Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Konya - 11/7/2009

When we got back from Omer’s house, I was really feeling flushed. I took all the medicine I could think of to cut the fever and laid down, with loud hacking coughs erupting every few minutes. That night I had my worst night of sleep of the entire trip. It took me a long time to fall alseep. I kept seeing strange waking “dreams” and felt as though my body was asleep, but my mind was awake. When I finally did fall asleep, I woke with a stomach ache and stuffy nose and had to spend several minutes in the bathroom. I then drank some more water, and laid back down. I took me a while, but I finally did get a fitful sleep for the rest of the evening. I had set my alarm for 6:30 am, as I thought that was when we were going to be getting up to go to Suleyman and Serap’s for breakfast. I took my shower and then started packing as the rest of the guys remained sleeping. Jeff started stirring at around 7 am, and we spent the next hour and a half preparing to depart Levent’s home. After a short time, Erdem began stirring at which point Levent brough him out to greet us. He had grown a lot and was really shy at first. We finally finished our packing and cleaning up and said our goodbyes to Erdem & Vildan.

We arrived at Suleyman’s apartment a bit late, what we have taken to calling “Turkish Time”. We greeted Suleyman and his brother, and Serap with their beautiful new baby, as well as Serap’s mom. She had prepared a breakfast feast for us, and after we settled down, we sat down to eat together, probably the most common activity of our short trip. The food was great as always and we (the Americans) were all stuffed by the end of it. We had some tea, then moved to the couches where we chatted some more. Then we got out the presents that we had given them, and photographed Serap opening the baby clothes. We then all took some photos together and prepared to leave for Konya.

It was almost 11 am when we finally left Suleyman & Serap’s apartment. We piled into the black 15 passenger Volkswagen Carravelle and departed for Konya. We drove a while through the outer parts of Ankara, as Suleyman’s apartment was about 20 km from the city proper. Omer met us along the way, dropping off his car at a location that was more convenient for him. We then got gas and headed for Konya. I had been feeling better during breakfast, but now I was starting to feel really tired again. I closed my eyes, and don’t remember a whole lot from the first half of the trip. We stopped along the way in Kulu, to go to the bathroom. Some of the guys did the salat together, and then headed back on the road.

The landscape for most of the trip was dry and dusty hills everywhere. Some of them had eroded and had small rocky pinnacles. A lot of the hill sides had plowed fields on them, but did not have anything growing as the season had already passed. As we approached Konya we began to see larger mountains which rose up around the valley that we were driving in, almost seeming to form a kind of wall around the northern approach to the city. We drove on and began to see signs of the city. A few minutes later we were approaching the city center, with the only hill in the entire city. Apparently, the valley was so flat that they created a man-made hill in order to spot enemies from afar. Most of what we could see from the hill complex was now a lush green park with many people, young and old, city and enjoying the beautiful weather. There were even cotton candy vendors on the hawking their goods on the encircling sidewalk.

At one point on the city center, there was the remains of a very old mosque, mostly just a single huge corner, several stories high, with a permanent canopy constructed over it. It was too bad we didn’t have more time or we could have explored it a bit more. We continued driving through town, and along the way picked up Levent E who had spent the previous night in town. We then headed over to the neighborhood where Mevlana’s mausoleum was located.

We parked in a funny little underground garage whose entrance tightly spiraled down into the dark underground of Konya from a little traffic circle. Levent deftly maneuvered the van down the ramp and around the tight parking area to a small spot (probably not intended for a 15 passenger van). Omer guided Levent into the space and we started to climb out. I was very cold at this point, apparently some chills were setting in. Levent (not for the last time) let me where his jacket and I bundled up in it (with my jacket). I shivered as we walked, only feeling better when the scarce rays of the afternoon sun would slip between the dense buildings. We were going to have lunch in one of the most popular restaurants in town. When we arrived, I pointed out that we call such restaurants “hole in the walls”, as it was a tiny two floor place. We carefully climbed down the steep wooden stairs past multiple propane tanks which stored on the landing, and then were seated at our table. They took our order and everyone accept me got a specialty meat dish, with lamb, some greens, and bread. My appetite was very much gone by this point, so I requested some soup, like what we had in Bursa for lunch. The waiter said that they didn’t sell it, but then said that he could get it from another restaurant for us. The food arrived shortly thereafter and started eating my Ezzo. It was warming and good, but I couldn’t eat it very fast. After hot tea, we clambered back up the stairs and headed to a shop that sold Turkish tea pots and Turkish coffee cups, as Jeff wanted to get both to bring back home. Jeff and the guys browsed and negotiated with the seller for a long time. I looked around the shop and the street and waited for them to finish. The Turkish guys generously offered to buy the items as a gift for Jeff. We finished up there and then met up with Osman’s uncle and their friend Halit in front of the Mevlana mausoleum. Halit was going to be our tour guide through the mausoleum.

