:
Today I was very kindly taken to lunch by my manager, Ahmet. We went to a small fish restaurant in the suburb of Pozcu. In the middle of eating the delicious fried fish and fresh salad, I receive a SMS message from Cigdem, a friend of Gizem whom I had met during a school visit for work, IES-Intervega Education Services, in early 2002. Cigdem wanted me to come to the Port “for a new ship which is library”. I was not sure what she meant.
However, as lunch and work required my attention, I could not go to the ship then and there.

At about 4:30 pm, near the end of work, Cigdem and Gizem turn up at IES. They explain they had visited a ship with lots of English language books and met a guy named Eric who I should meet. I was much more excited about looking at the English books.

They went on their way home and I began walking to the port, slightly the other side of Mersin’s city centre. There, in the distance I see a white ship called ‘Doulos’. I made my way to through the port entry, to the ship’s stairway. There, lo and behold, I was welcomed by Kylie, another Aussie! Now, when a person is one of only two Aussies (the other is the Hilton manager) in a city of 500,000 people I have a right to be excited when I cross another one!

I began chatting to Kylie. It turns out that she is one of over 250 multi-racial inter-denominational Christians that go around the world on the ‘Doulos’ selling books, as an example of tolerance and harmony. She has been on the boat for 2+1/2 years! Kylie gave me a guest pass and shouted me dinner in the dining room. Over dinner I chatted to some other Aussies (from Salisbury, Adelaide!) and a Japanese lady. Afterwards, Kylie showed me around the ship – the engine room, kitchen, bakery, medical room, fire fighting room and, finally, the top-level bookshop. I have never, ever seen so many foreigners in Mersin!

The bookshop features many lifestyle books, Christian-themed books, cookbooks, children’s books and, you guessed it, other books! As Mersin has next to zero English books, I spent a while gazing at all the titles. I ended up with two cookbooks – ‘Quick & Easy’ and ‘One Pot’, both with recipes possible to cook in a single bachelor house containing one saucepan!

‘Doulos’ means ‘servant’ in Greek. Previously, the boat had come from Odessa, Ukraine, via Constanta, Romania, Istanbul and Antalya. The next stop is Izmir.

The ship is in Mersin until the 2nd of November. I plan to visit the ship again and also guide a few of its inhabitants around Mersin, well, at least the city centre.