“I am actually not completely Turkish.” She said with her sweet British accent and pretty smile.
“Never heard you telling me that!” I was surprised as I had always assumed that she was Turkish.
“No, I come from a Chechen village in the eastern part of Turkey. Family of my father side is from Chechnya in Russia. His family fled Russia decades ago.”
“And your mother?”
“She is Turkish. You know, my father used to have a lot of women around him, until the day when he met my mom. That changed him, totally.”
“That sounds like an interesting love story”, I thought.
The warm wave of air inside made me forget the cold winter of Asia Minor, which was just a few meters away, right outside the window.
I met K several days ago when I first came to Turkey, through couchsurfing website. She was tall, pretty, sincere and had such a warm personality. At that time she was working as a part-time English teacher in Istanbul. We met up with other friends from couchsurfing several times and yes, we became friends. Then I took a hitchhiking trip together with a lady from Los Angeles. We went from Istanbul, to Izmir, Konya, Ankara and again back to Istanbul. Later I decided to hitch my way back to Europe, through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and then to Italy to catch the carnival of Venice. Before I left Istanbul, I contacted her and we met again. She invited me to stay in her apartment and that was where we were at that moment.
“Wei, I envy you so much that you could travel in such an adventurous way!” She said.
“My dear, why don’t you join me? All it takes is a ‘YES’ and then you won’t need to envy me anymore.” I said with smiling eyes. That was the first of countless times when I tried to persuade my couchsurfing hosts to escape from their jobs/families/studies to hitchhike with me.
“No, not now.” She laughed, “But one of those days, I hope I will be able to travel to places I have always dreamed of, Europe, America and Asia.”
“You know, my dad is the oldest son and he has many brothers, so I have many uncles. They are all very skillful and could make such beautiful things from simple materials. When I was born, I was the first and for a long time, the only girl in the family and all my uncles loved me so much! Even now, when I go back home, I would sometimes jokingly ask them at family gatherings:’I was special right? I am the apple of your eyes, right?'” She said it in such a vivid way that I laughed.
“You should come to my village next time! This summer I will go back to my hometown and you can join me!” She said with an excited face, “Then you can meet all my families and see our unique culture, a mix of Chechen and Turkish cultures.”
The subtle wind from the window kissed her long blond hair and pink cheeks. I smelled the scent of the Sea of Mamara in it.
Just as I was imagining visiting her family with her, she took out a jackknife.
“When I decided to come to Istanbul, my father gave me this knife, you know, to protect myself.”
“Parents can be worried when their girls go to a big city like Istanbul.” She smiled.
Obviously, Istanbul had a reputation.
“I am glad that I never had to use it. It was simply kept somewhere in my home. I don’t need it anymore. Istanbul is my city now.”
“Now, I give this to you, Wei, to protect you.”
That was definitely a redefining moment for our relationship. I took the knife from her hand like a Greek hero took the holy shield from Athena just before the battle of Troy.
“And I hope you NEVER have to use it.” She said.
“Eh… So I just unfold it when needed?” I was trying to get the blade out.
“Yes.” She said and tried to help me.
It took us about 7 minutes to finally get the blade out. Obviously it was so much unused that the blade went dormant. 😀
I pictured a scenario where the driver with whom I hitchhiked turned out to be a robber and he was trying to grab my bag. I took out the jackknife and before he punched me I said:”Please, wait, it takes a while to unfold the blade, then I can put on a proper fight, just a few minutes!”
She was the first, not last person with Chechen blood I met. However, that was the first and ONLY knife I received from friends in my years-long nomadic journey through the world.
The next morning, when I awoke and got out of the bathroom, an opulent Turkish breakfast was waiting for me. You know how hospitable the Turkish culture was. 😀 A couple of hours later, we said goodbye and I was on the road, the charming and unpredictable road again. Only this time, I always had this knife in my pocket.