My second (and last) day in Cappadocia ended with a visit to a carpet collective, where women are trained to produce Turkish rugs and tourists like me are shown the process before watching a salesman and his staff throw down a couple of dozen rugs to entice us to buy. Once the assembled group realized that I was unlikely to throw down $1,100 on one of the more affordable models, they sat down to chat with us over some Turkish apple tea.
One of the men who entered the room a bit later immediately sized up my “American face” (a friendly euphemism I’ll continue using) and sat down to ask if I was nervous about traveling to Turkey. He noted that they were seeing far more people from Asia, and far fewer from the United States and Europe in the past few years. Since I left the states, he was the first person who asked if I felt safe in the country, and his expression and responses suggested that it would be quite reasonable if I did not. He mentioned the attack on the Russian ambassador and the attack at the US embassy, noting that those were especially troubling signs.
In the end, one of the deciding factors for me about taking this trip was that I was planning to spend most of my time in Turkey in the Cappadocia region, which seemed quite removed from the violence of the Eastern provinces and the acts of terrorism that have plagued the major cities. Just before I was going to leave, there was an attack here, though, in Kayseri, in which thirteen soldiers were killed on a bus after leaving their base.
The man at the carpet collective talked about how he often drove by the exact spot where the attack had taken place, and how, earlier, his wife has suggested that they move their family to the larger city from their smaller village. After the attack, they decided to stay just where they were.
One of the things he said that struck me was that people here are inclined to say “this is end” after each attack, meaning that surely the attackers will not go farther next time, that the latest horrific violence will be the last horrific violence, almost as if the horror of what happens will somehow stop the next attack. When I lamely offered my hope that the situation would improve, he thanked me, and said again that he just didn’t “want to say that this is the end,” because every time the people here say that, something worse seems to follow.
My experience in Cappadocia has been wonderful, and the people I’ve met in shops and just wandering the town here have been friendly and warm. Another man I met yesterday, a Kurd from Iraq, talked about being orphaned in a conflict there, and how he was adopted by a Turkish family, eventually making the country his home. When he’s not working here, he enjoys traveling, though he ironically noted that he feels less safe in some American cities than he does at home.
There are all sorts of forces who want us to be afraid in the world, and they’re certainly not limited to non-governmental actors or certain religions. They want me to feel more on guard when I wander the streets here or, better yet, to have postponed my trip last year as I did. They want us to question and fear each other, to not only worry so much that we don’t leave our homes, but to make us feel uncertain there as well.
As I left the carpet facility, one of the men I had been talking with shook my hand and wished me “ a good life.” While we laughed together what he acknowledged was an odd phrase, it occurred to me later that he was exactly right: a good life, with just enough safety and adventure for each of us, is perhaps all we can ask for, the good life we all deserve.
I hope my new friends in Turkey feel that in their lives soon.