Planet Rodong

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Land of Batman

All through the years in Turkey I have never travelled out to see Europe. Despite Athens being just a few hours train ride away, Sofya capital of Bulgaria is just about 4 hours away by bus, Paris, Rome or London never caught my interest. Even when I won a free return air ticket to Zurich in a lucky draw, I passed it to a friend after keeping it for a week just in case the interest would come. I love travelling but to unknown places often without any detailed plan because even if I made advance planning, I would at a stage just let myself got carried astray in the middle of the journey to some more interesting places meeting people of strange cultures.
One such incident brought me to a place somewhere in Batman. Pronounced as spelt, Batman is an oil producing little province. The capital city is also named Batman so is the river. Quite rich but was very under developed mostly due to the Kurdish unrest in that region especially during that time. I drifted there following a Kurdish friend whom I had the pleasure meeting in Menzil, Adiyaman the centre of the Nakshibendi Tarikati in Turkey. We were talking about the different cultures in Turkey and Malaysia and I described to him about the Taipusam celebration in Malaysia and how the Hindus carry the Kawadis with metals spikes pinned to their bodies etc. He said he wants to show me something quite extraordinary unlike what I`ve seen or known but I have to follow him to his village and be his guest for a few days. I agreed without a second thought because I know that region have many interesting ancient ruins and culture besides I had ample time. I could spare a few days with him and then only go to Nemrut mountain to watch it`s magnificent sunset. So there I was again on the road with my not even close to glamourous second hand 1970`s aluminium ladder frame backpack.
It was on the second day of my stay as misafir of God at his house and he still hadn`t shown me anything apart from his village. His father was a muhtar or village head, very influentual and he have a large family of I don`t know how many uncles, brothers, aunties, in laws and most living in the village or the neighbouring villages. Big families are considered powerful families in the rural areas of Turkey just like in Italy. The villagers were very friendly and very respectful but the children were quite annoying. They would go into this Bruce Lee mode whenever they saw me probably thinking whoever have eyes like Bruce Lee would definitely be Kung Fu masters. So they were jumping here and there, chopping the air, kicking dust and dirt following me all the way to the toilet every morning and to wherever I went throughout the day and if anyone was looking for me, they could just look for this group of kung fu enthusiasts.
In Turkish culture, misafirs are honoured and protected by the host and the whole village. I was given the best bed, best food, my clothes washed and I was never left alone but still no news of what he had wanted to show me. So that evening after dinner, I called him aside and asked him when it`s going to happen. He said anytime after tomorrow because his father would scold him if he took me away before the 3 days misafir period is over. So fine, at least I know it was still on and on the 4th day we took off with his uncle`s old truck leaving the dusty village road into the dry rocky desert. It wasn`t a safe journey as there were still bandits in the hills, Kurdish rebels and Turkish soldiers but with Husin it should be quite safe. He`s Kurdish and his family is big so that should tame the Kurdish rebels and frighten the bandits but the Turkish soldiers might not be very happy to see a Malaysian in the middle of a Kurdish desert with a Kurdish local.
After about 5 hours and a few stops to rest our butts from the bumpy ride, we arrived at a small isolated village located in a dry valley. It looked like any other Kurdish villages and the people too didn`t look very different. In fact I felt I was the one very different to them and they were all staring at me. Husin told me not to give salams to anyone and so I just kept quiet and let Husin handle all the talking. I was introduced to the village head 'I can`t remember his name' who speaks only Kurdish so Husin had to translate everything back and forth.
Yes, this is truly an uncommon Kurdish village. It`s like entering the M. Night Syamalan village. The village folks wear the normal village shalwar clothes but all actually have rosary beads hanging at their waists and they all have tattoos. They aren`t Muslims. Not christians nor Jews. According to the village head, as their ancestors were, they worship Satan. Hearing that, I felt the creep but the way he said it gave some relief. He said it as a matter of fact just like a muslim said I'm a muslim. So it wasn`t that scary but I do worry if the place is keras and something should follow me back to Istanbul. Then I thought if I were to be disturbed, it doesn`t have to follow me all the way through the bumpy ride, it can just wait in Istanbul with the interdimensional travel technology they have. The village head was quite a talker and appeared quite proud of his cultural heritage. The religion was passed through the generation just like any other religion. Their ancestors originally were from somewhere near the Syrian border but many hundred years ago moved to the valley to escape oppression I guess. Being of a very different culture group from the other villages, the marriages is restructed to within the village community. The village have no schools and they buy things from other villages or visiting traders in exchange of I don`t know what but I saw some sheeps and women woving wools so maybe wool socks or carpets. Like many other small Turkish village, heating during winter is by burning dried dung tablets. They gather dung throughout summer and burn them in winter. Dung is also used to strengthen their houses and improve insulation just like cement. It's yacky but it`s effective and can also strengthten our body immune system. It only smells bad for a few minutes.
I wanted to see the rituals whether it`s like in the films with the goat head dress, black robes, black candles, daggers and so on but no luck. The village head was unwilling to share it. He just said they don`t have any rituals, pray or ceremony of any kind. I wanted to spend the night there but Husin was reluctant saying we need to pray later and we can`t pray here with these people worshiping Satan. Not wanting to argue further, we left the village and I remember it was already dark when we arrived at Husin`s house and his parents were very not very happy about us travelling at night. Under cover of the night Kurdish rebels would execute raids on vehicles and military garisons and Batman was actually one of the provinces declared as in the state of emergency and night travelling was forbidden. I knew that but during those years I wasn`t thinking. Not like now. Being married and having children I started thinking a lot. Thinking far and out seeing and worrying about things that might and might not happen. I started driving slowly, eyes darting here and there whenever the children opens the car door. Yes, I finally started thinking, and that`s the day I became a coward.


