August 2002 Archives

5 x 4


I just finished a small project in Flash, 5 x 4, an image/poem which can be navigated in multiple directions, making some kind of sense whichever way you go through it.

5 x 4 grew out of an exercise at the Banff New Media Institute this summer. We had three hours to take pictures with a disposable camera, and then using as many as twenty of our images, we were to design an interactive project and present it as a storyboard. I had been thinking about writers like Italo Calvino and Raymond Queneau, and so decided to try to organize my words and images to be read and viewed either in four separate sequences or in five groups of four. Fun with permutations.

No apologies: the pictures are what they are - snaps from a disposable camera. The poem is equally un-retouched. (And the uncredited background music is me messing around on the piano, recorded by Mark, and then edited by me.)

Turkey (day 7)



Full day in Istanbul. Hot full day. As we were going upstairs just now, one of the hotel clerks said that the temperature had reached 39. I don't have enough energy to do the math, but I could certainly feel that it was over 90.

But the day had such a beautiful beginning. We had slept well and went upstairs to the rooftop terrace for breakfast. What views! Blue Mosque in one direction, part of Aya Sofia in another, and between them, over the rooftops, we could see the Bosphorus, with big big boats moving through. Gulls and other birds wheeled around the minarets, dipping and swirling. One corner of the terrace was shaded by a maple tree, and as we were the first ones up, we collared the cushioned bench in that corner and ate breakfast slowly, sipping Nescafe, and enjoying yogurt, melon, cheese, bread, jams, and so on.

The Basilica Cistern was our first stop. We got there early enough that we were not crowded by groups and guides. The cistern is an immense underground space, part of the Emperor Justinian's waterworks. Rows of columns rise up from shallow reflecting water - the place is dimly lit, the faded red fresco walls streaked with green from ages of water dripping. Water drips still. Fish swim in the water, and coins glow on the floor beneath them. It is said that after the fall of Constantinople, that the cistern was unknown for several hundred years - and rediscovered because people in this district could catch fish through holes in their cellars. The restored cistern has raised walkways, modest signs in English and Turkish, and a sound system. While we were walking through, Turkish wooden flute music - breathy and liquid-sounding - echoed through the space. Water dripped. People's voices echoed into a background. Tomorrow we will go again - we couldn't get enough, and both wished we had brought video as well as still cameras. Whether the complete atmosphere will be the same again, I don't know, because as we were leaving, the music changed to European classical music - and from what the woman in the shop at the entrance said, they play an assortment of music. The flute was perfect for the space and time, so I hope we hear it again.

After we pulled ourselves away from the cistern we went to the Blue Mosque. A light, airy space. Incredibly delicate for something so big. My Ortahisar headscarf came in handy - I even was able to recreate a version of the proper wrapping of it, so I didn?t have to borrow one of the blue tourist scarves. Mom took a great picture of me, looking at something on my camera, wrapped in the scarf with my black shoes sticking out of the pocket of my traveling bag.

We took a taxi to the vicinity of the Spice Bazaar, and in that neighborhood near the water found a store specializing in metal things for the kitchen. Mom bought the Turkish double-boiler tea kettle she had wanted, and I found some good long kitchen or grilling tongs for Mark. As we walked around beside but not in the Spice Bazaar taking pictures, we had a great time. Lots to look at. Hardware, rope, plastic toys, wrapping paper, vegetables, luggage - the stuff of everyday life. We were going to see if we could visit the mosque Rustem Pasa, where we had heard that the tiles were exceptionally beautiful, but just as we found the tiny alley leading to it, there came the call to prayer. We decided to walk to the Grand Bazaar instead. So we did. Quite a hike on a hot hot day. We kept a good eye on the map, and sat down from time to time to drink water from our bottles and reorient ourselves, but I wouldn't have missed it. So much stuff to see en route. Shop after shop. Kitchen implements, door handles, wooden spoons, sponges, naked mannequins. Eventually, after what seemed like hours and hours of walking, we saw the Grand Bazaar's gate and went into the welcome shade, took an immediate right, and sat down in a courtyard restaurant. They brought us ayran (the yoghurt drink) and beers. We shared meze of stuffed eggplant and stuffed peppers and then had adana (the spiced ground meat kebabs). We lingered.

