After a few days spent with the Alawites of Samandağ it was time to head elsewhere. Toward the evening I was on the road, quickly getting a lift out of town. It was a married couple and their aged mother, a family of Christians. The man said he was a Bible-teacher, and would I like to meet the Christian youth he was teaching, there were many of them my age, I could come along with him the next day. I could not but agree. On the way home we stopped in a restaurant by a waterfall, just as night fell. Of course I was invited even though I had already eaten before leaving town. There was no use whimpering “gerçekten, gerçekten”, “no but really”, they just stuffed me with mezze, one more delicious than the next, until I basically had to be rolled out of the door.
The next morning, breakfast was delicious: Cheese as light as Aero-chocolate, melon as sweet and soft as caramelized butter. The hours until noon were spent reading on the rooftop terrace. There, the married couple dried tomatoes and grapes. As the sun dehydrates the fruit, the flavor components are concentrated. The more the raisins shrink, the sweeter they are; the more the tomatoes shrivel, the tastier they get.s Of course, they are already delicious when fresh, nothing to do with the refrigerated, hormone-crammed stuff we buy in supermarkets in the West. Later I helped with the cooking, peeling vegetables with Mihail's mother and her friends. They only spoke Arabic, so I could not converse with the old ladies. Prettily gnarled hands washed rice, snipped away at beans and detangled small tight knots of garlic into diamond white individual cloves.
In the evening, it was time for Bible lessons. Before starting, Mihail showed me around the church. I was comfortably holding my arms behind my back, clutching my right underarm with my left hand, which I was surprised Mihail asked me not to do. Much later, in Russia, I was to read a sheet with instructions how to behave in orthodox churches where I found out this is indeed generally considered something not to be done. When finally in the class room, it took some time to fill up with kids, the ages reaching from early primary school age to late teenagers. One older girl had a rose tattoed on her biceps. Tattoos in this region seemed in fashion, especially among the Christians. Although I have heard before that the Bible condemns pictures engraved on skin, this prohibition seems less strong than in Islam where depiction of natural objects is frowned upon in general. Elsewhere in town I had seen young Christian men tattooed with tokens of their religious affinity, like crosses.
It was strange to hear Our Father, the prayer that all Christians whatever the denomination are taught as children, in Turkish, a language I did not associate with this “poem” instilled in me so many years ago which I could still recite in my sleep probably.