Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Emergency room trippin' (or why Christmas sucked this year)

It all began on Christmas Eve. I called my brother to give my birthday wishes to his 1-year-old as well as holiday greetings. I could immediately tell from his voice that something was amiss. He has a morning radio show in the states and usually the high energy personality and voice befitting of one. But his voice this time sounded lower than usual and less self-assured. After I rattled off my holiday wishes, he asked a few questions about my life, then said, "I'm in the emergency room. I've been experiencing some heart pains." A long pause on both sides ensued, after which I battered him with questions and then he said he had to go.

Christmas day I was of course working at the paper. Since we were missing both our managing editor and one of our copy editors the work piled up quickly. My computer refused to let me log in to the editing program and IT spent around 2 hours trying to fix the probelem. Articles seemed more poorly written than usual. Everyone was getting fairly annoyed. We all ended up working later than usual. After work I raced down 2 hills to catch the 8:15 bus and just as I neared the bottom of the second I watched the bus pull away onto the highway, the driver not noticing my flailing arms and missing my telepathic message for him to stop. I decided to hop a bus going to the neighborhood next to mine which I had never taken before. I thought it would end up fairly close to my home near the end of the route, but it actually left me a couple miles away. Temperatures must have been hovering below freezing and I made my way home miserably in the dark, slowly losing feeling in my fingers.

I called Evren when I reached home around 10 but only got his message service. Eventually I fell soundly asleep. Early the next morning, Ev called, relating how he had slipped and fallen down the stairs at work and injured his back (which had seized up only days before). He had been taken to the emergency room in an ambulance, which was called by one of his workers since he couldn't move. Now he is drugged up on painkillers and facing some time in physical therapy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy birthday Adi, from your guilty auntie

Today is the 1st birthday of my one and only niece Adilynn, whom I have not yet had the privilege of meeting because I am a bad auntie. Adi had her first birthday bash a month earlier while my mom was visiting. She is already a bundle of activity and when I get to see her on video-conferencing visits over the computer, she is constantly waving her tiny fists and laughing at the funny images on the screen. I can't wait to meet her, and I've designated 2008 as the year of going to see Adi in the potato state no matter what.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rams, ritual sacrifice and the jolly imam

Today is the first day of the four-day Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, known as Kurban Bayramı in Turkish and Feast of the Sacrifice in English. Yesterday, Evren and I took off for Kaynarca, a village a couple hours from Istanbul on the way to Edirne. We normally spend our bayrams in this village at his grandmother's house with his mom and other family -- this year cousin Musa and Aunt Şukran. I was especially looking forward to this bayram because Ev was going to sacrifice his first ram, at least I thought he was. I had only witnessed a few other sacrifices before today, and those were in The Gambia with my Peace Corps host family a few years ago.

Kaynarca was soooo much colder than Istanbul. Yesterday, Istanbul was hovering around 1 degree Celsius while Kaynarca felt as if it were -10 C or less. When we got to the house we quickly gravitated toward the wood-burning stove in the center of the living room. I got so toasty the metal of my jeans button was burning my belly. That evening we sat around and chatted, ate yummy börek, garlic that Ev's mom had pickled and fresh bread she had made. I was in carbolicious heaven.

The village imam showed up at the house, a jolly little man with big glasses and rosy cheeks. I guess I've always viewed imams as solemn men who pray a lot and read the Quran. This one, however, was constantly cracking jokes and seemed to have the energy of a cheerleader. It turned out that his sacrificing schedule was pretty booked up for the morning. However, since he had known Ev's family for a long time and since Ev's mom is a highly persuasive person, we soon had him convinced to come sacrifice our ram right after performing 8:30 prayers at the mosque and to bail on some other unsuspecting family that lived outside the village (sorry guys!).

After a night of little sleep due to an over-firm mattress and cold because Ev had unknowingly knocked the thickest comforter to the floor at some point in the night, I woke in the darkness to several gun shots. My half conscious brain thought, "Could shooting actually be another approved form of sacrifice?" I dismissed the idea and tried to fall back asleep. (Later finding out that shooting guns in the air is just another Turkish bayram tradition) A little while later I woke to Ev's snoring and then his mom came in to tell him the imam would be by soon.