The Grand Bazaar was a different place to shop. You are inside, so at first the shade feels cool, and then the lack of sky begins to make you hot. We had fun - I was glad it was my last bit of shopping and not my first. I had gotten the hang of bargaining a little, and I'd seen enough things elsewhere to know what I wanted and what I wanted to spend. So I did well, buying some pottery bowls, spices for Mark, and tiny slippers for Piper.

We were pretty tired, so we grabbed a taxi as soon as we emerged. It felt so good to sit down. We didn't really care that much when he took us the long way around to get back to the hotel, and didn't give me enough change. Figure I should have known better than to take a cab at the entrance to the bazaar, but we were both wiped out by then, and decided even being ripped off by a taxi driver was, in its own way, an appropriate adventure in Istanbul. Big city life.

Now we're packed, and have had a great dinner at the little caf across the street. Tomorrow we'll eat our terrace breakfast at the earliest opportunity (eight) and be waiting at the Basilica Cistern when it opens at nine. We need to be back in the hotel lobby by ten, for a cab to take us to Ataturk Airport.

And the trip will be over. We'll travel with the sun, so the day will be a long one. Day after tomorrow I'll get on line and begin posting things.

Turkey (day 6)



Departure from Ortahisar. Mt. Ericiyes rosy at dawn from Barbara's windows. Seen off by Hatice, her father Ahmet, and Crazy Ali. Uneventful trip to Kayseri and from Kayseri to Istanbul - except that the woman who sat next to Mom on the plane was smellier than any person I've ever encountered - and poor Mom was stuck in the middle. (I think it was the woman's first plane ride, too.) We were grateful for the air vents and the strong-chemical-smelling hand-washing papers.

Now Istanbul. Hotel Nomade. Eleven at night local time. Hot and sticky and very tired, but having fun. Went to the Aya Sofia today - of course no sign out front says that landmark restoration scaffolding fills nearly half the dome... but even so, the space was majestic - monumental - beautifully proportioned. I was surprised by how much Japanese I could remember and understand as a Turkish guide was lecturing a Japanese group. Maybe I only understand pidgin Japanese? Maybe it was that I'd just read the guide book and knew what he was likely to be talking about.

Walked along Sultanahmet square, where everyone was out for a Sunday stroll. Family groups on picnics mixed with tourists and touts. I really enjoyed the Turkish and Islamic Arts museum - especially the ethnographic exhibits of tribal life and weaving. No explicit mention of the fact was made, but I think every single figure on display in the ethnographic dioramas was a woman. Learned the name of the criss-cross spindle I got in Ortahisar - and promptly forgot it again. Think it begins with K. But I do remember that they wind the yarn around the arms of the spindle in an X pattern - which hadn't registered with me before. Then when you have filled your spindle, you can slide out the arms and the stem and have a neatly rolled ball of yarn.

We were going to go to the Blue Mosque, but it was a prayer time, and the mosque was closed. Instead we walked back and forth along the cavalry bazaar, where I bought four small kilim pillow covers for $15 from a former resident of rgp. At his shop I also learned that the peculiar looking rugs in rgp were saddle bags. The plain striped kilim portion would have been next to the horse. The embroidered part would have been showing, and the pile carpet part was along the fold, where you'd want the most resistance to wear and tear. He also showed us some square and oblong flat woven tablecloths for eating outside - as at our wonderful garden picnic, but in nomadic times.

