Despre proteste și alți demoni

Chateau de la hulpe

Aseară, în timp ce în Piața Victoriei se strângeau protestatarii, noi ne plimbam vorbind în șoaptă prin pădure, fără țipenie de om în apropiere, cu copilul adormit în sistemul de purtare, oprindu-ne din când în când să mâncăm mure.

În comuna noastră liniștită poți spune că e comod, că privim evenimentele cu detașare, în confort și siguranță. Și așa este. Mai puțin detașarea. Nu e chiar completă, n-are cum să fie. În Piața Victoriei avem prieteni dragi, în țară familiile.

Noi n-am plecat fugind de ceva, ci am plecat îndreptându-ne spre altceva, am plecat cu un vis, cu intenția de a ne construi o viață fidelă principiilor și valorilor noastre. Am plecat pentru că nu ne simțeam la locul nostru, nu ne integram în peisaj și știam că se poate și altceva, am plecat să experimentăm acest altceva, să ne construim această altă viață.

Din motive obiective, nu am putut fi în țară ieri. Mă întrebam dacă am fi mers la protest toți trei în cazul în care am fi fost în țară, dacă aș fi avut puterea asta și dacă aș fi crezut că este parte din misiunea mea.

Azi-dimineață, urmărind știrile post protest, mi-am adus aminte că în 2005, la primul marș LGBT, mi-am luat aparatul foto și m-am dus să văd, de pe margine, cum se desfășoară marșul. Odată ajunsă acolo și văzând atitudinea oamenilor de pe margine, unii fluturând icoane și răcnind imnul național, alții aruncând cu pietre, alții strigând injurii, mi-am dat seama că locul meu era cu cei care mărșăluiau, că acolo, cu bucuria și iubirea din coloană, eram și eu și inima mea, că și în mine trebuie să se arunce cu pietre dacă e să se arunce în cineva. Nu simțeam nici ură și nici furie la adresa celor de pe margine, care pur și simplu nu erau capabili să conceapă altceva în afara propriei realități. Mi-am dat seama și că nimic nu-i poate ajuta mai mult în acele momente decât exact ceea ce se întâmpla: expunerea la o altă realitate. Așa că am ales să fiu eu însămi și m-am alăturat coloanei de participanți la marș. Un jandarm m-a avertizat că nu e bine ce fac și că dacă am intrat în coloană măcar să nu mai ies. N-am mai ieșit. De atunci, niciodată. Poate așa aș fi pățit și ieri. Iar eu sunt pasională, nu cunosc jumătăți de măsură…

Știți, când eram nefericită în fosta mea căsnicie și îi spuneam mamei că mă gândesc la despărțire, ea mă asculta îngrijorată și încerca sa mă descurajeze:

– Așa sunt toți, Dana mamă, să nu crezi că găsești pe altcineva mai bun.

Pesemne că frica o făcuse să uite că toată adolescența cel mai prețios sfat pe care mi l-a dat în repetate rânduri, a fost acela de a-mi urma inima, în cele mai profunde crize existențiale în care m-am zbătut și despre care puteam discuta cu ea fără teamă pentru că reușise să construiască între noi o relație de încredere bazată pe deschidere și respect.

– Fericită n-o să fii în veci! mă încuraja și tata în discuțiile noastre despre sensul vieții, când îi explicam că pentru mine e important să mă simt împăcată și fericită indiferent de contextul de viață și de deciziile pe care le iau.

– Ceea ce cauți există, îmi răsuna însă adesea în minte și-n inimă, glasul unuia dintre profesorii mei, într-un cu totul alt context de viață. Ce noroc că l-am crezut!

– Tu ești cel pe care îl așteptai, aș mai adăuga la corul vocilor care îmi răsună în minte în momentele de răscruce, deși nu mai știu cine a zis asta.

Așa gândesc foarte mulți oameni: că oricum e greu, că toți politicienii sunt hoți, că nu există alternativă, că n-are rost și că mai bine îți vezi de treaba ta și te mulțumești cu ceea ce ai și stai cuminte la locul tău. “E greu, mamă, e greu!” Nu pot vedea vreo speranță.

Oare toți oamenii ăștia își merita soarta?

Eu cred că este ca într-o căsnicie: dacă crezi că nu există decât soți bețivi, violenți, care nu se implică în creșterea copiilor și în viața de familie, necomunicativi sau afemeiați, care așteaptă să le calci cămășile și să le asiguri alte servicii domestice, soții bârfitoare, profitoare, cheltuitoare, isterice, proaste, curve etc, atunci așa este. Și așa meriți.

În schimb, dacă măcar o parte din tine crede că și altceva este posibil, atunci nu doar că ar trebui, ci cred că ai datoria morală față de tine însuți să creezi acea realitate acolo unde ești, alături de oamenii cu care ești, sau să o cauți în altă parte  până o găsești. Altfel, niciodată nu vei fi mulțumit și vei fi măcinat de regrete la final de viață, în loc să te simți împlinit și recunoscător.

Cred că dacă e ceva ce vreau să-i transmit copilului meu, atunci este asta: ceea ce cauți există. Nu te da bătut niciodată. Vei gasi. Mergi acolo unde este locul tău și clădește-ți viața pe care inima ta dorește să o trăiască. Nu te atașa de ceea ce cunoști deja. Dacă ai un vis, el poate deveni realitate. Doar de tine depinde. Luptă pentru asta până la capăt! Da! Se poate! Tu poți! Din plinătatea inimii tale poți.

Azi-noapte am visat că mă luptam cu un demon. Mă străduiam să-l alung dintr-o casă care nu era a mea, în încercarea de a-i ajuta pe oamenii care locuiau acolo și care erau mult prea înspăimântați ca să facă ei înșiși ceva. Mie nu-mi era frică și suflam spre el cu multă forță. El se folosea de forța cu care veneam spre el și o absorbea, o înghițea, o inspira și chiar reușea să-mi ia mai multă forță și energie decât proiectam eu voit asupra lui. M-am oprit, mi-am tras sufletul (la propriu), m-am întors către locuitorii casei care stăteau și mă priveau și le-am spus că avem nevoie să găsim o nouă strategie.

