Sometimes, 5,700 miles from Minnesota, 480 miles from Iraq, a person scans the landscape and thinks, “Jump back, Mehmet, and crumble me with feta: this place looks just like central Montana!”
Admittedly, there are some dramatic differences, particularly in that Göreme, Cappadocia, has cave homes and towering rock “fairy chimneys” whereas Billings, Montana, has rimrocks and dazed-looking people sporting Black Sabbath t-shirts. Ozzy Osbourne worship aside, however, the places share remarkable geological similarities.
Since I’m an English major whose academic career was designed with great precision around avoiding science classes, don’t expect me to know what any of them are, though. Probably the words “volcanic,” “erosion,” and “sedimentary rock” should be used. Mostly, my humanities-bound brain wants to wax lyrical about “forty shades of brown,” “scrub with a backdrop of striation,” and “nestling in the palm of a valley.” To punctuate these sentiments, I am contracting tuberculosis and coughing blood genteely into a handkerchief as I type.
Indeed, it would seem I’ve come home, at least topographically, to this arid place of dust and hoodoos, this place that resonates with the American West, that reminds me not only of Montana but also of Utah and Arizona, that blows with the hot winds of my youth (hesh up with your comments that Jocelyn’s Hot Winds continue to blow unabated).
In every other way, of course, I’m agog. ‘Cause I’m in TURKEY! And the people here are Turks!! And they speak Turkish!!! And some books say the Star Wars scenes of the Lars Family homestead on Tatooine were filmed right here in Cappadocia, but they don’t know what they’re talking about because my husband’s telling me that’s a myth and that they were actually filmed in Morocco!!!! But then I googled this pressing issue only to discover it’s a myth, indeed, that the scenes were filmed in Cappadocia because they were filmed in Tunisia and who ever knew I’d have to come all they way to Turkey to discover my husband doesn’t even know the difference between Morocco and Tunisia, and he’s even been to Morocco, but maybe he thinks he went to Tunisia, but I’m not going to bring up this point right now because he has bags under his eyes and is waiting for the kids to fall asleep in the hotel room before he goes in, and while he’s waiting, he’s playing Super Mario Brothers on the DS, which kind of gives me a reality check of “Holy Atari, I married a grown man who has taken up playing Super Mario Brothers, and that feels like a weird betrayal since he was all about pointing out the first trillium of spring when I first met him,” and suddenly the whole thing seems like an onion whose layers I’m not ready to start peeling back which is not even an Islamic phrase but it sure seems like something they should say here because they do have onions. And hands. For with which to do the peeling.
All of which is to say that coming to Turkey has been really good so far because it’s got me considering George Lucas films and the bedrock of my marriage is actually pumice.
To be honest, I’m also spending about three wakeful hours each early morning fretting, “Nowthdhubillah, what have we done?” Then it gets really hot, and we jump in the pool about three times, and then we lay around in our room at the pension feeling all dopey, and then the sun sets, and the village comes to life, and, as we walk about in search of food and cold drinks, spirits and eyes lift, and I’m left with a feeling that all will be well once heat and jet lag are banished, once the tourist season ends and we have more options of a home to rent, once the four of us aren’t living in one small room along with twelve pieces of luggage,
once I can find a pair of clean underwear without spending ten minutes out on the balcony in the unrelenting sun, sifting through the stacks of suitcases, because pretty much this method means I’m dripping with sweat before I ever score the undies, and so then, Hanes in hand, I have to spread out on the bed like a sea star for another ten minutes just to let the sweat dry off before I slip into the much-sought-after pantaloonies, and if you ask me, putting twenty minutes a day into getting myself into a pair of clean unmentionables (prudes, nuns, and Dr. James Dobson: ignore the places where I just mentioned them) is twenty minutes of my day that could have been better spent watching French backpackers smoke and take a single lap around the pool in their mini swimwear that reveals they come from a culture that may eat small portions and sip anti-oxidantizing red wine but doesn’t give two whits about toning upper arm flap.
So, um, yea. It’s hot, and we’re here, and we’re acclimating bit by bit. My husband’s got his comic Website up, which will feature panels graphicizing our time here; if you’re interested in seeing his etchings (I sure was back in ’99, which resulted in an impressive baby bump a few months later)–or even if you’re not but have always wondered if his parents actually named him Groom–go here: http://www.layingfallow.com/. If you do visit his site, maybe leave him a comment about the differences between Morocco and Tunisia.
All right. My intention when starting this post was to announce I was really tired and then say, “But here. Look at some pictures.” As it turns out, I was so tired, I went to bed several nights in a row instead of typing “But here. Look at some pictures,” and now it’s been a few days, and I’m feeling a bit more on my game–save for ailing with a little case of Turkish Tummy today–so I’m starting to think I might actually type something in this post after all. Raise your hand if you think I should type long, rambling paragraphs about underwear and Star Wars.
Okay. Put them down now. I’ve followed your wishes.