Back to the hotel to rest a bit, and then out to dinner. Incredibly slow service (other tables arrived after we did and were served before us) but very good food. Outside an old house, under a grape arbor on a very narrow street. Many cats. Fish and onions drying from the arbor, but white linen tablecloths and napkins. Fixed price. A giant splurge by Turkish standards, as our meal came to about $24 each. But we had wine, and mezes: eggplant puree, feta cheese, olives, tiny grilled shrimp, grilled mussels in a mixture of rice currants pine nuts and spices, and chopped roasted zucchini in a garlic yoghurt sauce. There followed a long pause while our waiter seemed to forget that we existed and then came grilled sea bass, and finally honey cake, watermelon, and sliced peaches. We kept thinking how much fun it would be if our husbands were with us. I suspect we would have gotten better service, too...

Tried to buy Mark a beer to share with Carol - a pint of the same Turkish pilsener I drank in Ortahisar. Didn't have the right change, and the store owner said I could pay him the rest tomorrow. Oh, I'm leaving, I said, and tried to give him a US quarter, to make up the difference. He waved it off. I thanked him, and said the beer was for my husband. He said to tell my husband hello from his friends in Turkey. So I will.

The hotel is hot, and we have a lot of street noise from the cafes below. Accordion music and voices and the clanking of glasses.

Small drama. Mom went to turn her bedside light on, and it flickered and then the whole bulb/shade assembly fell off the wall, dangling by a frayed electrical cord. She tried to unscrew the bulb so that it wouldn?t come on in the night, and with a loud POP the whole thing short-circuited, and went out. So did my bedside light. So did our plugs. Mom called the front desk. "My friend will be right there." Less than five minutes passed and the person knocked on the door. "I am sorry for your moment," he said. They'll fix that light in the morning, and meanwhile he reset the circuit breaker so that we'll have power. I need to stop using the computer, though, because there is only one plug on each side of the room, and I think we need the fan on, full blast.

Turkey (day 5)



Email and weblogs at Hatice's in the morning. Brought her a second CD of images. Her internet service was quirky, but we discovered that if we quit the browser altogether and restarted it, sometimes we could get a balky page to reload. While Mom attended to her email I got Hatice to teach me some more Turkish phrases, and then while I was on line Hatice wrote out some recipes for Mom: manti and guve. Then Hatice looked at the new photos and posted about the third day's weaving, including a picture which showed how the rug has grown.

The day's major excursion began around noon. Neighbor Aysha's husband, a taxi driver, took the three of us to rgp, where we ate lunch on the rooftop terrace of a restaurant. Almost as good as Kamile Ozer's cooking. With the meal we drank ayran, a cold salted yoghurt drink ( mmm).

From rgp our driver took us to Zelve, by way of the incredible rock formations Cappadocia is famous for. Fairy chimneys. Enormous pointed volcanic stones towering over the landscape in clusters, with oddly weathered rock shapes on top. A camel. Dolphins. Whatever your imagination suggested. Like nothing I've seen on earth. Then at Zelve, we walked through the open air museum - along a path that winds up and down through two narrow stone valleys - exploring cliff dwellings of the early Christians. Windows, staircases, ovens, chimneys, barns with built in mangers, dovecotes carved high into the sides of the steep walls. You could walk into some of the lower cave houses and try to imagine what it must have been like to live there. Giant stones were set to roll across entries to protect against intruders. There were churches and a mosque near one another, coexisting peacefully. There was a monastery. And now there were just these caves and windows and weathered steps carved into the cliff face. Even the assortment of tourists: Turkish, Italian, German, American, did not - could not - spoil the mood of the place.

Avanos, the terra cotta pottery center was our other destination. We went to a potter's shop at the end of a tiny street. The store itself was carved into the hillside. . . a series of connected caves. They demonstrated throwing a pot on the kick wheel and served us apple tea. Mom and I each bought the special shallow earthenware pot used to make guve. It can go on the stove flame as well as into the oven. It is called "enguri" in Turkish - which sounds a little like "angry." I also got a natural terra cotta water jug - good for wine or water, I think.

