Send him to me. I want to be found.

“So, do you want to go this way?” he asks, pointing right, to a direction we have already taken so many times – a walk along busy alleys between blocks of flats, nothing spectacular or even remotely pleasant. “Or that way, to the nature park?” he decides to offer another option – a 15 minute walk to the nature park close by (a former waste ground, now a protected area in a concrete enclosed space that  was supposed to become a lake in communist times).

We’re finally out on our daily walk, having fed and changed the baby several times today already and successfully dressed him and placed him in the carrying system. It’s a windy day, colder than the previous one, cloudy and dark. Winter is coming, as everyone so famously and predictably says these days.

“That way…” I reply sighing and I cannot help thinking about my journey this time last year, a week on my own in Turkey – Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia. Each day was an adventure I wrote extensively on my blog about. A single woman, travelling in Turkey on her birthday, right after a bike crash that left her face badly bruised and  scars on her left hand and right knee that are still visible today.

“Turkey looks so clean and cold, hard, shiny and dangerous like the freshly polished pipe of a loaded hunting weapon being held by the big, strong hands of a psychopath with the sharp mind of a genius. Its people are still wearing golden rags of former glory, busy making ends meet and shattering distances at any costs. No one is alone here. Ever. Pain is hidden under the hijab or crushed in clenched fists, stuffed with sugar, smoked, washed down with cay or coffee and, secretly, alcohol. See, nothing separates us. We are all the same. Fear is no more than a virus we get while navigating news channels, never while traveling the world. ” I used to write during my coach ride from Konya to Cappadocia – Settling karma and travelling to Goreme.

Or my last day in Konya before returning to Bucharest, when social media was down due to political trouble and tension in the street was leaking like blood from a fresh corpse dropped in the ocean, sending its scent to hungry sharks swimming miles away:

“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.” (My last day in Konya and Turkey goes crazy again)

praying outside mosque in konya turkey

Today my whole universe is in this two room apartment and the surrounding area where I take daily walks. My small, domestic universe is populated by only two people – two very special boys that I love. Still, the scarcity of the population around here makes every disappointment a tragedy. If this time last year every day brought new people and new adventures to write about, now breastfeeding takes up most of my time and the most breathtaking adventures are adjusting the baby in the carrying system, clipping his nails while he’s sleeping, feeding him at night while fighting sleep, backache and frustration, bathing him and watching his beautiful face all the time.

The first two weeks were like a honeymoon. Never before had I been so happy. Well, a sort of a honeymoon… Since, well… How are we to survive these first few weeks of change and adjustment without sex? My midwives were amazed at the tonus of my perineum (no tearing despite the prolonged expulsion and a very good condition right after birth and in the following days). Well, ladies, to be perfectly honest, it’s sex. Sex has contributed greatly to its good shape. It’s true Kegel exercises have been part of my life for years now. Best done, you guessed it, mostly during sex. It’s already been a week since I feel I cannot wait any longer. It’s too long…

Anger one day was soon followed by sadness the next day. No reason. Well, except for the huge changes and the domestic confinement that’s totally new and hard to bear for someone who’s saved only for plane tickets for the past two years.

“Yes, but we’re going to travel again”, says my life partner, travel companion and the father of my baby.

“Yes, eventually…”, I reply feeling more confident than it sounds.

“And breastfeeding is also temporary, it’s going to end too…” he adds more hesitantly.

“Of course it will… In about two years or so…”, I answer trying unsuccessfully to make it sound light and funny. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it and would not give it up, it’s just that it seems to take up so much time and on such long term…

“We’re here for you”, he continues, holding my shoulders and planting warm kisses on my face. “And look how cute he is, really”, he adds pointing his head at the baby, still naked and all wet from the bath, wrapped up in towels and cuddled in my arms, sucking on my right nipple.

And he’s right. But that only seems to add to the sadness at this point. Caressing his soft thigh, I’m thinking he was inside me, he grew from such a small cell, my body fed him, my flesh made his. And here he is now, so grown in my arms. And he’ll continue to grow and will gradually become independent and start his own life, away from us. And he’ll outlive us. And I love him so much. And yet I still don’t really know him very well. He’s so wonderful, so luminous, so perfect. How will I ever be able to let go?

“Over 85% of women go through some form of postpartum emotional imbalance”, my notes from the Lamaze course remind me. I’m lucky I have this rational part that’s always awake and alert (well, it did make labor longer, but in general it tends to keep me safe).  I do a quick self evaluation and decide it’s not depression, but a mild case of baby blues. All normal. Just relax, I tell myself and the lump in my throat gets heavier. I go through my essential oil basket and find something that should help and then I also find a homeopathic remedy that seems to fit the symptoms. I’m pulling myself out.

Still, before going to bed I browse through my T-shirt stash and find the one I got in Thailand, at the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. A very ugly white T-shirt with a colorful print of the royal palace. Last year in February. I am standing in line to visit the chapel, surrounded by a loud crowd of Chinese tourists pointing their cameras everywhere and stretching out their selfie sticks to take one more photo of their faces projected over the whole world cut to pieces.

One of the security guards, wearing military clothes and waving his gun left and right, comes to me barking some order in Thai. Since I don’t understand a word, he uses firm gestures and a wave of his gun to get me out of the line. I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and my huge blue shawl wrapped around my shoulders doesn’t fool the guard’s vigilance. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius. This is how I end up with the ugly T-shirt from the gift shop in the palace garden. It’s the only choice. I pay for it, turn my back to the crowd, facing a dirty wall behind the counter, take off my sleeveless shirt and put on the ugly new Thailand T-shirt. I find it disturbing that it doesn’t match my trousers at all, but end up wearing it inside one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. I leave my sandals by the door, in the big pile of shoes resting there, covered in sweat and dust, and wonder if I’m going to still find them there when I get out, but decide it’s worth walking barefoot the rest of the journey to Cambodia if necessary.

royal chapel of the emerald buddha bangkok thailand

The feeling is overwhelming and once I get in front of the emerald statue covered in golden raiment, my knees bend of their own accord and my eyes close. I don’t know how long I spend kneeling on the cold marble floor, surrounded by the loud crowd, before stepping outside into the heat of the sun again. So tonight I’m going to bed wearing this ugly white T-shirt which the emerald Buddha saw me wearing that day in Bangkok. So yes, I do miss being on the road.

PS The title of this post is from a ‘dialogue’ I had with Shams at his tomb in Konya – The day I leave Konya Shams does some magic.

PPS At the end of my post about my home birth – 35th birthday journey of initiation: the story of my home birth – you can find a list of links to all my posts about my last year’s birthday journey in Turkey.

“Have you ever felt the ground falling from beneath your feet?”

The thin, short haired lactation consultant asks the three of us, sitting with our hands resting on our bumps at this white, round table in a shabby chic corner tea house in the old city of Bucharest, the only customers this sunny summer morning.

And I’m suddenly back twelve years ago.

“I want us to split”, my boyfriend tells me bluntly, sitting legs apart in the small, torn armchair by the balcony door in our rented studio five bus stops away from the University square in Bucharest. “I don’t love you anymore,” he adds, stretching his long legs across the Turkish carpet in dusty shades of blue on top of the worn out linoleum covering the floor.

I’m mute for a few seconds and I feel my throat exploding and wonder if I’m ever gonna be able to utter a sound again. At the same time, I remember our love making the night before and the goodbye kisses that very morning and the “I love you” before he closed the door behind him and went to work. They all seem like faint memories from another lifetime. What’s happened in the meantime? When did I die? I have no job ’cause “you’ve just finished university, don’t get hired just yet, let’s travel this summer” and nowhere to go. I can’t breathe.

Five months later, having spent about a month apart, we are married. Too afraid of loneliness, both of us, to pass the opportunity. Nine years later we are divorced. On our ten year wedding anniversary we sign the bank papers so I’ll no longer be part of the mortgage contract on our commonly held apartment – a home so hard to leave behind. That same day also happens to be the first day of my last menstruation before I get pregnant.

The two lines on the pregnancy test, on March 8, at around 3 am leave no ground beneath my feet, nothing to hold on to,  and force big tears out of my eyes like in a manga comic. Happiness and panic, two long and slippery snakes mating in my solar plexus. Another burial awaits – the girl I used to be is struck dead by two pink lines on a white background she’s just peed on, alone in her boyfriend’s bathroom, the whole universe spinning around her. Yet never again alone, to be accurate.

Then the phone call I get when I am 15 from my first lover, announcing me he’s cheated on me and “I need to meet that girl and discuss our feelings for each other… I’m sorry. Please don’t cry.” I can’t talk. The dirty receiver is heavy in my right hand and my thighs are getting wet as I’m kneeling by the bedside cabinet of my ground floor neighbors, who keep poking their heads around the door to check up on me from time to time. We don’t have our own phone, you see. I have to go down two floors to take the call, leave my corpse on my neighbors’ bedroom floor and then carry my ghost back upstairs again.

Then it’s early morning again, last year in spring, and I’m standing in front of the bed in that scruffy hotel room in Sultanahmet in Istanbul, dimly lit through the thick and brown heavy curtains. Ten years younger than me, short and handsome, amber skin, light brown hair, thick eyebrows and long lashes, full lips covering his tobacco stained teeth, my Syrian lover seems perfect. I’ve taken a shower, put my makeup on, got dressed, packed my suitcase and I’m ready to leave. And I can’t. I can’t wake him up. I can’t open and close that bloody door behind me.

I can’t stop looking at him sleeping there, so vulnerable, his bare chest moving up and down with his soft breath, a bent knee resting over the white sheet, his toes almost reaching the wooden side of the bed. I feel my chest exploding in a thousand pieces at the sight; silently and deadly. I’m perfectly aware I’ll probably never see him again. “Don’t make it difficult”, he says, seeing my face as I pull myself together and wake him up,  whispering his name while running my hand over his face. “Take care of yourself, Dhana”, he advises, knowing I’ll never listen. “Just go…”, he adds when I go back the second time for one last kiss. Minutes later, in the car seat taking me to the airport, I say goodbye to the sea.

“How do you know?”, the Cancer boy I’ve met using a dating app asks me, his big, beautiful eyes resting on my lips, unable to look higher. Lying flat on my belly in his bed, I tell him exactly what he did on a specific day in December last year, precisely one week after our first date. “I hate lies”, I warn him. “Please forgive me, I promise I’ll never lie to you again. Can we just leave this behind us? We have so much to do together…” I know I can’t trust him about the first part, but I am perfectly aware he’s absolutely right about the last part. Still, a leftover from the innocent me dies in this scene, too.  About a month and a half later, in the same bed, a strong light warms up my womb as if a comet hit the earth and I describe the whole experience in my diary the next morning, so that five weeks later, holding the two lined test in my hand, I find the exact conception date: Valentine’s day/ night. Three weeks after that, manga tears again as I’m listening to my baby’s heart during the first ultrasound in the doctor’s office.

“Yes, I have…” I answer when the lactation consultant says it’s my turn. The other two expecting mothers have already spoken while my memories were flooding my brain like a swollen river on a sunny day in mid spring, when the snow melts all at once.

“And? What can you share with us?”

“You know, my life has changed so much and so many times… And there have been moments when I felt I couldn’t breathe, when there was absolutely nothing familiar to hold on to anymore, nothing to cling to, seemingly no one and nothing to rely on… I’ve felt driven out of my own life. I’ve died. And I’ve survived every time. The hardest thing, feeling suddenly suspended in mid air, was having enough patience to get to the bottom of the pit, having enough patience to fall all the way, to hit the ground. Then crawl and cry down there for as long as necessary and climb back up again. To a new life. I’ve survived all my deaths… Every time… All of us do.” I answer, giggling at the revelation, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and confidence filling me up as my left elbow reaches behind over the bentwood chair back, to make room for my growing heart.

