June 29, 2003
Woken by sunlight and a persistent rooster, after sleeping through the first call to prayer. I love the quiet and cool of the early morning here. Yesterday morning I took some pictures early, walking around the courtyard and garden. I’m feeling a little dozy still, but everyone else is asleep and it is a good time for writing. Before I forget too much, I want to write what I can about the wedding last night.
After supper Hatice told us that a friend of hers was getting married and it was the second night of the wedding. “My mother says we should go. There is a saying that when rich people get married, everyone comes. This family is poor. My mother says last night there were not many people. Would you like to go?” (That was an easy question to answer.) Kamile put on a white square scarf over her usual headscarf, and Hatice and Sultan wore dressy shirts with their pants. Sultan had an armful of gold bracelets. (Hatice later explained that married women wear all their gold when they go to a wedding.) We started on foot, but Hatice’s brother Ali gave us a lift part way. By now it was fully dark, and as we came around the turn at the bottom of the hill, we could see a group of people, a small crowd of women seated around a space for dancing, five or six deep in tight concentric circles of chairs. Music played from a boom box. The space was lit with a few light bulbs strung overhead, and the golden light separated the people from the surrounding darkness. All heads turned as we came into view. Chairs were found for us and we joined the outermost row of the circle.
The bride arrived soon after we did, dressed all in white with a red veil, just as Hatice and the weavers had described this morning. Her dress was beautiful, princess-like, with a tight bodice and full long skirt, sleeves tight to the elbow and then full. I wasn’t close enough to see the detail in the embroidery, but from where I was the dress glittered in the light. The bride’s face was visible, but her head and her hair were tightly wrapped in embroidered white satin. Hatice told us that some brides still choose to do this, while some go to the hairdresser and have their hair done especially for this night, and then wear a looser veil or scarf. The red veil was attached to the back of a small white headdress (part of the satin wrapping her head) and hung down the back of her dress. The red and white together shone through the crowd. I wished I could take pictures of her face with the veil and the light on her face when she was dancing with her friends, but it didn’t seem appropriate. The younger women danced with arms up and fingers snapping; the older women watched, talking softly to each other, sharing nuts and sunflower seeds, and passing small babies around, and on the darkened outskirts were groups of boys and young men, watching the dancing, smoking, and sometimes shoving one another. Some younger women were in headscarves, many not. All of the older women were traditionally dressed except for the bride’s aunt, who wore a dark pantsuit and had short hair. As the dancing went on, sudden bursts of noise (firecrackers?) kept coming from the darkness around us. A car full of young men pulled up in the dark beside us. Doors opened. Pistols fired rapidly into the air. You could see the flame from the mouth of each gun in the dark.
The dancing continued, though it paused and the music was turned off during the call to prayer, and people milled around and talked quietly, and then the dancing started up again. Hatice and Sultan both danced. We were invited, but too shy. The bride’s brothers arrived and stepped through the chairs into the center of the dancing space. “Now the men come,” said Hatice. With the bride’s brothers were two large and heavily veiled figures. “Not women,” said Hatice. The brothers and the veiled figures danced with the bride. Lots of laughter. One of the brothers tried to uncover the head of one of the veiled “women.” The bride’s cousins and aunt were dancing, too. Another of the brothers fired his pistol into the air. I began to notice older men sitting on chairs and benches just outside our circle. It was getting later, and Hatice told us that they would put henna on the bride’s hands and sing the bride’s song, but not until midnight, and none of us thought we could stay that late. Kamile and Sultan left with us and we stopped in the street outside the bride’s family’s house, while the two of them went in to make a present of money to the bride’s family. The young man she is marrying is from another village, so this was her last night in her home. The bride’s song (which Hatice, Hatice and Lutfiye sang for the video) is all about that moment of leave-taking. A few other women joined us and we walked in a group up the hill through the village together. The stars were close and bright overhead. We parted at the turn through the archway to Barbara’s street.
Now it is bright morning. Ellen has made tea and brought in a peeled grapefruit and a bowl of fruit from the weavers’ gardens: apricots and a tiny green stone fruit like unripe plums or large cherries but tasting like granny smith apples. Jen is just waking up. Today we’ll climb the rock castle, the hisar of Ortahisar, and then we will go and take pictures of the building Barbara is interested in for the house museum.
I’m going to stop typing and drink my tea.
. . . . .
Past midnight, so I really should date this entry tomorrow, but I’ll keep it with what I wrote this morning.
We could hear drums from down the hill this morning. The bride was going to the groom’s village. Her father didn’t want her to get married, said Hatice. She had worked in the family’s garden, and taken care of the sheep.
We made arrangements for the trip to Kultepe with Remzi, and cancelled the first night at the Kayseri Hilton. I’m glad we can stay the extra night here. I only wish we were here longer, and that my family could be with me in this wonderful place.