In Avanos we also walked out onto a wooden suspension bridge which is just wide enough for pedestrians to cross the river. Then back to the car and back toward Ortahisar. Too tired to think about visiting the sights of Goreme (another open air museum - this one with rock churches with ancient frescoes inside). Goreme seemed (from the car window) to be full of young tourists.

More email at Hatice's, and I wrote a long one to Barbara - which finally went through on the second attempt. No sooner did I press send, than Barbara called Hatice's cell phone. Great to talk to her and to say aloud what I'd been trying put onto the electronic page. Worked more with Hatice - going over how to resize photos in Photoshop, and how to open and save photos attached to email.

We decided we couldn't say goodbye, so she will see us off in front of Crazy Ali's tomorrow. Hard to imagine going.

After a quick stop back at Barbara's to shift some of our gear, we went up to Crazy Ali's. His connection in Nevsehir had been unable to mend the ancient-looking yoghurt pot on short notice, but he had gotten it to stop leaking with some kind of clay. Mom bought it and also got a beautiful old small bowl with angled sides. I bought an eighty-year-old pair of Anatolian knitted socks, a crocheted coin purse of about the same vintage made by a woman for her husband-to-be, a fine old copper bowl, two brass bells, and two very old Ottoman cups (made in this region and exported to Mecca and then brought back by travelers). I made a little video of Ali reading two of his poems, and got a bit of footage of the inside of his shop. So many beautiful old things. Such a wonderful spirit.

One last dinner at the Park cafeteria, and then back to the challenge of fitting things into suitcases. I'm fine for the moment, but I expect I'll need to find some sort of carry-on bag for anything I get in Istanbul. Now to sleep. Tomorrow half the day will be in transit and then we hope to do some sightseeing in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul.

Turkey (day 4)



Purchases: bus fare to and from Urgup, book on rug motifs, book on Cappadocia, a kilo of tea, some anti-evil eye necklaces, a bracelet for Piper, and world cup trading cards (with gum).

Places: Urgup, Ortahisar, the Ozer's garden, red valley

First sentence in Turkish: Ani, Cay! (Mom, tea!)

Half-learned skill: how to wrap a Cappadocian woman's headscarf

Photos: 125

Audio: last call to prayer of the day

Glasses of tea: innumerable

Another day with at least a week of experience in it. Finally worked with Hatice's scanner, and she posted an image to the weblog. So did Sultan, but the internet service was busy, and we couldn't get the updated page to show.

The weavers had rolled the rug on the lower beam of the loom. (Yesterday they simply sat on extra cushions.) They had completed about 65 cm. when we visited them. They brought headscarfs as presents for Mom and me, and taught us how to put them on. They stay wrapped through the friction of cloth against cloth, but my, were they hot.

To and from Urgup, where we confirmed the place and time of our departure (6:50 a.m. Sunday in front of Crazy Ali's) and picked up tour information at Argeus travel, and then walked around the souvenir stores with Hatice, who bargained for our necklaces. We drank tea at a carpet store, where the owner wanted to show us ugly kilims, and I didn't buy a peculiar style of rug which mixes very coarse kilim with carpet and embroidered kilim. Mom got a little blue-flowered bowl at another shop, and we also bought our books, getting an extra copy of the rug motif one for Hatice, to help her with the kilim weblog.

In Ortahisar, went to the corner grocery store with Hatice, to weigh yarn and buy tea.

Back to the house to sort photos, and Mom wound more yarn.

