I never really liked Turkish tea. I’m not sure why I always hated it in a particular way. It was probably because of its name. In my head, I could picture my Albanian ancestors fighting in bloody battles, in order to defend their land from the Ottoman Empire. I could see their shields covered in blood, and feel the pain of their red wounds. I could see the black clouds above the ancient castles’ burning in flames that stood erect until the last man alive. Whenever I drank the tea, I would have this strange feeling, that the red wounds were still pouring blood, somewhere far away, in a battlefield that, after five centuries, has a green grass that still smells of fresh blood, and that on some special occasions, maybe when I drink that tea, turns from green to brown, trying to remind me of something.
I always hated the idea that we in Kosovo still drink that tea. I saw it as an invaders’ imposition transmitted unintentionally from generation to generation for five centuries. The tea was not from Turkey anyway, we could have called it Russian or Indian… But somehow, in spite of different customs, different tea, different preparation methods, the name survived. And because of this, I hated drinking it.
I never actually thought about these things, until one of these days. While eating breakfast, I drank a cup of tea, for the first time since I came to college. I wish I didn’t, for it triggered a lot of my memories, in this way exacerbating my homesickness. Flashbacks and random images would blink in front of my eyes, while I was trying to enjoy the taste that I hardly liked. It made me fight with myself through the waterfalls of my sub-conscience, and struggles for adaptation to this strange place. A place where there are no narrow streets and pavements, but only wide straight highways. A place where football is not football, but a strange game played with hands instead of feet. A place where there are no high mountains, but only flat fields. A place where sun rises from the middle of horizon…A place that’s not like home. A place so alien to me!
Sometimes, late at night, when I can’t fall asleep, the silence is deafeningly loud, and the darkness is blindingly gloomy, I remember that last tea I drank back home. It was when my sister and I went to say our farewells to uncle Besim. He was not our uncle, neither a relative, but we still liked to call him that way, for he was an old friend of the family. Back home, the godfathers and best friends are considered the same as family members. I still remember that warm greeting, when an old man, in his late sixties, would stand up from the place he was sitting, and extend his right hand towards us, as a sign of hospitality, while saying: “Welcome! Welcome! Feel as if you’re in your own house!”
Sitting in this garden (that in my opinion was unchanged for at least 50 years), I enjoyed the shade of old trees and the scent of vivid flowers, surrounded by uncle Besim’s whole family. We were served tea in small crystal glasses with extreme care from his son’s wife, who got married not long ago. While drinking the hot tea, you could listen to uncle Besim’s stories. He would say: “Even if a person with whom you are in a blood feud enters your house; you must say ‘Welcome!’ to him and treat him the way you would treat your best friend!”
I now try to fight my homesickness by humor, and I think I’m quite successful, but I still miss my “Turkish” teas. The very ones that I once hated, that now are the only association of my memory with home. I miss the warm feeling when it passes through my chest, causing pleasant chills to my body. I miss hearing the sound of small spoons against crystal glasses which mix that little sugar, while you try to taste the lemon aroma evaporating from this simple, but yet meaningful solution.