August 15, 2002

Turkey (day 2)

8.7.02

Ortahisar, late afternoon

Mom is editing video of the kilim weavers at work. I am delighting in the use of my own fast Mac with my English-language keyboard. Windows is bad enough for AV and web work - when all the error messages are in Turkish, the keyboard has letters and punctuation in different places, and the person I'm teaching is not quite fluent in English, the challenges really begin to mount.

The dates and times on all these posts from Turkey are a fiction. I am writing everything while I am on the spot, but will wait and post it all when I get back on line in Pittsburgh. For now, I am posting the occasional short line to the family, and helping Hatice and Sultan post to the Kilimwomen weblog.

Now I'm thinking back to the things I didn't write yesterday. Istanbul was four hours in airport limbo - not enough time to take a taxi into the city to see anything, so we read the guidebook and sat in two airport cafes. We changed money, bought, wrote, and sent some postcards. The flight to Kayseri was short - less than two hours, and amazingly, there were our checked bags among the suitcases on the single baggage carousel.

Kayseri, seen from the window of a minibus in a light drizzle had all the charm of Khabarovsk, on a smaller scale. I did see some beautiful rugs hanging off the balcony of an otherwise stark and grimy apartment building. (The International Style in architecture has a lot to answer for.) Once we got out of the center of the city, the landscape began to change, becoming more rural, with fields of sunflowers and grazing sheep and cattle. We saw round pointed tents near the road and further away, sometimes in clusters - nomads? Shepherds? Campers? I don't know. Tall rows of poplars seemed to mark garden and property lines.

The ground got abruptly steeper and more irregular - I was reminded of Hawaii, which seems an odd comparison at first, but not when you realize that both landscapes are volcanic. Here the villages were full of white stone houses, and the road twisted forward and then back on itself, uphill and down. Cliff-like hills of bare rock stuck up in the middle of otherwise more gentle slopes, and scattered across them in the distance you could see the curved doorways of ancient cave dwellings.

It was raining and getting darker as we turned at the roadway marker for Ortahisar. I had no idea what to expect, but as I wrote last night, it couldn't have worked out more perfectly.

I slept soundly and was woken by the sun around six forty-five. Looked out the window and I was in awe. A corner of Barbara's courtyard, with a lantern and a ladder, and a view beyond of rooftops and rocky hillsides and blue sky. I got dressed and went out to take pictures. The day was still cool, and the low-angled morning light cast the stone shadows in crisp relief. I poked from one courtyard to another, and found my way out to the garden where grapes hung from an arbor, casting shadows on the old stone wall.

Hatice turned up a little after 8:30 to take us to her house for breakfast. We met her mother and father and had a rooftop breakfast of cheeses and bread and tea and garden tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, honey, pekmes (a sweet syrup made from grapes), and a rose petal syrup which actually tasted the way roses smell. I drank glass after glass of tea, and ate the best dried apricots I've ever eaten. They grow the fruit in one of their gardens, and then dry them on the rooftop.

After breakfast we went back to see the weavers, Lutifiye and (another) Hatice. Day before yesterday they had finished a kilim, our Hatice had told us at breakfast, and yesterday she and her sister Sultan had helped them warp the loom for the new rug they were starting today. She said they can weave about twenty centimeters in a day, and finish a rug in 16 -18 days of working.

We have video and pictures of Lutifiye and Hatice the weaver working - quick hands plucking the warp, sliding the color through, and then beating the weft down with a small but heavy iron comb. I got to try and was slow - my rhythm wasn't there, as it is when I knit - I imagine that comes with time. The colors were beautiful. The women were kind, as they kept working through our photography and questions.

From the house we went back to Hatice's office, a room where her father has set up her computer and printer and scanner. After one false attempt with a busy signal, she got on line easily and then I showed her how to post to the kilimwomen weblog. Posting text was easy. Pictures were more of a challenge. Her PC wouldn't recognize my camera, so we burned a CD using Mom's built-in CD burner. Unfortunately we didn't resize the photos for the web, and her Windows picture-viewer couldn't resize them, so we just had to crop one drastically. After a fashion, it worked. Tomorrow we'll take some more pictures and then resize them all to make them weblog-ready, and burn another CD. Tomorrow Sultan will try posting, and we'll figure out how to use the scanner to put pictures on the web as well. I think we may also get to visit some older woman to interview her on video for Barbara.

We have had a full day and it's only five - in a little while we'll go for a walk and see about finding a restaurant for dinner. We'll also visit Crazy Ali's shop, and look at the things he has for sale.

. . . . .

After dinner, full and happy. Crazy Ali read us another poem, this time a love poem called "Hide and Seek." Nothing to make one blush, but very romantic - in love with love. I saw some of the heavy iron combs for kilim-weaving, and will probably buy one for myself tomorrow. Also saw some beautiful old copper, iron, and tin vessels, one of which Mom has fallen for, and some of which tempt me as well.

Dinner outside at the Park Restaurant Cafeteria afterwards. Quite a change from Istanbul airport prices. The food was fresh and well-seasoned, it was almost eight o'clock at night, and as we hadn't eaten lunch, we were famished. We shared a chopped vegetable salad (and prudently skipped the lettuce in favor of the peeled cucumber, carrots, and tomatoes). Then followed with a Turkish style pizza with meat and cheese on it and a spiced ground meat kebab with rice and sliced onions and lots of pepper, which we also shared. We each had a pint bottle of pilsener beer, and I had fizzy mineral water. We split a creamy, subtly sweet rice pudding and I had a Turkish coffee. Oh, and we each got a bottle of water to go. Total? With tip, 12 million Turkish Lira - about eight dollars for the two of us. The rice pudding was on the house. I'm stuffed.

Posted by EGP at August 15, 2002 6:45 AM