The center of the day - and maybe of the entire trip - was the picnic in Hatice's family's garden. Late afternoon. With the picnic in the trunk and on our laps, seven of us rode in their little red car to just outside the village. We parked at the end of a dirt road and climbed down a path that was as close to vertical as I've ever seen - a path with sandy curves, steep drop offs, and stairs. It led us halfway down a cliff where the valley walls rise up on every side, which is where the family has their fruit and vegetable gardens. The place feels like magic. I think it must be magic. Green plants and laden fruit trees against the incredibly steep walls of blonde stone. Beehives and sunflowers. We picked ripe peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers and ate them with the guve Hatice's mother had prepared, a wonderful stew of beef, eggplant, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Bread and pilaf to go with, and little onions Sultan had pulled from another garden on the way down the hill. Dessert was karpuz - watermelon. We ate and ate. After the meal, Hatice's father "opened the lake," letting water flow from a small pond in another of their (unseen) gardens, through a tunnel in the cliff and emerging where we were into a set of shallow channels to irrigate the vegetables and fruit trees where we were. With a hoe, he could open or close any channel, watering each section of the garden in turn. Sultan produced hot tea - miraculously? No, from the little "house." Up a handmade ladder was a door in the cliff face, and a tiny room carved out of stone. Inside it were garden supplies, some ancient tunnel-shaped beehives, and a gas burner for making tea. After tea, dishes were washed with water carried down with us, and we packed and climbed back to the top. The tape player in the car was blasting a dance tune as we put the picnic containers and a bucket of freshly picked vegetables in the trunk. Hatice's father and her six-year-old cousin began to clap, and Hatice, Sultan, and their mother started to dance, snapping fingers. We took pictures and laughed and tried to dance at the same time.

All in the car again, we returned to red valley, in hopes of seeing more sunset than yesterday. We did, and I took many pictures - though I think my favorite is of a laughing Hatice holding her cousin Furcan in the last light of the day.

Then home to Barbara's house. Tired. Full. Happy. I wish everyone I love could have been at that picnic.

Turkey (day 3)



Here it is half past twelve and I'm only just now starting to write. This page will be telegraphic rather than poetic. Maybe I should just make a list?

Breakfast - Hatice's rooftop. The exact same food as yesterday, same low round folding table, same view and cool breeze.

Hatice's mother Kamile gave Mom seeds for peppers, tomatoes, and pumpkins.

Sultan posted to the weblog.

Hatice fixed a link on her old weblog and learned to make them on her new one.

Hatice talked about village politics, the social constraints she faces as a woman in the village, her work for Barbara, and how she has become braver and more confident.

Took photos for Barbara of the new glasses now worn by the friend who paints beautiful tablecloths.

Back at Barbara's house, kilim weavers had made dramatic progress since yesterday. Took photos.

SHP chose some kilim yarn to buy from the weavers for a knitting project - we figured out how many meters in one ball, so we can tell by weighing the yarn whether she's getting the amount she needs.

Kilim women put a scarf first on me and then Mom, and posed with us at the loom, each in turn. Their idea. Funny pictures.

On our own for lunch - went to the Park Restaurant again. Turkish pizza and beer.

Crazy Ali's, where I bought two spindles, the iron kilim weft-beater I'd seen, and a small brass hand (meant to be a door knocker, but I like it as a paper weight). SHP bought a lapis and silver ring, and negotiated for the yogurt bucket she wants. Ali will take to Nevsehir and have it repaired to hold water and then she will buy it.

Crazy Ali read us another poem, and I said I'll make a video of him tomorrow.

Went with Hatice and Sultan to interview Baris's mother on video.

Sultan showed us the apartment she and Baris live in, with new furniture, wedding pictures, much handmade lace, and her wedding dress. Baris's mother has an apartment downstairs.

Baris's mother talked about her life, and how much she misses her husband (dead for nineteen years now), as Hatice translated. Somehow I got her to sing Turkish children's songs on camera. Hatice and Sultan got the giggles, but she kept singing different songs, one after another.

We sorted digital photos back at Barbara's.

Met Hatice and brother Ali, who drove us to the red valley to watch the sun set. Ali knew everyone there who was not a tourist. We were almost too late, but took a picture which is now my desktop design.