Having responded to popular demand, I now tell you that here are some pictures of the last few days, which I’ll hardly comment upon at all because, really, I’m just too tired, having awakened this morning before the first Call to Prayer at 4:30 a.m. After laying there for more than an hour, I decided to go out for a run–something Not Done here–and although it was delightful to explore dusty, winding roads that ended up in pumpkin patches flanked by cave homes, and although it was a trip to holler to all the staring early-morning tractor-driving Turks, “Yea, that’s right. We call this running, and we do it so we can go to the Olympics, like I did. Just look me up in the record books: Marion Jones. Yea, look that one up for some big surprises”–the fact that I’d done entirely too much by 7 a.m. has left me a bit out of sorts for the rest of this day.
Which is why I’m only giving you some pictures to look at now.
This first picture is of Paco and Girl as they boarded our flight to Istanbul; even after a flight from Minneapolis to Chicago, even after a three-hour layover in Chicago, even after Paco had spent days protesting how much he hated Turkey and that we had to do this thing and that he just wanted to go home to his home, and even after Paco then hummed and jumped and spun and sang his way through the entire day of travel,
Naturally, ten hours later was a different story because, HELLO, the airlines put a seven-year-old boy in front of a personal screen and gave him a remote control and license to watch about 15 different movies and tv programs, and what kid in his right mind and with restricted technological access otherwise could possibly sleep when HORTON HEARS A WHO is on?
Less than an hour before landing, his head toppled into my lap, and he was nearly unrevivable as the plane emptied. Resultingly, there was some tugging, some dragging, some crying (I only wept for about five minutes, though), some near throttling, and some furiously whispered, “I know you’re tired, but you need to get it together and get off this plane because we only have an hour and a half before our next flight, and we have to get our visas and go through passport control, so snap to and get marching, Friedrich!”
After buying him a can of pop in the airport, the fatigued trooper announced, “I’m better now, Mom. All I needed were some bubbles, and now I’m good.” With everyone’s attitude improved, AND THANK YOU, COCA-COLA LIGHT, we hopped on the flight to Keysari, at the end of which we retrieved all 8 of our suitcases and wandered outside, where we were met by our pal, The Hospitable Expat, she who helped motivate and shape the entire plan for our year abroad. Hospitable Expat had arranged for a 16-seat mini-bus to meet us, for a reasonable fee, and drive us the hour to Goreme, whereupon we were deposited nearly twenty-four hours after launching the trip, at this small hotel:
Since most pensions don’t have rooms bigger than triples, a guy we call Stoner Shaun dragged in an extra mattress for us, through the door on the left:
The room is so small that our luggage has to live out on the balcony, as does Groom when he starts rambling about Morocco.
This next picture should be entitled “The Day After HORTON HEARS A WHO”:
Paco was so wacked that he slept through the first Call to Prayer that next morning, but Groom, Girl and I woke up and stayed awake, which provided the side benefit of watching the take-off of nearly 40 hot air balloons (one of Goreme’s tourist mainstays). While the recording of the Call to Prayer kind of cracks me up because it ends with a static-y “thump,” as though the singer of the meuzzin is a sort of Johnny Rotten throwing the mic to the stage and stomping off after an encore of “Anarchy in the U.K.,” the sounds of the propane fires in the sky at 5:00 a.m. are more mystical, like dragons raining down to invade the village. A person not sufficiently worn down by Seussian adaptation could hardly be expected to sleep, really.
In our three days here, we’ve spent more time in the pool than anywhere. Basically, we make it a few hours and then require a core temperature cool down. Then we try to find a pair of clean underwear and have to go jump back in.
Despite the row of beds that makes our room feel like an orphanage (guess who gets to play Miss Hannigan?), the room does the job, and the overall vibe of the pension is laid back and comfortable. In the photo below, you see Paco demonstrating “laid back” and “comfortable.”
Every now and then, braced by a cooling swim and a Bitter Lemon-flavored Schweppes, we head out for a meander around the village.
In many ways, in addition to reminding me of Montana, this place reminds me of Central America, with its stone buildings, heaps of crumble, satellite dishes attached to seeming hovels, and trash-littered streets. This morning, out on my run, the sight of an empty Red Bull can outside a cave house carved out more than a thousand years ago made me lurch to a stop and marvel, “Yup. That pretty much summarizes the place.”
The village. Duh squared.
If you’ve ever wondered what troglodytes did, it was to transform these things into homes. Vast numbers of them are still inhabited.
Kind of makes a person want to be a troglodyte.
High season for tourists means scooters for rent, speaking of things this troglodyte-wannabe would like to do but probably won’t, thanks to heat and expense.
I once had a thumbnail that looked like this. Not too sure how that happened, but gin was involved.
Don’t you think these places must be a bitch to vacuum?
Oh, yes. We will be buying carpets. I mean, you know, because we have to. Supporting the local economy and all.
I haven’t read the newspaper in years, but the Zaman Daily might convert me back to the occasional sitdown. How else will I know that it’s hot?
The article Groom is reading in this photo is entitled, “INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAHI RAJI’UN: INTELLIGENT ADULTS SNARED BY MARIO BROTHERS.” In other news, Morocco declared its independence from Tunisia.
I don’t make the news, just report it.
(Incidentally, check out our PARADE magazine supplement, in which splashy photos of nectarines bought at the Avanos village market day are contrasted with the mighty castle in the village of Uchisar.)
Ah, hell, why make you leaf through the supplement? Here’s the castle right now, along with the nice ladies who invited us up to their roof so as to get a better view of the valley: