Day 14: Selcuk
(The family's Collection.)
Today the 12-year-old daughter of the family I’m staying with and her friend and I walked across town when the daughter’s friend told me she had a joke for me. I’m always up for a joke, especially when it encourages the girls I’ve been giving English lessons to to speak English.
“So.” the friend smiled and stopped walking so she could concentrate on her words. “There were two tomatoes that wanted to cross the road.”
I figured this was going to be some version of why did the chicken cross the road and willed myself to be surprised at a simple answer.
The friend continued. “And the first tomato said that he could cross the road, no problem. So he waited until there was a break in the traffic and started crossing the road. A car hit him and he died.”
I put my hands over my heart. “When you said this was a joke, I didn’t know it was a sad joke. Please tell me that the first tomato came back to life.”
Both girls shook their heads to show the poor tomato was gone forever.
I said, “Did the second tomato have a funeral for the first tomato?”
“No.” the friend said, quickly.
I said, “No funeral? Poor first tomato. I hope this story is going to end on a happy note.”
The friend ignored me and continued. “So the second tomato said he could cross the street. He stepped out into traffic got hit by a car and died.”
My mouth fell open. “This is the saddest joke I ever heard. Seriously? Both tomatoes died?”
The daughter and her friend smiled big smiles. “Yes.” the friend said. They both died.”
I said, “Is this a popular joke in Turkey?”
“Yes.” both girls smiled.
We stood on the sidewalk looking at each other. This felt like one of those tourist jokes natives play on visitors to their country.
I said, “So. This is the end of the joke then? Two dead tomatoes?”
The friend said, “Well there is one more word.”
“When the second friend died, he said ‘Aroot’.” (Written phonetically.)
“Why did he say that?” I asked.
“He just said it.”
“What does it mean?” I asked.
The girls looked at each other. “I don’t know the word in English.” they agreed.
“Is it an important word in the story?” I asked.
“Yes.” the friend said.
“Can I understand the story without the word?”
“No.” the friend said.
Ok. So that happens sometimes when children tell a joke. They get the joke wrong or get the punchline wrong, but losing the meaning of the last and essential word? That’s a new one. I laughed with them, yeah… good one.
In order to prove there were no hard feelings for being told a joke with such a terrifying ending and no punch line, I decided to tell them the chicken crossing the road joke.
“Do you want to hear a joke?” I asked.
The girls nodded a yes.
“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
The girls said together, “I don’t know.”
I spoke slowly and clearly so they could get the punch line. “To get to the other side.”
With that the two girls turned from me and walked towards our destination.
I smiled from behind them, “Do you understand?”
I had to walk quickly to keep up with them.
The daughter said, “That joke is not good.”
It seemed like a good time for an English lesson.
What is a joke?
What is a good joke?
Why did two tomatoes die?
If there are two jokes, how do you discern which joke is most likely to cause psychological damage and or trauma to the English teacher?
I let the chicken crossing the road joke die without laughter.
We met the friend’s mother at a cafe and ordered a delicious gluten-free lunch for all of us to share. A jar of homemade yogurt came with the lunch and I followed my friends and dripped yogurt over the other foods and piled some in a lump and ate it with a “soup” spoon.
“I’ve never been good at making yogurt.” I said. “Whenever I try, I end up with a giant pot of milk. And I don’t like milk.”
The friend’s mother said the best yogurt is made with sheep’s milk.
I thought that was an exciting tip and might have dubbed it the “Tip of the Day” but then I ordered a glass of lemonade. It came in a tall glass with a few pieces of ice. It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t sour. It’s as if the very definition of what lemonade is supposed to be bloomed inside of me. So, this is lemonade.
We were in a small locally owned cafe that opened a week ago. The friend explained how they made the lemonade.
Lemonade from the Queen Bee Cafe:
Grate the lemon rind.
Squeeze all of the juice in with the lemon rind.
Add just enough sugar ***
Let the concoction sit on the counter for a day
Add water to a glass. Add some lemon concoction.
I know, that part of the recipe that calls for some questionable amount of sugar depending on the size and bitterness of the lemons just doesn’t work for me. I made a plan to revisit this cafe every few hours until my bus leaves tomorrow so I might better understand this lemonade process.
We left the cafe and walked around the city for a while. We went into the Isa Bey Mosque and was again surrounded by the history of this city. I was asked to cover my head with scarves they had clipped to clothes hangers and put on a purple bathrobe just to walk around the lobby. The mother’s friend and the girls didn’t have to wear robes. Another tourist photo opp? I didn’t mind, at least they didn’t ask me to perform the ritualistic washing practices that must be done before you pray; I’m happy to wear a robe.
We walked around some more and ended back at the same cafe, which I thought was a really good idea because, you know, lemonade. I showed great restraint by only ordering one; I drank it as fast as I could and wasn’t sorry.
The mother and the father of the family I’m staying with joined us at the cafe. The father asked what I thought about the mosque, then told me that they believe parts of the building were built with parts of the Artemis Temple and also pieces from Basilica of St. John. There is also a thought that Apollo’s tomb is under the mosque’s floor which made me want to go back there after dark… to have a better look around.
The father slapped his arm as we talked. “Mosquito.” he frowned.
My eyes opened wider. “You learned how to say mosquito!” I said.
“Mosquitoes and bees like me.” he said.
The mother said, “Sweet husband.” and we laughed.
The moms and daughters and I decided to continue the late night party, because it Selcuk there’s always another chapter, and went to a cafe on the other side of town. Sitting at the table were several women from our visit a few nights before when we ate chickpeas and talked about my travels. We joined them and ordered more drinks, water for me, tea for everyone else.
Two sisters in the group showed me pictures of beautiful gardens that are near their father’s house where they are going for a holiday. They invited me to come and stay with them later in the week. I hope they don’t want help with the gardening.
The mother’s friend showed me a statue next to the cafe of the first president, Ataturk. She talked about many of the good things he did in getting the country away from the Ottoman dictator that ruled them for a long time including worker’s rights, women’s rights and children’s rights.
She told me one of his favorite quotes, and I think it works well over 100 years later and sums up what I want most as I spend my last night sitting with new friends and choosing yet another cafe to stop at before we close my last night in Selcuk.
“Yurtta Suih, cihanda suih” 1931, Ataturk
“Peace at home. Peace in the world.”