Monthly Archives: June 2011

Bees, Tea, Dessert…Bees, Tea, Dessert…

Beyond hills and through vast meadows of wild gorunca, new villages emerge before us. Some have tall lines of trees and horses with baby colts tripping around their legs, others are a jumble of small stone houses caked with white and blue paint. Each give off a distinct feeling, like warmth on rocks, or looking across fields from a hillside, or green perfumed shade from yellow rose bushes.

And in each of the villages we visit, sometimes behind a house, or sometimes lining the ridge of a horizon are small brown organic bee boxes. The Marmara Grubu program gave participants four boxes as part of the course, and in some cases, women decided to purchase more.  We visit, check the boxes, and without delay are invited to tea and dessert. The desserts are always handmade, sweet cakes, spongy cakes, fruit cakes, and helva.

I ask questions: what are the obstacles you face in beekeeping? Is organic beekeeping a challenge? Will you continue? Some women explain that finding a good spot for the bees is difficult, or that initially gaining acceptance from their community was a challenge. Organic beekeeping so far is easy here, where miles and miles of land are clear of everything but wildflowers and meadows. And with a resounding “yes!” every woman wants to continue.

While I am full from more dessert than I could imagine, I relish in the serenity of our afternoons in the villages.

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Dancing in a Swarm with Turkey’s Women Beekeepers

Aysel Unal holds bees from her new swarm in the palm of her hand.

I have drunk 30 cups of cay, eaten six desserts, thwarted two engagement proposals, and walked amidst a swarm of thousands and thousands of bees. When I left the house this morning, I thought I would be writing the whole day in a tea garden– so I was only wearing shorts and a tank top. Encased in golden flicks of light and the loud hum of wings, my heart danced. (more…)

A History of Beekeeping in the Tents of Nomads – Chapter Ali Bey

Ali Bey, a beekeeper of 50 some-odd years greets me in Kars mountain meadows.

“I am not afraid of dogs,” I tell my group of laughing colleagues, they nod in consent and let me go. I head down the dusty road away from Kuyucuk Lake, away from our small pack of teenage “boys of the state,” away from the hovering smells of barbecued meat. (more…)

Entering a Summer in Kars

Sefa Ak holds a kestral for morning feedings.

“I can give you a lift to Kars,” a man and his family offer as they drive up to the curb. They are in the last car to leave the airport parking-lot, and they have been watching, waiting to see if someone was coming to get me. “I’ll be fine,” I say, “a friend is on the way.” They look at me reluctantly. The parking-lot is empty. All the other passengers from our flight, the only flight, have continued on their journeys to somewhere else. (more…)

In Turkey, Intuition Rules: East to Kars

The Istanbul auto-bus is a microcosm of the city, full of people, smells, and bursting at the seams. Lethargic in the heat and traffic, we roll by the Marmaris and Bosphorus. Seagulls swoop down to catch simits cast from the sides of boats. Zeki Müren blasts from a car radio as the driver attempts to harmonize. The rods of side-walk fishermen sway in the wind.

I am back.

As our bus heaves slowly in Friday evening traffic, my body is languid but my heart is tense. Ok. I made it to Turkey. What next?

My gut knows the answer, but my brain can’t believe it – Kars.

Everyone is quick to tell me don’t go. The list of possible dangers is long and familiar. Having lived in Turkey and traveled around the country before – sometimes solo and always as a woman, undeniable fear about everything that is possible creeps inside of me. I am not completely sure what is to come, how can anyone ever be? I take my fear and funnel it towards preparations. All day and all night, I research, I study, I write, I work, I plan. Most of all, I decide on a set of rules:

  • Never go alone, make sure someone who cares always knows exactly where you are.
  • Take a multi-vitamin once a day.
  • Trust your intuition.

In spite of the legends about Turkey’s wild east, my intuition tells me I am heading in the right direction. So on June 25th I leave the crowds of Istanbul behind me and board a plane to Kars.


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