Guest blogger Kimberly Alexander is an artist and teacher. She and others along for our trip to Turkey will be sharing their thoughts this week.
A Toast To Turkey
I raise a hot glass of Turkish tea to celebrate our adventures in Turkey.
To the old woman I met in the WC on the Bosphorus cruise. You were confounded by modern facilities, so I showed you how to pump soap and activate the faucet for you to wash your hands. When I demonstrated the blow dryer, though, you rejected technology and hugged me instead, wiping your wet hands on my back. You brought the village to Istanbul.
To the guard at the archeological museum in Antalya. With no English, you stepped up to me cold and mimed your query: Who got hit by a shoe, Bill Clinton or George Bush? Great shoe-throwing imitation, by the way, but how long had you been wanting to act out that question for an American? I’m glad you chose me.
To Nuriman. You welcomed me to Turkey before I left DFW. We met while we waited for our plane and made plans to visit. I gave you a postcard of one of my paintings, and you immediately dug through your luggage for a gift in return. I love the red wool bag you gave me, especially since it’s in the style your grandmother used to make. You even tossed me a paper gift bag to make sure it was wrapped properly. You were my first lesson in the gift-giving culture of Turkey.
To the young artists Bulut and Taylan. You shared your wine and love for painting with me. Taylan, your Bacon-inspired sketchbook is stamped in my mind. Bulut, I searched through the list of Turkish painters you gave me, and I remember your intelligence and enthusiasm. To 16-year-old Merve, on your way here, to the U.S. You have so much adventure before you, beautiful girl.
To fig trees and gardens, to the soft swish of the Turkish language, to honeyed pastries and the evil eye. To our three beloved hosts; charming Alpay, tireless Alp, and earnest Sam. You taught us by example and framed the window by which we could see Turkey.
To the woman in Bursa who asked me for directions, thinking I was Turkish. I could have kissed you for being fooled by me. To Frescoes and columns, to arches, calligraphy, and underground cisterns. To minarets and domes and brilliant tiles. To the endless kind faces and open hands of strangers.
To the mutt who followed me on my morning walk through Cappadocia and the smear of porcupine you found on the road. When I first saw you, I picked up a stone for protection, and you paused, knowing what stones can do. You took a chance on me anyway and loped beside me, wagging your black and white tail. I found three species of lizards on that walk and ate apricots from a tree before returning to the cave hotel.
To the bats, the ubiquitous cats, the fresh peaches, aimless dogs and waterfalls. To standing on toilets sunk into the floor. To the echoing calls for prayer, the village donkeys loaded with stones, the underground refugee cities, and the hooded crows. To the smells of the spice markets, to haunting Dervish ceremonies, fortune telling bunnies, and swimming in the salty Mediterranean.
To my traveling companions, who looked deeply, gave generously, and laughed freely. Bottoms up.