Handstands on the Road

Social Circus in Mardin part IV – Having your coffee… and reading it, too

Another especially Turkish rest day activity was receiving a traditional coffee reading, and, eventually, learning how to read myself. Since Damla had mentioned only half-jokingly that she was really good and reading coffee, I had been curious for a while.

The first important step is to properly prepare the Turkish coffee the traditional way. My usually rather lax way of preparing the popular hot beverage had already been frowned upon as I either used too much liquid or prepared the drink milk- instead of water-based… so this time, I just stand and watch as Damla prepares some ‘real’ Turkish coffee. I can barely contain my excitement but it would be a lie to say that I consumed this coffee any faster than, well, any other coffee. Let’s be honest, they never last that long anyway!

Many places in Turkey inspired me and stirred some curiosity – this is Termal a few weeks before


Once I am done, my friend and coffee-reader tells me to turn the small espresso cup upside down onto its saucer, holding it together with my thumb on the bottom of the cup and my index finger on the bottom of the saucer, spinning it three times one or the other way, depending on whether I’d like to learn more about my inner world or my surroundings and relationships with others. Then I am to make a wish and the first thing that comes to me reminds me of my cycling trip in the summer and a late-night conversation I had with my companion about wishing on shooting stars: I go for an easy wish, friendly and light instead of laden and heavy.

Simple wishes make for simpler lives – happy me in Termal, near Yalova, a few weeks prior


Damla explains that some people like to place lucky charms, coins or other objects in the hollow of the upturned cup. Always eager to learn and hoping for a simple way to increase our good fortune, Pao, who is also about to receive a reading, and I, begin scouring our bags for coins. Meanwhile, another housemate is creating jewellery by setting a selection of stones in ornamented wire frames. Curious, we inspect the different minerals and both of us decide to borrow a stone to place on top of each of our cups. The black one I choose is shaped like an arrowhead, determinedly pointing towards a goal that, most of the time, still escapes me.

Then comes the difficult part: we are to forget about our little cups filled with the dregs representing our respective futures until they have turned cold to touch. Excitedly, we chatter on, watch Manon’s jewellery collection grow and keep checking in on our cups, their thin bottoms only slowly letting go of the remaining warmth.

A simple beverage with a strong effect – Having a cup of coffee on my journey through Orhangazi


Finally, just when I get distracted, Damla reminds me of my coffee and it is cold, ready. As she separates the cup from its saucer, two transparent, light-brown drops run down the side and she asks me whether I made two wishes? Truthfully, I explain that I was searching for a wish when another one came to me, intuitively. Judging by the light shade of the droplets, my wish seems somewhat lightweight, trivial almost, and I cannot say she’s wrong. She studies the insides of the cup for a long time and begins to weave an intricate story of muses, magic, dance, reconnecting with my roots and moving forward. The images that she describes in vivid detail are painstakingly accurate, readily relevant to my journey. Then she moves on to the abstract shapes on the saucer. By the time she finishes, I am crying, happy, touched, moved by the beauty of her words. Whether the somewhat vague predictions will come true or not, something has resonated within me.

So many wishes and unlikely stories already came true this year…


After a comforting hug, she hands me cup and saucer: “Now you have to go wash it for it to happen.” Awed by this mystical tale made just for me, I stand by the sink in a heartbeat, willing the story to unfold.


Thanks for reading – the very last of Mardin and a spectacular summer will follow tomorrow or Monday!




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