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Tuesday, 01 March 2016

Van, Kurdish Turkey: Why I Will Accept Invitations to Tea More Often - Page 3

Written by Michael Chrusciel
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On the ride back to the mainland, Sadat asked me how I was getting back to the city center over 20 miles away, and I told him I hoped a taxi or minibus would stop by. Knowing this would not be the case at this time of year, he arranged for me to ride with the group of men in the Mr. Aviator’s truck back to the city. I was immensely grateful to Sadat for saving me a night stranded on the docks, and the four friends and I fit cozily in the truck and began for Van. Without the help of Sadat, we were reduced to using the few pages of Turkish phrases I brought to communicate and laughed riotously along the way at each others pronunciations. The men also seemed to be fans of President Obama, pointing at me and saying “Obama!” I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I replied “Erdocan!” thinking we were playing a simple game of Name Each Others Presidents. The men seemed unhappy to hear his name. I would later learn that night how the Kurdish region shows little support for Turkey’s current leadership. 


Upon learning I was leaving tonight, Mr. Aviator dropped me off on the airport road along with two of his friends. Approaching the airport, the men motioned to a weather monitoring station along the road. “Çay?” they questioned. As one of the few Turkish words in my repertoire, it still didn’t make sense to be having tea at the weather station. However, upon entering the station, I realized the two men were friends of several of the station’s employees, and I had just been invited to enjoy my first Turkish tea. In a meeting room adorned with a massive weather tracking screen of Turkey, an employee brought out tea, and before long, the room swelled with more and more people, many of whom were workers from the neighboring airport, likening the place to an after work hangout. English was in rare supply, so we attempted to use Google Translate on one of their many computers to communicate with each other to a hilarious response just as before. 


A young weather scientist and intern named Dalya then appeared and served chocolate cake. I learned she is working at the station as part of her master’s degree. She knew English very well, having studied at Istanbul’s premier Technical University, and translated the group’s questions to me and mine to them. They were particularly interested in why I chose to visit Van of all places and wanted to know what I thought of their city, and I was interested in how life in Van differed from that in Turkey’s west. I responded that of all the cities I had visited thus far, the hospitality, eagerness to help, and openness to communicate with me were unmatched in Turkey and elsewhere. I added that after seeing the sights and what wonderful reception the city’s people offered, I was surprised the area wasn’t an over trodden destination. I was glad to hear Dalya translate their happiness in hearing what I said.  What appeared on paper to be a simple itinerary turned out to be a much more fulfilling day, complete with new found friendship and, more importantly, a better understanding of a little known corner of the globe and its people. 


When it was close to my departure time, I said my sad goodbyes and grateful thanks, traded contact information with Dalya, and walked to the airport just down the road for my red eye flight back to Istanbul for another adventure the next day. 



©Michael Chrusciel

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Michael is a 24 year old current medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit who uses weekends and vacations to visit the less often visited corners of the globe. While overseas, he practices photography, meets other university students, purchases the music and movies of the country, and tastes anything that appears halfway edible. This past summer, he did a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, visiting the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turkey. Other past travels include visits to Greece's small islands and Northern Cyprus, known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In the future, he hopes to visit Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria once the situations improve. 


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Last modified on Saturday, 27 February 2016
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