Category Archives: Hospitality

Italy Has The God Father. Kars Has The Cheese Shops.

Karsak 2013 - full of friends, family, and a very cute eniste.

Karsak 2013 – full of friends, family, and a very cute eniste.

When I reach my lowest of lows – when times are so tough that the greatest solutions I can think of involve the characters of a Lyle Lovett song with a twist – a horse, a boat, and Muhammad Yunus  – there is only one thing left to do. I walk 3 kilometers to town, pumping my music, staring off into the distance at clouds as they conform around each other, an explosion of dark colors, like emo Tetris pieces, and only as the sidewalk starts to give to the final stretch of castle and mosques, do I press my face against a shop window I know only too well and stick my tongue out. That is my warning signal. Inside, the masters prepare themselves for my entrance.

I swing open the door, grab a string of white cheese jerky from the silver tray on the left, plop my bag down next to the desk, throw my hand and head forward for an embrace, and slump into a black leather chair. My Cheese Men greet me, and then with trained patience and deep wisdom they say as much as a question as a statement – “how are you baby.” (more…)

Starting At the Street, How Do We Make the World Safer for Women?

If Turkey continues on its current peace-in-the-neighborhood trajectory – think, Mr. Rogers meets improved relations between Turkey’s regional countries and its ethnic Kurdish minority – living in Turkey may very well be the safest it has been in over 30 years. The economy is stable and growing and somehow Turkey has managed to be friends with Israel while impressing the rest of the Middle East with its edgy sitcoms. It is a marvelous feat that even the village conspiracy theorists can’t quite wrap their heads around.

But as it is worldwide, there is still one group that regardless will look over their shoulders when they walk down the road: women.  After witnessing gross sexual assault scandals from my former homes in the US to Europe to Japan – more and more I am convinced that neither religion, economic status, nor geography are great indicators for whether or not women live in fear of sexual assault or harassment. This kind of discomfort is everywhere and it can happen to anyone.

I am writing about Turkey and my experiences here because this is where I live and it is what I know. I am writing because the more horror and humiliation I live through, the more civility and bravery I experience, the more I think I have a small handle on what I can do to confront this enormous injustice that all of us face in one way or another.

Let’s start with a few stories from the last few weeks.


What Does the End of a Honey Road Look Like?

The. Honey. Road. I taste the syllables and shut my eyes. Memories with little emotion shaped parachutes land on my face. Some are clouds of dark fear, soaking through my cheek bones and wrapping their strings around my throat, making it hard to breathe. Others land lightly, pricked with sunshine, making my cheeks itch pink and my eyes water with happy confusion. It has been exactly 12-weeks-three months-82-days of in-season working, walking, and building Balyolu: the Honey Road – my honey-tasting social-tourism company based out here in Northeastern Turkey.

Read the rest of this entry

Want to know why we are here? Ask a village shepherd.

Living out here as Kars’ only resident American I face a long string of questions day in and day out that is more than enough to cause a personal existential crisis. Hourly, I am asked:

“Who are you?” “Why are you here?” “What is the purpose of your existence?” Read the rest of this entry

Want to know the meaning of life? Ask a village beekeeper.

Even when flying solo, bees always have the hive mind.

I couldn’t believe it. I had found quite possibly the very last living melified man and he was 115 years-old. This man was on his deathbed, claiming to have kept himself alive over the past few years by eating only his own honey. He was the oldest beekeeper in Turkey, and I would dare say, quite possibly the oldest living beekeeper in the world. He had kept bees during the time of Ataturk, during world wars, during Turkey’s rise and fall as a global power, and during hundreds of Karsian honey seasons. Read the rest of this entry


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