We decided to take up our new friends (Marcus and Ferit)’s offer to join them in Edremit for New Years, so once again Chris and I went searching for a bus company to buy tickets to the coast. These are the guys we couchsurfed with in Konya; Ferit, we were so excited to learn, inherited an olive grove on the western coast, and is in the process of converting and certifying it to an organic farm. They were throwing a New Year’s party out on the farm with 2 dozen other Erasmus students from around Europe. The drive to the farm took pretty much all day (4 hours longer than expected), so when we arrived in the town we were starving! No food from 6am-4 pm except the stale bit of cake-bread the bus usher handed out, horrible. We promptly found a small shop serving chicken and beans to tuck into, yummy.
Our instructions from Ferit lead us to a small shop, where we met his cousin, a Turkish man who lives in DC. Turns out he is a lead economist for the IMF, which allowed us many interesting conversations about his life and work and opinions about the current global crisis. Another of Ferit’s cousins present is the owner of a nearby citrus farm, also interested in converting it to organic. He explained to us that one of the biggest obstacles is that the government sprays crops annually to keep the number of mosquitoes and other pests down, so even if he could somehow get his property omitted from the toxic downpour the bugs would swarm and destroy his trees… There are a large number of organic farms throughout Turkey, so there must be a way of getting around this, I have a feeling when he sees Ferit’s success he will take the leap.
So anyways, eventually Ferit came to pick us up, we stocked up on loaves of bread, vegetables, and spices, and then we drove into the mountains. The farm is pretty well set up with a large house, gardens, hand built terraces, and some grafted trees. (We learned a great deal about the benefits of wild, old growth roots combined with tasty, edible fruit trees) I am so excited to come back in the summer when everything is blooming!
This is Ferit's farmhouse
By the time we arrived the house was full of the Erasmus students—we spent hours introducing ourselves and telling our story over and over about what we are doing in Albania and such... I must admit that I am super intimidated by Europeans. I’ve suspected for awhile but this really cemented it in for me. I always feel nervous around them because they tend to know so many languages--- at least English on top of their native tongue, and I feel like Europeans know so much more about my culture, politics, and history than I could ever know of theirs.
Midnight bonfire countdown!
A big meal was cooked to feed the 20+ people, in hilariously industrial-sized pots of soup with salad and bread. We ate in shifts around the table while others mingled by the fireplace or out on the front porch smoking cigarettes. I don’t know who DJed the music, but someone (Santa??) granted me some fast happy ska beats, so I danced the night away! Just before midnight we all rushed outside to a big bonfire and counted down the stroke of midnight, then began rounds of cheers and hugs and cheek kisses (oh those Europeans!). Eventually we learned it was someone’s birthday so we took turns singing happy birthday in various languages, which I really enjoyed, although I do wish there were more traditional variations from the tune Americans sing. Only the Polish girls sang something completely unique, but surely each culture has an original song, right?
Ferit and Mr. Curry, his pet donkey
The next day we lounged around the house, exploring the gardens and hanging out. Ferit gave Chris and me a tour of the farm, explaining how and when things were built and what plans he has for the future. I’m so impressed and jealous—I wish I could inherit a big beautiful chunk of über-fertile land! Clearly it will be difficult, but I think the fruits of his labor (literally!) will be well rewarded.
Overlooking the olives and pines
In the afternoon Ferit took us on a walk up into the mountains, where we picked wild mushrooms for the night’s dinner. We walked up to a ridge overlooking the beginning of a vast expanse of mountains that stretch for hundreds of miles to the country’s interior. Turkey is so beautiful! Despite the beach homes and general development, it still seems ruled by nature. I fear for Albania because the people are desperate to have what their European neighbors have, and have had for the last 50 years, and they are destroying the country along the way. More hotels! More apartments! More imports! More roads! Nevermind that there is nowhere for the garbage to go but the rivers, and that the pristine coastline is exponentially disappearing…. Grr…
Returning as the sun set, we spent one more night at the farm. In the morning Chris and I woke early and began our long journey back to Istanbul, this time playing our cards by hitchhiking. It turned out to be easier than we could have imagined, with several friendly and generous people happy to pick us up. In fact, twice our benevolent drivers insisted on taking us out for a meal, so we were extra lucky to save both bus fare and get food. (Which was especially good because I lost all of my money on our last day in Istanbul. I was completely broke, relying on my sugar-daddy who was also quickly running low…)
By the end of the day were back in Istanbul. Like a second home!