Day 3 – Exploring Gonen

Day 3 – Thursday – July 14, 2011

Today Pervin was joined by an architect friend of hers from the University and we were going to drive (and walk) around Gonen to look at the mud-brick houses.  Most buildings now are brick or reinforced concrete but the oldest houses are made of mud-brick (and my old we mean 50-60 years old).  There are a few buildings older (like the Hamam) but for the most part its all pretty new construction.

As we started to walk around I heard this weird shrieking noise and I looked up and saw an owl! Perched on a roof clear as day a big old owl just sitting there.  We explored this one area of town and I was told that they had relocated from up in the hills 50 or 60 years prior (and that we would try and explore the old village another day).

It was a pleasant walk around town – talking to people and taking pictures (of VERY run down buildings).  One of the buildings however was in great shape and a new roof and very modern windows – very weird mix.

It was hot out but a nice breeze and pretty dry – the sun was shining very bright – at one point I went to put on my sunglasses only to find I was already wearing them!  In fact I wear my sunglasses almost all the time here – a very good purchase indeed.

At one point we heard this announcement on some city loudspeakers – it wasn’t the call to prayer but something very official sounding. I turned to Pervin to ask what it was but they were all already laughing. She said she knew I was going to ask what they were saying but that she had no idea how to translate it.  It turns out that the city was coming by with a very high end thresher and any farmer who wanted their field ‘threshed – or whatever’ should stand out there so that they would know to do their field.

Speaking of threshers we passed this weird wood board with slits in it on the side of the road.  Until the late 1960s this board would have had pointy bits of flint in it to make like a sharp comb and they would drag it over the field to cut down the wheat stalks.  Pretty neat.

The part of town we were in were the ‘other’ type of local Muslims.  There are 3600 people in Gonen (which is what the sign says – and has said I am told for 3 years) and 5 Mosques.  But the Mosques are for the Sunni Muslims the other group the Alevi Muslims worship at a different place in this on part of town.  I was told that the town might also have some atheists and that long long long ago there was evidence of Christianity in the region – that if there are any Christians now that they don’t advertise the fact.  I didn’t ask about Jews. 🙂

Later as we walked around an black cat crossed my path – which combined with the own makes for good storytelling – I am going to try and break a mirror and find a ladder to walk under this week if I can.

Its a quiet town – saw some kids bathing puppies (how cute is that) and a lot of animals and plants.  I loved seeing the Pomegranate tree with the baby fruits and pretty flowers.  Also little pears and such. Its not exactly like home – but I saw a walnut tree, a cherry tree, some berry trees (and if you get near them you get terrible stains all over you).

This one mud brick house we visited was completely abandoned but in GREAT shape.  We explore the various floors (if you saw how solid the wood portions were!) and walked around the rubble of the previous tenants.  We joked about restoring it but it turns out it was actually very restore-able.

Several people chatted with us but one lady was terrified – her body language said everything – she had her hand on the door and the frame blocking our entrance to the gate and she would only let one person into her courtyard and look around so the architecture professor went.

After a few hours of exploring we went to the park and sat and drank some soda, tea, and water.  We sat for like an hour which was really nice – there is this park in the center of town and everyone just sits there and enjoys themselves.

The best house of the day was the oldest home in Gonen.  It was a very nice house that had attached to it a little very very old hovel (used for storage).  It had a great garden and some wonderful shaded area and they welcomed us with open arms.  The couple Fatma and Ramazan really wanted us to stay and see everything.  She had a lovely garden which I took pictures of but can’t identify all of the stuff in.  Everyone also has lots of flowers – I think its great that as much as they grow to eat they also grow to enjoy.  Fatma took us into the back and showed us the old portions and where she would dry her herbs and spices – it smelled so wonderful!

They had a massive white mulberry tree (sorry folks its what I been eating) and they made us sit and pick berries and eat them from the tree for at least 20 minutes.  We were so full.  I asked Fatma how long they had been married and she said she was married at 16 and that she was 73 years old – Ramazan is 83 now.  They let me take pictures of them and Ramazan was very upset when he saw his because he wanted his hat straighter so I took it again – he loved seeing the picture of his wife on the camera.

On Friday I am going to try and give some prints I brought to the people I took photos of last year in the market and the reactions look like they could be good.

As I took their photos a neighbor came by and insisted I take her photo as well – when I was done she said – “now you have a picture of a real Ottoman woman” her name was Rukiye and we sat for a bit and talked to all three.

I took a sip of water from my water bottle and Ramazan told me I should drink cold water instead – I lied and told him my water was cold but he insisted that I refill my body with fresh cold water from his … tap.  I asked Pervin if it was safe and all she could tell me was that ‘they drink it’.  So I drank what I could and THEN filled my bottle up knowing now I couldn’t drink anymore safely.  He was trying to be nice though and I do appreciate that.

After our exploration we went back to the field house where 3 cars full of people were taken to the spot where we found the inscriptions the day before.  The guys cleared out a lot of rubble and 4 of them managed to get one in the car.  The others were too heavy and the city was going to be called in to relocate them instead.

We only had one last errand to run – Pervin needed to pick up some maps from the city planning office and she wanted me to see some photos that they had on the wall to tell her the best way to scan them – pretty much what I do at work.

When we got to the panning office I could tell right away that the pictures were very bad (and faded) inkjet prints of low resolution jpg images. I told her it was worthless to scan them and to find the digital images they had been made from.  She also showed me several older (and not digital) panoramas that had been taken of the city.  At close inspection you could tell they were quite good (and quite large) and probably from the 1960s.  She asked if it was possible to take a modern version of the same picture – so we stood there trying to identify landmarks to see where the picture might have been taken from.

One of the city planners walked up and said that it was taken from atop the Minaret at the central Mosque in town and that he would call the Imam and ask if we could go up it!  I didn’t even ask – they just offered!  The Imam wanted to know what time would give us the best light and suggested we go around 7pm. The city planners were nice as well – wherever you go someone offers you a drink – I keep passing on the tea because while I do enjoy tea you can get sick of it fast so I am delaying it until it is the ONLY option.  I did learn a trick – if you ask for cold water they offer you cold soda – its either Fanta (orange), a lemon/lime soda, or some sort of cola.  You have to be careful though – if you finish they bring you another so its always good to leave a little in the glass and then down it when you are just leaving.

We had a quick dinner and headed back to town. The Imam opened up the Minaret for us and told us it was 104 steps to the top.  Unlike in other towns, in Gonen the call to prayer is done live my the Imam so he climbs these steps often.  He bounded up them (I knew he would) and we emerged at the top about 30 minutes before sunset.  It was so nice – the wind – the sunset – the moon – the swaying of the Minaret (yes it swayed in the wind).  He was so gracious and we stayed there for a long time – he told us we can come back whenever we want and now we want to climb all the Minarets in town.

Pervin is going to try and have my panorama printed and brought to the Imam as a present.

What a day!  Friday we go to the market.

Images from Day 3 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)

PANORAMA: View from the Minaret