Two and a half weeks, give or take, in and around Kars province, in northeastern Turkey.
Random meetings -- like this family, which we ran into while hiking a few kilometers outside the city limits. I couldn't get over this girls piercing eyes. Lovely folks, two close male friends who treated their wives right. We drank tea with them and they asked us to stay for lunch. We didn't take them up on their lunch offer (but wished that we had). They spend winter in Kars city and come to this pasture, land that they own, in the summer to raise cattle. It's hard work (harder for their wives, Adem admitted) but clearly they enjoy it. Took prints back to them a few weeks later and although Adem and the two wives were back in Kars we did get to meet Ozkan's father and mother. Just great people. We are lucky to have met them, and will see them again later this year or next.
That smart, sassy little girl with the eyes has an almost-cousin...(or as my wife would say "psst..boys.." Nice little guy, though.) .. and another
Then there was the worker at the hydroelectric plant who shared tea and pogaca with us while we watched a straight to (foreign) video American horror movie. The movie wasn't particularly scary unless you consider the fact that a lot of people take what they see in American movies as representative of what really happens in America.
And there was Axe Man. This guy stopped me as I was heading back to my hotel one evening and asked me to take his picture. I did, of course (who's going to argue with a guy with an axe?). although in retrospect I wish I had asked him turn the blade so that it was more visible.
Over the coming weeks I saw Axe Man (always with his axe) several times, coming or going from this very tea shop. He was often the first to arrive, before 8 in the morning. It probably wouldn't fly in NYC but it seemed OK in Kars.
We met this lady in a village outside of Kars. She asked me to take her picture, then realized that she didn't have her glasses on. She sent her grandson into the house to get them. This clearly made her elated.
A lot of times in Turkey people (nearly always guys) see my camera and request that I take their picture. That was the case with these guys - three shots and they walked on. No idea what their story is.
Same with this guy. I was in a post-breakfast kaymak stupor when he asked me to take his photo. Loved how the bill of his cap mirrored the archway in the shop, and I wanted to play with that a little. But then he heard the shutter click and he was off.
A mother and daughter. I am thinking they did not order that perfectly weathered blue door from Pottery Barn.
I saw this guy all over the city. He delivers stuff. On his custom designed bicycle.
In the river valley behind Kars Castle we met two fun-loving young Iranians who traveled to Turkey on 3-month tourist visas to make some cash herding cattle. They told us that we were the first Americans that they had ever met. (I hope we represented well).
When I asked to take their picture the herder on the left ran inside their tent and grabbed the shotgun. I'm thinking it probably was not loaded and has likely never been fired. When we returned two weeks later with prints, he had gone back to Iran. His friend was soon to follow. Rising temperatures and a lack of rain had decreased the water levels in the river next to their camp and the water had begun to stink like a sewer. In light of this, the lack of jobs in their villages that had driven them to seek employment in Kars seemed a more desirable option than staying on till the end of their visas.
Kars province is 'cow town' so there are plenty of shephards and cowboys ('koboys' as they say in Turkey). This guy in Bogatepe, a cheese village about 70 kilometers from the capital, rides a horse and strikes a pretty good unprompted pose.
A story of hardship and generosity -- a man in his seventies who was raising his two-year-old orphaned relative.
With a median age of 28.5 years, and roughly 27% below the age of 14, Turkey's population is one of the youngest on the planet.