Cum ar fi?

Cum se desfășoară firesc interacțiunea cu instituțiile publice în țara noastră dragă, în limba noastră ca o comoară în adâncuri îngropată.

Țârrrr! Clank!

-Al..!

Bip, bip, bip.

Țârrrr! Clank!

Bip, bip, bip.

-Grijania…!

Țârrrr!

-Ați sunat la Instituția Cutare. Momentan operatorul este angajat într-o altă convorbire. Vă rugăm așteptați pentru a vă păstra prioritatea.

Tananananana…

-Ați sunat la Instituția Cutare. Momentan operatorul este angajat într-o altă convorbire. Vă rugăm așteptați pentru a vă păstra prioritatea.

Tananananana…

-Ați sunat la Instituția Cutare. Momentan operatorul este angajat într-o altă convorbire. Vă rugăm așteptați pentru a vă păstra prioritatea.

Clank!

-Al..!

Bip, bip, bip.

-Futu-i grijania și…!

Țârrrr!

-Ați sunat la Instituția Cutare. Momentan operatorul este angajat într-o altă convorbire. Vă rugăm așteptați pentru a vă păstra prioritatea.

Tananananana…

-Deah!

-A… alo! Bună ziua!

– Da…

– Am o întrebare legată de cutare chestiune.

Bip. Tananananana…

– Da!

-Alo, bună ziua. Am o întrebare legată de cutare chestiune.

– Păi n-ați sunat bine.

-Păi aici mi s-a făcut legătura.

-Cine v-a făcut legătura?

-…

-Stați așa. Ileanooo!

Bip. Tananananana…

-DA!

-Alo, bună ziua. Am o întrebare legată de cutare chestiune.

-Păi ziceți!

-Știți, așa și pe dincolo în ziua respectivă și de atunci…

-Zi, fată… Unde?

-… a trecut o anumită perioadă și documentul cu pricina…

-Hai că te aștept pe la mine mai târziu, da?

-… nu a ajuns la mine și acum am nevoie de el și…

-Te pup! Te aștept, hai că am treabă, da?

-… nu știu cum să fac să intru în posesia lui.

-Așa… ziceți…

-Păi am zis.

-Păi ziceți acuma.

-Cum să fac să intru în posesia documentului cu pricina?

-Nu documentul cu pricina vă trebuie, ci hârtia respectivă.

-Aha… Așa… Bun, și cum să fac să primesc hârtia respectivă?

-Păi nu aici. Ați sunat la Instituția Cutare. Trebuie să vă adresați Direcției respective.

-Și cum fac?

-Vă privește.

-…

-Îi sunați, mergeți acolo, treaba dumneavoastră.

-Am înteles… Știți cumva unde au sediul?

-Strada aceea, același număr.

-Aha, în regulă, deci…

– Io vă zic că mai bine mergeți acolo. Depuneți o cerere cu buletinul și vă eliberează hârtia respectivă.

-Bine, în regulă, vă mul…

Bip, bip, bip.

Confessions in the electricity shop

“You know, I can pay you through a bank transfer if you give me your account number.” I tell my dentist as she’s pulling her instruments out of my mouth so I can talk again. “I don’t have enough cash and I don’t have my cards anymore, but I can do that.” I add.

“No, no, it’s fine, I told you. I was actually thinking I might give you some money for food” she says and that brings tears into my eyes but I quickly swallow them thanking her for her infinite kindness. She’s a good friend, my ‘dangerous Syrian boy’ would say. I’d told her my wallet was stolen/ lost and she insisted I should still come for the appointment.

And when she’s done fixing a tooth on the upper right side (the side with the swollen eye and the upset ear from landing this Saturday and the bike crash before my birthday this autumn), we both get out and she gives me a lift and drops me close to my home. We catch up on each other’s lives on the way and I meet her husband when I get out of the car and knowing that he, too, exists is reassuring and makes me more confident about my resolutions.

I stop at a small electricity shop and I find the door is locked. I look for the schedule on the narrow glass door and, before I find it, the door opens and a beautiful lady in her mid sixties welcomes me in.

“I’m listening. What is it?” she says and I notice her heavy makeup behind her thick glasses and her beautiful mouth and her clear, shiny skin.

“I need two light bulbs. A smaller one and a bigger one” I say hesitantly, realizing I sound like a woman who doesn’t know about electrical stuff. But since I’m talking to another woman, I’m relaxed about it.

“Do you know this neighborhood?” she asks fetching a couple of light bulbs from a shelf behind her and placing them on the counter in front of me, taking them out of their boxes and trying them for me to see that they work.

“Well, a little bit, I suppose. I haven’t lived here very long.”

“How long?”

“About a year and a half I think…”

“Do you get along with them?”

“I don’t know? With who? I don’t really interact with people around here…”

“I can’t take it anymore. I have some problems” she says making me stop and suddenly evaluate my possibilities. “How long can I still go on? What do you think I should do?” she asks staring into my eyes. “These people, they expect me to have sex with the boss of the neighborhood. Would you have sex with someone whose hands look like sausages? Would you be able to? With someone with loose skin, hanging about them like this?” she asks painting the image around her with her hands. “With someone who smells of garlic or who knows what else? With a seventy-five year old? I’m sixty-three. I am clean, I take care of myself, I can’t have sex with anyone like that.” she continues. “Why do you think they torment me like this?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” At this point she’s got all my attention and my heart feels warm and a part of me reaches out to her over the counter, hugging her and wiping the tears running down her powdered, wrinkled cheeks.

“I had a family. They took it from me. I want my son. I want Cristi to come. Why isn’t he coming? You tell me.”

“I’m sorry… I don’t know…”

“I had a husband. My husband had a mistress. He would go and fuck her and then come back home to me and our son. You know, home is a state, an atmosphere. He couldn’t leave us… He came home every time. I see him sitting on a chair in the kitchen, his tears falling on the tiled floor. It’s you that I love, he used to say to me. And I believed him. Still, he kept fucking her. Now he is dead. But our family was destroyed before he died. They ran into it with a bulldozer. Why would anyone do that to someone?” she pauses again for me to answer.

