09 April, 2010

İstanbul, day 2: Moda and Çamlıca

Another famous teahouse; i join my guides for Friday afternoon namas (worshıp) at a small mosque. Then lunch in a restaurant atop the highest hill of İstanbul...

Beyoğlu district

The morning began late, as i tumbled down the stairs from my couchsurfing host's flat. Sebastian was quite the character, a Sardinian who speaks excellent English - with a thick and shifting, usually Irish, accent. Already late to find the ferry terminal it was a painfully slow taxi ride to Eminönü, and then çay and poğaça aboard the boat across to Kadiköy. There Osman was waiting for me with friend Mustafa, heretofore known as Bayram. And a car. Bayram whisked us to Moda, where we walked the shoreline and drank çay at Moda Çay Bahçesi. The teahouse, situated at the end of a long pier, was another of the items on Ege's list, and a popular place for the wealthier youth of Istanbul. The Marmara sea was overcast, the breeze a bıt chilly.

Moda Çay Bahçesi, on a pier by the Marmara Sea, 
with friends Osman and Mustafa

these dogs share my opinion of Galatasaray 

After çay, we walked the shoreline back towards Fenerbahçe district - and paid a quick visit to Fenerbahçe stadium. Then, since it was Friday afternoon and both Osman and Bayram are faithful Müslümanlar, we found a small cami on a back street. The street was crowded with cars from BMWs to taxis. Inside, my friends led me through abdest - washing the hands, arms, face, and feet in preparation for worship. I knelt between them on the carpet (mescid - worship spaces, indoors or out, are always spread with colorful rugs) and followed their motions, bending, then kneeling and touching forehead to ground to symbolize entry into divine presence, closeness with God.

view from Çamlıca, foreground to back: 
Üsküder, Bosphorus brıdge, and the Levent district

Thanks to Osman's suggestion, our afternoon consisted of a visit to Büyük Çamlıca. This 267-meter hill, the highest point in Istanbul, has been a notable place for centuries. During the Phyrgian period, the place became a forest of çam (pine trees, an object of Phyrgian worship) which survived through Roman and Byzantine periods. In Ottoman times, the Çamlıca hills were a site of falconry, devoted to the breeding and training of Peregrines, among other birds of prey. A summer palace was ordered to be built there, and numerous painters and poets have memorialized the sweeping view toward both sides of the Bosphorus. Today, Çamlıca is an important destination for migratory bird-watchers, and the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul (Türkçede, Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi) manages leisure facilities including gözleme and ice cream stands and an Ottoman-style restaurant. It was here we ate, seated on low couches surrounding bright copper tables, a gleaming copper fireplace nearby. Çamlıca is a tourist spot for sure, but in sharp contrast to the throngs of Americans, Europeans, and east Asians ın Fatih, all the tourists at Çamlıca were of Turkish or Arabian origin. The view is highly recommended.

Ghosts of İstanbul

I step wearily from another all-night bus. The ride from Karacabey was long and punctuated, winding eastward to Bursa and then northeast around an arm of the Marmara Sea. Then came stops at İzmit, and as a grey dawn broke, the Anatolian side of İstanbul. Finally Esenler. The terminal is massive, drab; a weary cement structure in a weary part of town. The bus entered through a narrow maze of columns that barely seemed to accomodate it. A few questions later i descend into the metro, and then it's a short walk to connect from the subway to the tram. Day grows and with it, the stream of people bound for work.

Sultanahmet. Over the conjoined buildings and scattered trees just coming into leaf, the massive, clustered domes of the Hagia Sofia and Sultanahmet Camii are visible, the city spreads in a flat, uninspiring light beneath a curtain of stratus clouds. My first impression of the place is a pale stone fantasy-land, a sort of erudite Disney kingdom of fossilized histories. A raw breeze comes off the Marmara Sea. First things first: a scalding paper cup of Lipton Yellow Label to warm my hands. Then i notice the tourists. Everywhere. For the first time since i arrived in Türkiye, it's hard to spot a single Türk.

The first fact of İstanbul has yet to settle in: it is massive. With a population estimated at 15 million, it is one of the world's largest cities and with over 9,000 per square kilometer, ranks even higher in population density. Combine the above, and you will discover that getting around in İstanbul is time-consuming. Public transportation is everywhere - buses, the tramway, two distinct subway systems, light rail, and a fleet of ferries connect the three big chunks of mainland and link them to the outlying Prince's Islands. But my friend Osman is en route an hour and a half from his family's home near Bostanci to our meeting place here in Fatih.    

