Ayvalik evening walk

December 8, 2017



The two silhouettes black against the night blue sky. The smell of burning coal, wood and many other substances eaten by one of the many fires burning somewhere in the cold night, pervades the air. The dwellings are shoulder to shoulder, almost elbowing each other for space, laundry of all shades, hues, designs hang in the windless air. Sometimes they are like  gardens hung up high, filled with flowers of all types, sizes, and colours. The back of the buildings also hold piles of wood, plywood, press wood, anything that burns along ancient cars, a mid ‘90’s Volkswagen model looks massively attractive and shiny besides the four wheeled implements parked on these lots, trucks, tractors, cars and even a horse cart can be found. In a backyard, two goats tied by their necks with ropes bleat from time to time. In the daytime you can see chickens but now they are nowhere to be seen, hiding from predators and likely huddled together to ward off the cold.
A street separates triplexes on one side and a field of pine trees planted a hundred years ago on the other side, it is the concave apex between two hills. The street lights become rare. On a patio of a basement suite a flickering light comes from flames and is reflected on the partition wall. Soft spoken voices rise from there, the fire could be for a tea pot. The other homes around are in darkness, except for another type of flickering lights emanating from TVs. The light bulbs, if there are some, are of a cold white, the glaring white effervescence coming out of the swirling lead ‘eco’ bulbs. On the other side of that road, it is penumbra. Shacks put together with all sorts of woods from antique doors to plywood sheets, covered in blue tarps or various plastics. The whole area is impeccably clean despite the obvious poverty of the dwellings. No one to be seen either.

The city of Ayvalik is laid down on folds of land that originate at the sea coast of the Aegean. Within the first fold, close to shore, ancient stone houses, shops, cafes, cars, and these ubiquitous horrible sounding mini motos that the local teenagers race through the main drag with deafening noise.  An awful rattle of cheap exhausts pinned on 75 cc motors. The kids and their rides tumble down the streets and backstreets without helmets, sometimes solo, sometimes sitting 3 at a time, they are feeling the freedom that these micro machines offer them. Rising to the apex of this first fold, old houses that used to be Greek fill the ground and at the top the military facility has the biggest property and the biggest of flags.

Rolling onto the other fold, lower income du, tri, quadru-plexes fill the space. Every balcony holds a clothes line. No cafes, no shops, strong smell of coal, the air is thick with it. Love birds abound, a sort of out of place nicety in the obvious utilitarianism of every object around. It is maybe equivalent of what would be called “the projects” in America. The locals eye me wearily. My foreigner status impossible to dissimulate or hide. Even the way I walk makes me stick out.

Then at the bottom are the few shacks I described, and from there, one must hike a hill that rolls back up, it is covered in pine trees and blackness. When you arrive at the top, you face an immensity where mountains stretch as far as the eye can see, and to the left a huge beige rectangle of a building coiffed with a bright red sign to be seen from miles and miles around, the hospital, sits there, alone, quiet, indifferent.

Facing the hospital, by the trees, is another shack. Maybe 12 x 10, the size of a horse stall. There they make food. The bit of land next to it has been transformed in an open air cafe, kebap, doner and that sort of meat things. I imagine the hospital workers and visitors stopping there for a bite. In the “garden” there are plants in pots for which the owner has fancied a water system out of empty water bottles and hospital plastic tubing with little roulettes to adjust the flow of fluid that you would use for patients receiving intravenous medication. Recycling at its most creative.

But it’s dark and no one is there. The restaurant is closed, the white plastic garden chairs empty, losing all colour to the appetite of the night who swallows it all.

Here, suddenly there is no more city, only rolling hills and mountains in the distance. As fast as Ayvalik rises from the sea coast, it disappears abruptly into the lap of the mountains laying ahead. If you sit there and don’t look back, you could think that you are in the middle of a steppe somewhere. One road, almost the same colour as the land, winds itself in this land and quickly vanishes between two hills. A dwelling lies in there, not a house, not a shack, just some walls where a human finds shelter, no electrical wires, no modern amenities. Some olive trees and the wind.
The modern world from here seems an illusion. Here is a human who lives from the hand outs of the earth, from his deal with farm animals; they give their milk, blood and flesh against some hay or grass. Women are stout, wide footed, their hands rough and strong. They wear all these coloured clothes, scarves on their heads to hold back their hair as they work. No religion visible there. Their bodies in trade for survival like those of the animals. On top of this pyramid, sits the man, there because of his muscle mass and easy violence to silence any challenge to his power.

Today I saw a group on a tractor, the patriarch drives the machine. In the trailer; massive bags of the harvest: olives in this case, olives that the men have beaten out of the trees and the women triaged sitting on the ground, then put into those sacks. On the road now men and women sit on the sacks, going back home after a long day of work. They have slaved so hard on this. I feel their eyes on me. I catch the face of one male. Staring at me with a strange expression.

This is something there I don’t know. They are a tribe. I am an individual. People like me buy the work this tribe accomplishes, the oil, the olives. People like me very far away have no idea of this life. No understanding whatsoever. You cannot know this. It does not exist in our countries. We are raised to be gloriously individual. We are raised to wish to achieve Bourgeois-hood. Succeed and climb some kind of ladder of achievement that will give us meaning and purpose. They work. Doing what must be done to survive.
We, the lucky ones, live on the back of those people to a higher or lesser degree. It gives me a kind of shame. I think of the work I am doing, drawing, translating, playing music, writing. Oh the luxury of my provenance. The luck of my birth. I must trust my Fate. I must trust that this is not just some grossly unfair luck of the draw. That each is on his road learning his personal lessons. Who would I be if I had been born here? What would I do. What would I believe?

The human clay, impressible into any shape. All the solidity of our convictions is but illusion adapted to the reality we dwell in. Nothing is true, nothing false. It just all is holding into a sort of equilibrium for the moment that is.



I keep walking. The wind is beautiful. Cleansing. It comes from the sea and rushes towards the mountains. The shape of the pine trees a black shadow of delicate contours in the early night sky. There are still some oranges and browns and gold whispers left in the wake of the sun that has set. There will be rain as big black clouds fill the horizon. I turn onto a road, back to the village. Dogs bark in the distance. I see them, three of them. They see me. Their shapes are black too against a contrejour. As I reach the inhabited area, I hear the voice of a man coming through the paper thin walls of a tiny home. “Allah, allah…” he says. The dogs bark again. This is a poor neighbourhood. I am stared at again. I look nowhere, at no one, putting my camera away not wanting to be rude. Smells of cooking, onions, smell of coal burning. Two children run across the street, coatless in this cold, one carrying a clear plastic bag with about a half dozen of white eggs, the other carries yogurt and something else I couldn’t see. They must be about 8 years old. Probably running from the market to their mother making dinner. Cats stand all over, under, beside and below and above.

I get back to the sea side. This water is special and so is the breeze coming from far away. It is dark now. I will head home, warm up. Have tea.


2 Responses to “Ayvalik evening walk”

  1. Éva Böröcz Says:

    Magnifique !!!

  2. francoise Says:

    Merci Danielle, comme toujours, c’est merveilleux ce que tu ecris.

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