We left the sunshine and warm temperatures of Antalya for a drive north through the Toros Mountains. As the elevation passed 6,000 feet the temperature began to fall. The road was decent until the last thirty kilometers when we turned off for Ormana, the home stay site.
We were all a little apprehensive about the home stay. The OAT brochure described it as a meet and mingle and said they we would stay with locals in a rural community and join them in their activities of the day. It sounded interesting to get off the beaten tourist track and see real life. Despite Fahti's efforts to get us to learn a few words of Turkish, we have all been linguistic duds. Usually when I've been in a country for two weeks I can learn "please, thank you, how much? hello, and where's the bathroom." But I just can't get my mine wrapped around the words here. They do not come from any familiar Latin or Greek roots and just feel like nonsense. Often I also can't remember the names of the towns or places we visit without checking my notes. Very frustrating! So it was hard to imagine how I was going to meet and mingle with someone I can't speak with. And as for chores, I couldn't imagine much beyond washing dishes.
As we arrived in Ormana we were met by a man who spoke no English who was our tour guide for the town. Our first stop was to meet the mayor whose office was so cold I could see my breath. There were "no smoking" signs hanging on the walls, but the place reeked of tobacco. He told us that at its height Ormana had about 4,000 residents, but it was now down to 1,000. Anyone with any gumption has immigrated to Istanbul, which boasts about 20,000 Ormanians with roots here in the mountains. Every summer they hold a festival here to lure folks back for a weekend of feasting and dancing.
Then we wandered the streets which had a unique style of half timbered home we have never seen before. Many of the homes belong to the 20,000 folks back in Istanbul who drive eight hours to come back and use them as vacation homes. The town was very quiet, only slightly more lively than the ghost town we visited last week. The grade school was as large as the one I attended, but it only has one classroom of 25 children. The rest of the building stands empty, except for a few rooms which were taken over by some weavers who had products, for sale of course. The school was in beautiful condition and boasted a marble staircase, which had recently been built with funds sent back from a successful Ormanian living in Istanbul. The town is clearly loved and clearly dying.
Suddenly a gate opened and a woman welcomed us inside her yard where she and two friends were making what looked like giant tortillas. They rolled and rolled the dough until it was almost thin enough to read through and cooked it briefly on a large metal plate over a fire. They said it keeps for months and once they have made enough, they drive to Istanbul to sell it.
Then we went to the local hang out for tea. Only men were hanging out, which has been the case with every small town we've seen. The men sit around drinking tea and shooting the breeze and the women are at home doing the work. Tea is always served in small glasses that are curved like an hour glass with two cubes of sugar. Once it cools down you could empty the glass in two swallows, but these guys can make it last for hours.
Then we went to the home where some of us stayed the night. It was only finished two months ago and except for the heating system (or lack thereof) would fit in fine in any middle class subdivision in the US. The woman of the house took over and welcomed us into her large living room where we presented the gifts we had brought from home. She was vivacious and friendly and talked a blue streak, but Fahti could only translate a little before she started talking again. And we were all trying to ask questions a the same time. Poor Fahti! This could have been interesting if we could have really spoken to each other.
We crowded into her kitchen for a home cooked meal which featured vegetables she had grown in her garden. The food was good but by 7pm we were done eating and had nothing to do. The group was split in half and we were assigned to sleep in a home up the street. It was not modern and built in the old style. There was no heat except for a wood stove and we had no wood to add to it. In the bathroom there was only cold water and no towels. I can't remember the last time I went to bed without washing my face. It was so cold. The bed was planks covered with a thin pad. At 5:30 we were awakened by the call to prayer by the local imam.
For breakfast we walked back to join the rest of the group in the nicer house and they complained of being cold, too. Even this modern home was heated with a wood stove and when the fire goes out the heat is gone.
Everyone did their best to be friendly and cordial, but I would have to give this day a mixed review.