When Osman arrives, we embark on a marathon day of sightseeing. First is Sultanahmet Camii, also known as the Blue Mosque. The quiet interior resonates with an energy that other historic buildings seem to lack. Perhaps it is the residual reverence of Ottoman traders, their boats moored just offshore centuries ago, pausing here before their departure, or perhaps it is the reverence of contemporary worshippers. Whatever the reason, despite its place as a tourist attraction, the Blue Mosque is not a mere sight.

Sultanahmet Camii

Next door, the landmark known by Turks as Aya Sofya has a radically different character. You can find descriptions of the Aya Sofya in any travel guide, or on the web. For once, backlogged as i am, i'm feeling lazy - and besides, i am not a historian. I'm a rambling woodchuck. So the woodchuck description of Aya Sofya… it's a museum. Literally; the building, which is still undergoing restoration work, is a museum. Unlike Topkapi Palace (which we shall visit next), Aya Sofya houses only the accumulated centuries of itself. A fresco over one entrance door depicts Mary and the Christ-child, flanked by two emperors: Constantine presents the holy ones a model of his new city, and Justinian presents a miniature of this, his new church. Within, beneath an arch of particular interest to architectural historians, Christian and Islamic iconography coexist - though their coexistence is in some respects a function of restoration, and the delicate uncovering of the glimmering Christian mosaics after centuries of refit as a mosque. Though the stylized arabic script in stained-glass was  of particular beauty, Aya Sofia felt hollow; the strongest energy i felt in the place that of the echoes of wingbeats as pigeons flew from cornice to cornice. Aya Sofya's most resonant element, i feel, is the smoothness of stones in the passages that lead to the second story, or the fabled thumbprint of an emperor's hand in which millions have laid their own hands, wearing a deep, smooth place in the ancient column.

how to be a tourist: photograph a Hagia Sofia mosaic

Topkapi palace completes our museum tour for the morning, as we stroll the extensive grounds from the first court to the third, and innermost. The tulips are a high point of Topkapi, and a taste of things to come throughout the city. Within the palace, lines snake from one display room to another. We spend what seems like half an hour inching our way past the Ottomans' collection of sacred artifacts: a rod attributed to Moses; a sword alleged to belong to David; and swords, a bow, and elaborate cases carrying bits of a beard or a cloak, artifacts of the Prophet Mohammed. Ottoman costumes with their impossibly long sleeves prove interesting, but upon seeing the line - over a hundred meters long - we agree to skip the jewels in favor of the Harem. These, the private rooms of the Sultans and their concubines, remind me of the alcott house - the sterile- frozen-in-time feeling that leaves the details of daily life to your imagination. Still, things come to life when you step onto a portico and see the city spread beneath your eyes, ruler for an imaginary moment, or notice staircases and doors to rooms hidden from public view. Such staircases bring a line of prose from L.M. Montgomery to mind - i'd prefer to sleep in a wild cherry tree; "there's so much more scope for the imagination."   

After lunch at the oft-imitated Sultanahmet Köftecisi, we track down Torbjörn, a Swedish dorm-mate wandering the city alone, and set off for Eyüp. Down a street filled with vendors of the Qu'ran, headscarves, and other artifacts of Muslim faith, Eyüp Camii awaits us. By contrast to the morning's fare, Eyüp is a contemporary place of worship, a shrine. In the square a fountain is surrounded by pink tulips. Polis in dress uniforms mill about - we learn that today is a holiday commemorating those killed in the line of duty. 

Eyup Camii

On the hillside behind Eyüp Camii is a graveyard. The stones vary - from the graves of Ottoman children to the grave of contemporary Turkish poet Necip Fazıl. Fazıl was famous for his late conversion to sufism, and the prolific work that followed it, according to my friend Osman, writings describing a Sufist philosophy now influential in Turkish government. We climb the hillside roads winding among graves until we reach Pierre Loti coffeehouse, named after a French writer, and a favorite haunt of many writers poets. Haunt is a strangely appropriate word for the day, surrounded as we are by history and rank upon rank of graves. Riding the metro this morning i began to think about the immense past of this city, a past that means less to me in terms of emperors and city walls than in terms of the everyday lives that unfolded and ended within them. I titled this post "ghosts of Istanbul" because, as it struck me in the morning, that is what many travelers see - only the ghosts. 

where tourists rarely go: Eyüp Camii framed in spring green

The view from Pierre Loti is, without doubt, inspiring - sweeping out over the "golden horn" to Galata, and the spires of now-distant Yeni Camii, Suleymaniye, Sultanahmet, and Aya Sofya. As we stroll back down the hillside, sun catches the orange blossoms of calendula between gravestones. We are pleasantly sated, though attempts to read a future in the dregs of our Türk kahvesi were comic at best.