“I don’t know…” and my own tears start blurring my vision as she’s giving me a glimpse into a possible future and I’m emptied of myself like a bath tub of which you suddenly remove the drain stop.

“At least if someone came to me and said: Mrs Doina, I have this against you…. I don’t like this about you… That is why I am tormenting you… But nobody says anything… You have to explain to me! Tell me!” her tears prevent her from continuing here and she takes a short break.

“I am sorry… I don’t know why this is happening to you…”

“And they torment me every day. They say nasty words, they steal my things, they took my boy, they took my family, my life, everything… Tell me why… Would you do that to anyone?”

“I don’t know why… I wouldn’t do that. I hope I’ll never be able to do that to anyone.”

“What can I do? Tell me?”

“Perhaps you should pray. Ask for guidance… Try to find some inner peace…”

“I can’t. I have tried. I can’t do that anymore. It’s too difficult. I can’t even go to church. It’s too much. You know?”

“I know…”

“Is it because I have these eyes?” she asks taking off her glasses to reveal her beautiful big eyes under her heavily made up eye lids. “Is it because I have these lips? Is it? Because I see when men come into the shop, they look at my lips. Perhaps they imagine their organ between my lips, you know… Perhaps that’s what they imagine…”

Her lips are beautiful – so soft and innocent and still so feminine and elegant, nothing vulgar or withered about them. And at this point I imagine kissing them. Just because I feel so much love for this woman right now and I imagine my touch would make her fly a little, help her forget about her life and take off with me in a dream. We could both disappear. I imagine leaning over the counter between us, my lips searching for hers and at the first soft touch, we both take off like two sister rockets and shoot up through the roof of the shop, making all the light bulbs and the cables and the fuses and everything burn in short, strong explosions like fireworks all around us. And we just disappear together. A well deserved break from life.

I’m standing still, back straight, arms straight, chin raised to meet hers, my eyes holding hers. What is it about me that puts me in situations like this? I am the silent dervish again (references here and here). Holding it all together so that the other one can express the pain. I am there for her. I love her with all my heart. I don’t judge, I just listen.

“Why is this happening to me?” she insists. “Why do people do this to other people? Why? What do you think?”

Since she insists, I make my confession, too. Just because for a moment there I think she needs to know she’s not the only one in pain, she’s not the only one asking herself and the others questions about life and the meaning of things. I confess everything.

“Oh, but that’s a totally different thing”, she says without the faintest sign of compassion.

“I should pay for the light bulbs”, I add deciding to get out of there.

“It’s 3 lei. And take care of yourself.” she replies.

“Thank you” I say in the end. “I wish you all the best, a light heart and peace.” and I truly feel blessed with a precious gift as I’m walking out of the shop.

Before getting home to write her story, a poem for a friend and a thank you card marking an end and a beginning, I make another short stop in the market across the road for some cheese. Just as I step out of the cheese shop and head for the exit, I am met by Annie Lennox’s convincing voice coming from a radio in a shop:

How many sorrows
Do you try to hide
In a world of illusion
That’s covering your mind?
I’ll show you something good
Oh I’ll show you something good.
When you open your mind
You’ll discover the sign
That there’s something
You’re longing to find
The miracle of love
Will take away your pain
When the miracle of love
Comes your way again.

I have absolutely no doubt about it.

PS Coming up on the blog: the story of my week in Sweden this winter.

Goreme. The scary episode: a trip into the wilderness

On my very last day in Goreme, right after breakfast and before meeting Furkan, I check out of the hotel. The receptionist who did the check in is not here and I am greeted by someone I later find out is his brother. He wipes his hands on his trousers, leans over the desk in the reception, checks his computer and my room number on the key chain and then I hand him the twenty euro note for my stay. He takes it and puts it in his pocket.

hotel goreme

“So, what are you doing today?” he asks.

“Actually, I don’t know. I was thinking of walking around the village. Do you have any recommendations? Something that doesn’t require money, I’m running out of money.”

“Actually, I do. I can take you somewhere for a nice walk. I just need to go to a government thing now and will be back later.”

“Ok”, I hear myself say, although I know by looking at the guy I would not even want to have tea with him. But for some reason I encourage myself that a walk cannot hurt. “So what time will you be back?”

“One o’clock.” he says.

“Ok, see you later then.”

But before I leave he insists on showing me his pigeons and doing a demonstration. He picks several up before finding the right one, which he throws  high up into the air so I can watch the bird turning several times before landing, feathers ruffled and head spinning.

“Why does it do that?” I ask, honestly thinking there’s something terribly wrong with the poor bird.

“You teach them to. Train them. This one is a champion.” he replies. “I collect birds. I cannot be without my pigeons. I cannot go anywhere. They are my children.”

After expressing my admiration, I go and have my walk in town, get the sunglasses and meet Furkan and then I resume my walk and get to this quiet valley nearby, scattered with fairy chimneys and except me there’s just this young Turkish couple probably on their honeymoon, taking selfies. The wind makes her head scarf dance around her neck as he’s squeezing her shoulder with one hand, as if for fear he might lose her to the wind, holding the selfie stick in his other hand at the same time, like a weapon against the cruel passage of time.

I call my mother to tell her happy birthday and how much I love her and hearing her voice makes me even quieter among these silent volcanic eruptions, so still and fragile in their ascension, softened and sweetened by the autumn light, taming contours and darkening shades. “It’s perfect”, I tell her, “perfect, mom”.

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I then get back to the village and pick two postcards from a shop and when I go to the counter to pay for them, the shop keeper just says “It’s present”. I find the post office and the postman, an overweight bespectacled guy in his late twenties, takes my postcards and offers to attend to them himself instead of just letting me drop them in the post office mailbox.

