Recently I’ve been getting caught up with special archaeologist friends and reminiscing about our days in Turkey. I shared with them the post about our soccer adventures (Taking One For the Team) and was reminded that our team name was the Bismil Eşekler. Bismil is the village where we stayed and eşekler translates to “donkeys.” You can put the two together nicely. I was also reminded of the way we all felt completely stunned, stopped in our tracks, when we turned the corner of the little field expecting to see our normal, slightly dusty, excavation workers and instead were met with a professionally outfitted team moving through their confident warm up routine. As my brother would say, we were gob smacked, mouths open, stunned. The other team smiled.
Inspired by these memories, I looked back into my emails written home from this time and found an entry that I’ve called Birdsong. This isn’t at all like Taking One For the Team, but simply holds one of those moments in your life when you want to look around and remind yourself to not forget. To remember the sound, smell and look of everything happening around you. I don’t have the picture that I’ve been looking for to include here, but I did find one of our rooftop beds. I’ll tell you another story that goes with that picture later. I don’t have a spiffy recipe for delicious Turkish inspired food, though one will be coming soon. But I do have a wistfulness for the moment of peace captured here, and the hope that we can all have such a moment again.
The weather here is finally getting to the Turkish weather that I remember and love… meaning really hot and dry. I feel like my bones are finally thawing and drying out from the last crazy Binghamton winter. We will probably start getting up an hour earlier for the fieldwork, meaning that we’ll get up at 4am so that we’re at the tepe (excavation site) working by 6am when the sun comes over the horizon. The minute the sun peeks over the Tigris River, you feel the heat wash over you like a wave. We will also have to leave the tepe an hour earlier (around noon) to avoid a bit of the intense heat of the afternoon where it easily tops 110º Fahrenheit in the shade.
The fields that have been a rolling deep green are now a beautiful golden and when the wind moves across them it looks like a sparkling golden ocean. Where my new trench is on the back of the tepe there are these gorgeous green birds and a small stream edged by green with singing frogs. If we could just get rid of the thousands of little flies from the millions of sheep and goat pellets that would be nice. Our days are punctuated by one of us (myself, my workmen or another crew member) choking on a bug as it goes straight down our throats or up our noses in their own desperate search for moisture. Who says archaeology isn’t glamorous? Bet you never say Indiana Jones hacking on a fly… We all now joke about the tasty bugs. Makes your coat glossy.
The other day was a special evening at the dig house; I hope I never forget it. Our dig house consists of the 4th and 5th floors of a six-story cement apartment building. I had gone up to the roof where we sleep, and where it was cooler. It was still light out so I wanted to get caught up with some of my trench journals. I was there by myself, listening to the ethereal music of the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack (the remake, not the original). The sun was just setting behind the other houses in the village, and at this time of year that means a crazy sort of pinkish opalescent color all across the sky. It affects the rest of the light so that everything is bathed in this pinkish glow. It even makes Bismil (the locals call our village Pis-mil, and “pis” in Turkish means “dirty,” so when the locals rename your down as dirty…), with its piles of dung cakes and wandering donkeys beautiful. As long as you don’t inhale too deeply.
I was enjoying the light and the music and the space to think and write up my journals when suddenly there were dozens of sparrows flying everywhere. I guess that the bewitching hour is also when it’s cooled off enough for lots of tasty bugs to come out. These sparrows and a few bats appeared out of nowhere, and suddenly I was surrounded by beautiful birdsong and these birds and bats swooping and diving everywhere. It was stunning. The journals were set down and the music discarded. I laid back on my little bed on the rooftop and simply watched and listened. I never want to lose this memory…