Babam Tschiftschi

May 13, 2011

Fathers are important. We never doubted that. But we had no idea what a vital part our fathers, who are both in their eighties, would play on our walk to Jerusalem. Back in a Greek shop, when Hanspeter simply wanted to buy a 10-euro calling card, the shop assistant instructed him: “And this is where you write down your father’s name.” In Turkey, it seems that it is Annemarie’s father who people are interested in, especially his job. Recently, a woman came running our way shouting in English: “Where are you from?” Annemarie replied: “From Switzerland. Babam Tschiftschi.“ Not that we are fluent in the native tongue, but Annemarie has been using these two Turkish words, meaning “My father is a farmer” for weeks. Obviously happy with this information, the woman smiled, gave us a ‘thumbs up’ in reply and walked back to the cow she was looking after. The expression, which has already frequently come in handy, made its way into our active vocabulary during a photo stop in Turkey. It is Annemarie’s habit to ask people for permission before taking a photo of them, but with snapshots, it’s a bit trickier of course. One man who was working in a field expressed his irritation at being photographed. Luckily, just then a man was headed our way on the pavement, and Annemarie took the chance and asked him: “Excuse me, do you speak English, German or Italian?” to which the passer-by replied: “Italian.” “You see, I’ve just taken a photo of this gentleman, since my own father is a farmer.” she explained to him in Italian. A smile passed over the man’s face, and he was so kind as to act as our interpreter. This seemed to have a soothing effect on the man in the field. “Babam Tschiftschi“ – we  had to keep these two words in mind. Since then hardly a day goes by without us saying “Babam Tschiftschi“ to someone, usually causing lots of sympathetic nodding and smiling all around. Sometimes people would point at our backpacks telling us they are way too heavy. Then we say “Babam Tschiftschi” to which they nod understandingly. One police officer, however, didn’t seem to be satisfied with our reply. After he had offered us cay (tea), he enquired whether we had drunk lots of milk back home. “Yes, morning and evening.” This seemed to please him, since he nodded. We got talking, answering his questions and were quite taken aback when he suddenly said: “Your passports, please!” We have come to realize that the motives for offering us cay can vary. Sometimes it is out of genuine hospitality. Sometimes though, people just want to get a closer look at us and learn more about us. At times we observed how someone, after we had talked to them, turned around or crossed the street to proclaim what they had heard from us to the four winds. It is when everyone across the road seems to be turning their heads to look at us that we know what’s going on. From kids and youngsters we often get: “Where do you come from? What’s your name? Money, money!“ Others try talking us into ordering a meal at their restaurant to follow our cup of cay or get us to buy something in their shop.

One of our favourite foods in Turkey is borek (flaky pastry with different fillings), and we love watching it being prepared (see video). Since it is getting hotter by the day, and even more so as it progresses, we’ve made it our habit to set off earlier than usual and more often than not without breakfast. After one or two hours, when our stomachs start grumbling, we usually either have some borek, hot soup with salad and quite frequently a loaf of bread, occasionally with some yogurt. It seems as if our heavenly Father makes sure we get enough vitamins. There are greenhouses all around (see video), and it seems we’re right in the middle of harvest time. Along the coastal road, we were given fruit or vegetables almost every day: cucumbers, strawberries, bananas, avocados, oranges, lemons, yeni dunyas (Maltese plums), mulberries and some other fruit unknown to us.

