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Peaches in Izmir 2017-06-06T11:38:11+00:00

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Peaches in Izmir

Posted on 15/10/2012

Peaches in Izmir

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I have joined the Intercultural Dialogue Trip to Turkey organized by the Centre of Buddhist Studies Alumni Association (CBSAA) of the Hong Kong University (HKU) and today was the fourth day. We left Istanbul early in the morning to fly to Izmir, and then went to the ancient city Ephesus by car to visit the historical remains of the Roman period. In addition to rich historical remains of

the ancient Roman Empire, there are also those of ancient Greece, the ancient Turkic empire, the ancient Seljuq Empire as well as other cultures. This more or less reflects the multi-variant and complex side of Turkish history, culture and ethnicity.

We returned to Izmir in the afternoon. We stay in the college guesthouse on a small hill far away from the city center. The sun was very hot. The group was really tired after a few hours of travelling and everyone wanted to take a rest after getting his room. So the scheduled visit had to be cancelled. I am a restless person, and dinner was more than three hours ahead. So when I saw through the window that Lauri, the little Dharma brother from Estonia, walking downhill from the hotel, I quickly rushed out in the hope of catching up with him. Unfortunately he had disappeared by the time I reached the ground floor. So the only thing I could do was to walk slowly to the seaside alone, hoping that I could take a look at the famous Mediterranean Sea. Not too far from the guest house there was white mosque. Despite the typical minarets, it was much smaller than the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and the Hagia Sophia that I had seen in Istanbul, and was probably for community use only. A crowd of Muslims was coming out from the mosque. Most of them were men, and there were only a couple of women. The Muslims have to pray five times a day, and that demands much devotion.

As I walked on, the sun above me pierced through my hat to warm my head like barbequing it, which made me wonder why Turkish houses do not have canopies. Apart from dust, hot breeze and occasionally one or two cars passing by, there were few people and shops on the street. To make my walk worthwhile, I kept on walking in order to get a glimpse of the city even though I may not reach the seaside.

My effort was rewarded. After walking for half an hour, I saw more and more pedestrians, and shops gradually appeared one by one. At a street corner there was a hamburger restaurant, but I found not a single person in it when I went closer to have a look. Perhaps it was due to the Ramadan? Throughout the entire Ramadan, Muslims are not supposed to eat anything or drink water between sunrise and sunset. We were tourists, and were exempted from the tradition. In fact, every time when we enjoyed the delicious authentic Turkish lunch, we had not the heart to see our hosting friends and our group member John, who joined the fast in order to show respect for the local religious customs, not eating anything. We admired their persistence silently. When dinnertime came, it was the turn for the Venerables to observe their tradition of no eating after midday. People say everyone practices in his own way while eating at the same table, whereas we practiced together but eat our meals in different ways. That was really interesting.

I reckoned it was time to go back. When I was about to turn around, unexpectedly I saw a junction seemingly leading to a market. I was thrilled, and quickly went towards the market. It would be really nice if I could get a Turkish ice cream, as I was sweating wildly due to the walking. It was a small market, made up by a street. Most of the goods were articles for daily use, such as clothing and footwear. I walked on for about fifty meters, and suddenly found a fruit stall. I saw various kinds of fruit on display, some I could name and some not. There was my favorite fruit, peaches. They were so mouth-watering! The stall keeper was an old lady with headscarf. I could not speak Turkish, nor did she appear to know English. Since I did not know the price, I took out a note that was worth five TL, and then picked up a peach to show my intention. It worked. The stall keeper, with a broad smile on her face, took my money and gave me a pack of peaches. I opened the pack and saw six large peaches with a rich sweet smell. I reckoned that I would not be able to consume all the peaches, so I would eat one first and share the rest with other group members. So hastily I picked a peach to peel its thin skin. I bit a mouthful of the yellowish pulp. It was fragrant and sweet, and its juice splashed in all directions. I kept eating when I was on my way, despite the juice had splashed all over my T-shirt.

