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Published: November 5th 2011
Even though I didn’t go home with them that day at the train station, our two-minute interaction had given me the feeling that Sefa and his wife, Sali, were kindred spirits. I wanted the opportunity to get to know them better, so I called to see if I could spend my last night in Sivas with them. Sali answered, “Of course you can stay with us! You are always welcome here!” They came to pick me up an hour later and, within minutes, had me convinced to stay for at least another day.
The following day was Republic Day commemorating the proclamation of the Turkish republic in 1923. Sefa invited me to join his family for the celebration and gave me a quick lesson on a proper Turkish greeting. First you hug with your right arm above the other’s shoulder and your left one below it, while kissing the left check. After several enthusiastic slaps on the back, you switch arms and cheeks and repeat the process. I was prepared for three such switches, but the hugging, kissing and slapping seemed to have no end. And that was just Baba and Anne (father and mother). I still had brothers, sisters and nieces to get through. There was no doubt that I was most welcome in their home.
As a guest, I wasn’t allowed to help in the kitchen, so while the woman cooked and the men prayed, I played with Sefa’s four-year old niece. I drew the outlines of flowers in silence, and she colored them in, chatting away. When Sefa had a moment I asked what she was saying. He listened and replied with a smile, “She is asking you, with very much respect, ‘Lady, why don’t you speak?’” Is there anything as delightful as the simple way children see the world?
Like all of the best holidays, the day revolved around food. It was here that I first learned the Turkish word for ‘eat’ – ‘ye,’ which is pronounced very much like the American ‘yeah.’ Since eating – and making sure all those around you eat as well – is a favorite Turkish pastime, there’s a constant chorus around the table of, “Ye! Ye! Ye! Ye!” If Lil’ Jon ever decides to remake his club hit “Yeah!” he’ll find the perfect accompaniment in Turkey. We ate in rounds to make sure our stomachs could accommodate all of the different traditional foods. In between courses, the room was filled with talking and laughter. I couldn’t understand anything, but there was such a feeling of love and good humor that I found myself whole-heartedly laughing along.
I easily recognized Sefa’s mother as the family comedian. Her smiling eyes held the secrets to a healthy, happy family and her jokes were met with a new round of hugs and kisses. She’s the heart of the family, but his father is its rationale. Whenever Sali would translate his words for me, his sagacity stunned me. At one point, he fixed his wise gaze on me and spoke. I looked to Sefa for a translation, “He wants to know how you can travel by yourself. He says that you must trust yourself very much.” I was taken aback by the comment. I’ve always thought that traveling alone had more to do with trusting in others (which I do, unquestionably). I never even thought to consider whether or not I trust myself. Of course I do! Sure, I’ve made the wrong decision before, but I’m human – who hasn’t? Life is just as much about its mistakes as it is its successes.
More important, in my book, than trusting yourself or others is trusting that everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn’t always reveal itself at first. When things aren’t playing out as you had imagined they would, just remember that it’ll all work out in the end – it always does. But, first, you have to give up the desire to impose your will on the world and let it.
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