There’s a short silence as the three smiling women are all looking at me as if I’ve just said something important.

PS Attachment is the name of the monster I’m learning to tame.

PPS Took this photo in Văcărești natural park earlier this week – felt like early fall is creeping in…

sunset in vacaresti natural park

Turkey on my birthday. The missing episode – guided tour of Cappadocia

I wake up at 7 and have breakfast on the sunny terrace with the perfect view of Göreme and then head to Angelos Travel, where Samet happily greets me and offers coffee. He’s busier and more official today, as customers are quietly occupying the entire sitting space of the office – a couple, two girls and another girl travelling alone, who sits next to me. I know I’m going to make new friends on this tour, but at this point I still don’t know who and I start thinking maybe it’s her. But she’s so busy with her phone all the time that I don’t find the space to squeeze in an introductory line, so I wait patiently, warming up my hands on the hot latte cup, licking small teaspoonfuls of the white milk foam on top.

Two men come in and announce that the mini bus is there and we should go. They make sure we’re on the red tour and then direct us to the white mini bus waiting in the parking lot in front of the agency. I go and sit down in one of those single seats on the right, making sure I have everything I need with me. The solo Asian girl sits down somewhere on the left, closer to the front. The first few stops are at various hotels in the village and so several people get on until almost all the seats are taken. An Asian guy travelling solo sits down next to my potential friend and they quickly hook up.

“Where are you from?” the guide asks.

“Spain”, the two girls answer.

“Turkey”, says one couple and is followed by another and then several other people.

“Korea”, says my former potential friend.

“Korea”, answers her new potential boyfriend.

“India”, another couple’s answer comes from my left.

“Romania”, comes my answer.

Once we’re all aboard, the guide starts giving us information on the tour. I usually hate guided tours, but today I feel it’s the best choice I could’ve made. I can just sit back and relax, I feel taken care of. The first stop is Uçhisar, a natural castle on a hill – the highest point in Cappadocia, but inaccessible to us now. Here we get some information about the area and I like finding out that Cappadocia comes from the word ‘Katpatuka’, which the guide says means “country of beautiful horses”, inhabited for the past 4000 years.

cappadocia uchisar tour           cappadocia uchisar area

As I’m climbing the hill taking pictures and enjoying the view and the silence, I hear a woman’s scream piercing the silence and I quickly spot her on a lower hill, her jacket being bitten by a donkey she was feeding. The sky is crystal clear, the sun is shining and it’s so cold that I congratulate myself for my choice of warm clothes today.

“Where from in Romania are you?” the Indian man asks me before getting back to the mini bus.

He’s in his sixties, white haired, mustache, plump and a bit slow, floating on such a peaceful cloud, yet not at all aloof, smiling every time our eyes meet, so good at covering his pellucid sadness, painted about him in shades of light blue and grey – a garment he’s been carrying not from this lifetime – betraying a kindness that has survived quite a few disappointments.

“I live in Bucharest.”

“Really? I have many friends in Bucharest. At the Institute of Nuclear Physics.” he says.

“Really?! I’ve just met someone who works there, actually. Postdoctoral position, he’s from Turkey, just moved to Bucharest. I owe him this trip, actually, he recommended I should come to Cappadocia, I was just planning Konya.”

“Well, it’s a small world. I met my university teacher’s PHD guide on one of my travels. Our son works in Istanbul. That’s close to Bucharest.”

“You should come to Bucharest.” I tell him.

“Maybe we will one day.”

“Are you into physics, too?” I ask hesitantly.

“Yes, I am.” he replies in a low voice and I sense that there’s a little extra information being pushed back down his throat and so I quickly pick up his modesty. He later mentions in passing something about giving a lecture in Edinburgh, which makes me start wondering who he actually is in the world of physics, a science that wanted nothing to do with me all through my school years.

His wife is so beautiful. She seems a bit younger than him and so full of life, strong, talkative and outgoing. I secretly admire her hair and that air of confidence and adventure around her, which Romanian women her age are totally lacking. She seems to do so much without letting any effort show. Her strength transpires through all her pores and she can still manage to be so feminine. I’m so curious and try to pick it up – the secret of living with your strength.

The driver is standing close by and looking at us as we’re having our cheerful conversation and I feel so grateful we are laughing together – me and my new Indian friends. When the driver’s patience runs out, he tells us to get into the minibus.

“Everyone else is already waiting”, he adds turning and I realize he’s right and I am surprised by the stretch of his patience.

So we go back into the mini bus, resume our seats and, a few minutes later, we are at our next stop: the Göreme Open Air Museum. Our guide leads us to this sunny terrace and attends first to the Turkish part of the group, so the English speaking half is taking pictures and warming up in the sun.

img_0491      img_0489

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I perceive the silence as I’m waiting, the kind you get in a holy place. I feel like being quiet, as if words were not necessary here, so I just smile and take notes and photos. I later find out this is a religious complex which used to be inhabited by a Christian society and there are around 400 orthodox cave churches here. It used to be a refuge for the persecuted Christians, where they made churches in the naturally formed caves and underground cities.

“Muslims and Christians lived here together in peace before the 8th century AD”, says the guide. “In 1923 there was a population exchange between Turkey and Greece and all the Christians left Göreme.” These caves, he informs us, “used to be monasteries, hospitals and hotels for pilgrims at the same time” and are now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Once inside the first church – St Basil Church – I feel such deep respect for what used to be here and get this inner shiver and I think I’m going to start crying again, but the short time spent inside prevents that and I am out in the sun again, quiet and pensive. As the guide is telling us the story of the church, a butterfly visits the group.

