This being April fools day I thought it would be fitting to share a normal everyday part of Turkish life. Let me tell you, those Turks, they're tricky.
After Elise was born Turks began coming up to me as I held her, smiling at her, and in a high pitched baby voice saying things like, "Oh! You ugly ugly little baby! Ugly! Ugly! I just want to eat you up! You're such an ugly little thing. Oh yes you are!" Sometimes they'd even follow that by puckering their lips, sticking their tongue through and lightly spitting toward her. And you know what? My feelings were hurt. I mean really, telling a new mom her baby is ugly?! Those are fightin' words!
Elise would usually coo and smile right back at them, oblivious to the fact that they were insulting her.... Or were they??
Here in Turkey, there is this thing, this force, called the nazar. I think in English it's called the evil eye. After many many conversations about it, this is the best I can do at understanding it: Everything has to be balanced. So if there is too much good attention on something then a bad thing will happen to it in order to balance it out. That force that balances things out by causing bad things to happen to them is the nazar.
For example, my friend Nur lost some weight and started styling her hair differently. She was looking really good and went out to visit her relatives in the village. Lots of people commented on how good she looked, then when she was washing dishes a plate slipped out of her hand and broke on the floor. According to Nur, that was the nazar. And Nur was happy that the plate broke because if it hadn't something worse would probably have happened to her. Sickness, an accident, death... who knows. But the point is that a bad thing happened to her to balance the good attention.
Here's another example: My first language helper, Sumru, told me that when her baby was born some people came to visit. They sat in her house, admired her beautiful baby, then they left. When she closed the door behind them she heard a crash in the kitchen. A bunch of glasses had fallen off the shelf and broken. The nazar.
So when people come up to me and tell me what an ugly baby I have, it's really a trick. They're trying to somehow trick this balancing force, the nazar, into thinking the baby is ugly, because if the baby gets too much good attention then something bad might happen to her. I think they even pretend to spit on her to protect her from the force of the nazar.
The thing is that they know, and I (now) know that they're really saying she's super cute. They're really just doing everything in their power to protect the little peanut from that mean old ever-present nazar.
There is WAY WAY more about this nazar business I'd love to share with you, and maybe one day I will, but for now this will have to do. I've gotta keep it short because ...
I have only 24 days until I move out of my house and 29 days until I leave for America and I've gotta pack!!!
Oh. Just one more thing... While Sumru (from my second example) told me about the Nazar, James was with Elise, who was a new baby, in another room. A little later James brought Elise out and Sumru saw her for the first time. Sumru ooohed and aawwed over Elise and DIDN'T say Elise was ugly because she knew I wouldn't understand that and she didn't want to offend me. Instead she told me what a beautiful baby I had. Later on Sumru left and I heard a crash in the kitchen. I went in the room only to discover that a mug had by itself fallen off the counter and shattered all over the floor. Hmmm......