This morning when I opened my email, I was highly delighted to see that this little blog had won one of the ”Top Travel Blog” awards from ecollegefinder. So thank you to them, I am honored at being chosen and am now proudly displaying my badge; top right 🙂
I thought then, it was high time I sat down and wrote a travel blog from the masses of notes I have on my hard drive. These just sit there all day shouting ‘pick me, pick me’ …..Making an appearance here after a long wait is one from 2009, from the South East of Turkey:
The last time I was in the South East, we had Nine with us. She had braved the long road trip even though she spent the entire time gripping the seat, fiddling with her tespi and gasping in horror every time we had to stop and get out for a break.
The main reason she came along was not for a general jolly as I had thought but, a reunion with a long lost sister. I do not know the details of how the lost was found nor do I know the circumstances of the ‘losing’; I am just along for the ride.
Around 11am one bright morning, after a huge breakfast and family gathering, we set off from Sanliurfa. Nine sits gripping the seat while me and mother in law Dursun share our thoughts on the family gossip. Murat drives along happily to the sound of Ibrahim Tatlises warbling about yellow skirts as we head out of the built up Sanliurfa toward the barren roads that connect tiny villages in the province. An hour or so later, there are dotted Lego shapes and smoke curls in the distance. We have arrived.
Turning into the ‘village’ of Kavalık, I decide the word ‘village’ is rather optimistic. The word ‘Hamlet’ is more suited or perhaps ‘cul de sac’…….OK slight exaggeration there with the cul de sac but you get my meaning I’m sure.
While I’m wandering in my head, we have stopped and Nine is out of the car like a kid on Christmas morning. I am now expecting a scene akin to the airport one in ‘Love Actually’ but no, everyone reverts to type and it’s the ever so polite and respectful greetings, handshakes, dual cheek kissing and a hos geldiniz or two. No arms flung around each other, no tears of joy and no holding on for dear life.
Changing the subject slightly, I should have known really as since the beginning of my foray into the lifestyles of my Kurdish village family I have noticed how reserved they are. At first I never understood why the sight of a camera would turn a smile into a criminal mug shot. At weddings I would take photos of brides with looks of sheer terror on their faces and relatives next to them with expressions more suited to a funeral. It was all very alien to me; point a camera in my direction and I become a Colgate advert.
It is not, as once crossed my mind, a question of the camera stealing their soul, nor is it because they are unhappy. It’s actually all about character, how you behave and how you are perceived by others and most importantly it’s about respect; self and toward others.
I remember a night out on my first ever trip to Sanliurfa. Myself, Mu and his cousin Mehmet had gone for something to eat at Cift Magara, the cave restaurant under the castle. On the wall was a plaque that said ‘Orturma Adabi Bir Karakterin Tasviridir’ which became a conversation point. Roughly translated it means ‘how you sit portrays your character’, in other words, it is respectful not to slouch or lounge in company and this carries through to how you conduct yourself in public. When we sit in the village on family nights, it is ok to slouch or lounge and indeed laugh with abandon but, enter a ‘big uncle’ or a neighbour and everyone sits bolt upright and the conversation will be subdued. In fact, enter a big uncle or male neighbour and everyone will actually stand first and not sit back down again until all have shaken hands and the visitor sits.
Anyway, talking of character and going slightly off tangent again, It is one of the legal requirements you need to fulfil before you can marry a Turk. It is actually on the list that you must be ‘be of good character’ and they check!
Putting two and two together, I would guess this is one of the reasons Turks/Kurds love to dance, especially at weddings. If you have ever been to one you will know what I’m talking about. They dance with excitement, joy and abandon and it must be a great release for them, this public display of happiness.
Anyway, back to my story. Here we are in the village…….sorry Hamlet of Kavalık. I have wandered around with my camera, taken a few shots of the surroundings and the family children and then I ask Dursun and Nine to stand with Nine’s newly discovered niece for a photo and I get them to line up against the wall. Looking at their faces you would think I was going to shoot them, which, in one sense, I am!
Later as we sit on the floor around a lilac plastic tablecloth dipping into plates of cig kofte and drinking freshly made ayran, I ask how many English people have visited before. They tell me ‘none’.
‘’So, am I the first foreigner to set foot in Kavalık then?’’ I ask.
‘’Yes’’ they say
This of course appeals to the adventurer in me and I’m delighted. In the back of my head I realise this may not be true. I mean would they know for sure? Still, I push that thought away while I revel in my new status as an intrepid explorer, boldly going where no English woman has gone before (raises one eyebrow) ‘fascinating’ (Star Trek fans will know what I’m on about).
I want to shout ‘hurrah’ and grin from ear to ear while doing a little victory dance. Instead I raise a slight smile, portraying my character as modest, thus ensuring a good impression of us Brits as I pave the way on this unbeaten path for those that may tread here in the future 😉