When I get back to the hotel I find the pigeon guy working on his bird house and, since he seems not to notice me, I just sneak into the yard and quietly climb the stairs to the sunny terrace and write the story of my meeting with Furkan and getting the sunglasses earlier today, eager to remember all the details and lines in our conversations. So I am writing passionately and thirstily and don’t want to be disturbed.

“Daniela!” I suddenly hear my name being called and I don’t even know where to look at first. “Over here”, the voice continues and my eyes finally land on the short pigeon man standing downstairs, in front of the reception. “Come, let’s go!” he continues and I realize he’s known the whole time I was here and wonder why he’s completely ignored me so far.

“Wait, there’s something I need to finish and I’ll be right down. Ten more minutes”, I reply and continue writing as my mind, in parallel, starts designing a strategy to say no and get out of the whole thing and just relax before my bus ride to Konya later in the afternoon.

When I’ve finished, I reluctantly go down the stairs and find him talking to an older woman. I wait for them to finish and then end up interrupting their conversation to ask if there’s a toilet I could use.

“Of course”, he says pointing to his right, but suddenly changes his mind and adds: “Use the one in my room. It is clean. The cleanest. There.” And I realize he’s pointing to the room next to mine. “It’s open”, he adds.

“Oh, thank you, that’s very kind of you”, I reply feeling a bit awkward as I’m going up the stairs and into his room. As I close the door behind me, I wonder if I should turn the key in the lock before entering the bathroom, but decide I don’t need to be afraid, so I just leave it unlocked.

The room is warm and big, it’s got a double bed and a single bed on the right, a small wall enclosed closet on the left, a mirror and the bathroom – a big and separate room this time, at the far end of the room. When I get out again, the woman is no longer there and I find him waiting for me and I’m suddenly too shy to call the whole thing off.

I get out of the yard and I notice the motorbike, but tell myself we’re going to walk.

“Ok, so, we go by motorbike”, he says.

I knew it, I tell myself half horrified at having to keep this small agitated man between my legs and half crazy happy about the ride. It’s been about three years since my last motorbike ride, in the Greek island of Alonissos, and I really miss riding. The weather is perfect for it, too, I declare, congratulating myself at the same time for having bought the sunglasses.

A friend’s voice echoes at the back of my head, insisting I should take care of myself and I quickly silence it with an inner cry of pure joy as I’m checking out the small motorbike. And the entire film of my bike crash a few days ago plays in fast forward motion in my head and my painful right knee also signals it can still remember the fall. I’m not gonna fall this time, I tell myself as I’m mounting the bike behind this stranger, trying to distance myself from him as much as possible, my hands reaching for his waist and barely touching it.

“It’s ok, don’t worry, you are safe.” he turns and reassures me.

But I know, my whole body knows, my whole being knows I am far from safe. And I feel again as if I were going down the water slide for the first time. There’s not even one millimeter of me that’s relaxed.

“Where are we going?” I finally ask as if it suddenly became important.

“Have you been to the open air museum?” he screams, trying to push the sounds through the engine noise. “We are going above that place. We go by bike, leave the bike there and then my brother will come with the car.”

He’s talking all the time, all the way there and I’m trying to listen, but at the same time there’s this voice of reason in my head telling me that if I get out of this alive, I should never attempt anything like this again. Why? I ask. You’re not a teenager anymore.  So? So at your age people don’t do this kind of things anymore. Well, at my age, too many people are boring and too many are already dead. Walking dead. Ok, have it your way then. You’ll see. Yeah, I’ll see.

He talks and talks and talks and I cannot follow half of what he is saying, but I know he’s setting up a private exhibition of his medals for me, so from time to time, when I get the chance, I let out an excited “Oh!” or “That’s great!”, “How nice!”, “Really?”

And then, after a sinuous road, we stop in the middle of nowhere, he tells me to get off the bike and I obey, he turns the bike around and disappears behind a stone wall.

What if he leaves me here? What if he knows I wrote about the hotel and the receptionist and now he wants a revenge? What if he makes a pass on me? And so on. There are so many what if questions in my head now. I don’t think there’s even one possibility that doesn’t cross my mind as I’m waiting to see if he comes back or not. All the ‘what ifs’ in the world are visiting my head, snuggling up there, nudging one another, hardening all my muscles, as if i were following the strictest workout.

It doesn’t take him long to come back smiling and lead me down this narrow dirt road. The scenery, the sky, the colors, the silence, the air, the light, the sun – everything is perfect. Except everything else.

Rose Valley Goreme

I need a reality check, so I know what I’m dealing with and how to handle it. So, as he keeps talking almost without even breathing, I make some things clear to myself. I no longer remind myself I’m a woman travelling alone in Turkey. Somewhat attractive, it seems. I go directly to the part where I tell myself I am in the middle of nowhere with a guy who is clearly dangerous – as absolutely all my senses are screaming at me. And I don’t even know his name. Or what he does at the hotel except growing pigeons. I have no idea where we are or how to get back. I have my bus back to Konya today and I want to catch it. I didn’t write very nicely about the hotel and staff and remember my reckless Facebook check-ins, so I figure I’m not difficult to stalk. Quite easy, actually. OK, That’s the situation I’ve got myself into. Now what? Well, see what it’s about and get out of it honorably. I almost regret my honesty and decide to be careful about the information I let out on my walking tour now.

rose valley walkers

Anyway, the pigeon guy keeps talking as we’re walking, so I decide to rise above the fear and, thought it’s hard with the images and feelings I get when I look at him, I decide he deserves this much respect and I deserve this chance to live my experience instead of shying away from it. So I look him in the eyes as often as his head is till enough and I listen. There’s such beautiful silence in the valley and I listen to it, too, like looking at this white, still canvas he’s splashing  his coarse voice onto, using his bare hands to create even more motion.

