Today, Rachel and I hiked through Cappadocia’s Rose Valley, where vacated homes and fourth century churches are carved out of the sandstone rock formations.
Along the way, we saw a shepherd leading a flock of goats and sheep, separated from us by a dried up creek bed. I snapped a couple pictures, half hoping the shepherd wouldn’t see us – I always feel a bit awkward taking photographs of strangers. Not awkward in a “I probably shouldn’t do this” sort of way, but more like “I hope I don’t get caught.”
Well, he saw us. He waved, I waved back, and continued to fork left on the path away from him. He waved again, then waved us towards him. I just waved again, pretending I didn’t see the second movement, but he insisted.
“He’s telling us to ‘come here,’” I said to Rachel.
So we did.
He directed us to a spot in the creek that was easy to cross. When we got to him, he took my hand with both of his, and kissed both my cheeks, his scraggly beard scrubbing against them.
“Merhaba,” he said. One of ten Turkish words I know. It means “Hello.”
I held up my camera and shrugged. He pointed at his sheep and nodded his head, and with his permission, I took a few more pictures. Then he pointed at the camera, Rachel, and himself.
Our time together lasted less than three minutes, with only one word exchanged. We doubled kissed again, crossed the creek, and continued our hike.
It started raining on our walk back into town, while we were still 2 km away. Soon a minivan rolled up next to us and honked.
The middle-aged man in the driver’s seat opened the door and gestured, asking if we wanted a ride. His wife, covered in a headscarf, sat in behind him on the bench seat, and gave us confidence that their intentions were pure.
We got in, making it the second time in four weeks that we accepted a ride from a complete stranger who had stopped for us while we walked along the road. We turned down at least three other offers.
The couple spoke no English, and because I don’t know how to say “I don’t speak Turkish,” I said “Merhaba,” and then counted on my fingers the other nine Turkish words I know. “… very good, bread, food, thank you, tea…”
His wife chimed in with a smile from the back, “şeker…”
Through gestures, confusion and coincidence, they dropped us off in front of a restaurant that the owner of our BnB, Hassan (whose own hospitality warrants a post or two), had recommended.
The owner stood in front on his cellphone, but put it down to ask our names and to point out the specials on the sandwich board. We told him that we are staying with Hassaan (who apparently is well known and respected in this town) and that we would be back for dinner at 7pm.
As we turned and walked away, and he said, “If you have time, I would like to offer you Turkish tea.” Tired and thirsty after our hike, and with no plans for the afternoon, we accepted.
He sat us at a table, and brought us tea and a dessert, on the house.