Yesterday's bike ride took us through kilometers of apricot trees in full blossom. The sun was shiningbrightly. There wasn't a breeze in the sky. The water in the reservoir was the kind of calm, glass that makes for epic water skiing. I could almost imagine I was cycling through the vineyards and orchards of Eastern Washington except for four things: 1) the quantity of trash lining the shore of the river and hanging from the tree branches, 2) the samovar strapped to the back of a bicycle rattling like tin cans being pulled behind a wedding car 3) the uncontrolled weed burn that lapped at our bike tires as a sudden gust of wind turned the small fire into a 6 foot monster and 4) the beggar carrying a bottle of Coke.
It's the beggar about whom I will write. We had just settled down to our breakfast picnic. I had found a small clump of trash-free spring grass and begun to devour my pita, olives, butter, honey, cheese, whole tomato, and whole cucumber when an unkempt man sporting baggie Turkish flood pants, a dirty sweat shirt, and too-small sandals with toes poking through
his socks sauntered into our camp. He was hugging a 3/4 full liter of Coke. I think I'd read somewhere that in Turkey, if someone asks for food and has something to share e.g. Coke, they are invited to sit and given food. And this is exactly what happened. Although he was not invited to join the circle he was given some of everything we were eating.
Our lively conversation continued and everyone tended to ignore the man sitting just outside the circle who was, all the while, smiling and hugging his bottle of Coke. He was also waiting for the samovar to heat the water for tea. I should also mention that once the food was finished, a small fire was started to burn our mostly-plastic trash while the smokers lit their "after breakfast" cigarette. Now here's where it got interesting. The beggar also wanted a cigarette but the leader of our group said "no"(food, yes, cigarettes, no) and tried to steer the man away from the camp. Coke man turned from smiling to crazy. I was wondering if I should hop on my bike and get out of there. Fortunately his "crazy" only applied to the threat of being touched. (Men like to walk arm-in-arm and greet by touching their heads (or bike helmuts) together, but apparently not this guy.) With much loud persuasion and pointing commands much like we give our dog, Coke man relented and ran off to the next group of picnickers. There he bummed a cigarette and then returned to our camp to smoke it like aristocracy: cigarette gently held between Pointer and Tall Man, head cocked at a proud, confident angle, beautiful smoke rings wafting gently in the air. I was envisioning a Pasha sitting on a pillow surrounded by his "court."
Well, the Turkish conversation lulled me to sleep on my little clump of grass and when I woke, he was gone.....