September 14th: A tale of Turkish hospitality... Turkey
Cropped like spiky hair, a patchwork of burnt black wheat fields appear over the horizon. Where fires still smoulder, plumes of smoke spiral upwards, drifting in the wind across the empty Anatolean plains.
Passing a water fountain, a farmer hails me down. It's a quiet spot. Just an old tractor and a sleeping dog, a set of scales, a box of tomatoes and a lone melon. 'Merhaba' - hello - I begin as he strides over purposefully. Mumbling a stream of Turkish words, almost pulling me off my bike, I'm dragged into the shade. Single toothed, with eyes that seem squeezed shut, he disappears behind a tree to awaken his wife. I must look hungry, for she emerges with a few strips of fresh flat bread and a pot of salt. Ingredients before him, my impromptu host chops a few tomatoes and a pepper he pulls out from a pocket, and hands me a round of sandwiches. Insisting I eat, the one melon is sliced and proffered too. All the time, mumbling Turkish words, tapping me on the back, smiling, encouraging me to take another bite if I pause to draw breath.
The food is all but gone. Satisfied, my host darts behind his tree once more, only to return with a bag of pumpkin seeds. But I've already been given my own supply several kilometres back, from another friendly farmer. Scrutinising them carefully, he passes them over to his wife for a second opinion. 'Guzel, guzel,' is the verdict - very good indeed. They will not need supplementing with his own. Instead, he spots my empty water bottles and sets off to refill them.
Such an unexpected gesture, inspiring for the kilometres ahead. 'Tessekur ederim,' - 'thank you' - I say, my hand on my heart. Then, 'Allah ismaladik,' the Turkish farewell. 'Allah,' he agrees, smiling his one toothed smile. 'Allah,' he repeats, waving his arms about, looking all around. Allah is everywhere.
And so I'm on my way once more. How many places can there be where such unquestioning hospitality transcends language and culture? Again and again, I find myself overawed by the Turkish people. I can only promise myself never to forget these acts of kindness, learn from them by returning them, and continue this circle of hospitality.