By: Jessica Spann
Turks are continually proving to be warm and hospitable people. Recently Abdullah sat down and shared his story with SOOC on the patio of the Arsenal Hotel and Cafe & Restaurant which he owns along with his son and brother. With his 25 year old son beside him, He spoke about growing up in a village in central Turkey, moving to Istanbul, his construction days, work in Russia, business ventures, marriage, and his family. He spoke about happy times, sad times, regrets, successes, respect, love, and hard work. What came out over the hour and a half were treasures in the form of spoken memories and old creased photographs.
Abdullah was born into a farming and ranching family in a small village around Kayseri, an important Turkish city in the middle of Anatolia ( the Asian part of Turkey). His father became widowed at the age of forty when Abdullah’s mother died at age thirty-nine. He talked about how hard they worked there in the village, and how the ethics of hard work and honesty have stayed with him in his own business endeavors. Abdullah was the second of five boys. There were no sisters and he describes life after his mom died as having no women around. He fondly remembers his mom and speaks of her lovingly and says “she was very very kind and a good person. A very good mom and housewife.” Abdullah laments his sadness that his mother didn’t have a chance to have healthcare and how little knowledge the family had then about the cancer that took her life. This is when he pulls out a few aged pictures from his wallet.
One was an old black and white photo of his mother, her head covered and it was hard to make out her face because the wind had blown her head scarf across it. The other photos started from when Abdullah was a young boy age 9, 21, and 40. Then he proudly showed pictures of his daughter, ending with her university picture.
Abdullah speaks so highly of his father talking about how his father was young when his mother died which meant he could have remarried but didn’t. His father worked hard and raised his sons and ensured that they married the right women. It’s clear this respect has carried down to the next generation because Abdullah’s own son sat beside him during the interview and when asked how he would describe his father in five words he answered, “I can’t. That wouldn’t be enough.” He spoke of the respect he had for his dad, speaking about Abdullah in this way, “If he says I need to do it, then I do it. If he says don’t do this then I don’t do it. I have this respect for my father and he had that respect for his.”
When Abdullah describes village life, he paints a scene of five brothers sleeping in the same room with their special beds on the floor and lots of friends and relatives always around. They shared meals, raised animals, and grew up together. Some of these friends he has not seen since childhood, but sometimes he hears stories about them and what they are doing now and it’s clear there is a special place in his heart for these people with whom he went through childhood with. Abdullah’s father still lives in Kayseri during the summer months and when Abdullah talks about the village life nowadays, the nostalgia wanes. He says today when they go back it’s not the same and they aren’t invited into people’s homes or welcomed in the same way. This would have been unheard of when Abdullah was growing up. He says back then if someone had a visitor or a special guest in town, everyone would want to invite that visitor in and have them over for dinner. He blames these negative changes in village life on technology saying everyone is living individual lives now but back then people were much more relational.
Marriage has also changed in the village over time. His maternal and paternal grandfathers each had three wives which was normal in their day. Each of the wives would have their own home and the husband would stay different nights at the different homes. It was expected that if a man’s first wife was unable to have any children then he would take on another wife. Abdullah says this practice is just about over in the village now. Abdullah speaks of his devotion to his own wife. He says his wife had doubts in her mind about whether he would take another wife, but Abdullah speaks to the respect he would lose from his children and friends if he would have cheated her in any way. Plus he says, she does not deserve that. His marriage was arranged by his father and his wife’s father. She was a relative which was not an uncommon practice in the village. Their love is a different love; he refers to her as his destiny. It’s a love highlighted by shared children and deep commitment to each other.
Abdullah emphasizes that he gave his own two children the freedom to choose their own spouse. Abdullah declares one of his best moments in his life was when his son got married. His son is twenty-five and he and his wife are expecting their first child next month – a daughter.
Abdullah is very proud of his own daughter who is a college graduate. She has not yet married and Abdullah insists that it is up to her to decide whom she will marry, but he doesn’t hesitate to throw in that he hopes it to be a good man from Kayseri.
His Kayseri roots run deep and they are intertwined with his heart and soul. At the end of the conversation, Abdullah offered a cup of Turkish coffee adding that in Turkey it is well known that accepting a cup of Turkish coffee means that the friendship will be remembered for forty years to come. Let’s drink to that.