When we started this trip, Mook said he wanted to “not shave for every day I drink”. It was a funny idea, but since he had never really grown a beard and was unconfident in his facial hair growth abilities, an indefinitely-long road trip seemed like the best opportunity to give it a go. Over two months his body toiled to sprout out hair on his face as best it could. It started off patchy, but after the first month things filled out a bit more and it began to look like a Real Beard.
Mook delighted at times in his new manly accessory, scratching his chin and smoothing his moustache. “When I take a shower my beard gets wet. It feels funny,” he laughed. In Turkey it was definitely in fashion, and a tall German with such a beard turned many ladies’ heads.
But it wasn’t all hipster glory. Mook lamented that his beard looked like a calico cat. “Why can’t it all be the same colour?” He got irritated when his moustache bristled against his lips. I thought it was getting a bit too bushy. Maybe it was time for a change.
And being our last day in Turkey, it was the perfect opportunity to go check out the famous and celebrated Turkish shave experience. We picked the first place we saw on the high street in the tiny Black Sea town of Ardeşen. The guys welcomed us inside, and through gestures Mook managed to communicate to them that he wanted everything off. The barber looked mournful and gestured, “Even the moustache?” Yes, even the moustache.
After a quick haircut, the dude went to work, hacking away at Mook’s bushy beard with electric trimmers. He paused at the moustache. It actually didn’t look too bad, but Mook wasn’t into the idea. The whole thing had to go, clean shave. We laughed about it and a few seconds later, the whole thing was gone.
The barber continued doing his thing, and went through the whole shebang: Close shave over the face, nose and ears with an electric razor, twice over with a straight razor, shampoo, face wash, towel, fragrance, massage. It took a good 30 minutes. And in the meantime, the guys at the shop tried to chat with me, since they’ve probably almost never had a woman in there, much less some foreign woman.
It started off normal; where are you from, you should go visit this place nearby, etc. When I said I was from the USA, one of the guys is like “Oh! Oh! Erdogan is in USA now. Erdogan and Obama.” Yep they are, at the UN summit. Nice. Then I get, “USA is big problem.” But I couldn’t understand their Turkish enough to hear why.
The chats continue, still in Turkish, and still without me understanding, so one guy breaks out Google Translate. (The Turkish are awesome because they are excellent at using Google Translate.) He types something and hands the phone to me. “What religion are you?” Uh, what is this?
“Yok,” I replied–one of the few Turkish words we know. “My baba was Muslim, my mutter (why German?) is yok,” I tried to elaborate. They discussed this answer amongst themselves until they all understood, then pointed at Mook. “Uh.. yok. I mean, I guess his family is Christian?” I can’t imagine what Mook was thinking, face covered in foam as the barber went at him with a straight razor. “And you are all Muslim, right?” I pointed at the three barbers one-by-one and emphasised my question. They nodded, and the conversation died out.
But then one of the barbers is like, “Oh, so your dad is from Iran then, yeah?” I nodded. “Ahmadinejad,” he said, and then made an Italian-like hand gesture for “good”. Oh no, not Ahmadinejad supporters. It was the second time in Turkey someone’s told me they like him. I didn’t know how to respond. “What about Rouhani? Rouhani is good?” Who is that, the barber asked his friends. They discussed it a bit, then the barber shrugged his shoulders. Again, thankfully and for the last time, the conversation dwindled to a halt.
Discussions about religion and politics successfully dodged, I was relieved when Mook stood up from his chair. A changed, fragrant man with a face slightly colder than before, looking less like a bear and more like his old self. He describes his experience as “Interesting…”