Friday, August 31, 2012

Fatma's Story

It’s great fun to travel with a guide when he’s scouting the country for new sites. And when that country is Turkey, it’s an amazing adventure. Almost overwhelming. So we (my guide Aydin and I) had stumbled into the village Cambazli. (If you’re looking at a map of Turkey this is in the area that is the southernmost tip of Turkey near Silifke Aydin had found an ancient church, not listed in the Blue Guide Book. Probably built in the late 400 or early 500 AD and the most complete Aydin had ever seen. This was rich country for ancient things and so he drove further and found an old Roman tomb. As we were leaving, an old woman called from her second floor porch to come for chai. We hesitated, but she insisted and so we climbed the stairs to her home. Her name was Fatma. She kissed my hand then put my hand to her forehead, a gesture of respect, one I should have given her for she was older than I. A tiny thing, her fingers twisted from years of hard work, tufts of hennaed hair under her scarf, and eyes blue as the sky.

The living room was small, banquettes lined the walls and a fire burned in the fireplace. To the right was a closed door. Off the kitchen were the bedrooms. Kilims covered the floor and a folded stack sat near the fireplace, ready for use when family or friends came to visit. Goats and chickens were housed beneath. Everything was clean. The house was cheery and smelled of herbs and wool. I felt right at home.

Fatma disappeared and returned with chai and iran, a drink made of yogurt, water, and salt that is oddly refreshing. Fatma showed me how she made yarn from black goat hair. She had a simple wooden device that came apart, which made it easy to travel. She said she could spin yarn and walk at the same time. She was proud of her work and showed me an old kilim she had made when just a girl. It was soiled and patched with brightly colored pieces of fabric. It was obvious it had been heavily used. I admired it, and she immediately wanted to give it to me. “No, no,” I said. In my heart I wanted it, but had no idea how to arrange to buy it.

While we were having our third cup of chai, Fatma’s granddaughter Haci (Hachee)  (aged 12) arrived. Fatma’s son had brought her home from school. She was limping and obviously in pain. Only then did we learn that Haci’s parents were dead and Haci needed to have an operation on her hip. The uncle explained they had been saving money for a long time and would soon have enough for the operation. Aydin prodded gently and found out how much more was needed. Now I knew what the kilim I wanted was worth. Fatma insisted “no,” but Aydin insisted more firmly. She finally relented. Then she gave us a packet of eggs, onions, and a plastic with 6 apples. Many kisses later Aydin and I floated down to the jeep buoyed up by all that gentle love.

We drove then to Olba, a place I like as it feels so familiar to me. The area was completely occupied during ancient times. Houses today in these villages often have ancient building stones in their construction. At one temple site a young boy of eleven explained in English about the columns and capitals. Beautiful carvings of animal heads and garlands were carved into the stone. He was obviously proud of his village and his English.

It was soon two o’clock and I was hungry. We stopped in a village where the ancient theater columns are in the middle of the main street. Mehmet, owner of the only restaurant in town, spread his arms. It was all finished, he said, even the bread (ekmek). But we had food! Eggs, onions, and apples. Mehmet said if we could find bread, he would make lunch. Aydin knocked at the first door he came to, explained our situation, and we were given bread. “How much?” I asked. The woman just smiled, gave us her blessing, and waved us on.

Mehmet placed a tiny table under a tree, fresh flowers in a jelly glass. Lunch was marvelous. Scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, a plate of sliced apples covered in honey and cinnamon, a dish of hot peppers and tomatoes. He cut the fresh bread loaves in half and filled them with a marvelous mixture of goat, onions, tomatoes, and spices. He ran across the street and brought back warm cans of cola. The meal was superb. Cok güzel (very beautiful). And then Mehmet insisted we come to his home for dinner. But that’s a different story.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful story. I felt like I was there beside you, experiencing it. Thank you for writing it down for me to enjoy!