We head to the next church, the Apple Church, and I cannot help making a note of the presence of a card with number 9 written on it – for the audio guide – right on the altar stone. The painting inside is in natural shades of blue, brown and yellow and I am touched by the elegant simplicity. To think I had no idea where I was coming to…

In the next church, the Snake church, I am impressed by the painting and legend of St Onuphrius. The guide first asks us whether we think the saint in the painting is a woman or a man and everyone concludes it’s hard to tell. He says there are two versions of the saint’s story – either he’s depicted with his chest covered in a lot of hair or, legend has it, the saint was actually a woman (and the two big circles on her chest that are interpreted as hair because of the beard stretching down to his/ her feet are breasts) who was a prostitute and she converted to Christianity and begged God to make her a man so that men would not force themselves on her anymore. God took mercy on her and made her half woman and half man.

As I’m walking in and out of these cave churches, taking in the atmosphere and trying to feel more than just see, I start wondering about the Turkish physicist’s role in my life. Since he came into the picture, I’ve had a really bad fall with my bike and I came to Cappadocia. And I’ve just met someone who’s into physics, too. And what about Turkey’s role in my life? For the third time this year I’m in Turkey. And one of my students comes to Turkey at least twice a month. All my life so far I’ve never been attracted to this part of the world. And here I am now, in love with the place, the language and the people.

“You should come to Mumbai and visit the Elephanta caves.” the Indian couple tell me. And we take pictures of each other and have pleasant and quiet, affectionate exchanges as we’re walking up the hill. “I guess we are all so similar” the Indian woman tells me, “we have gone through such similar things in our history, we have similar experiences”. And I just love that.

Our next stop is Çavuşin, an old Greek village up on a hill which we climb on one side and descend on another. Deserted houses, some for sale, to be turned into hotels. Reminds me of Crete and Spinalonga. As we’re going down the hill and into the minibus, adhan starts and there’s this Turkish woman standing outside her yard, leaning against the wall outside her house. She makes me dream up stories about her life behind those walls.

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Then it’s lunch at the Han Restaurant somewhere in Avanos. This big place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, up on these high stairs, open buffet, long tables, many groups of tourists. We sit down and I stick close to my new friends, the Indian couple. Across the table this Turkish girl keeps staring at my bruised face when she thinks I don’t notice, but I notice every time and look at her smiling when I feel her eyes on my blue skin. I try food I don’t know, as I always do. And I eat too much. As I always do.

“If a man wanted to marry a girl, he had to make a pot with a lid, no measuring. If the lid matched the pot, he could marry her.”, the guide at the pottery factory later explains as a big, mustached Turk performs the demo on the wooden pottery wheel. “You can notice his skill”, he continues as the Turk is now holding a round pot with a lid, freshly come out of his big hands.

“So it means he must already be married since he’s so good, isn’t he?” I ask.

“He is and he is now looking for the third”, the guide explains and we all laugh.

As we’re watching the demo and listening to the explanations, we’re all sitting around the room, drinking cay from the traditional small tulip shaped glasses before we are led into the shop and informed everything has a 50% discount because it’s off season.

pottery shop in avanos goreme

“Where do you come from?” the guide asks me.


“You look Turkish.”

“Everybody tells me that here. Thank you.”

As we’re walking around the shop, dipping our fingertips in bowls of various sizes, colors and designs, I am close to the Indian couple and when we come next to a shelf with sleeping cats, one leg hanging on the side of the shelf, the woman tells me their son used to live in London and sold his house there and moved to Istanbul. Went to cover a political story as a journalist and just didn’t want to go back afterwards.

“He earns half of what he was earning in London, but he loves the city. It is so vibrant, he says.”, the woman explains.

“Wow, what a story! To leave London for Istanbul!” I reply, secretly thinking I am crazy enough to go and try to live anywhere.

“I’m gonna pay by card.” I tell the cashier after the shop keeper packs my bowls.

“Money is money.” he replies shrugging his shoulders.

We cross the Red River and the center of Avanos and get to the carpet factory. Women are weaving and, as the guide is telling us that a carpet takes between six months to one year to make, I’m paying attention to the weavers. I’m thinking they’re probably happy to have a job and know a skill. But looking at their bent backs as they’re sitting on those benches, at their hips and fingers, I know the job takes its toll on their health. They must have so much time to think about things, I conclude as I’m moving into the silk making room. Here the warm, moist smell of death lends the room a rather sadistic touch. The worker on duty here shows me a dead worm and it’s the first time I’ve seen a silk worm. I then steal a silk cocoon from a pile on a table. I remember how much I wanted one when I was visiting this shop overlooking the sea somewhere in Crete a few years ago. I’m still thinking about the karmic implications and wonder if I’ve just secured one more trip to Turkey. A longer stay perhaps, next time?

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“First, what would you like to drink? It is part of Turkish hospitality. If you drink something, it doesn’t mean you have to buy a carpet. I hope I am clear.” Bayram, the white haired, blue eyed salesman in his mid fifties explains.

I’ve already had cay at the pottery shop, so I ask for apple tea and the Indian lady quickly reminds me I was curious about the local wines when we were having lunch.

“You should try it”, she insists.

“You can have two drinks”, the salesman says and orders wine and apple tea for me.

“Weaving started with Turkish nomads. They had wool.” the salesman says as he and his colleagues keep unrolling carpets before our feet, stepping on them all the time as if wanting to show us they’re so practical albeit precious and expensive.

“What are you writing?” the salesman asks me.

“Just taking some notes, I’m a writer.”

“Are you writing a book about Turkey?

“I haven’t planned that. Yet… I’m now covering my journey on my blog.”

“Is it in Romanian?”

“No, English.”

“I would like to read it.”