While I was indulging myself in the aroma of the peaches, two heavily bearded men in white gowns blocked my way after I had walked for about a dozen steps. I could not understand their words, but could sense that they wanted me to turn back. Without knowing their intentions, I chose to do what they wanted, since it is said that: “a wise man does not fight when the odds are against him”.  At the same time, I had a fright inside me. Perhaps I had encountered bad people? There was not much I could do, except looking for opportunities to call for help. Very soon I returned to fruit stall, and saw the old lady who sold the peaches to me. She waved at me, and then put a coin on my palm. Suddenly I realized that I had left the stall hastily without getting my change, and the stall keeper had asked the two men to help get me back so that she could give me the change. So it was merely a false alarm, and I felt a bit ashamed. I had been in Turkey for a number of days, and the receptionists had become my friends. Yet I held suspicions against people in typical Islamic costumes. I really need to do self-reflection. Izmir is a famous tourist city, but my feeling was that its hucksters were very honest, and were much better than the deceitful taxi drivers in Istanbul, who had cheated our group member Frank.

Given such a scare, and since it was late, I decided to make my way back to the guesthouse.  At the guesthouse entrance, I saw the two guards working in the lobby, which had no air-conditioning. So I gave each of them a peach as a token of my gratitude. When I went past the Venerable’s room and did not see him there, I placed a peach on his table. When I was in my room finally, I realized that there were only two peaches left. So how could they be shared with nine group members? In the end, I decided to eat them up all by myself before anyone saw them.

For some unknown reason, a few group members and I had to move to another hotel after dinner. After much confusion, I managed to check-in my new room late in the night. On the desk against a big window facing the sea, there was a metal plate wrapped in a colorful cotton cloth. On the plate there was a small card with the words “Welcoming Fruits”.  After unwrapping the cloth, I saw bananas, brown kiwifruit, golden apricots, purple plums and peaches fill up the plate. The peaches were exactly the same as those I bought from the market. That night, my stomach was all the time very busy.

Original Chinese text: KK Li

Translation and English editing: Raymond Lam

For more articles about Interfaith Travel to Turkey

今天是我隨香港大學佛學碩士同學會到土耳其「交流之旅」的第四天。一大清早便離開伊斯坦布爾轉飛伊士密(Izmir),隨即驅車到以弗所古城(Ephesus)參觀古羅馬時代的遺蹟。土耳其不但有豐富的古羅馬遺蹟,還有古希臘、古突厥、古塞柱和其他不同文化的遺蹟,這多少可反映土耳其歷史、文化和民族多元和複雜的一面。

下午回到伊士密,到遠離巿中心、位於小山丘上的學院賓館入住。太陽凶的厲害,又坐了數小時的交通,大夥兒又熱又累,分房後都想休息,原定的參觀項目只好取消。我是耽不住的,眼看距離晚飯時間還有三個多小時,推窗外望,更看到從愛沙尼亞來的小師兄Lauri 剛離開酒店往山下走,我耐不住即趕快出門希望趕上,可惜跑到樓下時Lauri已消失了影蹤。沒辦法只好一個人慢慢往山下朝海邊走,希望可以看到久負盛名的地中海。賓館不遠有一座白色的清真寺,雖然聳立著典型的宣教塔,但相比之前在伊斯坦布爾看過的藍色清真寺(Sultan Ahmed Mosque)和聖索非亞大教堂(Hagia Sophia)小得很多,相信只是社區用的。一眾穆斯林剛做完禮拜魚貫出來,驟眼看去,多是男的,女的只有一兩個。穆斯林一天要做足五次禮拜,真是少點虔誠也不行。

走著走著,頂上的太陽無情的穿透帽子像BBQ似的煎烤我的腦袋,心裡暗嘆土耳其的房屋怎麼搞的都沒有簷蓬。此刻街上路人稀少,商舖也不多,除了塵土和熱風之外,偶爾只有一兩汽車路過。不想白走一遭,只好堅持繼續往前行,希望縱是走不到海邊,信步看看這城巿的面貌也好。

