"Sofia" in Stones From God
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Heybeliada was a beautiful island. The locals welcomed us with open arms to their humble homeland…as did their pets. There were friendly, affectionate cats and dogs everywhere! One man claimed that there were nearly 5,000 cats inhabiting this tiny “saddlebag” island! One of our first days at the Halki Palace, we had a few hours to spare and decided to explore. As the group of students went along the roads, up and down quite a few hills, we soon realized we had a follower. As soon as we acknowledged his presence, our follower immediately became our tour guide. We followed our black and white mutt friend as he gave us the VIP tour of his stomping ground. We found some pretty cool sites including a few swanky boat docks, a Turkish Navy training site on the back of the island, and a trail leading into the wooded area on the hill of Heybeliada. There, we met a group of boys, no older than 15, who practically offered us their entire picnic they had packed for the afternoon. There was a major language barrier but it hardly mattered, we had so much fun with them! They were comparing us to a few pop culture icons they knew about including Justin Timberlake. Hepe (the name inherited by our new K9 friend), sat by contently as we ‘conversed’ with the locals. That night and the days to follow, we ran into Hepe everywhere! He seemed to pop up at the most opportune moments and responded to his name several times.
The day of our first performance on the island, the police had taped off our performance space, which essentially was a construction site. I was so enthused to be performing amidst the people in their space; on their turf. Watching it all happen around me as I acted it out was such a rewarding experience, something that could never be duplicated. As the play went on, we saw the audience growing larger and larger. Passersby would stop, grab a chair, and watch. Nearby homeowners were opening their windows so they could peer out and get a glimpse of the action. As the crowd grew, so did the number of people who disregarded the police’s attempt to block off our ‘stage’. Young children would run across, other women coming home from the market would walk right through our performance area. I assume some locals did not accept the fact that their daily route was altered, so they simply would not succumb to the change. Our cast didn’t miss a beat despite the hubbub; many of us enjoyed the fact that this new challenge was brought our way! As the play came to a close, the last few lines were being spoken. We were all in a state of genuine sincerity and utter appreciation for what this culture, that we were now experiencing first hand, had brought to the table for us. I couldn’t help but notice the tears flowing from some audience members’ faces, and I suddenly became emotional myself. Just as I felt as though I was going to shed a tear, who comes running from the street, around our set, through our props, and jets passed the cast during our last few words? Hepe! He had showed up at the most inconvenient time but nonetheless, made that particular show all the more truer and authentic. Not everyone saw his brief appearance but those of us who did where overwhelmed with excitement when we got offstage. That was the last time we saw Hepe on that trip. What an awesome way to say goodbye to our new pal.
I would like thank everyone who made this amazing trip to Turkey possible. It was an experience I will never forget. I have learned so much being involved in Stones From God and was ecstatic to be able to share such a story with so many people. I look forward to working with these kind professors in the future at Stockton; it has been a pleasure! Thank you also to our friends in the Hellenic Society who made it all happen. The generosity that has been shown by the Hellenic Studies Department is unparalleled to any I’ve seen thus far. Cok tesekkur ederim!