18 Ara '14

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a village on Santorini island

Double stringed Turkiko Sinanay Yavrum Sinanay

(This is name of a Turkish folk song)

I would like to tell you about Iya (Oia) village on Santorini island, an island in the Aegean sea, just off the coast from our village.  Years ago, I met an old fisherman on this island. He was living in one of 3-5 modest houses close to the harbour. It was a small jerry-built stone Greek house with blue painted windows.
 It was small but pretty; one of its walls was covered with pink bougainvillea, there was a porch in front of the house with a few geraniums, some planted in cheese tins and others in buckets.  There was a small wooden hut next to the house in front of which was a pile of fishing nets, floats, scoops, anchors and some old paraffin lamps that could have come from Noah’s time.
  There was a small worn out fishing boat near a storage shed.  Judging by the flaking paint, cracked wood and its canvas covers the boat was as almost as old as my fisherman.
  The first thing that drew my attention to the worn out fishing boat was the name and the picture on the front of it.  In spite of how it looked it was named after the Greek God Apollo and a young looking Apollo was painted above the name.
  First of all I saw a woman dressed in black sweeping the front of the house.  She was sweeping the floor roughly with a twig broom whilst murmuring and talking to herself.
 You know the Black sea grannies, walking up hills with whicker baskets on their back?  Yes, she was like that.
 I watched her from the distance; when I was just about to take her photograph without her noticing she went back into the house and then came out holding a bucket of water and a scoop.  When she started watering the plants my gaze fell on a pair of tongs, which brought back some memories, and a table covered with a blue and white striped table cloth with two wooden chairs on both sides and a small stool with a broken leg.  That’s all there was.
 What was on the table was more familiar. A tea cup sized glass filled with uzo, a small uzo bottle with a picture of a girl on the label, feta cheese on a melamine plate, some pilaki on another plate, some cacik in a kind of dish that was a cross between a bowl and a plate.  On a different plate there were a few slices of salted pilchards and 3-5 sardines.
At that moment I noticed what was missing in this beautiful “clinger sofrasi” (a dinner table prepared with rakı and a few mezes); the guest of honour.
 I heard a deep voice behind me while I was thinking about this.
 He yelled “Kalispare tikalis (good afternoon)” I turned.
 I saw an old fisherman had come down to the nets and was squatting down repairing his nets with a shuttle.  I saluted and then approached him.
 His eyes were sparkling like a young man despite deep wrinkles caused by years of sun and salt water.
 His hands, calloused from casting and pulling nets, putting bait on hooks and rowing were strong like pincers. When he shook my hand I thought he would break it.
 After a little conversation he asked; where are you from?
 I said; the other side.
 He stood up, a broad smile spread on his hard looking face and then he started dancing with his arms stretched out on either side, clicking his fingers.
 He sang: “Cifte telli Turkiko sinanay yavrim sinanay”.
 I have to confess “hah” I said “I’ve found the village idiot
 But two hours later I understood that perhaps I found the last Greek philosopher.
 “Ela vree Turko” he said
 We sat on the table and he turned towards the door to call for the old woman.
 ”Elenii, Eleniii ”
 There was no answer.
Panayamu” he yelled a little angrily.
 ” Eleniiii!”
 He turned and smiled at me.
 ” My wife never hears but always talks”
 Eventually the old woman said “what” and came out.
 She said something and went back in murmuring to herself.
 First of all a weak light spread from a small lamp hanging from a spiraled cable on a pole in the porch.
 The radio was playing a familiar song, I was almost sure it was in Rumca (the modern Greek language which is used by native Greek people living in Turkey).
 The familiar lyrics coming from this old radio, mixing with the sound of the waves, were so clear it was as if they were coming from a gramophone.  Everywhere smelt of the Aegean Sea.
 The old woman put the things she was holding on the table and looked at my face.
 This was the first time I had seen her smile.  Then she turned back to the house, constantly murmuring.
”My wife always talks but never hears ” he said and laughed
 ”She was not like this before”
 ”Be grateful” I said
 ”A women who hears everything but does not talk is more dangerous”
 He laughed.
 ”Well done Turko. You are a very clever man. Of course raki drinkers are different”  he said and laughed.
 We said ”Yasu” (cheers) and started a fruitful conversation.
 That was how I became acquainted with this beautiful Santorini village called Iya.

İsmail Erbaş

Çeviri  Hülya Karabulut

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