On my hike up to the fortress I took a breather to look out at the city.
“Where are you from?” said a man wearing a yellow uniform. He was with a friend gathering garbage from the site. I told him where and said a few things about myself, but I could see by his smile that his question was the extent of his English.
The language barrier is a big problem, but as my mom once quoted a Russian saying: better to have one hundred friends than one hundred dollars. It took me a few days to find a translator – Muge, one of my couchsurfing host’s fellow students – and I looked around anxiously for her as he began to talk to me.
It’s a big challenge to communicate when you cannot speak a word of Turkish, but it has its advantages too. I feel no shame speaking to strangers because we are too alien to one another for it to seem strange.
Muge told him I am writing about villages and in no time at all, I was invited to see his.
We returned to the base of the hill and began a long round of salaam malakims as he introduced me to a half dozen men.
I’ve become accustomed to stand and smile and have no idea what is going on. Eventually Muge and I got into a car and drove out of Afyon toward the village of Fethibey.
We came to a stop next to some chickens and an old crumbling house. The driver turned to me, looking straight into my eyes. Do I want to become a Muslim? he asked with a serious smile.
I smiled back and said the best things I believed about Islam. I told him that if God created the world it is good to see the world – dodging the question as my translator laughed nervously.
After a few minutes of waiting we followed another man into another car – a 1987 “Super,” which I later noticed had a Ford engine. Off we drove into the countryside!
“Wheat, cuccumbers, peppers, eggplant, hashhash [opium poppies],” He listed off as the fields unfolded.
Our guide’s name was Ugun Turham and he was a kind and happy host. Understanding my mission right away, he pulled over at the first sign of cows.
“Take your pictures!” he said.
A village is based around food. Of course there are other things too, like business in town and engines to fix, but food is the essential element of this world.
Fethibey is a growing village, said Ugun, and pointed out a few places where they had bought land from the government. They had a new mosque that less than ten years old, but the old one was still popular and “no one knows how old it is.”
Our first stop was the cuccumber machine. It sorts them by size as they pass over four chambers – the smallest for pickles and the largest for selling.
After a stop at the baker and some duck-related traffic on the road we arrived at his home where he introduced me to his mother and his brother’s wife. Conveniently enough, he married her sister, so the families are very close. We spent the next hour watching her wedding on his computer.
The family spends weeks cooking a meal for the entire village -Ugun’s mother remember exactly how many kilos of rice and meat and flour.
The men seem to do the majority of the dancing, which involves some classic Eurasian moves: circling with their arms out and hands up while their legs cross and bend, all in front of a few dozen others sitting in their chairs, sipping their tea and watching the family bond.
It was a good trip. Nothing too unique about Fethibey, but an encouraging sign that it is possible to see many things if you just ask. I spent the next day touring five villages and finding some more exciting things, but it was in Fethibey that I saw my first poppy field and my first paht-paht: