Grabbing the lion’s mane: Goodbye Bodrum, hello open road…


Galatasaray S.K. (football team)

Image via Wikipedia

It was here, the day to leave Bodrum for points north. Ready for the road – our first long, international road trip as a couple – through the heat of the Aegean region of Anatolia. Ready for where the road would take us literally and figuratively as a couple.

Despite the fact that it was her day off, Kalinka stumbled out of her room – more like a nook than a room if you ask me – just to hug us goodbye.  She was bright and sprightly despite her protestations about too much to drink the night before.  I would go on a bender on my night off too, I thought, if I had her job.  The little chorus ladies clucked in disapproval at the very thought of a lady drinking Rakı.  I ignored them.  The had 13th century sensibilities that didn’t always fit my life, although my old-fashioned Granny might have been on their side despite her Jerez sherry each evening.  It reminded her, I think, of life in Southern Spain where she was raised.  I think she reveled in that melancholy a bit.  But this was not a melancholy moment.

As Karagöz catapulted himself up each of the marble stairs to the kitchen, he sawed out a characteristically odd tune – something along the lines of “spring free, gonna be, just we!”  Hacivad followed a distance after, dragging a duffel bag of books up each stair with him – ka-lumph, ka-lumph, etc.  Kenne and her maid, Khadijah were already up at the ironclad ironsides known as Mr. X’s Mercedes, supervising the placement of each of their trunks in the back of the car.  Did you know, dear reader, that Karagöz shadow puppets travel with trunks that can squeeze through keyholes of cars into trunks in much the same way that a mouse can squeeze under a door?  I did not, but was too sleepy to protest much.

Mr. X., enlivened at the thought of a responsibility to engage in as the firstborn caring for his younger brother’s send-off, puffed around the place looking for his low-cholesterol breakfast – a single dried fig, a few fresh walnuts, a quick glass of çay that he had prepared himself as it was Kalinka’s day off.  Mrs. X. made a quick appearance with two-cheeked kisses and a subtle slip of the arm down my side to my waist, where she tweaked the tiny roll of fat there as she wished me good luck on my weight-loss journey.  I gave her a tight squeeze and thanked her for her hospitality, my best inner self wishing for the future of our relationship to only go onwards and upwards.

As I slipped into the back of the Mercedes, M. and Mr. X. were laughing and joking in the best possible brotherly swing that soon launched into the singing of a Galatasaray chorus replete with the cim bom bom chorus and mentions of aslan – which had something to do with a lion but always made me think about the Chronicles of Narnia.  The lion emblem of the futbol team swung back and forth from the mirror and I thought I saw it wink at me, but decided that my own personal madness needed to start and stop with my resident shadow puppets.  I set myself to focusing on the movement of all the puppets, who were settling into the backseat in order to get the best possible view on the way to the marina where we were to pick up the car.  Karagöz hung upside-down from the handle above the window, ancient Ottoman coins falling out of his pocket as we curved around and out of the gated compound in the peachy early morning light.  Khadijah ran around collecting the coins, then passing them to the chorus of dancing ladies, who secreted them all away in the depths of my open-mouthed purse.  Kenne sat next to Hacivad on the back of the seat, looking out of the back window.  They were all talking a mile a minute and I couldn’t keep track of it all so I just gave in to the various voices in my head that they represented and watched the highway scene – early morning shops opening up as workers hung their wares in windows and many dolmuş taking workers into the inner city.

Simit - a savory bagel-like, pretzel-shaped pastry covered with sesame seeds - eaten often at tea, but for breakfast on the run today

As we reached the marina, Mr. X. took me and stationed me at the cafe – apparently car rental shops are no place for ladies.  He was in too much of a rush to supervise/assist M.’s rental process to remember to order for me – but I was glad to try out my own nascent skills and managed to have three teas, three sesame-covered simits fresh from the oven and three glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice appear before the car negociations were complete.  Looking back with the wisdom of the present day, I now understand the at-the-time imperceptible web of expectation related to “who knows best” and “favor-sharing” that goes on between families and friends.  At the time, I thought Mr. X.’s behavior about the car rental suggested that he did not think M. could seal the deal himself.  I felt a bit irked about it.  I now know that the power of networks on price (not to mention the provision of perks) had more to do with his behavior.  What it means, of course, is that there will be a time when we must do a favor for Mr. X.

After the mighty negociations were complete, the volume of voice was back down to a decent decibel and the waving of hands above the head had ceased, the two brothers walked arm in arm towards me in the cafe.  Hacivad began to meditate on my shoulder, but I knew that something about the words he chose related to the moment “love is grabbing hold to the great Lion’s mane.”  As I sipped my tea, taking care not to burn my fingers, I watched the exact walk of one mirrored in the other – there was no denying brotherhood between these two, despite their hair, height and way-of-life differences.  Picturing myself flailing about while hanging onto some massive, Martian lion’s mane, I thought “there is an element of trust, of letting go, I suppose, in loving.  In loving one an another and in loving the other’s family too.”  Just as I began this high, best-self thinking, Karagöz screeched in with his thoughts on the matter – “lion’s mane, it’s the bane, of your existence, keep your distance, let’s be plain, you’re on the wane.”

The brothers stuck to Turkish for most of our breakfast – having the type of brotherly interaction that clearly brought joy and left all difficult moments they might have ever had aside.  I let the rising sun wash over me, swept the sesame seeds from the simit onto the floor for the waiting birds hovering nearby, and focused on implanting the scene around me into my brain for good.  After a hearty hug and two-side kiss, I was packaged up into the front seat of the car before Mr. X. turned his attention to packing a gift for my family in the backseat – a series of shrink-wrapped packets of kuruyemiş (dried fruit and nut items) from the finest store in the bazaar.  Thinking of my Dad’s enjoyment of the pistachios crunched into the vacuum-sealed packs made me happy, as did the thought of those dried sultanas in my mom’s wintry fruitcakes.

We followed Mr. X. out of Bodrum town in our put-put alternative to the grand Mercedes, and waved a hearty goodbye as he returned to the beach and we wound our way up into the foothills.  If this was grabbbing onto the lion’s mane of life and love with M., I was up for it.

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Turkish Food!, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Grabbing the lion’s mane: Goodbye Bodrum, hello open road…

  1. Alan says:

    . . at last – the open road to who knows where! ‘iyiy yolculuklar’

  2. Pingback: Driving to Selcuk: On differences in roadtrip preferences in a couple… | Slowly-by-Slowly

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