What did we do today? Went to the hisar. Straight up, 147 steps, mostly on a succession of metal ladders. Jen and Ellen reached the summit, and probably did unmentionably dangerous things en route. Hatice and I stopped at the halfway point. I’d like to pretend that I suggested this out of concern for Hatice’s sore knee, but halfway up was enough height for me, and I felt like looking around and taking pictures and talking. Also, if I couldn’t see Ellen and Jen, I didn’t have to worry about them. So I said I wanted to stop there.
The view was was was - all the usual adjectives seem flat. All the village laid out like a living scale model beneath us. Someone walking down the road on a distant hillside. A donkey braying in a courtyard. The roof of Barbara’s house. Hatice pointed out the house where her grandfather had lived, and told me about some of the other buildings, ancient, abandoned, and restored. We talked about possibilities for Barbara’s museum and computer school.
When Ellen and Jen rejoined us, we saw Kamile in the middle distance, on the roof. We shouted and waved and shouted again. She saw us and waved back.
Then we went to Crazy Ali’s shop so that he could take us to the building that might become the house museum, if Barbara decides to get it. I hope it works out, because the place felt just right, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. It is the building that stretches over the archway we walk under to go down the street to Barbara’s house. Standing in front of the information center you can point to the front door. I took 50+ photos, and still didn’t get views of everything. More than thirty rooms, not including unexplored caves. The main section, which you enter through the front door, would need very little work. It felt appropriate for a museum: bright and gracious rooms with arched ceilings. A little cleaning, a lot of whitewash, some furnishings, and it would be ready to open. The rest of the place can be entered through a door under the arch. (Of course it turns out to be the door my mother and I loved and took pictures of last summer.) That side of the house has lots of potential, and again lots of sunlight, but the rooms are smaller, and the amenities would need some work. I could imagine living in it, though, and writing and cooking and thinking… the stuff of fabulous summer daydreams.
We went back to Barbara’s house, where I put the photos on my computer and resized and compressed and numbered them. I used my little USB flash memory keychain to give them to Hatice. She went home to email them all to Barbara, and while Jen and Ellen napped, I drafted a very very long email on my computer, describing each photo and giving my impressions of the space. (I saved the file as text, so that I could open it up with Hatice’s computer and paste it into an email to Barbara - no Turkish keyboard to deal with.)
Jen and Ellen woke up and we went over to Hatice’s house. It had taken her an hour and two email accounts, but she had sent all the photos to Barbara. I sent off my email, and then read an email from Mark which made me laugh aloud.
We had a late lunch of kiymali pide. Imagine thin crust pizza with very spare but flavorful filling of ground meat, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, and spices. The crust was rolled out in a long narrow rectangle, the filling was sprinkled in a long thin line down the middle, and then the edges of the crust were pinched together, so the whole thing was the shape of a very skinny baguette. Baked in a bread oven, and then cut in 3-inch pieces. I’m going to have to try to recreate it when I get home.
Hatice and I worked on video again, and she made a short piece with some of the footage of the weavers explaining and demonstrating how a drop spindle works. iMovie crashed a couple of times, so she got plenty of practice with the editing. The finished piece is wonderful, and certainly doesn’t look like someone’s second video ever. Tomorrow we’ll put it on the weblog.
We went to Red Valley to watch the sunset and then were invited to Sultan’s house for dinner. After dinner, Hatice and Sultan showed us around the apartment. New modern furniture, lots of photos and mementos from Sultan’s wedding, and beautiful painted tablecloths, placemats, and napkins made by Hatice and Sultan. The tour ended with a look at Sultan’s wedding dress, and then Sultan got the idea that Jenny should try it on. . .
Sultan, Jenny, and Hatice disappeared into the master bedroom, and we could hear shrieks and giggles. After a while, Jen emerged, a vision in white. A little girl’s dream. She spun, she posed, she felt glorious. Kamile and Baris’s mother were laughing. Kamile took over the video camera, while Ellen and I snapped picture after picture. Jenny announced that this was the place, this was the dress, this was her new family, and all she needed was the groom. Hatice volunteered, and it was settled. More pictures were taken. We saw some video of Sultan’s wedding, Jen changed back into her former self, and we drank tea and watched the Turkish version of reality television for a while. Sultan gave us each a small painted cloth to put on a tea tray as a present. She hadn’t painted these, but they were in the same style as those we’d admired. It was nearly midnight when we took our leave.
Back at Barbara’s, I couldn’t resist and put Jen’s new wedding album together as an instant slide show, complete with music - Nick Lowe’s “I Knew the Bride when She used to Rock and Roll.” What a visit.
Tomorrow we’ll go walking in the Red Valley after breakfast at Hatice’s house. We were also going to watch the weavers re-warp the big kilim loom, but I don’t know when that will happen, or when we’ll go to Urgup for Jen and Ellen to cash travelers checks. In sha’Allah, it will all work out. Too much tea, and I’m not sleepy, but I’d better rest.