. . an appropriate title for a trip back in time to 2004. J and I were on one of our periodic wanderings around the east of the country; Erzurum in general and the ‘almost’ town of Çat in particular. ‘Almost’, because the place is only about the size of a village and had to be twinned with another village a few kilometres away to qualify as a town. The photos left give you a good idea of how ‘basic’ the place is.
Before I get back to the appropriateness of the title, here’s some background. We were there visiting our ‘son’ who was the resident kaymakam with responsibility for an area covering some 30 villages. One of the splendid bonuses on these trips is getting to ‘shadow’ him as he goes about his daily tasks and visits to outlying parts of his ‘empire’.
So it was that we were on our way to a village, where there was a project to raise the status and earning ability of many of the young women by teaching them skills to do with machine embroidery. There was to be an exhibition and a presentation of certificates and, of course, the inevitable speeches.
Our official car was followed by a convoy of minibuses filled with bureaucrats; most were happy to get some time away from the office, but there were a fair number who were decidedly glum-looking. Knowing the attitude of many of these pen-pushers towards those they consider a lower form of life; our man had instituted a programme that demanded all managers attend any function of this type where they were required to smile and be nice to the people/natives.
In the centre of the village we were met by the muhtar and his delegation – not a woman was to be seen apart from J who is usually deferred to as an honorary man on these occasions. We were escorted to the education building where the young ladies and their teacher, along with all their proud mums, were gathered. The young ladies were dressed in their conservatively elegant ‘Sunday best’, and looked splendid!
Our man’s speech was radical to say the least; he informed the ladies and their men-folk that women were the equal of any man, not least because the Republic said it was so. He also encouraged them to use their new skills to create some financial independence. There was much mumbling by the men and much giggling behind hands by the ladies!
The presentations were made with all of the ‘protokol’ (including J and me) required to take our turn. You could see the reluctance of some bureaucrats to demean themselves (except the boss was watching), until that is, it was time for the group photo.
The protokol, as is their wont, rushed to the front, smoothing their hair and adjusting their suits, in the process hiding the stars of the day completely! That was too much for J who set about organising the group and, with one persistent exception, bringing the young ladies to the front – possibly a first for Turkey!
Photos done, it was time to view the exhibition of the students’ work and we trooped into the display. A picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll let some photos speak for what we saw; suffice to say that my reaction was to grin like a Cheshire Cat – it had that kind of effect!
At one point this young girl brought the room to silence as she sat and sang to us; her voice, I remember, was quite something! ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles . .’
Alan in Okçular