Hidden Treasures: A Turk named Mehmet
It was a cold November rain, the kind that chills you to the bone. I was standing outside an old Roman fort trying to hitch a ride the final few minutes to the Turkish border. As I waited, I found myself shivering…and singing a few lines from the Guns N’ Roses classic.
An hour earlier I had headed south by bus from the Georgian port town of Batumi. After more than a year of traveling from China, I had finally reached the Black Sea coast, where the waves were swollen and the clouds dark. As I looked up the mountainside that hugged the coast, I saw that about three hundred feet up the rain was falling as snow, powdering the green trees white.
It wasn’t long before I found a ride on to the border, paid the $20 or so for a Turkish visa, and began walking down the Turkish highway which hugged the rocky coastline. I had walked maybe ten minutes when a small pick-up truck pulled over and the driver invited me in. I’ve forgotten the driver’s name—so let’s call him Mehmet—but he was a middle-aged Turk on his way home (about 90 minutes down the coast), having just dropped off some goods at the border. And so we set off together down the highway, driving into the setting sun.
As is my custom, I pulled out my camera to take a few photographs. But after a couple shots the camera froze up, I assumed on account of all the moisture in the air the past few days. I put it near the heat vent to dry it out. Seeing this, Mehmet, who spoke no English (and I no Turkish), cranked up the heat to expedite the work. Soon the truck became a sauna and the dry heat forced our eyes to squint. When finally we abandoned this tactic, Mehmet indicated he knew someone who worked at an electronics shop in a town up ahead. We stopped there and his friend looked over the camera and tried a few things, but he couldn’t get it to work either. We shared cups of hot tea before leaving.
Continuing along the coast in silence, I took in the beauty of the Black Sea and this stretch of Turkey, which is seldom visited by travelers. I was thankful for people like Mehmet—strangers who see someone in need and do what they can to give them a hand.
When we neared Mehmet’s home town, he began looking for a bus to flag down (I was on my way to Trabzon, still an hour down the road). Spotting one, he sped up, swerved parallel to it, and yelled for the driver to pull over, which the driver did. Mehmet walked with me to make sure the driver understood where I was going. As they spoke, I walked to the other side of the bus to put my backpack in a storage compartment. It didn’t take but a few seconds, but when I walked back around the bus, Mehmet and his car were gone.
Boarding the bus I felt sadness, for my new friend had left without giving me the chance to thank him. I wished I could have done so.
Joel Carillet is Chief Editor of WanderingEducators.com. He is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tennessee. His most recent project is 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia, due for release in June. To learn more about him, visit www.jcarillet.imagekind.com.