Alone with myself in a perfect day, except no one to tell about it. So, you get to hear.
- Ran into German acquaintances at breakfast, as I had hoped. Martin from Frankfurt (who speaks excellent English) et al. One man from Berlin, a woman also from Frankfurt, and one temporarily living in Vienna. Was able to recount yesterday’s adventures to them, which Martin saw as an extremely exciting and interesting adventure filled day. Which it was, but without anyone to reflect upon it with, I experienced as lonely and burdensome and inviting of anxiety. Now I know it was a supreme day, yet again: search for shower cap & dinner at Turkish home, following Mt Nemrud sunrise, drive down the mountain, buying air mattress from Irene, and loaning my warm clothes to a Russian stranger. (Does that mean I give people the shirt off my back? What was I thinking?)
- Today’s subsequent events:
- Went “across from the statue” where 2 people who spoke English had told me to wait for the bus to Battalgazi. This is the old walled city that had been recommended by initial tourist man and sounded interesting in LP (Lonely Planet). I decided to triple check when no bus for it came within 10 minutes. Went to bus ticket kiosk, pronounced it (incorrectly), showed it to ticket man in writing. Another man appeared and gestured that I should follow him. Which I did through a shopping passageway to another street. He crossed the street with me and went to a bus, spoke to driver, and pointed me onto the bus.
- I paid my one lira and the driver simply seemed kind. The word “KIND” went round & round in my head, because it seems like I have received nothing but kindness from the Turkish men I have encountered.
- I say “men” because it is men on the streets and who are the shopkeepers – except for the exceptions, e.g. supermarkets and the “T Store” where come to think of it, the women are also extremely kind and tolerant of my ignorance about how to communicate.
- Babushka’d fully covered woman sat next to me on bus and once again she clearly wanted to communicate, make contact. It was so frustrating for both of us, but I am now working on accepting this problem, and it was new for her. It felt good knowing how much she really did want to talk, to make contact. We had to rely on smiles and waves.
- Driving in was a pleasant surprise. Saw the wall and oh so pretty houses and cultivation around the wall and the wide clean streets.
- Arrival in center – again oh so interesting at the central square with decorations (modern) and shops (traditional). I asked for Caravansari, a word people understood, and got pointed right over to it. It was all locked up. I walked across the street to city hall and inquired (using my one word: Caravansari) and two government workers provided me with tea, a comfortable chair, and brochure of Battalgazi written in English, and sign language indicating that the calls they were making would result in someone arriving shortly to let me in .
- I made it amply clear – without much effort – that I neither spoke nor understood Turkish. They rapidly let me know it was ditto with their English. We did our best with smiles and nods.
- After about 20 minutes of tea and waiting, the 2 government employees, in their official vests and with their radios that reminded me of AHCC, took me off on an expedition to see the main mosque.
i. Martin had told me of seeing this mosque & it was a good one. He had also told me about the aggressive children that would not let him alone and because of that he left the town after only ½ hour.
ii. We walked down so many interesting and wide streets. Saw numbers of people preparing wood for the winter, in various ways with varying degrees of efficient tools – from women pulling off branches of downed larger branches, to a man with a power saw. In the middle there was a man with a hand tool. (In my mind, couldn’t help but contrast that with my memory of Charlie using his power splitter to prep his and Bev’s winter stove wood).
iii. Got to the mosque by walking through a small bizarre/market – not food, just lots of goods, Schlocky looking stuff, lots of plastic and cheap ready-to-wear. I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at nothing, so no one feels encouraged to try to sell me anything. This is not hard for me.
- Grand Mosque (1224): One of my attendants had to go find someone to open it up. I liked to think they were impressed by my knowledge of and preparedness re mosque etiquette. I whipped out my headscarf, and took off my sandals without needing any prompts. I was going to carry my shoes inside (as I was instructed in several tourist mosques in Istanbul) but the ever effective gestures let me know I was to leave my shoes outside.
i. I was truly awestruck. This mosque had been restored and the brick work was very plain. It was extensive and airy. It had a courtyard, which apparently is unique (not suitable for this climate is what it said in the brochure, so no more were built that way). It was of course empty, but looked like it was used regularly, with extra rooms off the sides that looked like classrooms. There was mosaic tiling, especially outside in the courtyard, that looked VERY old. Also some mosaics inside, ,but the simplicity of the brickwork and the plain maybe concrete walls somehow showed off the vastness or the flow of the space in a way I had not previously experienced.
ii. My attendants had waited for me, discreetly, outside and walked me back to the city hall another way (again through the market) so I saw very interesting contemporary architecture right next to the ancient city walls.
- Still no Caravansari opener. More tea. Finally, I bid them good bye and took off to explore the old walls on my own.
- The school children: there were many on the streets, and many little and big boys said “hello” in their Turkish accents. I wasn’t fooled. I knew from Martin that this was a prelude to harassment, so I used my best “mute” techniques, honed on Turkish carpet salesmen in Istanbul. It worked. That and of course my good posture and grounded demeanor (what have I been smoking?).
- Should have used the WC before I took off on my tour. When I finally got back to City Hall many photos later, and used the Bayan (i.e. ladies),it was time to wrap my jacket around my waste and quickly catch a bus home. Which I did.
- Bus got back to Malatya very quickly (very few stops.)
It was now around 12:30 p.m. Wasn’t quite sure where to get off but made my best (and as usual incorrect) guess and there I was in an unfamiliar part of town. In Malatya, all streets are vibrant with people and shops and movement and energy, so I was totally entertained as I meandered in what I hoped was a successful direction. It was. I turned left on one street, then right, and what did I see: APRICOTS. Thousands of apricots. In all forms. Initially I saw them in carpet format, laid out on the concrete on sheets, to dry. Then I saw all the Apricot shops.
- I shopped for apricots. Had fun and knew I was treading in dangerous territory (re my food issues).
- I ate apricots. The 100 g I bought.
- I ate chocolate covered apricot Turkish delight. The 100g I bought.
- I ate the sliced apricot stuff that’s loaded with pistachoes, not all the 100 g I bought.
- I did not begin to eat the raisins on the vine, the 100g I bought.
- It all tasted better than any other comparable candy or dried fruit I’ve ever before eaten in my life – in Turkey or anywhere else in the world.
- Walked through mosque courtyard to my local grocery market where I bought water and came up to my room. Put a wash load in to soak and here I am. When I entered my sunny room, which is a comfortable 71 F. and 30% humidity, I thought to myself “I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
- I saw a plastic bag on my bed and immediately thought the cleaning lady had neatly bagged up my dirty laundry. No, it was the return of “the shirt off my back.” No note, but a pretty little wooden Russian doll was enclosed.
I am a very very very lucky person.