I owe a great deal to my Turkish friends, in particular one Egemen Bezci who was my dorm-mate last fall at UMaine. Thanks to Ege's exhaustive list of things to see, do, and taste in his native town, we topped off the first day in Istanbul with a visit to Karaköy Gulluoğlu, the world's premiere baclava joint. I exaggerate not. It is a place of presidential merit - and when the waitstaff heard i was American they proudly produced a portrait of Barack Obama {note to self: insert LINK to PHOTO} in baclava (they gifted Obama with an identical portrait upon his visit last year). My guide was quick to point out that like Sultanahmet Koftecisi, Karaköy Gulluoğlu is beset by imitators - literally, flanked by baclava shops with similar names - but none of them had that havası vardı.

08 April, 2010

Yolağzı, part II: Lament for village life

"Misir, misir," Ayhan tells me loudly, tugging my arm and gesturing toward a combine with a corn head parked in the village center, a few meters from the mosque. Ayhan Abi (Abi is a term of respect for male friends, literally "older brother") is a shepherd, or in Türkçe, koyuncu - the crazy shepherd i'd met on Monday, who herds sheep in his car, tears through uneven pastures and takes the narrow village streets at maybe fifty kilometers an hour. Ayhan is a sun-creased, perpetually smiling man proud of his power windows - and he seems to have taken a keen interest in showing this interloper around. He steers me toward the mosque, barely breaking from a rapid monologue about the joys of Karacabey women which Oğuzhan doesn't bother to translate.

The three of us step from the village center into a perfect, carpeted silence. Down a split staircase from the door is a white tiled space with faucets, benches, and a trough for performing abdest, the ritual ablutions preceding worship. We slip out of our shoes, Ayhan out of his rubber workboots, and in silence climb the other set of stairs to the worship space. It's a cool room with sky blue walls, aqua and purple carpeting; a prizm-decked chandelier hangs in the center. Up another flight of stairs is the balcony where women worship. My companions point out the mithrab - a podium with its own staircase, several meters above the rest of the room - from whence the imam speaks. This is my first time inside a cami, and i'm still soaking in the symbols, details, the reverential essence of the place - i haven't even consciously registered the domed ceiling - when Ayhan urges us onward. This time Oğuzhan translates: the shepherd joked we should leave before the cami collapses to bury him in punishment for his (hyperbolized) sins.

Piled into Ayhan's car, we leave the village, crossing a broad field to the state farm where my guides hope to show me the Arabian horses. But a security guard turns us back at the gate, and so we drive the winding road to neighboring Gonu.

In sharp contrast to Yolağzi, Gonu is an original village, perched well above the floodplain, and rows of olives stripe the hills around it. In the center, beside an Ataturk statue, is a kahve, where we sit and again drank çay. The group of young men smoking at another table glance our way, and a couple of them drift over to join us, curious about this foreigner. I make what small jokes and innuendos i can in Turkish, and soon i have them laughing heartily - though only later does Oğuzhan explain just why. (I insulted all the men of Gonu, but see "Bursalıyız" - a point for Yolağzi in the village rivalry - which, as we laugh about it again in the evening, the Yolağzi youth attribute to my drinking from the town spring.)

Back in Yolağzi, we stop at the village club; it's empty except for the manager, watching Turkish soap operas. It seems the differences between the two villages are more pronounced than their road plan or lack thereof. While there is still life in Gonu, Yolağzi seems to be dying, losing the vibrance it had to rapidly growing Karacabey. At one time, Oğuzhan tells me, there were two stores, two teahouses. Now what remains of one is a crumbling, deserted shell of a building. Satellite dishes on every tile-roofed home beam in models of a glamorous urban life without traditional chores.

fertilizing the far field

In the past three days, Oğuzhan has shared more than his village and a mattress on the floor; he has also shared much of his own story. At first i failed to understand the weighty sense of responsibility he carries as eldest son, but gradually it becomes clearer. So too does the world of his recollections. This morning in Karacabey, we visited his old high school, seated at the edge of town where sheep still graze, and met his teachers, one of whom inspired him to study university physics. He told me bits he hadn't told them - how in his first year he realized that though he had studied English, important words like "minus" were missing from his vocabulary; about a calculus teacher's thick Russian accent which made lectures difficult to understand, proverbial algae on a crucial stepping stone.

