Conversations about Watermelons

The tragedy in Greece is reflected by the tragedy in Turkey. Not financially. Of course, all the financial tragedy is Greek.

Before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens there was great debate and concern about where the Muslim athletes would worship. Would a temporary hall suffice, or should they build a proper mosque? Meanwhile, in historic Athens there is a mosque that is boarded up and ignored. In Istanbul there is a great cathedral that now is a museum but was recently a mosque, having served the Orthodox Christians of the city for years.

There is great common ground that neither side recognises, and common ground that has been destroyed by the education system on both sides. Common ground that was destroyed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The treaty changed the path of nationalist development not just for the near east, but for the whole world. This change was facilitated by the diminishing power of religion on the global stage and the growth of human consciousness.

Yes, they are different religions. But the people are very similar.

There is tradition. There are candles to be lit. I remember a few years ago driving back from Levidi at night along the back road to Kakouri. There are no lights in that valley. The Arcadian mountains rise high up on the sides and block out any distant village and city lights. The road curves through wheat fields, a thin strip of tar. A fox ran in front of the headlights, and as I dimmed the lights and slowed the car I saw a light in the distance. I was in no rush and drove slowly, window open savouring the smell of the earth and wild herbs crushed by the black hooves of herd of white sheep. As I approached the light I saw it was at Agios Nectarios.

Someone had lit the oil wick in the iconostasio at the corner of the church. I parked the car and got out. The small metal frames window opened easily and inside was a bowl with oil floating on water and a waxed wick pushed through a cork disc with a metal under surface to hold it upright. In the corner was a small bottle of olive oil, matches, spare wicks and a cloth to wipe your hands once you had created light and dirtied them.

I sat down with my back to the wall and watched the stars. I could easily make out the horizon where the stars stopped shining and the mountains became black. Then I could see nothing. Except close by.  By the flame burning in olive oil, I could see the shadow of the road and the harsh white Arcadian rocks lying on the side as the path led up to the iconostasio.

So you might ask what this has to do with watermelons? Well, do you know what the correct name for a watermelon is in Greek? Hydropepon.

Do you know what all Greeks call a watermelon? Karpouzi.

It’s a Turkish word.

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