After the presentation is over, I get up and walk around the carpets, inspecting them and admiring the colors and patterns and I hesitate before stepping on them.

“We can make you a good offer. Which one do you like?”

“This one”, I say pointing to a medium-sized, silk on silk turquoise carpet.

“Oh, you have the expensive taste.”

“Well…” I reply and cannot argue.

“We can make you a good deal on this one too.”

“I’m sure you can, but I still can’t afford it.” I reply smiling and feeling very relaxed in the reality of my situation. “Unless you make it a gift”, I continue with a giggle, after a short break.

“I’d love that, but my boss would kick me and my wife would kill me”, he replies.

The Indian lady really likes the carpets and insists that her son will come from Istanbul to buy carpets for his house. The salesman would like to strike a deal with her and keeps suggesting that she should buy a carpet for her son’s new house herself.

“My son is very picky”, she says, “he never likes what I buy for him, so I don’t buy him anything, I let him choose whatever he likes.”

“Is he married?” the salesman asks.

“No!” she laughs, “Nobody wants him. He can’t keep a girlfriend for more than a week.” she adds making my laughter, unleashed by the red wine, fill the room and roll all over the expensive carpets at our feet.

When we leave the factory, after I give Bayram a note with the address of my blog and he carefully reads it out loud appreciating the name, adhan starts again and we are now heading to Paşabağ – mushroom valley.

capadoccia mushrooms

“In a few years, all these formations will fall down. But others will be formed. Just like human life.” the guide tells us while we’re admiring the valley in its pink splendour.

We then go to Devrent Valley – Imagination Valley – where we imagine shapes of animals and we laugh at what our fantasy chooses to see.

imagination valley cappadocia

“Do you see the rabbit there?” the Indian lady asks me and then she quickly points at it for me and I see it too – a huge rabbit head emerging from the ground, bent backwards a bit, ears pointing up. She takes a picture of me and we’re off to our last stop – Urgur with the three beauties.

the three beauties cappadocia

I play and turn my fragile and temporary shape into a Cappadocian formation:

cappadocia shadow formation 2 cappadocia shadow formation 1

I give my contact information to my new friends before the mini bus drops me off in front of Angelos Travel and the sema follows and then I leave the safety of the caravansary behind.


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”.


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.

img_0897 img_0824

“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.



“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.


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.

The day I leave Konya Shams does some magic

I wake up moaning from a dream I forget as soon as I open my eyes and jump out of bed, grab my tablet and do my online check in and proceed with packing. Then breakfast. There’s this guy I saw yesterday too. Tall, firm, dark hair, beard. Something tells me he might be a journalist. When I get to the cheese section with my plate, he comes and stands close behind my back. Just like yesterday. Yesterday I turned smiling and made room for him to come next to me so he can fill up his plate, only to be refused and shown by a quick hand gesture to carry on. So today I don’t bother and just attend to my plate, feeling his presence in the room and his invisible touch on the back of my neck, under my hair being held up by two bobby pins with round shaped blue and black gems at the end.

I resume my seat next to the window. This time the room is full and some women wearing scarves wrapped around their heads are also here, still outnumbered by men. The TV is on again and everyone is watching the news, so I decide to crawl out of my autism and join them. Nothing to be worried about: arrests being made, police officers beating up people, protests, street explosions, a blast in an apartment building, speeches, riot police marching. I have no idea where all this is happening and I am not sure I even want to know. Wherever it is, it’s too close.

“Postane?” I ask my fat bearded receptionist when I finish breakfast. “I want to post some cards…”

“There, but is closed today. I think… But I can help you. Monday.” he says , looking directly behind my eyes somehow.

“Tesekkur, evet. I go and check now and if it is closed I will leave them with you. Tamam?”

“Tamam”, he replies and we say our goodbyes and, as I get out into the street, an old man speaks Turkish to me, so I know I have become a Konyan. At least partly. This, too, is one of my homes now.

I get to the post office and find my receptionist was right, so it will be the second time in Turkey that I leave my postcards to be sent by a receptionist after I am already back in Romania. I still have time before my flight, but I decide to go back to the hotel and write. Then I see this natural shop on the left and go in. I let out a sigh of pleasure as a smile warms up my face when I get in and dip myself in the mixed smell of spices and herbs and oils. Did you know that the Turkish word for ‘mixed’ is ‘karma’, by the way?

It’s sunny and quiet as I come out of the shop and the thought of visiting Shams again starts challenging my decision to go to the hotel. But we said or goodbyes, I tell myself. It is good to respect that. Yes, but you don’t know if in this lifetime you can ever come back here again. So now you are here. You have time. Go. And so I go. And as I’m walking to the mosque, I realize it’s my third time here this week and I’ve always come from the right side and went away on the left side, surrounding the mosque every time.

shams park                     shams mosque

In front of the mosque, just like yesterday, some boys are running and laughing around the ablution fountain, scaring the pigeons away. I take off my shoes and get in without covering my head again. I remember when I am already in front of the tomb. The atmosphere seems more peaceful today and I have a stronger and more stable sense of the energy here, bathing in rose perfume.

You have come again.

I have.

You are already whole.

I am.

What is it that you seek?

My love, send him to me. I want my equal. My partner. If he is already close, wake him up, remind him of who he is. Send him to me. I want to be found.

mevlana museum

I walk slowly and calmly back to my hotel, finish packing and then carry my suitcase down the stairs to the reception. The ‘journalist’ comes in right as the receptionist hands me back my credit card. We smile to each other and he hesitates for a moment before getting into the elevator. I ask the receptionist to call me a taxi for the airport in thirty minutes and then sit in the red armchair facing the elevator, planning to take out my tablet and work on my writing. The ‘journalist’ comes down a minute later and, when he sees me, he says something in Turkish.

“Sorry?” I reply.

