At first glance you notice our differences. Her dark, straight hair peeks out from her headscarf. My blond hair curls toward the sun. She wears a long-sleeved knit shirt and peasant skirt. I wear a shiny purple blouse and slacks. She is an innkeeper’s wife, I a woman on a research mission. I came across this picture recently and it drew me back into the moment it was taken in Cappadoccia, Turkey in 2010. For me it represents a moment when two dissimilar lives merged.
While I explored the fairy chimneys, hermit caves and churches hewn from rock, Biset swept and washed and cooked. When we went down to breakfast in the morning, she was standing over a wood-stoked stove, turning out eggs and meats to accompany plates of cheese and olives. The men served the tables and she stood silently in the background, orchestrating everything without speaking a word.
Biset was shy around the men and did not speak to them, neither those who ran the inn nor the guests, but when I went out to sit on the porch to read, she approached me timidly. With her halting English and my almost total absence of Turkish, we still managed to share the facts most important to women: the numbers of our children, their genders, their ages.
On the second day, I had my camera with me. She pointed to the camera and to herself, but when I pointed my camera toward her, she shook her head. Waving her arm toward me in an inclusive motion, she indicated that we should both be in the picture. I stepped into my room and secured the services of my husband to snap our photograph. When we two women stood side by side, with our arms around each other, I could have been embracing my sister.