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Cappadocia, Turkey; Jun 18, 2005

friendly stop in yenice

Today we made the 3-hour drive from Konya to Cappadocia (one of our shorter driving days in this country). Our guidebook suggested that we visit an old caravan stop (we pictured a desert oasis filled with camels and tourists), but we couldn’t find it, even though there are apparently several on this road. Just before conceding that we must have missed it, we pulled off the road into a tiny town to check the map. And when we say “tiny,” we mean it.

typical houses in Yenice

The highway doesn’t even acknowledge this town; a few clay-brick houses appear briefly on the left and if you glance the wrong way, you’ll miss it. The population is probably in the triple digits, but only just. Instead of pouring over the map, we decided to have a look around the town just for kicks. About 5 minutes later, we had explored the whole thing. I got out to take a few photos. A kid meandered over on his bicycle to have a closer look at me. I waved. He didn’t. I waved again, and smiled. Long pause. Finally he smiled. “Merhaba,” I said (Turkish for hello). He smiled again, and came closer. By this point, several other kids were running from their houses to investigate. To even things up a bit, Susan got out of the car, too, but we were vastly outnumbered. The oldest one (maybe he was 16, the others were more like 5 to 10) spoke a tiny bit of English, but we communicated mostly with hand signals.

with the majority of Yenice's young population

Then, also on a bicycle, an old man rode up with a young boy of about 7, maybe his grandson. The boy obviously wanted to join in and talk to the strangers, but he was too shy, so they kept their distance. We smiled and waved at him, but all he could manage was a small wave. His grampa kept encouraging him, but he just couldn’t do it. Then the old man whispered something to the boy, and he ran off. About a hundred yards away, he reached a woman who was baking something in a very large outdoor clay oven. We were watching out of the corners of our eyes, but mostly we were kept busy with the other children, trying to learn their names and whose brother was whose. When we next looked up, the boy had returned, bearing a loaf of puffy round bread topped with a few precious black sesame seeds. It was all he could do to approach us and shyly hand it over, then run back to his grampa who was smiling and laughing. In case we didn’t know what it was, another boy quickly made eating motions to let us know what to do. We were desperate to try to think of something to give in return, but didn’t really have anything. Instead, I dug into my camera bag and produced a thirteenmonths business card (we had some made when we stopped in the states since it’s a lot easier than writing things down all the time). We pointed to ourselves, then to the card, and then… well, it was futile. There was no way we were going to explain properly, but it didn’t matter. They all wanted one. They seemed very happy to have them, small colorful tokens to remember the strangers perhaps. And of course we made a special point of taking two over to the old man and his grandson. After saying thanks a million times and taking some more photos, we reluctantly climbed back into the car to continue our journey.

with Grampa and the bread

Just a few hours in each direction down the highway are cities that support large tourist industries and have many modern conveniences. Here, however, life is very simple, very old-fashioned. It may be the way they would choose to live given the choice, but it didn’t really seem like they had one. They welcomed us with open arms and gave generously the only thing they had to give. The chance encounter was brief but made a big impact on us. If we ever return to Turkey, and we very much hope to, this is the one place that we will absolutely positively visit again (and bring some photos of this visit). Maybe they’ll look at our card and think of us sometime; we’ll certainly think about them.

Turkey is resplendent with memories for the eye. This one is a memory of the heart.

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