From here on, it all happens very fast and I just remember he asks me if I want to have tea with him somewhere and I say yes, but I only have thirty minutes before I should head to the airport. I think we also talk about where each of us is from at this point, but I am not sure anymore.

“What if I take you?” he offers and I do have a brief moment of hesitation before my right hand reaches out to him and I introduce myself. In something like a fraction of a second, the following inner dialogue takes place:

“You are completely nuts! You are absolutely not getting into a car with a stranger again in this place!” my mind says.

“Have it your way. Anyway, you know exactly how it’s going to be: you’ll say no, of course, because it’s the sensible thing to say, and then spend the entire taxi ride to the airport wanting to go back to the hotel and, after that, both flights designing plans to jump off the airplane and, of course, the next few months (at least!) wondering what could’ve happened and trying your best to forget you were so stupid and said no.” My heart doesn’t explain all this actually, but gives me a homeopathic dose of the feeling projected over the whole film shown in fast forward motion. Less than a fraction of a second.

“Hmm… OK!” I am actually shocked and, at the same time, happy at the sound of my own voice. He happily picks up my backpack, says something in Turkish to the hotel staff, who are all gathered around a table in the restaurant, watching the whole scene with great interest and some of them even envy, and then we both get out.

“You haven’t learnt anything. ” my mind insists hopelessly as I get into the front seat and he apologizes for the mess.

“No, I haven’t, thank God. Now just shut up.” I reply.

“Let’s see, where can we have tea…”, he says trying to focus.

“In Turkey? Everywhere.”

“In Konya… You know, when I saw you yesterday I wanted to ask if you want to have tea with me, but I… It’s hard… I didn’t.”

I say nothing.

“You look Greek.” he continues.

“Do I? Everyone here says I look Turkish.”

“I thought Turkish at first, you heard I spoke Turkish to you at first.”

And we talk about our professions, the political context, our living situations, family relations, anxiety, my birthday, my bike fall, my travels, my writing and why I came to Konya and I don’t remember everything and we decide going directly to the airport is a better idea than finding a place in the city because once we are there we can be more relaxed and just enjoy our cay.

“So are you going to write about me?” he asks.

“I think I already have, to be perfectly honest”, I reply and check my draft, which I already started earlier this morning, and find it’s right in the first paragraph.

“I will read it later”, he says.

Our interaction is pleasant and whole, natural and honest, lacking the usual aggressive courting heavily infused with sexual tension I have got used to in most of my interactions with Turkish men. Moreover, it is not seduction that has brought us together. So I finally start feeling I am being treated like a person, not a mere walking sex opportunity.

“So why are you traveling alone?”

“Why not?”

“Oh, right. I would be afraid to go alone even to Bulgaria. And you come here alone. It is not safe here. People get drunk and have knives and there are fights after dark. I have this pepper spray with me, look.”

“Well, I am not usually afraid. Now it was a bit stressful, it’s true.” I reply.

“How old are you?”

“34. How about you?”

“What do you think?”

“The same. Or maybe 35?” I reply.

“I am 34. I was born in…

“1982” we both say at the same time.

“When?” I ask.

“The sixth month… June.”

“What day?” I continue driven by my insatiable curiosity. “20? Something with 2, right?”

“12”, he says and he doesn’t seem to freak out.

We get to the airport in a short while and he takes my luggage out of his car and then I give him my mobile check-in printed by the receptionist and he goes in and asks what time I should come for boarding. He comes back triumphantly and tells me we have two hours. So he puts my luggage back in his car and we drive to a nearby place. It is a nice restaurant and we are both here for the first time. We sit at a table for two next to the window and he asks:

“How is your stomach?”

I mean to say fat, but I just say it is ok and, when the waiter comes to take his order, I can’t help noticing that the waiter looks so much like Hamodi, my good Syrian friend in Istanbul, so I smile to him perhaps with a little bit too much attention, but really I feel like hugging him.

And I also can’t help noticing that we are both sitting at a table for two next to the window, facing each other, just as we were yesterday morning at the hotel, only this time we are finally at the same table. And I remember how this morning I regretted having put my coat and purse on the seat in front of me and thought I might have invited him to share the table and eat together, since the restaurant was full and the only free table he could find was right next to the huge TV screen. But I figured I was leaving today anyway and women don’t usually do that here. Not because they can’t, but because they don’t need to. Men around here still seem to have balls. And I want that. Not needing to make up for someone else’s lack of balls. Plus, I thought there is no point in forcing things and I reminded myself (as I always do) that life always finds a way.

The waiter brings cay, water and the same traditional desert I had last night with Merve. I get up and go to wash my hands and I simply notice, I just notice how I leave my purse with my phone and wallet with passport and everything on the chair in front of him. When I return, we enjoy everything together and talk.

He asks if I have eaten some traditional Konyan food and tell him I am a vegetarian. He asks why.

“Well, long story”, I reply.

“Long story and you think I wouldn’t understand”, he says reading my mind.

“I will show you a poem from Mevlana to Shems, so that he doesn’t leave him”, he says out of the blue and picks up his phone and types something. When he points the screen at me, a video starts playing. “But it’s in Turkish”, he adds. We watch a few seconds of it and then he gets the idea to find the poem in English so that I can read it.

He hands me his phone again and I barely get to read the first two or three lines and I feel something is changing dramatically in the atmosphere. I look up and ask if he is OK. I feel a sort of agitation and very ample movement, like spinning. In the beginning it feels like the tension preceding an earthquake, but then the movement is much more erratic, not only vertical and horizontal, but more chaotic on account of what I perceive as fear of letting go, of losing control. He is clearly affected by something and is struggling to keep it all together. I remain calm and ask the question again. He answers in Turkish, gets up in a rush, spilling the water glasses on the table and over his phone, a few drops landing on my trousers.

