Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011 - No comments

One More Cup

My blog is feeling neglected. Any spare time for writing these days goes to trying to finish up assignments for the travel writing course I'm taking, and sadly, even from that, I have very few finished pieces to post on here. They all seem to have filed for permanent residence status in the land of The Polishing Process. (I do promise more frequent entries as I make this more of a priority.)

To keep your appetite satisfied, though, I realized I never posted my (not winning) entry for the Travel Writing Scholarship Contest I entered several months ago, so for your amusement, here it is. The 500 word limit was a huge challenge for me, and I hated having to whittle out a lot of the more colourful details, but in the end, I think I'm okay with the finished product.

One More Cup

The ease with which the teenaged boy simultaneously poured precisely the right amount of tea from the pot in his right hand and water from the one in his left suggested that the lack of a daughter-in-law in the house had given him years of practice at this normally female task. Inhaling the steaming comfort emanating from the tiny tulip-shaped glass, I wondered if Laura and I should be trying to make a quick exit before we became candidates to fill the position.

Four hours earlier, we had set out on my recently purchased electric scooter for a picnic in the pine-scented sanctuary of Kur┼čunlu Falls on the outskirts of Antalya, Turkey. The pleasant journey took us past greenhouses gleaming in the late autumn sun, bearded men tottering towards midday prayers, and aunties knitting on porches, evidence of their culinary prowess spilling over the waistbands of their colourful ┼čalvar. The return trip, however, had turned into a “foreign damsels in distress” tale when the bike ran out of power six kilometers from home. Like circus clowns in blue helmets, we entertained the passing locals as we wove and wobbled our way a little further down the road, Laura furiously working the “emergency pedals” while I gripped the handlebars and fought hopelessly to keep us from veering into traffic to our death-via-tractor.

To our relief, salvation appeared in the form of my bike’s black twin parked in front of a rundown shack at the end of a dirt lane. Where there was a bike, there must also be a charger! Dispersing chickens as we struggled into the overgrown yard, I sheepishly asked the boy who greeted us if we could plug in long enough for it to get us home.

With a flurry of electrical cords, bowls of sunflower seeds and chalky dried chickpeas, both we and the bike were set down to rest on a cushion of humble Anatolian hospitality. The collection of old couches and vehicles being devoured by the yard gave the impression that this family wasn’t the cream of this village’s crop, and yet their reception made us feel like we were sitting at the sultan’s table instead of on a sagging porch with plastic tarps for walls. The diminutive headscarved matriarch, having apparently trained her four sons uncommonly well, made sure the youngest kept our teacups filled. While their heavily accented Turkish, peppered with unfamiliar colloquialisms and unconjugated verbs, was a challenge for my Istanbul-trained ear, their friendly conversation made us feel more like welcome neighbours than imposing foreigners.

Two hours later, amidst repeated offers of more tea (but thankfully no offers of marriage), we thanked our rescuers and mounted the bike, wanting to make it home before night fell, and with it our reputations. But when, a kilometer from home, the needle dipped towards empty again and I made Laura get off and walk, she was wishing we’d stuck around for just one more cup...