Joy has to explain to her neighbors that even though Iím traveling alone, Iím not a prostitute and not here to mess around with men.
Dave and Joy live in a third floor apartment with many spacious rooms opening off a wide hallway. Exceptionally large for an apartment, but in this part of Turkey extended families live together and it is impossible to find anything small. Word is out in the neighborhood that Joy has a cousin visiting from Canada, and numerous children have been sent to the door bearing plates of food and invitations to tea.
ďWerenít your father and mother angry with you for leaving home?Ē one 18-year old girl asks me.
We sit cross-legged on cushions on the floor with our tea; she wears an ankle-length plaid skirt, striped sweater, and large floral headscarf covering long black hair. Her face is animated as she stares from me to Joy, our interpreter.
I say that no, my parents werenít angry, and she tells me if she left the house by herself her father and mother would be very angry. If she talked to a boy they would also be angryódo I talk to boys? Yes, I talk to boys. At her wide eyes Joy hurries to explain that in the west relationships are more open.
She wants to know what would happen if I liked a boyówould my mother and father be angry? NoÖnot necessarily. Am I engaged? No. Is there a man in my life? No. Is this difficult, or is it easy? Iím not sure how to respond to this oneóbut no, itís not especially difficult having no man in my life.
She says she is not engaged, but by the time sheís 20 sheíll probably be married.
ďDo you want to marry?Ē I ask. She shakes her head. No, marriage is not good, but she will have to marry anyway. It is hard being a woman, itís not fair, boys can go wherever they want and do whatever they want, but she canít do anything.
She wonders if I have a job, and if Iíll return to it when Iím back in Canada. I think of pointing to a book and explaining that I want to write...maybe go to school...maybe work a different jobóbut how do I put this into words to a girl with no options, who canít even leave the house by herself? I finally say simply that I have a job, and she tells me I am lucky my father lets me work.
Iím feeling like a restricted Muslim girl myself, as I canít so much as venture alone to the male-enclave internet cafť next door. This city--near the Syrian border, said to be the birthplace of Abraham and possible site of the Garden of Eden--is most conservative of the places Iíve visited.