In a man’s world
“She’s from Poland.”
“From Poland. She’s come by bike.”
The news reaches every table in a bar full of men drinking tea. One person passes it to another because everyone is curious what I’m doing in a small village on a secondary road on a rainy day.
“Poland: Wałęsa,” smiles a Turk with moustache.
“Lewandowski. Lewandowski good,” adds another one.
“Good. Arda Turan also good,” I return the compliment.
“Poland: Warszawa,” remembers the lorry driver.
“What is she doing here? Where is she going? Is she on her own?” they whisper to themselves looking furtively at me.
“What are you doing here? Where are you going? Are you on your own?” asks the man sitting the closest to me, while I’m trying to figure out the meaning of his questions and answer them with a few Turkish words that I read with difficulties from my notebook.
In the middle of the bar there’s a stove, men sit with their drab jackets on and sip litres of hot tea. An old man by the window plays a solitaire and all the time somebody comes in or goes out. It’s dumpy but cozy. And although I’m the only woman here, nobody is intrusive. They’re all friendly curious.
“How old is she? What’s her job? Is she married?” they still mutter to themselves, pretending they don’t look at me.
Tevfik, in an ironed shirt and with carefully trimmed moustache, keeps cheerfully talking to me.
“How old are you? What’s your job? Are you married?’
Now, I’m finally placed somewhere in the universe and the talks at the tables, interrupted by my arrival, go back on track.
“Sit closer to the stove, get warm. Are you hungry?” cares my new friend.
It’s time to get to the point.
“Tent, here, sleep, safe,” I stammer in Turkish.
Tevfik makes a reassuring gesture, puts his hand on his heart and nods his head. I know that I will be taken care of here. It’s time for short consultation between neighbours where I should spend the night and Tevfik, after making sure that I’m warm and watered, takes me home.
We walk through the village made of small, white houses, cackling hens and some street dogs. Tevfik opens the gate to his household and hands me over to a woman’s world.
In a woman’s world
Feride, Tevfik’s wife, welcomes me as if she had been waiting for me for a month. She’s wearing a headscarf and flowery galligaskins and she smiles broadly at me. We take our shoes off before entering the house. We come to the kitchen, where, apart from regular furniture, there’s a stove and, instead of a table, there’s a carpet with soft pillows in the corner. Further, there’s a living room with three sofas and a TV.
“Where are you from? Where are you going?” It’s time for the second round of questions.
In the meantime, a grown-up daughter of Feride appears. She’s also in flowery galligaskins and she welcomes me as warmly as her mother. I’m seated on one of the sofas and we look at each other curiously, trying to communicate.
“How old are you? What’s your job? Are you married?” Some things simply must be explained.
“Are you travelling on your own? Aren’t you scared? I would be,” Feride shakes at the very thought.
But then she springs up to make dinner and she calls her daughter to help her. They light the kitchen stove and egg frying, cucumber cutting, olive tossing and, of course, tea boiling begins. I remain alone in the living room where I watch a Turk woman dyed blond in a tight dress and with too much makeup on explain something in an authoritative manner on the TV.
“Come. Dinner’s ready,” they call me.
They lay a table cloth on the kitchen carpet and put a small table on it. We sit on the soft pillows. My hosts cover their feet and knees with the remaining part of the table cloth so I hurry to imitate them.
“Enjoy your meal.”
There are fried eggs, fresh tomatoes, pickles, olives and some mysterious pastes and purees. I try everything but evidently not enough.
“How much do you weigh? You must eat a lot to have the strength for cycling. What an idea is this to cycle through the world!” they shake their heads in disbelief.
After dinner we move back to the sofas where we have a fruit dessert. The blond Turkish woman from the TV fills the space with her voice as there’s nothing more than I could learn about Feride and her daughter’s lives or they about mine.