Kütahya, Turkey: The Tile Museum
We step out of the bright sun, into a slightly cooler, dim building. Kütahya has a famous history of tile and pottery production and a small sign identifies our current location as the tile museum we’ve been looking for. To the left of the entrance, a young woman sits at a desk of sorts, a makeshift admission table. The museum is quiet and empty. More than likely, the woman took her seat at the desk when she saw us approaching. A group of women sit on a nearby porch, eating, drinking tea, chatting, laughing and, I imagined, sharing local gossip. The woman at the desk is polite, but doesn’t seem overly excited to leave the group and relocate indoors. I can’t exactly blame her!
A sign on the wall above the woman’s seat lists admission prices, but I ask anyway, “Ne kadar?” I know more Turkish than the average tourist, but my hesitant nature doesn’t show it.
“Dort milyon” she responded flatly. Twice the listed price.
She insists that the price is per person. Even knowing I’m being taken, I don’t hesitate to hand over the additional lira. My Turkish isn’t good enough to argue and even if it had been, this is the kind of place where I don’t mind paying extra. Even doubled, the price only comes up to a few dollars.
A Turkish family wanders in as we loop around the displays, staring through the dusty glass boxes at the vibrant colors, ornate designs, and display information written in Turkish and English, broken in places, but still very readable. I overhear the middle-aged Turkish man ask the girl at the desk about prices. Curious, my ears perk up. The listed admission price is cited, money exchanges hands and the little family enters. When we crossed paths with the little group, the man asks us if we are students of art. I believe he taught ancient Arabic at a Turkish college. We meet his family and he asks to take a picture of us with his girls. His wife takes pictures with both cameras, theirs and mine. One of the girls is reluctant to stand with us, never, perhaps, having seen an American before. Or possibly she fears us the same way so many American incorrectly dread Middle Easterners in the United States. Although the Turkish people I meet are extraordinarily kind and inexplicably hospitable to me, it’s obvious that the US isn’t looked fondly upon by most. “George Bush is an evil man.” As the months pass, I hear it over and over again. All I can answer is “I’m not George Bush. Not all Americans feel the same way he does.” Knowing that the sentiment is prevalent, I appreciate this man’s kind intercultural introduction and attempt to calm his daughter’s fear of foreigners. We talk briefly, exchange email addresses, and part ways.
I recently found the address tucked between the pages of a journal and sighed regretfully. Nearly a decade has passed. I never got in touch with the family or heard from them. A part of me wishes I had. (6/25/2005)
(Originally posted on my old blog, Interim Arts, on May 17, 2014)