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.