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“This place is part of Rose Valley. I was born in Avanos, that is my hometown. My brother, you met him, works with me. I made this hotel. It was my grandfather’s house. I bought it from my family. Look at these hands, they worked there. You thought I only worked here? No, I own the hotel. I am a collector. All the people collect something. I collect pigeons. I won competitions with them. I was offered $2500 for one and didn’t sell it. You know how much I was offered for the hotel? 5 million dollars. How can I sell it? I hope to leave it to my children and my brother’s children. What about you? What are your plans? What do you want to do with your life? I am 32. I grew up here. I have a garden. I have pigeon caves here, look up there, that is my grandfather’s old pigeon cave. We eat organic here, everything from nature. Look, everything here is good to eat. I’m trying to find some grapes for you. You are lucky, here you are, take it, eat it. Look, a quince. We call it aiva. I will try to find walnuts for you. I only climb this tree for my mother. And you. Let me take your picture. You don’t like pictures? You’ll thank me later. You can add me on Facebook and I’ll send them. I was a police officer in Istanbul. It’s important to love what you do. Make your life simple, beautiful. If someone or something makes it hard, leave that. When you catch a terrorist, you never beat him up. Not like that you make him talk. There are other ways. I have my ways. I have ideas. I didn’t put all that cocaine in my head for nothing. Afghanistan, the people in my staff. I caught them and their father in Istanbul. Illegal immigrants. I helped the children. They work for me now. They are like family. They eat from me, they live here, they save money. I went to their family house and I was like a king there. What do you do? All my family were teachers. Except me and my brother. What do you teach? I tell you, I learned English in the street. If here you don’t learn English, they beat you. Here it’s like a stadium, you don’t need to travel, you just sit and the whole world comes to you. I just watch. Everybody comes here. I don’t have a father. My grandfather, he was out, working, and the next day gone. Here we are all like a big family. We help each other. All of us. We share. Sharing is caring, you know. If you are kind, people will be kind to you, you know. Just be kind. If you receive, also give. Here we are all friends. I know you have a difficult character. I saw you. I don’t come on walking tours with all my clients, you know. I like you. You are special. I checked your passport. I saw you are OK. i like all the signs of the zodiac. Except for the Scorpio. You are dangerous. You never say anything. And then you sting. Did you think I just worked at the hotel? No, it’s my hotel. Look, I show you, here’s what it looked like when I got it. All my family told me I am crazy to work on it and just buy something ready. But I didn’t want to. These hands can tell you stories. They are not dirty, they have some glue on them now. You are very sensitive. And clean. You are also very smart, I see that, I tell you. I see that in you. You are above standards. I like above standards. When you come again, you are my guest. And my cousin is balloon pilot, so you can go for a ride. And bring your family with you. You will be my guests. And stay longer. Here everyone is family. If you are kind. I want something, I call somebody. Here you can use my business card as a credit card. Muzo. You can call me Muzo. My full name is too complicated, you won’t remember it. So you like animals? Nature? You look so sensitive. Here we eat from nature, we don’t wash. So you travel alone. I had a wife for one year and a half. Got divorced last year. She was from Iran. Yes, she was beautiful. I learned that it’s not enough. I should’ve listened to my mother. But I followed my heart. Bad choice. She was beautiful. After we married, she let the monster come out. I told her, look there is a good way and 99 bad ways to make this soup. Why do you always have to choose one of the 99 bad ways? I called her father and told him come take your daughter before I send her from the 12th floor. It’s good we didn’t have children. Hard to divorce with children. I am a collector of birds. With wings and without wings. Like you. Do you have tattoos? Do you know pigeons shit all the time? So my grandfather was also making money from shit. You know, the shit’s good for the wine. All the rest it kills. But pigeon shit makes good grapes. Don’t worry, my brother is coming. Do you have a boyfriend? What he does? What is physicist? Children? So he said here, take all this money and go travel on your holiday, I don’t have time? Oh, spending your own money, of course, with your difficult character. You had water and you didn’t give me? You let me drink horses’ water? I told you, sharing is caring. I understand you’re thirsty. Give me that bottle to throw it for you. I’ll keep it as a souvenir. Just a bottle? How can you say it’s just a bottle? It was in your hands. It has your fingerprints. I can arrange a crime for you and you won’t get out of Turkey. Just a bottle? You’re smarter that that, Daniela. I think you are stressed because you don’t want to be late, that’s why you give me this answer. You are smarter than that.”

horses farm rose valley goreme

“You’re crazy!” I stop listening and interrupt him here, without even thinking.

“I was expecting a different answer, Daniela.  It’s ok, relax now, here, I wipe it, ok? I was joking. Yes, you laugh. Why you laugh? You like horses? Six months ago my best friend fell off the horse and died. Since then, pigeons are my best friends. All Goreme was crying. He was a man no one could say he did anything wrong. You know, you are teacher. You can tell a story in many ways. It depends who you speak to. You know. I can say the same thing in many ways. Always be careful how you speak and how you tell it to the people, be careful it is for them, so you speak their language, so they understand. It was so nice meeting you, a pleasure. Thank you. I wish that you are always laughing, have a happy life, do what you love always. I wanted to have your smell and now I have it. I am done with you. I hope you liked your stay. And come back. I have to go now. Feel free to use my room, stay in my bed. Joking. Take care of yourself. Add me on Facebook and I’ll send you the pictures. You’ll thank me later, you’ll see.”

I just listen with an open heart. I know I shouldn’t do anything. Just give, let it flow. And there is no way out. Just as I keep telling other people this thing I’ve heard somewhere: the only way ahead is through. So live it, see it through, walk it through. I remember the sema last night and the witnessing dervish, holding it together, creating space and the acceptance for the others to whirl. I am an old witnessing dervish right now for this man. I am the witness. I am here in silence, accepting, witnessing and listening.

He reminds me of one of the children in my class – the one who used to be the most challenging for me in the beginning. That helps me love him. Working with people has taught me a lot, working with children has really taught me to ask the most important question: what does this person need right now? And although it’s hard, I look at him and struggle to go beyond the troubling images floating around him, beyond the violence in his eyes, beyond the unrest tormenting his body. I am looking for the inner seed, that small, hidden part that hasn’t been defiled by the script his life has been following. He doesn’t need me to make any gesture or say anything. He just needs me to be there. He needs to be accepted. And loved.  For who he really is. And I love him.