Like his father's, Oğuzhan's life is perched between the familiar ground of a dying village and the pull of urbanization. To most Americans - and an increasing number of Turks - life surrounded by green fields, the night chorus of frogs, and the natural rhythms of village life are merely a thing of nostalgia, or completely alien to urban consciousness. My time in the Yolağzi reminded me of Wendell Berry's seminal critique _The Unsettling of America_ (one of the strongest influences prompting me to study agriculture). From the industrially-managed kavak groves, the empty club and crumbling buildings, the throbbing growth of Karacabey, it seems i am witness to an unsettling of Türkiye. Yet there are crucial differences. The flow of agricultural innovation in Turkiye is market-driven; new ideas are spread more by advertising interests and charitable organizations than by a more recently organized Cooperative Extension - but developing Türkiye is also influenced by the globalized ideals of the organic movement. Will organic ideals come to matter here? It seems an open field. (Note: i have yet to become familiar with Türkiye's organic organization TaTuTa.)

Sometimes the most powerful images happen when you don't have a camera - images with an essence that must be internalized rather than represented. Left of the cami, just outside the village center past a pine grove stands the old elementary school. To Oğuzhan, a shrine of childhood memory. As we followed the cement walk littered with shards of glass, he recalled the rose bushes that had once lined it; "like a heaven," he said. Three small buildings painted a warm yellow - one for the first four grades, another for the rest, and the principal's house - stood vacant, vandalized, picture windows shattered like sightless eyes. The interiors were littered with debris, yet the view out the back windows showed a magnificent stone-walled olive grove, silver-green in the afternoon sun. My friend said they used to harvest olives to raise school funding; now only the trees stand in memory. There are few children left in Yolağzı, and these days they're are all bused to school in Karacabey.

view from Yolaği spring to the neighboring village Gonu

We pass this final evening in Yolağzı at the club with Oğuzhan's friends. Frustrated by my inability to conduct a real conversation in Türkçe, i ask Hasan if he'd like to play ping-pong, and he proceeds to embarrass me for over an hour. Besides ping-pong, there's not much to do here in the evening. Oğuzhan and i have both decided to leave, he to return to Ankara and resume studies, and i continuing to Istanbul. Ayhan Abi wants to exchange MSN addresses. There's a brief but side-splitting round of doubles play, a parting photograph. Izzet takes his oversized lighter-flashlight and sends the ping-pong ball to the floor in a ball of flame. He kicks it out the door and down the steps to the still-puddled basketball court.


Yolağzı residents fill bags with silage to carry to their livestock.

07 April, 2010

Karacabey: Development

It is rare to find the drama of life so distilled and expressed in a single theme as i did on the second day in Yolağzi, as the drama of the tractor my friend and guide Oğuzhan had unfortunately mired continued to unfold.

In more traditional Turkish families, decision-making is a patriarchal process, one in which the grandfather has a large say. Oğuzhan explains that the reality is a bit more complex; because of the respect accorded older men in this society, grandfather's opinion must be solicited, or cleverly swayed. For example, when taking out a loan for a new tractor, my friend persuaded his grandfather that Tayyip Erdoğan advised farmers to buy Başak tractors, and thus precluded disagreement. Having met said grandfather, i can fathom both the necessity and humor in this tale.

Because of grandfather's fiscal conservatism, the Aydıns had until now only driven cars owned by the family business. This morning, Yilmaz showed up at the door in an ancient Renault, and an hour later - after a hair-raising test drive, passing a tractor on a curve on the narrow road out of the village - the Renault was theirs.

Our first destination in the car was a kavak (poplar) plantation a couple kilometers away on the floodplain. There, an operator in a bright blue New Holland was chisel plowing among hectares of new kavak whips, single, naked stems perhaps seven meters tall. As we disbarked to ask for assistance freeing the still-mired tractor, Oğuzhan expressed dismay with the growth of the kavak plantation. He seemed to think of capitalism as a bad word, where it involved the sale of traditional land. "The people who sold these fields will either go hungry or become slaves," he said, conveying a pride in self-determination common to farmers the world over. (See my review of Thai filmmaker Uruphong Raksasad's "Agrarian Utopia".) Despite the new relation of land and capital, customs of lending assistance die hard. And the massive New Holland was a four-wheel drive.