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    By Blogger lewisjones88289137, at 4:19 AM  

  • It is always amazing to know that there are still people in isolated parts of this modern-day digital world, living in a strange culture with baffling beliefs. Your description of this 'satan-worshipping' tribe in that village in Batman as M Night Syamalan's Village is cute.

    In first instant it looked as though you have wasted a lifetime opportunity in not taking the advantage of travelling to those European desitinations. But who knows? You probably didn't feel compelled to do so as Turkey is great enough for you with all the diversity, greatness and richness, it can offer!

    Many a times, i too am faced with the gut-worrying feeling of being followed by evil spirits when entering a certain 'keras' area. But the worst is when I get patients who are being possessed by evil spirits , brought to see me for other physical illness. These affected souls usually look into your eyes in 'great depth' that you feel so uneasy even hours afer it!

    But is it fair to label yourself or even others for that matter, a coward just for being extra careful especialy for the wellfare of his own flesh-and-blood?


    p.s. Have a good journey to Mecca and Medina!

    By Blogger dr in the house, at 5:03 AM  

  • Hey paul,

    for program mode, to shhot at low light set the iso at least to 400 or auto. is set to auto it will choose 800 or worse 1600, very grainy unless u set with noise reduction. i prefer to set to 400. at 20, excelent in the sun but in most candid snaps, 400 will do better.

    selamat menunaikan haji, semoga mendapat haji mabrur.

    By Anonymous Gee, at 11:56 AM  

  • i heard that story from u before, the musafir thing and tha satan worshipper. then what was the 'extraordinary thing' that you observed at the village besides the tatoo? Why cant u pray at the area? was it dirty then or just the feeling, eerieness etc?

    You had missed ur europe tour while u were there. Let mirta arrange for a good reasonable package and all of us can go to europe for a tour and as a tourist and also guide if we visit turkey. we can do our book then.

    sorry some interruption. selamat ebrangkat semoga haji mabrur.

    By Blogger Ikelah, at 11:11 PM  

  • I agree that we are all foolish heroes in our younger days, but become responsible, caring and "willing-to-die-for-your-loved-ones" cowards, the moment we decide to tie the knot and start having our juniors.

    Meremang bulu roma membaca 'Boogey's entry' kali ini. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a safe journey to the blessed land and may Allah grant you Haji Mabrur!! Bila berangkat? Doakan kita semua semoga dapat kesana lagi.

    By Anonymous pycnogenol, at 2:17 PM  

  • Boogs... welcome back! Aren't you going to write abou your Hajj experiences?

    By Blogger kenakelayan, at 2:15 AM  

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