I had heard about a man who lived alone in one of the remote villages on the island of Cunda. Hasanaki was his name, and I had even seen a couple of photographs of him taken in Ayvalik. One day Suleyman, the trusty driver in Ayvalik, drove us to his village, more like a cluster of a few houses and groves. The road to his village Patrica (or Paterica) was rough and narrow and his one-room abode was beyond the reach of a car. We walked through his olive grove to arrive at the small hut.
Hasanaki invited us inside where he was sitting at the table and sipping from a glass something. Ergun asked if it were a cola drink and Hasanaki replied: “Cola is harmful to you, I’m drinking wine!” He claimed as he took another puff from his cigarette, “smoking and wine keeps cancer away from the body”. So far he was right about his body probably. Then he said that he cured a doctor of cancer with cigarettes and drink, but the doctor died three months later!
His name, Hasanaki has a Turkish name root, Hasan, and a Greek suffix, aki. We asked him what exactly it meant and learned that it was like saying Hasan Aga, (Hasan old chap, or something like that). His one-room hut had running water which he got from a well using a diesel-powered pump, a TV and electric light which were powered by a few solar panels he had on the roof. A battery stored the electricity when the sun was up and he had no complaints about electricity. On one corner of the hut was his bed, on the same wall a stove, across from it was his kitchen sink and the “power plant”, on the same side at the other end was a TV covered with a sheet. In the middle of the room was a table with a few chairs around it.
Suleyman and Hasanaki exchanged some names from Ayvalik, some common friends. Then Suleyman called one of the guys and put Hasanaki on the phone. He hollered to the other guy and asked how he was. Apparently the guy at the other end did not recognize the voice, so he introduced himself as “Deli Coban” (crazy shepherd) which is his other nickname. They chatted on the phone a bit, then Suleyman called someone else and Hasanaki chatted with him, all done with gusto.
A very confident and self-sufficient man, Hasanaki told us that he would go to Ayvalik once a week or so to visit his wife and kids and take a hot shower. His family ran a tavern in town where Hasanaki used to sing, a real performer who was very comfortable in his skin. He talked with us for about 30 minutes or so, then he said he had to feed the cattle; he had enough company perhaps. During the entire visit I was taking photographs and he showed no shyness of the camera and was not distracted by it at all. We asked him if he would remove his headscarf, he reluctantly did that saying he felt naked without it. Later on, in a few quick moves, he put it back on again.
I am glad to have met the man, a true character, performer, shepherd, farmer, conversationalist, a man who was living the life exactly as he pleased. We bid farewell to Hasanaki and his dog Naro and walked back to the car through the olive trees. Later during the week, Ergun arranged a couple of bottles of Raki sent to him. After all, we did not want to interfere with his self-declared health plan!