Tuesday, 13 November
Two weeks after leaving Konya for a vacation in Istanbul, I was back in Konya to resume the walk. I would have only one week before I had to return to Istanbul to pick up my new residency permit, and I wanted to make good time of it.
I was stiff after having been off for a couple of weeks so I began the day with some extra stretching. Then I pulled out my increasingly ratty white board and dedicated that day’s walk to my friend Christian. I felt inspired after spending time with him during my vacation and happy that somebody understood that when I was walking I was not on vacation, I was at work. This walk was my job. He had understood that even before I opened my mouth to articulate it, and I was grateful for that. On the dedication board by his name I wrote, “Get the work done.”
As I walked to the edge of Konya I got lost taking a wrong turn and finding myself at the eastern edge of town when I had wanted the southern edge. I thought back to the 4th graders in Denise Waters’ class, and how one of them had asked me if I got lost often. I was ⅓ of the way across the country, and this was my first time getting lost. It’s hard to get lost when you are walking straight across a country.
When I finally got my bearings and started down the right road, I spotted a carpet salesman standing in the doorway of his store with his arms folded, watching me and grinning.
I said hello and introduced myself in Turkish. We shook hands and he introduced himself in English. He was still grinning, and I wondered what was so funny.
He asked me about my walk and why I was doing it. As usual, I had trouble explaining the why in Turkish, so I switched to English. But I couldn’t explain it in English, either.
“Your walk is pointless, it is a waste of time,” he said.
Wow, you are very forward, aren’t you? Do you always speak to strangers this way? I couldn’t explain the deep reason for doing what I was doing, but I did not want to agree that I had sacrificed so much for nothing.
I bit my lip. “Perhaps it is,” I said. “I guess it is about as pointless as selling carpets.”
Be careful Matt, don’t get dragged into that conversation. For months I had tried to steer clear of feeling I needed to answer the “why” question. The drive to answer that question was strong, and I wanted to learn how to keep from feeling I needed to justify myself. So, I waved goodbye and told him I needed to keep walking.
As I walked through the south side of Konya, an area filled with car repair and cattle feed shops, I stopped for lunch and ordered fasulye ve pilav (beans and rice), a very typical lunch for me. A very social guy stopped by my table.
“I know who you are!” he said with a wide grin. “I saw you last night on our news channel.” He introduced himself as Ali bey and asked if he could join me.
“Of course,” I said and motioned for him to sit down. Ali bey, I learned, owned a motorcycle repair shop. He had two kids—a boy and a girl—and a cousin who was a teacher in the USA.
It became obvious that Ali had made it his mission to take me to tea after lunch and introduce me around the neighborhood. One of Ali’s friends in the neighborhood was Hikmet usta (usta means “craftsman” and is often used as a title of respect for a professional who works with his hands). Hikmet was a mechanic at a car shop next door to Ali’s motorcycle repair shop.
Hikmet insisted that I have tea with him and the cluster of mechanics in that particular neighborhood. I had to stop at three cups of tea, though Hikmet begged me to stay longer— I still had a long, long way to walk that day.
As I left Konya, headed south, I saw very few places to camp in the flat almost treeless terrain.
In Icericumra, I stopped at a gas station to ask a quick question and ended up going inside for a couple cups of tea with the attendants, Fatih, Harun, and Deniz. My plans to hurry through the stretch from Konya to the edge of the plateau in five days, maybe even four, I realized was not going to happen. This place was way too social for that. I pulled into a village called Cariklar, about 25 kilometers south of Konya at 4 p.m. It was starting to get dark. I figured that if I couldn’t make it work in Cariklar I’d hop a bus back to Konya and stay in Konya.