With the Aydıns' tractor free at last, two aunts piled into the car with us for a trip to Karacabey, the center of trade and distribution 12 kilometers away. It is an agricultural city with a rapidly growing population of forty thousand; factories, canneries, silos stretch along the highway towards the surrounding fields. Dropping Faruk and the aunts off, Oğuzhan took me to the bustling market, a collection of sellers that convenes beneath this vast roof every Tuesday. Eating şambali we walked among the sea of wares, from clothing and shoes to fresh produce and fish - even (nominally) organic spinach. A storm was gathering rapidly, and the energy of sudden wind intensified an already electric atmosphere.

It is impossible to capture in words. If i could paint, i'd paint the horse-cart on the corner, children held by the wrist nearly darting in front of the car; narrow crowded streets between high-rise buildings painted an array of pastel colors; signs of mixture - Caucasians, Georgians, Roma, Kurds, Turks - in the pazar; tractors, bicycles, strollers, motorcycles, the vibrance of a place actively growing, of people who belong to the factories, canneries, and the herds of sheep grazing at the edge of housing projects. But until you see a lightning bolt framed against the chaos of wires, satellite dishes, rooftops, and minarets, sky steel-grey against the silver-green of olive leaves; until the street between sand-colored buildings grows dark, the vendors' umbrellas caught in a gust of wind and you taste brick-dust blown from the broken street - until then you will not understand Karacabey. Lightning split the sky and rain, then hail, began to fall.

After rain, Yolağzi village spread damp and green and quiet. Storks - called leylek in Turkish - sat in their nests. My friend said leylek have a special significance to Muslims: in their migrations, twice yearly, the birds overfly the holy cities Mecca and Medina - and thus the birds themselves tie believers to the five pillars of Islam; in a way they bring Mecca and Medina to this rural village. The leylek are haci, pilgrims.

From the mosque, and from loudspeakers throughout Yolağzi and Gonu, ezan - the call to prayer - echoed over the damp landscape. Here in the village it is preceded by a series of dial tones. When i asked why, Oğuzhan explained that while not every imam is a capable cantor, recordings are forbidden, thus ezan is broadcast from elsewhere, live five times a day. We fell silent. For my friend, it is a familiar sound hard to find on our campus, as if campus were a different, almost areligious world. The loudspeakers' regular intrusion, and the fact that on occasion they were also used to broadcast advertisements  - a shipment of fresh fish at the village store, for example - once something he disliked, had now become the aural essence of home. To me, a sound which in the Kızılay metro, from the hillside near our dormitory, or among the buildings of Ulus was the apotheosis of foreignness now echoed through Yolağzi as a familiar thing i would come, like my friend, to miss.

As dusk fell we walked the street out of the village. The discussion brought back much of my old enthusiasm for traditional agriculture, and for its precarious position in modern, developing Turkiye.  


Çiftçisiz ülke olmaz. 
(Without farmers, there is no nation.)

~ K. Atatürk

06 April, 2010

Yolağzı, part I

The morning began (for me) badly: thanks to midterm exam stress, and a head cold, i woke with a sinus headache. But the mattresses disappeared, and in their place on the floor Oğuzhan's sister Nihan set a broad copper tray spread with eggs, bread, olives, homemade cheeses of several kinds, cucumbers, tomatoes, and hot fresh milk. Their father Burak joined us; after the meal Nihan brought çay and we drank glass after glass. Then it was downstairs to meet the grandparents and drink Turkish kahve; out to the barn to meet the cows. One of the aunts was making cheese in a side room off the courtyard: the curds of that morning's milk were fresh, and salty. The Aydıns said dairy producers were withholding milk to protest the low prices paid by processors - so they're making cheese instead.

Yolağzi village sits on a small rise at the edge of a floodplain. Actually, until the 1950s, the village lay on the floodplain itself - but too many inundations spurred its relocation. As a result of this government-assisted redevelopment, Yolağzi has a more intentional layout than naturally settled places like the neighboring village, Gonu. Streets radiate from the circular center of the village, crowned by a mosque; in the floodplain, a worn millstone beside the dirt road is one of the only signs of former habitation. 