I had planned to photograph the whole event but then Ev forgot my camera at his office so I was left to a camera phone. The ram seemed to know his end was near when the Imam approached him and made a few leaps to the rear of the garden in a desperate move to escape. There he was cornered by the imam and Ev, and they led him on his final walk to a center slab in the garden. Ev held him down while the imam tied a blindfold over the animal's eyes. The imam said prayers over the animal, something to the effect of thanks and praise to the creator of all creatures. And then with a very swift motion he slid the knife across the animal's neck. Blood immediately spurted toward the wall in a high arc, the sheep kicked, the blood continued in a steady stream, and then after several moments the ram was still. Everything was still. I glanced at Şukran Teyze, who had been looking in the opposite direction the entire time. We said nothing.

Despite the reason or circumstances, when the life of any creature is taken or lost before my eyes several notions of mortality hit me, but this one looms largest of all -- a life can be snuffed out so easily and in the blink of an eye.

I wonder what the imam thinks about when he is killing these animals. We can be fairly certain it's not always something pious. Does having death so frequently before him numb him to the process? Does it strike him as strange that directly after offering up a prayer of thanks to the creator of all things, he immediately ends the life of one of these creations?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Things that go rustle, crackle, crunch in the night

I've been yawning since I got to work this morning and it's now closing in on 7 p.m. Are the articles I've been editing especially dull today, you might wonder. No, perhaps more tragic than usual (like the woman who died in her early 40s after receiving a blood transfusion several years ago that was tainted w/ HIV during birth, while her daughter also died of the virus a few years ago since she also received the blood in utero and her family's lawsuit faced rejection twice in Turkish courts over a 7-year period).

My sleepiness actually stems from being woken up multiple times over the last few nights due to Evren's sleep-eating disorder. This is an actual condition that he's had since childhood where he gets up and raids the kitchen at various times during the night, often with no memory of such activity in the morning. The condition gets worse (as in the frequency increases) during times of stress and Ev's been under a great deal of stress with his new company as of late.

Since I am a very light sleeper, I wake up practically every time he gets up, which last night was at least five times. When he was a child, his mother used to try locking the kitchen door, but he would still manage to break in somehow. Our kitchen doesn't have a lock on the door and even if it did I'm sure as a burly, over-6-foot male he would still get in. Our fridge isn't that stocked normally since we both usually eat at work or elsewhere, but he still manages to find things, even if they're strange combinations like chocolate spread and sucuk (Turkish sausage).

So until Ev's stress levels diminish, you'll just have to deal with droopy-eyed Devi.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Marathon Fridays (or the Energizer Bunny's batteries died 5 hours ago)

I've been at work now for over 12 hours. At this point another caffeine injection really wouldn't do anything for me. I'm just too far gone. But somehow still editing away. Yes, it is possible to edit something on cruise control, just don't hold me responsible for the results. Each Friday we manage to complete the editing of the two editions for the weekend. Sometimes that means slogging until 2 and 3 in the morning, hopefully not tonight.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Virtual tag and no turkeys in Turkey

It appears that I've been tagged by the Turkish Muse in a game of blog tag. So now I am supposed to reveal 7 silly things about myself that few people know.

Here are 7 dazzling Devi mysteries revealed:

1. I used to eat pomegranates morsel by morsel but since I moved to Turkey I devour entire sections of my favorite fruit.

2. I'm a Scrabble nerd.

3. I have difficulty rolling my "RRRR's" in Spanish.

4. I have never been able to snap with the fingers of my left hand.

5. "Fahrenheit 101" was one of my favorite books at age 7.

6. When I grow up, I want to be a star salsa dancer.

7. I love green chili and cheese tamales from LA (maybe from elsewhere, too, I just haven't tried those yet).

Now, I get to tag 5 more unsuspecting bloggers:

Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)


Confessions of an Expat's Wife: small talks on everyday life

mikey in istanbul


In belated news, we (some Californians, a Canadian and some Turks) had our late Thanksgiving celebration last week Thursday (we figured we would do it on Turkish time, a week late) at Ev's work villa. Unfortunately Fatoş was unable to acquire turkeys in time because of the big demand here for them before New Years so we had stuffed chickens instead (she was told turkeys have to be ordered 10 days ahead of time!) It was finally a chance for Evren to meet my friends from work after almost 3 months of not encountering each other. I ate plenty of sigara börek and dolma while Ev sliced up monstrous slices of the chickens for everyone. Afterward, we played scrabble on my newly acquired board, which cost a whopping YTL 75 here. Definitely should have had someone bring one over or even created my own, but I've just been missing my game too much to wait. Would post some pics, but unfortunately they might prove incriminating. . .