One of the first things to sort out was the small matter of delivering gifts for two newborn babies. Of course, the local way to do things is to give gold in the form of coins, fractions of coins or bracelets, but I’d opted for the yabancı (foreigner) preference for giving clothing, which added urgency to the matter since if I didn’t get my skates on, the babies would soon be too big for the items I’d bought for them -- items bought, I might add, in the new globalized way of things in Mothercare, Beirut.
My first call was on the mother of Baby M who lives in one of the least-altered cave houses left in the village. It was a long time since I’d been there and I’d forgotten its coziness, its sedirs (bench seating) still in place and still draped with colorful fabrics that were picked up in the carpets and cushions. Beside the sedir stood an old-fashioned crib hanging from a metal frame that had been painted a jaunty blue and red. While the sister rushed to fetch Nescafe and a plate of home-made cakes and pastries, mum sat with her legs stretched in front of her and rocked her baby to sleep in a posture unknown to UK mothers but here guaranteed to bring the required results. On the sedir beside her lay my present, unwrapped according to the Göreme tradition that I’d found so baffling and disappointing when I first came here but which now seems perfectly normal.
Over coffee we chatted about how much things have improved on the health front in the last five years. Before, everybody, no matter what their ailment, had to queue interminably to see a doctor in Nevşehir’s over-stretched Devlet Hastanesi (State Hospital). Now, though, we have not just three private hospitals, all of them accepting social security payments in part settlement of bills, but also a flashy new state hospital. “Then there were only a few doctors and hundreds of patients. Now there are plenty of doctors and only a few patients for each of them,” the sister said with a smile.
Another baby, another home, another part of the village. This time I found myself in a far more modern stone house where the door was opened by the self-same man from Türk Telekom who’d been working in my own house just a few months previously. Here, of course, my gift was opened in front of me and conversation lingered over the holidays the mother and I had both taken in the Middle East recently. Only then did it stray towards the rougher seas of the changes that have taken place in the village this year. We sighed in agreement over their general ugliness. And thus did two short visits point to the two faces of modern Göreme in their contrasting ways.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.