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The finger points the way

22 June, 2015

The finger points the way

When I was little, my mother used to scold me for pointing with my index finger asking about something or someone and that was something I used to do frequently. It was bad manners, she said.

My most glorious moment I had it when I was 4 or 5 years old, in the queue to give my letter to the Three Wise Men. From where I stood, I saw that Melchior was fixing his beard on the sly. Now that I think about it, it must have been because of the 35 degrees Celsius from the Argentinian December. It was then that, in my short stature, I extended my arm and stretched my accusatory finger and started shouting that we were being conned; because those Magi were false since their beards were falling from their faces. My attempts at a mutiny lasted as long as it took for my mother to cover my mouth and take me out of there, with the disapproving looks of the other mothers and fathers fixed on me. They must have thought that I was the devil himself in flesh and bones, ruining the magic and illusion of the moment for their children.

Some years later, in Turkey, that same finger keeps on pointing. During this past month, it’s helped me choose what to eat, pointing to the food pictures in the menus, or pointing to an uneven worn out area on the front wheel of my motorcycle, trying to repair it. I would say this shows that sometimes parents are misled; to point is not always a bad thing, it can save our lives.

Although I understand some words and phrases in Turkish, it’s obvious I can’t speak it. This isn’t very good because once I leave the touristy areas; I can hardly find anyone that can speak English. The first three words I learned to speak once I got here were: “A tea, thank you”. This is the drink without which nothing is spoken, negotiated or repair, in the case of my bike.

Throughout the almost 4,000km that I rode since I got out of the ferry in Cesme, from Greece, I’ve met fantastic people like Ali, Mehmet, Isa, Naim, Irgan, Taner and Faruk. All of them have helped in one way or another, selflessly and almost invariably with a cup of tea in between.

What could appear to be a barrier, language, made us use other resources so we could communicate. Almost always, especially with the younger ones, when we had exhausted our mutual vocabularies, our index fingers point to the mobile phones to start using Google Translate and keep communicating between us. This causes much laughter because the translator can produce very strange results.

While I write this post, I make a mental review of the experiences I’ve had with all my five senses and, although I’m sure to say this again in relation with other places,…what a wonderful country I’ve passed through!!

Turkey is rich in history, archaeological remains, natural wonders such as Cappadocia and cities like Istambul and its more than 2,500 mosques. It’s incredible to listen to the many muezzins calling the people to prayers from every direction in the city, creating an all immersing sound. Same goes to walk around the port, looking for a place to eat grilled fish with views to the old city on the other side of the Golden Horn. Or to observe dusk from the Asian side of the city, while drinking tea or eating sunflower seeds in front of Maiden tower. Or roam Mount Nemrut, known for its head statues of Persian and Greek gods and goddesses, to which you reach through dirt roads with 10% climbs and where I started having problems with the front wheel of the bike after a foolish fall.

For motorcyclists, there are many great routes, but from the ones I’ve been through, I would highly recommend the Nemrut National Park and another one that starts in Sarkoy and ends in Kumbag, 100km from Istambul, with amazing curves and spectacular views of the Sea of Marmara.

While I write these lines, instead of swiping my finger horizontally to the right, I point it to the ceiling. The waiter accurately interprets my gesture and brings me a tea diligently.

It will be the last before I leave and cross the border into Georgia, where I will try to find a mechanic that would help me repair the front wheel issue that still makes trouble. This time, however, there will be no tea awaiting.

. .