Welcome Stranger

“We travel not to escape life. But for life not to escape us.”

After about half an hour of studying the ants who lived at the campsite we had picked out off of a small dirt road in the countryside a tractor with a man, woman, and teenage girl drove by and waved. On their way out they stopped to give us some of the grapes they had just picked from their vines before inviting us back to their house for a meal. They served us fresh homemade bread, cheese, olives, and a stuffed bread that was absolutely delicious while the two girls, eleven and seventeen, used their few words of English along with my few in Turkish to ask us questions. When we left an hour or so later they sent us on our way with more food for dinner later on, something we were even more grateful for than usual since all we had with us was our “emergency” rice as we hadn’t passed any stores that day.

Someone recently described Iran as a country where “you will be treated better by a stranger than by a friend back home in the West” and time and time again Turkey has proven that same thing to us. Coming from the “closed door” and “stranger danger” culture found in the west, it’s a breath of fresh air experiencing such hospitality and openness towards strangers, something Kevin and I are excited to be at the giving end of someday in the future.

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

7 thoughts on “Welcome Stranger

  1. Very interesting blog/posts. Got to know via Alastair interview. A fan since.
    You write about tremendous hospitality and harassment. About being a modern girl/woman in partly archaic cultures. How do You handle these contrasts? What will You remember later? Do You try to interfere or observe-only?

    P.S.: Which facet of a country do You see as a passer-by from an exotic (rich) country?

    • Yes, my posts do seem to alternate between harassment and amazing hospitality, though I definitely believe I have experienced much much more good than bad! Unfortunately, that being said, some of the harshest harassment I experienced in India is probably what will stay with me in some ways the most strongly, though not all in a negative way, more in the way of I’ll now be very grateful that it doesn’t happen to me at home in Oregon because I’m much more aware how it is around the world. I think first and foremost I will remember the hospitality – the families we stay with, the wonderful way certain countries made us feel because of how kindly we were treated, and the fact that humanity is a whole lot better (for the most part) than what we give it credit.

      • My daughter is in St. Louis as an exchange student for a year. She receives lots of hospitality 😉 Hope she will continue seeing the world.

    • As we are cycling, we are usually seeing the poorer sides of a country (staying in rural villages while avoiding the cities, sleeping with the shepherds, buying our food from small road side stalls and from the farmers themselves…). We rarely speak with those in business suits for instance, but we speak with gas station attendees on a daily basis!

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