My mother used to take me to one of those weekly markets to buy vegetables and fruits. She would hire a carrier (‘hamal’ in Turkish) with a huge basket where two of me (as a ten-year old) could fit in it easily. We would pile kilos of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, zucchini, figs, peaches, grapes, apples, and any other vegetables and fruits into the basket.
I would tag along behind her trying to figure out where the toy stand was. I knew that she would buy me those finger-length dolls if she had a few cents left. At that time, those little plastic dolls were about fifty cents. Those were my Barbie dolls! I learned how to sew and knit while making clothes for them. It was great to have a very short production time to create great clothes and sweaters. Any scrap of yarn or fabric ended up on my “Barbies”.
I still love that hustling and bustling of the people in the isles between the mound of colorful produce. So, Al and I decide to go to the market just to walk around to get that feeling.
It is a hot August afternoon. The entire market is under a giant mesh of tents that are overlapping each other to keep the sun away, but unfortunately they are blocking the breeze.
I am also blocking- in this case to come up with a story here. It is unique and it is beautiful. But, where to start to describe it? I ask Al:
“What do you see? I am blocked and don’t know what to capture here.”
“Faces telling stories, gestures, and picture perfect displays”, he says.
Then my vision changes. I see deeper. I start hearing the shouts of the sellers. They are filling the air with “the best red tomatoes from farms!”, “big white figs from Aydin!”, “cucumbers so fresh that their flowers are still attached!”, “best olives!”, “homemade extra virgin olive oils, pomegranate molasses, and honey in combs!” Beckoning the buyers. I can see the shoppers who are regulars to the Yalikavak Market going to their usual sellers that they befriended probably many years ago. I overhear a village woman seller comforting a buyer who has troubles with getting loans.
The market is now pulsating with one big heart. It is pulling us in. Al says “all these sellers are really experts on what they do. They build relationships. They make you happy. They want you to come back”. I finally feel that we are not in an air-conditioned supermarket. How many times at the supermarket did you have a chance to talk to the butcher for ten minutes about your in-laws? How many words did you utter during your entire shopping chore at the supermarket? Did cucumbers have flowers at their ends?
We head towards the exit of the market passing the house goods displays with beautiful Turkish tea glasses. Unfortunately, my little plastic dolls do not exist anymore. But, there are plenty of other toys to buy for our grandkids.