A few years back, Barack Obama entered many people’s lives and gave them a renewed sense of hope and “Yes, we can”-ishness.
For me, this week, a taxi driver named Kadir was our Turkish Obama.
The backstory is that, although we generally use mini-buses for transport around Cappadocia, we do occasionally rely on taxis to get from the village of Goreme to our home village of Ortahisar. The mini-buses stop running fairly early in the day, so any time we’ve been in Goreme hanging with friends or eating at preferred restaurants in the evening, we have to take a cab home.
Our favorite driver is named Kadir–he’s pals with our friend Christina, never overcharges, always plays dance music instead of the wailing Turkish stuff on the radio, and has enough English (thanks to working on a hot air ballooning crew and picking it up from the tourists) that we don’t have to sit in silence the entire drive back to the village. Simply put, we like us some Kadir, even though we don’t see him all that often.
It came as a surprise last week, then, when I set out for a sunset run up the hill from our village and suddenly ran into him. He and his fellow balloon crew were standing on an overlook, eating potato bread, watching one of their company’s pilots fulfill the request of a “special client.” What this client wanted was to be landed on the terrace of his house, in the balloon basket, as the sun went down.
Amazed that such a feat is even possible, I stood with Kadir and his fellows, watching the landing. As we stood, Kadir asked if I’d done a balloon flight since being in Cappadocia. I told him no, that I’d love to, but the cost (a little over $200 per person for a low-end flight and upwards of $325 for a deluxe flight) was too high for our income.
“You can come for free with us. I am working very hard for the next six days, but then I will be taking up some pilots with new licenses. They need the hours in the air. You give me your phone number, and I will call you when they go up. We will need extra kilograms in the basket,” Kadir told me, in an unexpected moment of Yes, You Can.
Jumping around and clapping wildly, which is one of my lesser-known talents, I asked if they would need even more kilograms, in the form of a ten-year-old girl who lives with me and who really, really has been wanting to go on a flight.
“Sure. Two people. I call you next week.”
My run that evening was particularly joyous, and Allegra was completely excited when I got home and told her about the conversation. When she wondered why he would extend such an offer, I could only posit, “Well, every time I get in his taxi, I ask about his kids and compliment him on his taste in Britney Spears tunes; maybe that’s all it takes.”
Maybe five days later, Kadir called and told us to be at the balloon company’s office the next morning at 6 a.m. When we got there, we were given tea and cookies, stuffed into the enclosed trailer part of the truck pulling the basket and balloon (which made us feel like we were attempting to enter a new country illegally), and stuck in the company of two Japanese tourists who seem to have “made a connection” with one of the pilots working for the company. Standing in a clearing at sunrise, watching the crew assemble and inflate the balloon was treat enough.
Two hours up in the balloon–with only six passengers and the two pilots instead of the usual twenty-four passengers for an hour–moved the experience from “treat” to “Obama.” Yes, we could. Yes, we did.
Cappadocia is one of the world’s top ten ballooning areas; I hope the photos in the slide show below help explain why.