After he drops me off back at the hotel, he’s getting ready to leave and take the car back at the farm where we borrowed it from and I hug him. He is surprised.

“Thank you.”

“Here”, he says untying one of the nazars in the small tree in front of the reception, “take this with you.” And then he screams to one of his employees who’s just crossing the yard: “Give her everything she wants.”

“You are completely crazy!” I scream to myself laughing out loud from the stress, as I get into his room again to use the toilet, after watching him drive away. “Never, never, never do this to yourself again! Never!”

Before I take my backpack and leave the hotel for good, I give one of the quinces to one of the boys I believe is from Afghanistan. When we greet each other, our eyes meet in such warmth and I feel our hearts are bowing in respect, like two old comrades.

I then go to Angelos Travel to say goodbye to Samet and I stay for a cup of coffee because I know it makes him happy and I need a few minutes to sit and change company and mood. After that I walk to Furkan’s shop to say goodbye and, right before I leave, as I’m hugging him tightly, I believe with all my heart he is my best friend in Goreme.

“Be happy!” I sincerely wish him, as his left temple is touching mine, and, when I gently move away, he pulls me back and makes an affectionate encounter between our right temples.

I head to the otogar and I realize I miscalculated time and I’m an hour early. I sit down on a bench in the setting sun and write everything down before I forget anything, allowing my body to tremble freely as it’s shaking the stress out of its muscles. As I’m getting on my bus back to Konya, the muezzin is silent.

Making a Cappadocian friend in Goreme

It’s my very last day in Goreme, Cappadocia and I decide to take a morning walk in the village, after having breakfast on the sunny terrace of my hotel. I go down the stone steps, cross the small paved yard, get out into the alley, turn left and then right at the first corner, into the narrow street, looking at shop windows on the way. My eyes are hurting from the strong sun and I decide I need a new pair of sunglasses, since I left mine at home – the pair I got in February form the night market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

So I stop at this corner shop and check out the sunglasses displayed outside, but they seem to have survived every rain here since spring, covered in layer upon layer of white and red dust turned to mud by the rain, dried by the sun, wiped by the wind and so on, again and again. So I think they must be fairly cheap. I am running out of money, but my eyes are not happy at all, so I’m looking for a pair I can afford.

When the shop keeper comes, a dark haired man, mustache, black leather jacket, hands stuffed in his pockets, he hits me with the 20 lira price. And I am too polite to turn my back and just walk away. And my eyes hurt. So I manage to choose a pair and ask him to wash them so I can get a better idea of their real condition.

When we get into the shop, he sprays window cleaner on them and starts rubbing them with a soft cloth. I cringe at the sight and look around the shop, trying to feel more comfortable.

“I think they should be washed, really… And I think 10 lira would be enough. I mean, they are dirty and scratched. And it’s winter…”

“Maybe I would make it 15 lira, but not if you say like that”, he replies giving me his most expert puppy eyes look.

I smile, giving him my most penetrating look, stripping him naked of all the pretense.

“I’m sorry”, I continue. “I mean no offence. Really, look at them. I am just stating the obvious. And it’s off season. No one buys sunglasses anymore.”

“It’s all right”, he answers smugly, “I’ll sell them next year.”

“In this condition? OK…” I answer and let him continue rubbing them as I continue looking around the selves.

“You have a really nice shop.”

“Thank you.” he replies and I feel him softening up.

“Have you had it for long?” I insist.

“The building? Forty-five years. Family business.”

“Wow, a long time. That’s nice.”

He then hands me the sunglasses, proud of his work. I pick them up, turning them in my hands unsatisfied with the result.

“Can I?” I ask picking up the cloth myself.

“Of course.” he replies with a frown.

I wipe them again and carefully check them for scratches.

“They’re still dirty. And scratched”, I land the verdict on the glass counter between us.

He moves away from the counter, sighing and picking up a carton box from the lower shelf on the right, places it in front of me and starts shuffling through pairs of brand new sunglasses, clean in their thin plastic covers.

“Oh, the secret stash”, I giggle.

He hands me a pair and then my hands find their own way into the box and I try on several pairs, some just for fun, asking him for his opinion and making him laugh.

Eventually, I narrow it down to two pairs.

“Hmm… Which one should I get? What do you think?”

“This one”, he says, pointing to the pair I’d actually choose.

I decide to play a little longer and try both on alternatively a few times, complaining it’s so hard to decide.  When I see him rolling his eyes, I say I am sorry, forcing him to encourage me to take my time and keep going. Eventually, when I get bored, I choose the ones we both like and hand him 15 lira.

“Do you want tea?” he asks.

“Actually, yes. Why not?” I reply, although I wasn’t planning to.

And I let him lead me to this other room in the shop, where a hot chimney is burning, inviting me to take off my coat and pretend not to notice the satisfaction on his face.

“How nice! I love your chimney!”

He smiles and points to a chair next to the window and I sit down. He pulls a white plastic chair and joins me after pouring tea into a small tulip-shaped glass and handing it to me on a matching square shaped plate.

“Are you travelling alone?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I like travelling alone. I can write. I can sit down with you over a glass of tea and talk, I can do whatever I want. And it was my birthday. So this trip is a gift I’m making myself.”

“Oh, really? Happy birthday!”

“Thank you.”

There is a short silence between us as I’m looking around, getting more familiar with my surroundings.

“You have nice things. I like your shop”, I add honestly. “And your notebooks are really nice.”

“You can choose one. I’ll make it a birthday gift for you.”

“Oh, really? That’s so kind. I will.” I was not expecting that and I’m feeling very grateful.

We are drinking tea and smiling and I tell him which notebook I like, so he picks it up, wraps it and adds a card with his number and a happy birthday message. So I decide I should also be generous.

gift notebook from goreme

“Do you have Facebook?”

“Yes, he says, handing me his phone. So I type in my name, tap ‘add friend’, then take out my own phone. He takes it from my hand when I ask about WiFi (it’s a Turkish thing, I guess), he keys in the password and I accept his friend request on the spot. We then shake hands and he pulls me closer, kissing my cheeks. We have the Turkish ‘double hug’ which I love.

