When we leave Side, we take a bus to Konya, a town further north inland. We are surprised during this trip of 4 hours to discover for the first time of our trip … the snow! We did not expect this one! When we get to Konya, it’s cold, winter is here, and it’ll probably last a good month, until we leave Iran. Alice’s counter reads 2 °C as we board in our next bus, in the direction of Van!
After a night interrupted by some sleep on the bus, we discover a beautiful mountainous landscape, cold, and quite desert. The sheeps graze peacefully while their shepherd protects himself from the cold with tarpaulins. At 3pm, we arrive in Van, after 18h of bus!
We go to the hostel we saw on helpx. We had them on the phone and apparently the politicians of the city wanted to close the hostel so we were not sure if we could help them in this critical time. Once there, the hostel seems open, Alice goes inside while Mehdi keeps the bikes. She goes up 3 floors and arrives in a large room surrounded by bay windows that offer a beautiful view of a part of the city. Two men are at the bar and smoke their cigarette. They welcome her with a chai (black tea). Alice asks if it is possible to do helpx. It does not seem to matter to them. One of the two men calls his boss for confirmation and voila! Once installed in our room, we go to talk a little with the guys in the hotel. One is Sidar and the other is Sedem.
Sedem explains to us by demonstrating the art of broom and mop. We are now trained and ready to work on the next day. When we go to bed, we ask Sidar at what time we start the work tomorrow morning. He answers us at 8:00 am and at 7:30 the breakfast. The next morning, Alice and Mehdi, like good Europeans, are well on time. When we arrive in the room, we see Sidar sleeping on the couch …. ehhh so we decide to go back to our room and come back 30 minutes later at 8:00. Sidar didn’t move. We repeat the same scenario 30 minutes later. We decide then to go out to drink a turkish coffee (in Turkey they are well done, mmmh). When we return to the hotel, around 9:30 Sidar is still asleep … Sedem is awake, and will eventually wake up Sidar. We have breakfast together. This morning, we understand that we will organize our work according to our own sleep 🙂 Moreover, 1:00 of work a day is enough. Two Kurds who have a particular know-how in the way of conceiving work, we like it!
From this moment a very relaxing week begins for us and we dive into the reality of the Kurds in Van. Every day we meet a good dozen of new people, who speak from a few words of English to a very correct conversation. Friends, family, cousins. No, it is not a legend, the Kurds do have huge families from 8 to 12 brothers and sisters, and even 17! The concept of family is therefore very different from the one we have in Europe, they are very attached to it and take it very seriously. It is, for example, very bad seen to drink alcohol in front of your big brother or your parents, or even sometimes to smoke; it is considered disrespectful.
Still, we are welcomed as if we were family in this hotel and get to like these people very quickly: Sedem becomes our personal guide and especially our friend, Sidar makes us laugh with his ironic serious humor, Walat impresses us with his helpfulness and we recognize Jean Dujardin’s double in the person of Hakan …
We also meet some stray travelers who find themselves there after Iran or before going there, because we must say that we are only 100km from the border. We eat good and hearty breakfasts, very famous in this city, we walk around the famous and beautiful castle of Van, see these cats whose eyes are two different colors and even have the privilege to watch a training basketball at the university! It must be said that Mehdi begins to stamp with impatience to resume coaching, so he must be consoled by spending time in a gym!
After a week, a hat and lots of little knitted baby socks, many bedsheets changed and laundries done, it’s time for us to hit the road again to cross the border with Iran! We are lucky to leave Van with two very nice Germans met a few days earlier in the hostel. The bus driver picks us up in front of the hotel, makes faces when he sees our bikes and stuff, starts talking loudly in Turkish … and a new adventure is starting, what will this one bring us?
Watch our video here!