Serince: a small village in the district of Sincik, Adiyaman Province, Turkey.
“Hos Geldiniz” says the friendly sign weathered with rust that appears as our car rears up to the peak of the small summit it just climbed. On the left is a small tea shop that boasts of night time wrestling and to our left is a small dirt road, but beyond this there is nothing to indicate that people live here. The car snorts in protest, but we accelerate forward onto the tiny dirt road, maneuvering our way higher up into the clouds. After many hairpin bends and a few near death experiences, we arrive at the Nishanyan Hotel. Looking down, I can finally see the tiny village of Serince, reaching out my hand as though to grasp it, not realizing is much farther away than I can perceive. The crooked path here slopes inwards, so that I have to place my feet in an odd orientation that makes me look like a penguin to make sure I don’t trip.
We walk past a Turkish hamam that hasn’t worked in years and a swimming pool that’s too cold to swim in, only to find a young boy sitting on a chair in front of reception, reading intently. After seeing us out of the corner of his eye, a few seconds too late, judging by the harsh look he is given by the lady behind the counter, presumably his mother, he scrambles out of his seat and smiles up at us. After we exchange greetings there is an awkward pause before he says “I’ll be taking care of you today”
His name is Tevet, he says. He can’t be more than twelve years old. He offers us welcome drinks whose sweetness almost makes me wince. His eyes are a light blue grey, and he has a round nose that reminds me of Caillou. When he talks, the corners of his mouth turn up into a smile, perhaps in satisfaction that the English words that come out make sense to us, foreigners. When we ask how he learned English, he tells us that he learned mainly from the internet – I am both impressed and envious, wishing I had the commitment to learn a language like that. He offers us a menu, telling us that dinner has to be pre-ordered, but after seeing the sky high prices, we decide it would do both us and our wallets good to visit the village to eat.
Standing on top of the hill as we were, looking down on the village made it seem both very close and infinitely far away. It is a small gathering of buildings, all shingle-roofed, deep in a valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains. The paths are cobblestoned, and a silent hush covers the village after 5pm, as the light starts to fade. The only mosque in the village has just a single minaret. Every few streets, the smell of manure and farm animals drifts by, and occasionally one can smell alcohol from the nearby wineries. From the houses around me I can hear Turkish folk music played from an old device which crackles when the music gets louder.
On our way down, we encounter a white scruffy dog that looks lost, and I see him looking wistfully at the people passing by, as though begging for a new friend. I smile at him, and instantly, his wish has been granted. His tail starts wagging furiously and he trots faithfully behind us, allowing us to lead the way. I imagine that in another life I am a Turkish villager, and this dog and I found each other on the street, and became instant companions. My thoughts run wild and I start to fantasize about living in Turkey, learning the culture, and adopting its customs.
Suddenly the dog hears a noise and runs off behind us. I want to call to it but it has lost interest in us. As it runs away, I catch a glimpse of a shiny metal collar jutting out from its fur and I am hit by the sad realization that the dog was never ours, not even for those few moments.