The waiter comes and accompanies him to the exit. Before getting out, he looks back at me and makes a reassuring gesture with his hand, telling me to relax, stay there and wait. And I remain calm, wipe the water off his phone with a tissue and continue reading the beautiful poem, wondering if I can find it in my book as my mind makes the connection between these lines, in which Rumi’s asking Shams not to leave him, and my complaints about his absence as I was visiting his tomb.

When he returns, he has washed his face and it’s wet and he keeps apologizing.

“It is first time, never happened to me before, I don’t know what this is, maybe tension, I don’t know, I have anxiety. I am sorry.”

“Have some water”, I advise him smiling calmly. I want to squeeze his hand and help him get down on the ground again, but at this point I don’t. I am just witnessing. And I have no doubt that nothing is wrong.

“Let’s go”, he says, “when I stay here my head is spinning again.”

“OK. Let’s get out of here, the air will be good. You are OK.”

“Daniela, I am so sorry. I am sorry. Daniela… Daniela… Where is my car?”

“It is in the back, let’s go this way.”

“It never happened before.”

“You haven’t met me before”, I reply and make him laugh so now he is more relaxed.

” Where is the car?” he asks again.

 “Where is my head?” I reply.

“Where are we? Who am I?” he continues and we laugh.

Having exchanged contact information, he now drops me off at the airport, complaining about my heavy suitcase as he is carrying it inside.

“Sorry, it’s not a Turkish guy”, I tell him so we laugh again.

konya airport

As I continue working on my blog post after the security check, I lean back in the chair at the boarding gate and rejoice in the silent and relaxed atmosphere of the Konyan airport.

konyan airport

The guy at the security check even insisted I should keep my water bottle. All my previous tension is history now and the atmosphere has either cleared or I cannot be bothered by its heaviness anymore. When I get in my seat on the plane, I start feeling the same rose smell as in the Mevlana museum and Shams’ mosque. Suddenly, I hear a girl at my back say in a British accent:

“It is your destiny, you can’t escape it.”

The weather is perfect and taking off makes me a bit high, as it always does, and I enjoy it like an addict taking a dose of his drug. On board service soon starts and everyone is relaxed, no one talks loudly, we smile to one another and I take pictures of the sky. It looks like a snow covered field, making me dream up plans about this winter.

flying above the cluds

“Istanbul”, I turn and say it to the big girl on my right as we have come down through the thick layer of cotton above the city. And I purposely stress the ‘a’ and add some air around it before I allow the other sounds of the name to slip out on the water slide my tongue curves into.


“Istanbul”, she repeats returning my smile.

“Guzel”, I add, this time stressing the ‘e’ like licking a lolly pop.

“Cok guzel”, she corrects me, her face lit up by an even warmer smile.

At passport control in Istanbul, with a big smile on my face and the rose perfume still in my nose, I get to this desk where a guy with a purple right eye checks my passport. And I think it is just too funny a coincidence and can’t help laughing and pointing to my purple right eye.

“Merhaba! We both have a purple right eye, look!” I say and close mine so he can have a better look.

He listens and takes out his pistol from his waist to show me how he got it, explaining everything in Turkish. Then I tell him about the bike crash, but I am not sure he gets it.

” Daniela… Daniela… Daniela… I am not handsome, Daniela…” he adds, composing the beginning lines of his first elegy.

We wish each other the best, like two brothers in arms and then I catch a glimpse of the most beautiful red sunset before it takes me almost one hour to walk through the entrails of the huge airport from the quiet domestic arrivals to the busy international departures, where I struggle to find a WiFi  connection.

red sunset

             attaturk airport international departures

The first time I hear someone speaking Romanian I think “Oh, how nice, they are going to Romania!” I feel I am not and it takes me a moment to realize I actually am. It feels as if I were just passing through, that it’s not really my destination. I feel I am on this long journey, going somewhere very far away. Such a strange and strong feeling…

plane view of istanbul by night

The plane takes off in Istanbul and I am looking down at the beautiful lights and taking photos, thinking that we all get this impulse to arrest moments, as if simply living them is never enough. We cannot just look at the beautiful lights and enjoy the feelings they awaken, but need to make them our own, to possess an image of them, frozen, stopped in time. A moment that is so fleeting and so artificial in its death caught on camera. We arrest impressions of time passing in an attempt to create permanency. Only that never really happens, everything keeps flowing all the time. Whirling.

 And I keep repeating I my head “the Istanbul of my dreams, the Istanbul of my dreams” and I remember my friend Hamodi calling me earlier today, before checking out of the hotel, reassuring me everything will be all right by telling me that I will always be safe in Turkey even if there was a war because “everyone loves you here and you have a friendship with the dangerous things”.

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.

Getting back to Konya and a different type of civilization

My bus is late and I decide to collect my luggage from Nari, my couch surfing host, tomorrow. So when I get to the otogar I get down the bus through the middle door, to avoid the large crowd engaged in what seems to be a loud celebration at the end of the platform area, and I head to the tram station. My right knee hurts so bad that I now have a limp and I know I have an infection.

When I get off in the city center I ask this tall, pudgy young guy if he can speak English. Yok, he replies smiling. I don’t give up and I take out my phone to show him the address of my hotel . He checks it out and then takes out his phone and shows me the route on Google maps. We try hard to have a conversation, I’m using my hands a lot and make all sorts of faces, while he just smiles impassibly and speaks Turkish. When the scene gets crazy enough, we both stop and sigh, smiling powerlessly to each other.

 Then his face lights up as he takes out his phone again, opens Google translate and we start passing it between each other. He decides to come with me the whole way and walk me to my hotel. We pass this small group of young, thin, gay guys, looking gratious and cautious, we discuss the weather, how old I am, how old he is (19), his favorite place in Turkey (Istanbul), if I like Turkey, why I am here, where my parents are, where I come from, where he has traveled (Turkey), how far the hotel is, why I stay at the hotel. 