The floodplain stretches for several kilometers of perfect level land either side of the river. On it unfolds a patchwork of fields, small plantations of kavak (poplar) trees for lumber, and the occasional orchard. Everywhere i look in Yolağzi, there are fruit trees. Surrounding the Aydıns' home, i saw fig, cherry, and nut trees. As the tractor jolted towards the river, my friend pointed out a peach orchard; a lone pear at the edge of a cornfield. Isolated fruit trees offer shade during the summer heat, and as my friend pointed out, sweet morsels late in summer. 

From the village, it was a long, rough ride until we came to a "set": a narrow levee with a road atop it the stretched parallel to the river, it seemed to infinity. To the right, towards the river, a broad swath of grazing land, thick with Tamarix gallica, a shrub locals call "ılgın". While considered a bit of a nuisance, it breaks into breathless pink bloom in April, and the tangles force sheep and cows to graze more efficiently, limiting their movement and intensifying the grazing. To the left, despite the set, the fields were still wet from three floods since December. One of the access paths to the Aydıns' far field had churned into a muddy mess, and what began as a wild ride suddenly turned into an impasse: weighed down by a gang plow, the tractor sank to its chassis. We tried fruitlessly to wedge pieces of wood beneath the wheels, which continued to spin. Bright green frogs leapt away from the muck and mayhem, into a pool choked with tiny white aquatic "daisies." 

very stuck: the village herdsman contemplates our situation

As we tried in vain to free the tractor, cows appeared and began to graze around us. Two men approached: one was the village cowboy. Many of the local families have a cow, or two or three - which is too few to tend themselves - so they pay per animal into a pool, and hire this fellow to tend the collective herd. He carries a handmade crook, and a long rubber-sheathed wire antennae emerges from his pocket radio, bends over a shirt button and dangles inside his vest. Turkish pop goes wherever he does. We gave up on the tractor, waiting for Burak to call, and wandered down the the river. Every year the bridge here washes out, and the rubble becomes a perfect place to fish. With cupped hands, Oğuzhan caught several from their hiding places among the rocks. Ayhan, a crazy, amiable shepherd, gave us one hell of a ride home.

Back at the village, Nihan and the aunts had prepared a delicious lunch. Along with the homemade cheese, there is a salad of shredded carrots, yogurt, and garlic; fried bread called bışı and the traditional yogurt drink ayran rounded out the meal. We ate from small tables set on a carpet in the yard, as the kangal dogs lounged and chickens scratched nearby. 

lunch with gracious hosts, from L to R: 
grandfather, Ayhan, Burak, Nihan, and grandmother

Planted in the midst of a genuine agricultural village - something more or less extinct in Maine - i felt as though in four years of sustainable agriculture studies, i'd learned nothing. (Part of the problem might have been the terrible professor who squandered what little interest i might have had in Animal Science.) Artificial insemination was something i had learned about in mind-numbing lectures and promptly forgotten. Now i followed a friend into the dimly lit barn where his father and sister milked; we watched as the technician plunged his arm into a cow's vulva, stimulating the hormonal mating response and increasing her receptivity to the precious contents of the AI syringe.   

In Yolağzi, no one takes tractor safety courses. As we returned with neighbor Yilmaz and his battered blue machine to try and free the Aydın's tractor, i found myself for the second time perched atop a wheel guard, one of four riders. It was an unsuccessful attempt, and with dusk falling, we returned home. Oğuzhan balanced precariously on the three point hitch, his clothes mud-stained, as a village dog chased nipping at his heels. 

Journey to Yolağzi

I was more than a little surprised when Oğuzhan, a classmate i had just met over lunch, invited me to his village for spring break. We had hardly talked, in fact, but two weeks passed and i grew excited. He bought bus tickets, and we met at the campus bus stop. It would be a long night's ride.

It was after three AM when i at last fell into sleep beside my friend, and before 4 when the bus attendant woke me with a tap on the shoulder. The bus came to a halt at a lonely intersection; we climbed shouldered our backpacks in the thin moonlight. A sign said "YOLAĞZI 4 KM". Meadow stretched away into the night, and from the distance i could hear frogs. Frogs! One of the few things i miss living in Ankara: sounds of nature.

Before long, a friend from the village drove past, and picked us up. He was coming from a wedding party. Partway to Yolağzi we met Oğuzhan's little brother Suleyman driving the tractor (the original plan to speed our arrival). At their home at the village's edge we climbed to the guest room, off a narrow balcony over the courtyard. The brothers pulled two thick wool mattresses from a pile of bedding, and we nestled in to sleep just as roosters began to crow in the courtyard below.