We toured the museum and mausoleum of Mevlana and his family for about an hour. Halit stopped a lot and narrated the story of each item in Turkish, while the Turkish guys would take turns translating for us. We spent a lot of time in the museum, and it was very interesting. Unfortunately, my cold was really taking its toll on me, and I had found myself closing my eyes and swaying in the warm museum interior. I won’t go into too much detail about Mevlana and his mausoleum, but it is considered one of the major Islamic holy paces in the world.

After leaving the museum, we walked the streets and went to a nearby gift shop. We stayed there for 30 minutes or so, picking up some items to bring back home with us. Then some of the group went to pick up the dishes that Jeff had purchased. The air was getting smoky, as people turned on their coal burning stoves for heat. It irritated my throat a little bit and I was somewhat anxious to get out of it. We waited and chatted, sometimes in very difficult Turkish/English non-translation, and sometimes with the help of our Turkish friends. We then walked to where Jeff and the others were to meet up with them and wait for Omer to get the van. We stood together on the street corner as the night set in and the shops all began closing up their doors.

Our next stop was the home of one of Halit’s family members. They had heard that we were in town doing some touring and wanted to host us a traditional dinner. We arrived at their apartment building and we all removed our shoes outside and entered. We entered the living room, where there was a sheet on the floor with a large serving tray. On it was the remains of the dinner that they had eaten, a kind of fried bread with cheese and other ingredients inside of it, cooked to the size of an extra large pizza, but very thin.  We made our greetings, then we all sat down on the couches which encircled the room. Off to one side of the room there was a coal stove with a vent going out the roof. To our surprise, one of the family members was an experienced teacher of the whirling dervishes. He was older now, and did not make a performance, but did sing and recite the Qur’an. We sat and chatted through our able Turkish translators, asking about the dervishes and his experiences. At one point, he asked what our names were and the renamed Jeff to Recep (pronounced: Re-Jepp). Everybody laughed heartily at that and it was an ongoing joke for the rest of the evening. After some more chatting, a fresh platter of food was brought out and we all gathered on the floor to eat dinner. It was sliced into strips which we rolled up and dipped in sweet sauce. We at a lot of it and they kept bringing it. At one point, Jeff quietly asked if this was the main meal, because he was chowing down and wouldn’t have room more for another course. Everybody laughed heartily at his genuineness. The meal was followed by some traditional Turkish tea and then, as it was quickly approaching the time to go to the Dervish show, we said our goodbyes and headed out to our next destination. We had a great time there, and Jeff really connected with them, despite vast cultural differences.

We arrived at the Mevlana Cultural Center a few minutes after 8 am. The air was thick and foggy and had the odor of the coal that was used to heat so many homes in Konya. The building was large and architecturally impressive. There were glass doors leading into a large main hall. We passed through some metal detectors and then headed up the stairs to reach the large circular auditorium where the Whirling Dervishes would be performing. Before taking a seat, some of us went downstairs to use the bathroom. We took our seats on the far side of the circular bowl shaped stage. When we sat down, there was a man speaking in Turkish about Mevlana and the Dervishes. Then the musicians took their seats on the far side of the stage. One of the musicians played for a while, which made me start to fall asleep. During the show, Levent gave me his coat again, as it was a bit cold in the auditorium, which made me even sleepier. A few minutes later, the first Dervish came out, the leader, or conductor person who doesn’t actually dance. Next there was some kind of elder person with a turban on his Dervish hat. He never danced either, just sat to one side kind of watching. Then about half of the group of dancers came out. They walked pass the man in the turban and stopped in front of the man with the turban and he seemed to kiss them. Then the dancers walked in circles for a long time. Each time they would come in front of the turban man, the one on the right would turn to face the one on the left in a kind of greeting. They repeated this several times until I started drifting off again. Finally, the rest of the dancers came out on the stage, doubling the total number. At this point the performance began with the dancers standing at the posts and removing their black outer garments. They then crossed their arms and began walking counter-clockwise along the edge of the circular stage. As they passed by the conductor, they would begin their twirl, opening their arms to mimic the blooming of a flower and extending one hand upwards and another slightly downwards. The conductor would either guide the Dervishes into the center of the stage or along the outer edge. He would do this by either extending or withdrawing his left foot, which the dancers used as a cue. The dancers performed several times, each time returning without a wobble to the edge of the stage, and then beginning again. Then there was a reciting of the Qur’an from the stage by one of the musicians. At that point, Halit indicated the show was complete and motioned for us to follow him. We passed back by the bathroom one more time and then quickly headed back out to the car. Halit and Osman’s uncle lived in Konya, and Levent E was spending the weekend there, so we dropped them off at various points throughout the town, saying our goodbyes and thank you’s each time.

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