“Come again”, he says.

And I do. After the scary episode that follows with the owner of my hotel (unpublished at the time I’m posting this), I return a few hours later, still trembling inside, to say goodbye before going to the bus station. When I get to the shop, it’s empty and the sunglasses I tried on earlier are still resting on the glass counter, the chimney is burning, the tea kettle is boiling and his phone is charging in the shop window. I call his name and there is no answer, so I take a few photos of the shop before walking from one shop to the next, as several of them are connected, and find these two older men chatting, surrounded by carpets.

shop in goreme cappadocia

shopping on goreme

“Merhaba. Furkan?” I say when they finally notice me.

One of them stands up and starts calling Furkan. He offers a seat and tea while I wait, but I carefully refuse, smiling politely and asking questions about the shop. And by now I know it has become a defense strategy and I am no more willing to make any new friends in this place at this point.

When Furkan comes, he looks so happy to see me and, at the same time, a French couple come into the shop, trying to choose some lamps. I tell them in French that they are very beautiful and the only problem in choosing. I show them the model I have at home, from Istanbul, and tell them I keep it on the kitchen counter and light it almost every night when I get home. They seem a bit more determined now, so I let them choose.

I turn to Furkan and he looks so proud of me now, as if he’s raised me himself to be a good seller or I’ve got contaminated by the talent just by being around him for a glass of tea earlier this morning. I smile and offer him one of the nice, ripe quinces that the psycho hotel owner picked for me on our trip in the forest in the middle of nowhere in the nightmare I’ve just survived.

“Did you see how we arranged the carpets today?” he asks taking me into this hidden yard at the back of the shop – a carpet paradise. He is so proud of his work and so affectionate of his carpets and I do believe it looks impressive.

carpet arrangement in goreme

“It looks beautiful!” I tell him.

“Like you.” he quickly replies, smiling and giving me his warmest look.

“Tesekkur.”

We go back in and he brings me a water bottle for the road, telling me he saw my picture on Facebook, wearing the new pair of sunglasses. We both laugh at the new memory we have in common and I hug him before I leave, taking in his warmth and that soothing smell of a good man, like warm bread when I’m starving.

 

PS If you travel to Goreme, pay Furkan a visit at the Ikman Gift Shop and please give him my warmest regards.

My last day in Konya and Turkey goes crazy again

Although I was planning to sleep longer today and I feel like hiding under the duvet rather than getting out, the stories still tossing about inside me, struggling to survive like fish out of water before they receive their words, wake me up at 7.30 and, despite my repeated attempts to ignore their impulses, eventually they pull me out of bed and soon my fingers are typing, weaving the new clothes my mind is tirelessly designing for the stories lined up around me.

The street and the air-conditioning noise make me think it must be raining heavily before I actually pull the curtain and notice it is a sunny day. I need to make plans and write and send postcards, meet another nice girl from couch surfing later on and let her take me around. And, yes, Rumi and Shams one more time.

The second half of yesterday in Goreme (a story I have not posted yet) is still haunting me and a part of me is still struggling with what seems like a bit of a trauma. That gives me something more to work on, if I didn’t already have enough. And it is still so fresh I am not entirely sure I know what to make of it yet, so I just ask my angel to help me make sense. And remember to thank him again and again.

I go down the stairs and notice the weird shape of the reception on my left and the breakfast room right in front of the stairs. I realise I must have been really tired last night not to notice absolutely anything. I stop at the reception, placing my hands on the stone counter and ask for my passport back. The fat bearded receptionist asks me my room numbed and then hands me back my passport.

As I turn and walk into the breakfast room, I soon notice I am the only woman there. Except the all male staff, three other men are having their breakfast. They all look at me as my painful knees only allows me to take small, carefully placed steps across the room. The open buffet breakfast selection is generous enough and I am happy about the fresh fruit, different cheese types and parsley plate.

As I sit down at a table for two next to the window, I get so cold I need to take a sip of hot cay before touching the food. On the wall on my right there is a huge TV screen and everyone, including the staff, is watching. I don’t usually pay attention to the news and I don’t watch TV, but now I feel I should try to make out what this is all about. I cannot understand Turkish, but I see Erdogan giving a speech, his facial expressions so cold and sharp, and then an image of him shaking hands with Angela Merkel, followed by images of street shooting, explosions and something about terrorim.

I resent my autism for the political world and for the first time since I left Romania I want to know what is going on. Facebook and WhatsApp are not working this morning and that makes me uneasy. I remember my decision to come to Turkey now was largely based on my feeling that things are going down fast and it will not be so easy to come here anymore. I do hope I am wrong. When I come back to the room, I do a Google search and become a member of the society again. Although I still have no access to Facebook and WhatsApp. I feel I want to go home. I finish my post about the drive back from the caravanserai, write postcards with random Rumi quotes from the poetry book I brought with me and decide to head out into the city again.

Excuse me, do you know why Facebook and WhatsApp aren’t working?”
“Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter. All finish today in Turkey”, the fat receptionist tells me. “But is ok”, he adds when he sees my face flaring up as my worst fears are coming true.

I find a way to communicate with Merve – the girl from Couchsurfing I am supposed to meet later: I send her a message using the couchsurfing app, telling her (as if she didn’t already know) that WhatsApp and Facebook aren’t working. She quickly replies: “At 4.30 pm I will come to nun hotel😉 unfourtanetly these arent working cause of political troubles anyway if you need sth write me here best see you😉.”

I can hear the muezzin as I am getting out of the hotel to go to Mevlana again. This is not the adhan. I have been here long enough to know that. It is too long. I’m feeling anxious and every loud noise is making me nervous. I look around carefully and curiously and I am happy I am not hiding in my room like a mouse.