Once, a small lorry stopped right in front of us. A woman and a child got off and studied our backpacks. At the same time, two young men emerged from the driver’s cab and ran down the length of the load area towards us. They picked up 16 cucumbers and held them out to us saying: “Here you go!“ Quite overwhelmed, we replied: “Thank you! This is rather a lot, though. We might not be able to carry them all.” “Yes, you will. Please take them.” “But it’s way too much!” It was no use. The men had already climbed the lorry again and off they went. Actually we had wanted to break for lunch a little further into that day’s stretch, but looking at our cucumbers we decided we might as well have a bite to eat there and then and lighten our load. Using a variety of facial gestures and sign language of sorts, we desperately tried to palm off our cucumber surplus on the woman with the child, but to no avail. She would not have it. So each of us stuffed a couple of cucumbers into our backpacks, and felt we had no choice but to leave the rest on the bench, much to our dismay. We had hardly walked a couple of steps, when a car stopped beside us. The driver asked where we were headed. He introduced himself as ‚Dario‘, and we got talking. We were amazed by his story. He and his family had been travelling the world for many years. Since their two children were homeschooled, there was no need to stay put in one place. Occasionally, Dario worked for three months to make a living. Now that their children were taking up their studies at university, they were forced to settle down for a short spell. The family, who up till today gets by without a mobile phone, invited us to visit them in France some time. When we said goodbye, we remembered the cucumbers we had left behind. Being a travelling family, they could easily relate to our dilemma and accepted the vegetables gratefully. And we for our part were thrilled that God had given us so abundantly that we were able to share.

Only three days later, we had a similar experience. We were walking along the road, when suddenly a motorhome pulled over. We were thrilled when we saw Paul and Monika, whom we had met back in Selcuk, emerge from the vehicle. What added to our excitement was that just a road bend ago, a woman by the roadside had, having caught our attention by calling out „Gusa, gusa!“, held out many green fruits. We couldn’t have possibly eaten them all on our own, so now we had again an opportunity to share the blessings we had received with someone else. And this way Paul and Monika got to know a new kind of fruit. To us, encounters such as these are no coincidence.

Another time, in a shop, the assistant threw in two cucumbers for free with the fruit juice we had just bought. We stored them in our backpacks. Two hours later we stopped to have some soup. Rather atypically, it didn’t come with a salad. We remembered the cucumbers in our bags and marvelled at the way God had taken care of our necessary dose of vitamins at the right time. We’ve found that fresh vegetables are a vital supplement to the – to our taste – rather sticky white bread in these parts. We’ve come to call it “foldable bread”, since it can be conveniently folded up and easily stowed away in a backpack. Whenever we get to a town, we look out for the more nutritious wholemeal bread. When staying at Heidi’s house, who is from Germany, we were treated to a delicious homemade one. We had met her at church on Palm Sunday. That day we were engrossed by a short conversation we had had with a young Turkish woman in Antalya (see video). “Why do they call it Palm Sunday?“ she had asked. Hanspeter explained that one week before his crucifixion, Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The crowds had welcomed Him cheering: „Hosanna!“ while waving palm branches and paving the way before Jesus with them (Matthew 21). “I’ve spent my entire childhood in Germany, but no one has ever explained the reason for Easter to me. I only knew that it was customary to hide eggs.” This set us thinking. Except for a couple of tourist resorts, the creed can be heard from loudspeakers five times a day even in the tiniest of villages here, while in Europe it seems that not a single word is lost on the central festival of Christianity.

We enjoy the fact that our hike allows us to spend lots of time talking to Jesus. He is the One who brings colour to our lives. We have also found that it is the kaleidoscope of experiences that adds zest to our day-to-day lives. Much like a woven scarf that becomes more beautiful with each new colour added (see video). Sometimes we marvel at new, wholly unexpected discoveries. Only recently we realized that goats and we have something in common: Just like we at times, they neatly deposit stuff that has been cleared away from the middle of the road in the kerb (see video). J

Our heavenly Father has given us so much these past few months. Our hearts are filled with thankfulness towards Him, but also towards our earthly fathers and mothers, our praying friends, our sponsors and everyone who has lent a helping hand!

Have a colourful spring!

Best wishes

Hanspeter & Annemarie





2 Responses to “Babam Tschiftschi”

  1. God Bless your journey and your work. Angels protect you! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Darío Says:

    Queridos Annemarie y Hanspeter, we still have to meet for you to tell us the end of your wonderful adventure and experiences, in person. In the Pyrenees? In the Alps?
    We continue travelling our life, but always enjoy meeting great travellers, so as I told you that day…whenever you want, dear pilgrims.
    Muchos besos!

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