Suddenly he stops and grabs both my shoulders, puts his head close to mine so I can feel his tall hair brushing my left temple and points somewhere ahead of us. I squint and, on the right side, across the road, I can see the name of my hotel in bright pink letters. He then takes me across the street, carefully telling me to stop or walk as he checks if cars are coming, as if I could not see for myself and I am grateful for all the care. When we get in front of the hotel, he opens the door, gets in and I follow. He stops next to the door on the left, straight and tall, looking  down at me and smiling as the two dark haired men in the lobby, the receptionist and the bell boy, are watching us, waiting to see what happens.

I position myself in front of him, look up straight into his green eyes, smile back, stretch out my right arm and we shake hands. He looks proud and handsome, like a sultan. Daniela. Fatah, I believe he replies. Tesekkur ederim, I add. Rica ederim, he retorts a bit disappointed as he releases my hand and heads for the exit. Gule gule, I add and turn to the receptionist. Merhaba.

The bell boy takes me to my room. I am so tired I don’t mind anything anymore. We get to the door and the boy follows me in, kneels on the side of my bed and then stretches, pressing his palms on the white sheet, reaching for the remote control and, despite my faint protests and repeated sighing, he insists to show me how it works. It takes him a while because it doesn’t really work. I have to tell him several times “yok TV” and start making desperate hand gestures to help him understand before he finally stops and leaves the room.

 I take a hot shower and attend to my knee. Just as I’m getting into bed, at 00.00 sharp, there’s a loud knock on the door. I get up and open. The bell boy has brought a plate of fresh fruits and a steaming coffee. I swallow my comments because my Turkish is not that bright and colorful yet and his English is as illusiory and volatile as democracy in his country, so I know I shouldn’t rely on it. I let out my ‘oh’ and watch him as he walks past me into the room and finds the best place to put the treat: on the chair, over my cardigan.

 Tesekkur, I blabber and he follows immediately with the right lines and leaves the room. I say something in Romanian about drinking coffee all the time and start missing my place. The room feels cold and loud and the street noise and the noise coming from the neighboring rooms make me uncomfortable. The silence in my cave house hotel was truly wonderful. I want to go home…

PS I wrote this last night and am posting it today. My account on my last day in Goreme is postponed because of the political situation in Turkey. I see myself forced to live the day. By the way, I have no access to Facebook, and WhatsApp anymore, as they are not working in Turkey today.

Leaving the safety of the caravanserai behind

The car is cutting through the darkness like a big, hot, round-shaped meteorite falling from the sky. The sema is still shaking its earthquake inside me as my eyes, right one still wet, are wandering among the lights of a distant town.

“You are engaged to be married, I say pretending to be outraged at the passes he’s making on me, like an innocent, naïve eastern European. (Does that even exist? I wonder). “Can men in Turkey have several wives?” I ask, putting on a curious face.

“Well”, he says pausing and leaning back in his seat, ” No. But they can have several girlfriends. Secretly…”

“Oh, I see…” I reply and, although I have absolutely no interest in him, it is finally so clear to me that I never want to be anybody’s secret anymore and don’t what my life to be about secrets. So I giggle as if I received his answer as an innocent joke between buddies, wrapped up in a thin, golden layer of flirtatious attention. 

“I see you are writing sometimes”, he says.

“I am a writer.” I swiftly reply and, for the first time in my life, I feel comfortable saying that and I know it’s true, not something I am merely pretending or aspiring to be. This is it.

“Really? I hope you don’t write about me. Or I’ll come to Romania and…”

“You need a visa for that.”

“No, actually, I don’t. I’m a special citizen.”

“Really? What makes you so special?” I ask, inviting him to impress me.

“My father”, he says hesitantly. “He is an imam… You know what an imam is?” he asks and continues without waiting for my reply. “The leader of the mosque.”

“So your father is an imam and you aren’t a religious person…”

“Yes. I pray, I believe I God but I am not a religious person. It is not important. I will tell you, you should know three the things about Turkish men: firstly, they are aggressive. They are nice in the beginning , but when they know you are theirs, that they have you, they will show you their anger. You know, we cannot help it. It is what we have seen our fathers do…”

“Are you saying this because of my purple eye?” I ask, trying to make a joke because I would hate to have to take this seriously.

“No, I am serious. Secondly, they are very jealous. And, thirdly, they are not good in bed.”

At this point I’m laughing.

“Really, because we are not allowed to have sex, we can’t be good. Maybe some of us are born with a good potential, but since we can’t practise, we are bad. I don’t know about your experience…” he adds and pauses for me to answer.

“Well, a lady never tells.”

“No, a gentleman never tells. And I am a gentleman. So I never tell about my experiences. All my friends like to brag about their adventures, but not me. But I can see your potential. You don’t have to tell me.”

“Really? What do you see?” I take a risk and push him and, although he is not touching me, I can feel the boneless and fleshless and skinless part of his right arm already pushing against  my left shoulder and his hand sliding down the inner part of my thigh. I gently push them away. 

“You are an amazing girl. But not to date. To marry!”

“How come?” I ask laughing.

“You are too good.”

“Damn, I blew it again”, I add pushing my head back and laughing even harder. 

” No, really.”

“OK, it’s good you already have a fiancé then. I am safe.”

“Well, I like dating and I am interested in relationships. And girls. Not just to have sex with them, you know. But to know them. I am interested in their body. I have books at home about the woman body. Their shapes, functions, you know… Red hair would look good on you, by the way.”

“Really? Did you get that idea because we are just crossing the Red River?”

“No, I am good at this. Trust me, I have seen many people… I live with my family. But when I want to be free I go to a hotel, you understand me. Do you live with your family or alone?”


“That is good. You are free. You can date several guys.”

“Why would I want to date several guys?”

“You see, I told you you are too good.”