Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I didn't get to carve my first pumpkin until my early 20's and found I'd been missing out on the fun of this day. My final year in the states before moving to Turkey I dressed up as Wonder Woman, blue body glitter, red fishnets and all (OK, that wasn't part of her official outfit, but I felt the need to embellish it a bit) and partied with an evil nurse, satan, a Roman and a biker girl, among others. It's really the only day in the states that kids are sanctioned to consume as much candy as they'd like, and they as well as adults can run around in the costumes of their fantasies. I don't know about you, but I enjoy the concept of dressing up as someone other than myself. I think we need more holidays that allow us to just step out and enjoy the spirit of childhood once again.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I'm sure there are also some protests against the PKK going on, as pretty much every event lately has had some element of such. And with good reason, as 47 civilians and soldiers have been killed by the organization just in the last month.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
However, when we finally reached the other side an hour and a half later, my spirits were buoyed just to see the rolling green hills of my lovely Bursa. I don't think I'll ever stop missing the place. On the way into the city center I just couldn't get enought of the green scenes outside my window. While Ev went to a morning meeting, I headed to the new shopping mega-complex called Koru Park. I wandered past the artsy windowfronts and marvelled at how few people were around, thinking again that I could never have such an experience in Istanbul. Also, when I would wander into a shop I had the rare experience of not being followed constantly and "over-helped" (as is the norm in many retail shops here, not because they think you'll be shoplifting like in the States but rather because their wages are based on sales commissions). While I'm not a big shopper in the first place, the many experiences of being over-helped have put me off even more toward shopping; I simply can't focus when someone is tailing a few feet behind me and asking me every five seconds what I'm looking for or if I'd like to try that on and often end up hightailing it out of the shop. So this change was very welcome and I reveled in it, taking my time to look over items that caught my eye and even trying things on (which I also have an aversion to). Later, Ev and I had some lunch at a cafe and I continued my shopping spree at one of my favorite old haunts, a place called Özdilek. I'd been waiting for just such an opportunity to come to Bursa because I knew that there I would be able to find everything I needed in just one or two spots; whereas in Istanbul I feel like I end up racing to all parts of the city only to end up finding nothing that I was looking for. I know it takes time to get to know a city, but it sometimes feels like Istanbul is so huge and sprawling that it is virtually unknowable.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Ev's mom and aunt had been out earlier picking vegetables out of other people's gardens -- they're known for such mischief. This time they got caught and jokingly reprimanded by the owners. In mid-afternoon Ev's mom gave me a pomegranate, remembering that they are one of my favorite fruits. As I lounged on the couch and picked away at it I was reminded of why I love this place so much -- the easy pace that just invites you to relax, slow down and pop those tangy morsels of fruit, one by one.
Before leaving we went up to the cemetary to pay respects to Ev's grandmother, who died about a year ago, and other relatives. Musa filled a jug with water to pour on the graves where trees and flowers have been planted. We stood silently at the family site caught up in our personal memories of grandma as the sun set over the village.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Iyi bayramlar to all of you out there celebrating the end of Ramadan holiday (Eid al-Fitr, Ramazan Bayramı) in Turkey and elsewhere. Though I am not Muslim, I am definitely happy to have the day off. This holiday lasts for 3 days and this year 2 of those days land on the weekend. Though I work most Sundays, this will be my regular rotational Sun. off -- so I am feeling lucky to have a full 3 days off. Probably won't happen again for quite some time.
For kids here in Turkey, this is really the biggest holiday of the year. They go from door to door ringing bells and people give them money and/or candy. Everyone also gets new outfits for this holiday and most kids are running around in them today. However, I have also noticed a certain amount of costuming going on and I wonder if this could have been some kind of strange crossover influence of Halloween from the US (and other places that celebrate it). There was a young boy traipsing about in a spiderman costume. I did a double take when I saw him and had to remind myself that this was not October 31 and I was in Turkey, not the US.
Tomorrow, Evren and I are heading to Kaynarca, the village of his grandparents. It is traditional during this holiday to visit your family and especially pay respects to your elders. This is done by kissing the back of their hand and then touching it to your forehead. It will be kind of sad to go back this year because Ev's grandmother, who was one of my favorite people among his relatives, died last October. We will visit her grave at the family graveyard, on top of a hill overlooking the village. All of his aunts and his mom will be at the house that belonged to his grandma. We will go around and visit many of the older neighbors and friends that he knew as a child.
When I first visited Turkey back in 2005, I came during another bayram. Ev took me to the village so I could meet a lot of his extended family and old friends. His grandma, who was in her 90s (no one was sure of her exact age), was one of the first people I met there. She was tiny, hovering around 4 feet tall, but strong and full of life. She made me feel very welcome, though my Turkish was very limited at the time. Almost every other sentence from her was a joke or an engaging story from the past. One of my favorite stories was how Ev as a child used to go around the village and collect all the stray puppies. He would gather them into large sacks and tote them back to his grandma's yard. There he would free them, bring down a bunch of food and feed them all. Eventually his grandmother would make him release them all back into the village, but she was much more lenient with him and the puppies than his grandpa.
Though this is not "my" holiday per-say, I appreciate it for giving me a better glimpse into Ev's extended family and his childhood. And though Ev has lamented this year that the holiday isn't as special as it used to be because many of his cousins and friends no longer return to the village, it's still quite special to me as the first holiday I experienced in this country and because we have made it our own family tradition to go back every year.