Went to Hatice's house for supper. Met her grandfather and young cousin. Ate: Soup, Manti - a sublime combination of little bowtie pasta with yoghurt and a meat sauce (Hatice will give us the recipe tomorrow), a bean course, and a dessert of soft oily flour cake drenched in honey. The call to prayer was heard from their rooftop as we drank tea. Father and grandfather ate mint leaves before going to the mosque, as there had been garlic in the yoghurt sauce on the manti.

Back to Barbara's after dinner, where we burned a CD of photos to share tomorrow, sorted and resized pictures, labeled tapes, recharged batteries.

A nightcap, some writing, and to bed.

Turkey (day 2)



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.

Turkey (day 1)

| | Comments (1)

August 6, 2002

In Ortahisar this evening - a slight breeze moves the curtains, rain is falling lightly on the stone outside, as we sit on the kilim-covered benches against the wall, sipping neat scotch and marveling at our good fortune and the series of mutual leaps of faith that brought us here. Tip your head back and look up at the barrel-vaulted ceiling with its wide whitewashed ribs. Inhale distant wood smoke, rain, and the rough lanolin woolen smell of the kilims. And then - it's almost nine-thirty - comes the call to worship, echoing off the rock walls, echoed from other mosques at a distance, rising and falling. We are here. We could be no place else.

It is a story of leaps of faith. I had enough faith to send Barbara an email out of the blue, offering to help with the kilim e-commerce project. Barbara had faith in me and invited me to come and stay in her house. Mom had faith in me and decided to come along. I had faith in the notion that it wasn't entirely crazy to set off one third of the way around the world after some email and a couple of phone conversations, not speaking the language, not having met anyone in person, not knowing exactly where we were going. And here we are. In the middle of a fairy tale.

The minibus from the Kayseri airport dropped us off in front of Crazy Ali's antique store. Crazy Ali came out to meet us, introducing himself and offering tea. When he found out that we knew Barbara and were expecting to meet Hatice, someone at the information office next door phoned her for us, and we sat on office chairs reupholstered with kilim scraps, drank tea as Crazy Ali recited one of his poems, in English, about trust and love and world understanding. Then Hatice, Sultan, and Sultan's husband Baris turned up, we greeted each other as old and new friends, and they had some tea and then walked us through an archway and down an old brick-paved road to Barbara's house.

I'll have to describe the house in the morning - it is an extraordinarily beautiful place, with small vaulted rooms around a central whitewashed stone courtyard. Arches and alcoves and different steps up or down. Turquoise blue wooden doors and window frames. A front gate that opens with a big key. Spectacular kilims everywhere, of course. Wooden trunks and handmade tables. A dog's leash hanging on a nail by the door. But I mustn't make it sound too fancy - above all, it feels comfortable and homelike, a place to sit and think and do your work and then when you are done working a place to welcome family and friends.

Tomorrow we'll have breakfast with Hatice and the kilim women come to weave at nine, so I imagine we'll meet them.

catching up


Not only did I not post from Banff, but I've been so busy getting ready to leave for Turkey tomorrow, that I haven't posted since.

What have I been thinking about?

Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon is a good book - Mark gave it to me for my birthday and I read it to and from Banff.

Getting to go someplace like the Banff New Media Institute and think, and play with ideas, and talk about art and theory and practice - was such a great gift. I was gone five days, but in that time moved forward in different ways on so many projects.

Flying back and looking down on fields, roads, rivers filled me with such an overwhelming love for the land. Then as we approached Chicago I could see the details of backyards and tiny swimming pools. People ruffled the surfaces of blue water in the late afternoon light - I'd never seen an indvidual person from such a distance before.

And tomorrow begins the next adventure. I'm going to Ortahisar, Turkey, to help two young women make a weblog about kilim weaving. Four days in the little village, then almost two days in Istanbul. With a day of travel in each direction, I'll be gone for eight days. I'll bring camera, video camera, and laptop and so will Mom, who will be my travelling companion. Maybe I'll post from the village - maybe I'll just help the young women learn, and make my own notes, collect my own images to use later.