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Two Turkish Women

The place where I do my round of jogging is called Hangäckerhöfe; a very complicated German word meaning approximately The Hillside Grounds, and describing the location of a group of farms at the southern extremity of the town. Along the years this area with a perimeter of 2,5 miles has been the subject of many peripatetic revelations, and the natural jogging track for the people living in the neighborhood. 

In this square perimeter I have been running for almost 20 years, rain or shine. Here I have witnessed wonderful sunsets and heavy storms, and I have been watching wheat and corn grow and ripe. I counted rabbits and sheep in autumn; saw the changing hues of the vineyards on the hills; ran along with riders on horseback, and occasionally had all my energy liquefied into fear by encounters with fierce dogs.

If you are running for a long time you come to know the people living in the farms, each of them placed in the middle of a square of land separated by cross ways, and you come to learn the habits and schedules of most of the dog-walkers and joggers. The man with the two tiny dogs, so small that from afar you may think he is walking his own shoes. The older jogger who always says, ”Hi, honey” and blows you a kiss. The bunch of half-marathon trainers in spring or the small group of steady runners.  With these I have a long history of silence; the rising of the right hand is our sole sign of acknowledgment.  

One day, while I was doing my round in that semi-automatic trance joggers have, I saw in the distance two unfamiliar figures. They soon took the shape of two sturdy Turkish women - one middle-age, the other young - doing a highly powered walking. They were clad in traditional dress, headscarves and ample attires covering most of their bodies. Both women were wearing flip flop. After recovering from surprise (I had never seen people wearing that kind of clothing moving so fast), I said to myself, well, they must be in a hurry, and then forgot all about it. 

To my surprise a few days later I met them again: same dress, same speed. This time I understood: they were not hurrying anywhere, they were out to do some exercise. I gave them an encouraging smile and I started reflecting right away about the effort of will and persistence this must be for somebody with such a strict gender tradition as theirs.

The third time around the women were running slow speed. Still in flip flops. This time when I got close enough I gave them the thumb up and said, “You need to get proper running shoes.”  They both eagerly agreed and smiled at me in return, Alles klar!  After a while I met only the younger one. The speed was better, but she was still wearing the flip-flops. I didn’t say anything. We just exchanged smiles, and went our way. 

The encounters became quite regular and, although I don’t have a running schedule, they were pretty sure to be there most of the times I went out. After a while I realized that I was almost expecting to see them. The strange thing was that we would always meet at the same point of the running track.

Three weeks ago, I saw my girls again (this is what started calling them), as soon as I got on the long side of the square. They were moving quite fast and I could see from afar the victorious grin on their faces: they were wearing sport shoes.  We all raised the right hand in acknowledgment: we were fellows now.

Last week I went shopping in the food-store at the end of my street. While I was waiting at the counter with that vacant look we all have when we stand in line, somebody touched my arm. I turned around and I saw a small woman with beautiful dark eyes smiling at me. As it often happens when you meet somebody outside a certain environment, I couldn’t recall immediately who she was. She told me her name was Sera, and that she was running with her mother in the gardens. Sure it was her! I told her then that I was watching their progress with awe. She replied, “It is because of you we are running.”

“What do you mean, because of me?”

“Well, we live in the apartment block at the end of the ground, and we have been watching you doing your rounds for years. One day my mother said to me, ‘Sera, the first time I saw that woman running in the gardens, you weren’t born yet. Ever time I see her I think how good she must feel, and somehow I wish that I could run too’. ‘But you can run, mama’, I said, ‘let’s start running together’, and this is how we started running”.

“How come that we always meet at the same point?”

“From the 9th floor you can see the whole ground. When we see you coming into the gardens at the far end, we just go out the door, so that by the time you reach the long side we are at the other end of it.  As we parted outside the store she gave me a beautiful smile and said, “Teşekkür”.

Yesterday Sera was wearing sport pants and her mother was running without the scarf.  When we met we raised our right hands and smiled.

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