I’m sure her husband wouldn’t be happy if we bestowed her with the title of Captain, but it didn’t really matter because everyone on board knew she steered the ship forward. Fatma seemed to be everywhere at once, from kitchen prep to dropping the anchor, moving about the boat with the steady ease of someone whose feet have walked a lot of decks in their lifetime. The scarf tied to her head plays a dual role here, keeping her hair tidy and tucked in, while also keeping to her Muslim culture. Her olive skin is marked with a lifetime of the sun’s stories. Long wrinkles extended from her eyes out to the horizon, as if her face is always smiling, but she’s more practical than that. She wears those lines as a reminder of the decks she’s walked, a mark of where she’s from.
Her affection is shared through the delicious meals she prepares, the kind where you wish your stomach was larger than it was. My worries of white bread and pasta were put to rest with her fresh salads and vegetarian wonders: watercress with garlic yogurt sauce, bulgar with spices, fried cauliflower, zucchini patties, green beans in tomato sauce, rolled ‘cigarette’ pastries with cheese and parsley. I didn’t see one thing come from a can on this boat, and I was probably the happiest of the bunch, each meal spilling over with vegetables of every color.
She and Usef walked these decks day in and day out during the high season, welcoming new faces aboard each week and sharing life with them for four to seven days at a time before the cycle began anew. Neither her English nor my Turkish were good enough to have any substantial conversation, but we shared plenty through simple sentences and other ways of communicating.
During our last full day aboard after cruising next to a sunken city, Usef killed the engine and pumped some traditional Turkish music through the speakers. We were the only visible boat on the horizon- an island lay to our right, distant coastline to the left, and an open sea in front of us. Fatma came around to the bow. Her hips began to sway east to west, giving a double pulse in each direction. Her arms stretched up to the clouds, wrists rotated round, and a gentle smile emerged as she invited us to join in dance as we floated down her Mediterranean sea.
Day 26 of 30; Postcards from Turkey