Erdem and his family were a hub of generosity in the Turkish countryside. Erdem stops his red Golf along the side of the road, and greets us with a beer; an offer we gladly accept along with the cooling air. The weather is hot and dry, the past two days the landscape has been dry desert land with bush scrubs for the consumption of freely roaming goats and cows. Along the roads holler trucks carrying freshly dynamited rock for road construction closer to the Bulgarian border. We counted 11 trucks per minute speeding through a town now suffocating from dust.
Erdem is returning home and takes us for a ride into the Turkish forests. He LOVES Turkey, and thinks it is the Number One country. I have met many who claim their country is number one, passionate pride I am happy to share. Two herds of goats trek through the forest, goats with wise goatees and necklaces or bells marking their ranks. There is a restaurant in the forest with a fish breeding area; an articifical concrete stream bed that excites Nels much.
Ciklilli is the town of which Erdem is so proud. Here his family has a long history, here his father farms and Erdem runs the wheat exporting business. Here he also met his 22 year-old wife, who is carrying a son. Town square has a 823 year old tree and a cafe with tea for a fourth the cost in Istanbul and backgammon. Nels, an avid player, plays a couple of games with the locals, young and old, but must count his losses.
Erdem's family is Muslim, but his mother, a round tub of warmth, is not shy to show her bright red hair with streaks of grey. Her background is Bulgarian-Yugoslavian but moved to Turkey when she was young. Here she runs a fun ship, knitting wool socks by the fire with her mother-in-law a frail old lady with a broken back carrying a smile of reached enlightenment.
The courtyard holds a Turk-Fiat tractor, several robotic farming tools, a small vegetable garden and a picnic table. Erdem lives in the newly constructed top level, furnished tres moderne, fresh from the Ikea catalog with new carpets, new couches, new flat screen, new table, new everything. A home kept lovely and clean, a seven months pregnant wife who waits up for her husband's return stinking of booze. Roles are defined, leaving cafes and bar occupied mostly by males. Nels was the center of attention after Turkey suffered their defeat against Germany 2-3, and entertained a crowd of giggling men with "Ozo purdu osman" meaning "You have a beautiful smile."
During the match, the whole family came for the spectacle, each bringing their offering of food. Erdem's sister has a family of four, her eldest son celebrating his 13th birthday. She brought meat paddies made with red carrot and beetroot, wrapped in lettuce. We eat sitting on the designated eating cloth, from which we also enjoyed a Turkish breakfast of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, olives and pillowy bread.
There was little language in between and so a great conspiracy was created right underneath our eyes. Erdem and Nels went for a long late night drive, after a day's of alcohol consumption, seatbeltless to Vize the town up from Cikilli. Nels assumed they were greeting friends, while Erdem was actually checking bus timetables, and dropped us off at the stop the following day, driving off while a bus coincidentally pulls up. Earlier we killed some time driving around Cikilli, heading back home to find the garage door opening and the birthday boy with a surprise jumping into the car. I receive a pair of knitted socks and a head scarf. Our goodbyes are heartfelt, and Mother's cheeks carried a waterfall of tears. A family with utmost generosity, who will shortly receive a large package of present from us, the only way we could possibly replensish their genorosity.