Leaving Diyarbakir

It’s 1957. You’re an American geologist in Turkey. I won’t be born for another 30 years, and you’re my grandfather.

It’s nearly evening near a border crossing, after leaving Diyarbakir earlier in that day. (It was in near Diyarbakir that you took the photo above, of some goat skin rafts.) You’re with your friend and coworker, looking to travel and explore while on an extended work break.

You’ve sailed across the Pacific by this point in your life. You’ve come to the Middle East to work, and traveled a lot by the time you mark your 30th birthday.

You’re waiting at the border crossing for what seems like too long a period of time. You’ve explained your plans to the border guards, and they’ve walked off a bit to talk amongst themselves—maybe about the fee for crossing, you think. Your friend edges a bit more toward them, having heard a few of their words. They don’t know he understands their dialect. What are they arguing about?

After a few moments, he shuffles toward you with a glint in his eye.

“Don’t run,” your friend instructs, as he grabs your arm. “But walk back toward the jeep as quickly as possible without attracting their attention.”

You make it to the jeep and hop in, the border guards now having turned their attention directly back to you. You fire up the engine, reverse the jeep and speed away—back to Diyarbakir. As you make it far enough to safety, slowing down, you ask:

“Well what the hell was that about?”

“They were trying to decide whether God would bless them for killing two Westerners, traveling alone, probably Christian, wearing beards.”

The rest of the trip, silence.

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