皇天不負有心人,走了三十分鐘,終看到行人漸多,商店也逐漸不知從那兒一間一間冒出來。街角遠處還有一間漢堡飽店,走近一看,卻空無一人,可能是因為齋戒月的關係吧?因為穆斯林在整個齋戒月內是不准在日出之後和日落之前進食包括飲水的。我們由於是遊客,所以可以免俗。其實,當每次我們享用豐富多彩的土耳其地道午餐,而接待我們的朋友和爲表尊重當地宗教習俗而參與守齋的團友John卻要禁食的時候,我們都心有不忍。但見他們堅持遵守,只有心裡暗暗佩服。到了晚餐,又輪到法師要遵守出家人過午不食的傳統。有道是同枱食飯,各自修行;我們卻是一起修行,但各自用餐,真有趣。

看著時間差不多,正想往回走時,偶爾見一巿集模樣的路口,心中大喜,連忙閃進。走的大汗淋漓,如果能吃上一杯土耳其雪糕那就太好了。市集不大,只有一條街,賣的都是衣服鞋襪等日常用品。走了五十公尺,赫然發現前方有一水果檔,攤上放滿各色各樣我認識和不認識的水果;其中更有我喜歡的蜜桃,令人垂涎欲滴。檔主是一名披著頭巾的老婦人,我不懂土耳其語,也覺得她不像會說英語。由於不知道當地價錢,唯有拿出一張面額五TL.的紙幣,跟著用手捧起一個蜜桃示意。這招果然管用,檔主笑容滿面的收了我的錢,就拿了一袋桃子給我。我打開一看,內裡共有六個碩大的桃子,香氣四溢,心想一個人應該吃不完,我自己吃一個,餘下的和其他團友分享也好。急不及待拿起一個,撕開薄薄的果皮後露出的是黃色的果肉。一口咬下,又香又甜,汁液四濺,邊走邊吃,懶理汁液沾滿身上的T裇。

走了不到十來步,還正在沈醉於果香之際,冷不防前面來了兩個身穿白色長袍,滿面鬍子的男子擋著去路。聽不懂他們的話,只意會到他們要我回頭走。不知道他們的企圖,好漢不吃眼前虧,只好順著他們,心中卻暗自吃驚,莫非遇上壞人了? 唯有見機行事,作好求救的準備。不旋間,退到水果檔,但見剛才賣蜜桃給我的婦人向我招手,跟著把一個硬幣往我手裡塞。至此恍然大悟,原來我未待檔主找贖便匆忙離去,檔主請求那兩個男子幫忙把我叫回,以便找贖而已,真是虛驚一場,也感到有點慚愧。來了土耳其多天,跟接待人員也成了朋友,但對典型回教徒打份的人還是心懷戒懼改不了,真需要反省!伊士密是土耳其著名的旅遊城市,但感覺市集的小商販非常誠實,比起伊斯坦布爾欺客的的士司機好得多了(團友Frank就領教過)。

眼見時候不早,又受此一嚇,便打道回賓館。到達賓館門口,遇上在沒有空調的大堂工作的兩個看守員,便給他們每人送上一個桃子以表示謝意。經過法師房間,趁他不在又放了一個在他的枱上。回到自己房間,才醒覺袋中只剩下兩個蜜桃,怎夠分給九個團員呢? 想著想著,還是趁沒有人看見,一個人偷偷盡快吃光算了。

晚飯後,不知道什麼原因,我和幾個團員要遷到另一酒店。擾攘一輪到深夜check-in 入房,面海大窗旁的書桌上擱著一以彩紗包裹的金屬盤子,上面有一小紙牌寫著 「歡迎果盤」。拆開一看,盤中竟放滿香蕉、啡色的奇異果、金黃的杏子、紫色的李子和我午間在市集買到的一模一樣的蜜桃﹗那個晚上,我的肚子一直都很忙碌。

圖、文:KK
2012-10-15

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