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Peaches in Izmir

Posted on 15/10/2012

Peaches in Izmir


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


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。


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