“No, you have to come up this way!” He yelled throwing a tray of ash over the side of the snowy hill from the opposite rooftop. I had arrived to Goreme unprepared for the climate. I was wearing several layers and could feel the chill through each and every one of them. He was sporting long blue socks and white strapped sandals, a thin beanie, a worn t shirt, grey joggers, and an unzipped hoodie. His cheeks kept warm with facial hair at its spikiest point of growth, slowly on its way to becoming a beard. His chest hair so thick I could see it peeking through the neck of his shirt from the rooftop I stood on. He yelled something I couldn’t hear and disappeared.
The snow was melting into grey slush, and I could see my panting breathe in the air, like a heavy smoker exhaling their first lungful of nicotine. He met me at the bottom of an incline with a foot wide path and led me up the slippery slope, showing me how to walk correctly in the snow to not fall down. I lacked snow legs, bunglingly trampling up like a new born baby goat. He showed me to my room, a trail of water from the snow melting off our shoes behind us towards the bed as I set my bags down. He took a seat, shuffling his sandals to the intricately gold-inlaid red cushion lined sofa in my room. I asked his name.
“Mustafa” he said through grinning red stained teeth of a boy who started smoking at the age of 8.
I met him later in the common area for tea. The wood burning stove in the center of the room keeping both the kettle and our bodies warm. He invited me for dinner and I sat along side him and his friends as if I had always been a part of their lives. Turkish hospitality wasn't a myth.
We had vegetable soup and a communal bowl of bright green salad dressed with lemon juice and Turkish olive oil. Mustafa grabbed a loaf of bread out of the basket and ripped pieces off for each of us. They shouted at one another in Turkish before his friend got up and ran back and forth to the kitchen, grabbing condiments out of the fridge, disguised as cheese in their repurposed plastic feta tubs. Olives, a few mystery pickles, and a 6 quart jar of what I thought were green beans.
“Be careful, they’re spicy.” Mustafa warned me, but I wasn’t one to say no to spice. Tiny tangy crunchy green chilies fermented in red chili paste. I ate one, and then another, and then another, unable to stop myself.
"These are incredible!” I screamed.
“Yes. My mother made them. She made all of this.” He gestured with his hands to the the condiments. “She never buys anything. She grows it all, and preserves and pickles it. She makes jams too. And food for me because she knows I love it.”
“I think I love your mother!” I said to him.
“Yes. Everyone does. Try this.” He handed me a piece from one of the feta containers. “It’s unripe melon, pickled in salt.” It was acidic, refreshing, full of texture.
“When it’s ramadan and the poor families have nothing, she puts together boxes of things she’s made for them. She loves doing this. She even knocks on the doors of the rich and tells them to give her money for the boxes and she’ll make them a box too. And they do it, because they love her foods.” He went on to tell us more about this inspiring woman. How she was married at 14. Moved to Kapadokya from a small town hours away. Started a farm in what is now the hotel where we stay.
I was still munching on chilies, completely captivated with every new bit of information I learned about his mom. For the first time in ages, I felt like I was right where I was meant to be. I wanted to know everything about her.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Kismet. You know this meaning?” I knew the feeling.
*His face kept warm with a spiky shag carpet of growth, not yet a beard.