I picked a bad time to be a writer in Turkey. I quickly evaluate my situation: I have just upset an influential hotel owner in Goreme who used to be a cop in Istanbul and brags about owning a gun and doing cocaine, informed me he has a copy of my passport and my fingerprints, along with perfectly valid DNA samples and threatened to stage a crime for me so that I won’t be able to leave Turkey; all with a smile on his face. (Did I decide to solve all my karmic issues by the end of this year, by the way? I wonder…) Let’s go on now, that was not everything: I am a single woman traveling alone in Konya, the most religious and traditionalist city of Turkey, where almost nobody speaks English. But let’s not get paranoid, shall we? I made an unfortunate choice of European clothes. Otherwise I look Turkish enough. Though I am not sure that is so good now, either… And can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye, ‘thank you’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘honey’. That should do. So I hide my map in my pocket, put my leather purse in my backpack and head to Rumi. This is a holiday, after all.

So many people outdoors on their knees praying in front of mosques. I guess it is simply prayer time and the mosques are too small for the big number of people praying. I have never seen that before and take my phone out and take some photos. I cannot help thinking about writing. Tomorrow is not so far away and I will return home in one piece, inshallah.

There are many more people at Rumi’s tomb than on Moday. And I let the quote above the gate lead me inside: “This place has become a Ka’bah for the lovers of God. The one who comes here with flaws has now become completed.” I now walk before his tomb completed.

As much as I like going to places for the first time, I absolutely adore it when I arrive for the second time. It is like a bonus and I can have a better, more quiet experience once the rush and the excitement that accompany the first experience have settled. Rumi fills me again and my chest becomes round and light like a hot air balloon, taking me up.

When I get out of the Mevlana museum the crowd praying in front if the mosque has scattered and it is quiet again.

I cross the street to pay another visit to Shams. As I get to his mosque, some kids are trying to sell me tissues and as I hurry inside I forget my shoes on and they quickly help me remember. Then, after a few minutes in front of his tomb, feel I have forgotten to cover my head. As I am pulling my hood over my hair, I see from the corner if my eye the kind, blue-eyed man heading towards me and suddenly changing direction as my hood is finally covering me.

I am not sure where I got this image of Shams as a tall, thin, bald man, wearing black. It is more than just an image. I can feel his presence. The strongest man I have ever felt. And the most free. His strong, black eyes looking at me and through me. I can only address him as ‘my love’. That clock on the right side of his tomb makes me cry again. Measuring absence. Why do we do that? I complain to him a lot about his being away. It is so hard to leave again.

Carry me, my love. In your strength, I can be weak.
You are not to be carried, my love. You are strong.
It is hard here without you. I don’t want this strength. I want you.
I am you. I am inside you. You are me. Go. You are never without me. It is not here that you will find me. But in your heart. In your eyes. In your hands.

I let him convince me and I finally get out of the mosque. It is a warm, sunny day and the fear and tension floating around cannot scare me anymore. I am a writer travelling in Turkey. Strike all the description I made above. I am free. I am strong. I am smart. And I am no threat to anyone. I do not fight wars. I have no ambition or interest in any conflict. I believe we are all very similar, our differences are merely geographical, which makes us allthe more interesting to one another. My strength is serving only love. And it shall never change its master.
I take a walk through the old part of the city and get lost in the narrow streets, lined with packed shops and loud buyers. My stomach is still protesting against the tension and tells me a better idea would be to avoid crowds, but I simply ignore it since I have not come here to hide.

I leave the old center and find the post office eventually. After a long line, I manage to make the lady there understand I want stamps for ten postcards, not just ten stamps regardless of their value. So after she gives me ten stamps and I pay for them, I convince her to give me twenty more. “Expensive”, she says laughing. ” Evet!” I almost scream back, thinking how difficult it is in this country to keep in touch with the rest of the world. There was this box in the post office and I couldn’t help thinking Turkey should get one, too:

I then get back to my hotel and release my knee for one more hour from the terror of the tight jeans. (Did I just write terror?) I lie in bed working on my blog as I am waiting for Merve. When she finally arrives, having driven through busy traffic and then left her car somewhere and walked to the hotel because the road was blocked, I am so happy to meet her in front if the reception, as if I were meeting a very old and dear friend and we hug and kiss and look in each other’s eyes with so much gratitude.

“So what’s going on?” I ask as we are walking to her car.
“Ah, well, political trouble. The news here said there was an attack, an online attack, and that is why Facebook and WhatsApp and Twitter are not working. And they are now trying to fix the situation.”
“Bullshit!” I hear myself say before I can stop myself and quickly add: “Sorry!”
“Yes, of course it’s bullshit.” Merve replies, making me feel more at ease now.
She’s about my height, wearing a scarf over her head and glasses and a long green coat over black trousers and purple knee length dress. She looks so beautiful and strong and I am feeling so lucky to be in her company. She tells me she is a doctor and has an exam in two weeks and feels rather anxious about it. We get to her car and I can’t help thinking I’m getting into a car with a stranger one more time. Although this time I am sure I have nothing to worry about.
She then takes me to dinner to this nice place next to a river and we also feed some cats and the ducks on the river. We talk about Romanian and Turkish and make a list of common words, while Merve is taking photos of us. Then we drive to Meram and have hosmerim, a traditional dessert, on a terrace with a bird view of the city. On the way, she suddenly exclaims:

“Oh, yeah! Internet is back! I am happy!” and my thighs can finally release some of the tension.

It is here that she hands me a small black box with a gift from her – a necklace and a pair of earrings, right after I get another “You look so Turkish!” from the waiter.

“I just like making people happy” she says.

We then make a stop at the mall and drive to Nari and pick up my luggage (I can’t help making a note of the fact that I leave my bag with my wallet and passport and everything in the car as I go up to Nari’s apartment to get my suitcase and I tell myself I never want to be so ‘careful’ that I trust no one; though, maybe, I should be a bit more selective, I admit) and then head back to the hotel. By the time I get to my room I am so tired and my knee is so upset I just want to pass out I my bed and forget everything. Tomorrow seems too far away. Oh, yeah, and again I get the precious advice to AVOID CROWDED PLACES. Right.

PS It looks like the images are not uploading, so I will have to do that in Bucharest.