Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A Christmas Camel Ride

One great thing about Turkey is that in some places you can find tourist camels. Not camels who are tourists, but camels for the tourists. They live on the roadside in popular destinations like Cappadocia. For a small fee you can climb up a ladder and onto a big cushy camel saddle. For another small fee you can ride that camel up and down the street.

The other day while James and I were driving back from visiting friends for Christmas we drove by a roadside camel and I shouted, “STOP!!” James freaked out and pulled to the side of the road thinking that I had gone into labor or that the car was about to explode or something (not that I’m pregnant or have any special impending explosion sensing powers). He was like, “What?” and I was like, “Hello? A camel! We have to get a family photo!” We had a photo taken a couple of years ago, (as you can see on the side of the blog) but we've had another baby since then and I decided it was time for an update.

So we all piled out of the car, Marie yelling, “Tamoh, tamoh, tamoh!” And running as fast as her little feet could carrier her toward the giant beast, and Elise being dragged out of the car complaining that we were interrupting her Veggie Tales movie. Obviously no real live hairy camel can compare to Larry the Cucumber.

The camel keeper guy set a ladder up and I climbed on first, then James handed up the baby. Suddenly a family camel photo did not seem like such a good idea. I mean what kind of mother holds her tiny baby in one arm while seated precariously nine feet in the air, on top of a wooly camel? Next up was Elise, still mad about us interrupting her movie, then Marie who was freaking out and shouting, “No tamoh... no wan it. No tamoh!” Finally James squeezed his way onto the saddle and the camel guy snapped a few photos.

Elise only lifted her head for the picture upon being threatened to have her movie taken away if she didn’t. Marie quietly cried, and I smiled while silently praying that the camel would stay still and none of my offspring would fall to their death.

Three pictures and a few dollars later we climbed down the ladder, I breathed a big sigh of relief, Marie went running toward the car as fast as her little legs could carry her saying, “No like tamoh. No wan it,” and Elise got back to her precious video.

Threats, smiles, tears... all in all a fairly normal family photo session. Except that instead of in front of a Christmas tree, it happened to be on top of a wooly camel.

I’ve thrown in a few extras I snapped of other tourists getting their camel experience. Enjoy.

These poor girls started screaming the second their dad put them up on the camel. I broke the camera out just a few seconds too late, but at least you all can still enjoy the look of betrayal and utter fear on their faces with me. . . sad but funny. It reminded me of watching kids getting on Santa's lap at the mall... the things parents do for a good photo.

I love this one... I think the camel is asking, "Okay, who's next?"

And two more happy tourists hop on.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Vacuum Hangers

These are suction cup hooks that you can hang on the wall so you can hang stuff on the wall.

The front of the package lets me know what they are in both Turkish (Vakum Aski) and English (Vacuum Hnagers), which is really handy for me.... it makes my life easier.

It gets better. The directions for use are on the back. And they are 100% English. Follow along with me as I figure out how to hang up my hangers. . .

1. First choose the right mounting position and clean off the dust and grease on the mounting surface.

2. Like the chart shows installs when please do speak the sucker the lock catch from under upward switchroom

3. Pastes the sucker is assigning the position, the forcibly compaction sucker central position, as far as possible except internal air.

4. After the sucker compaction, downward tightens the sucker lock catch from on, then uses

Um. . . I don't know what went wrong. I was not successful at hanging my vacuum hangers, but I did successfully speak to compacted internal air on a sucker chart in the switchroom. . . so I guess that's worth something.

Friday, 18 December 2009


I LOVE LOVE LOVE to watch Turks dance. One dance is called the halay (hall-eye). Everybody gathers into a line, links pinkies, and then jumps and kicks in unison along with lots of hooting and hollering. The line goes around and around in a big bouncy energetic circle. . . SO MUCH FUN! Sometimes on summer nights we come upon a bunch of people out in the street dancing and celebrating a wedding. Five years ago James and I tried to get lessons... it never worked out, but that's another story for another time...

The other night James' school had a teacher appreciation dinner. The restaurant had a d.j. and at some point a really spunky girl who James says is the schools' computer lab teacher jumped up with a big hoot, pulled out a sequenced hankey, and ran out on the dance floor. Several of the other teachers followed her and lots of fun ensued (usually the one leading the halay line carries a brightly colored sequenced hankey in one hand and has their other hand pinkie-linked to the next dancer).

This is one moment where pictures just don't do justice to the fun scene. I was so sad to get home and see that they look like nothing but blurry people or ladies standing around... believe me, there was so much motion, so much energy, so much noise... I'll show you the pictures, but I am thoroughly disappointed in them.

You see those black boots? I want them.

Now I'm left wondering, do Turks always carry these hankeys around, you know, just in case an opportunity to dance comes up? Or did this girl just decide to tuck it into her purse for that night?

Check out computer girl's face. She was cracking me up. . . such intensity and concentration the entire time.

Obviously these next pictures weren't taken at the restaurant a few nights ago.

Shortly after our arrival in Turkey five years ago, James made a trip with some friends up to Turkey's amazingly beautiful Black Sea coastal region and ended up making friends with a group of Turkish high school students while picnicking in a lush green valley (surrounded by snow capped mountains... how amazing is that?!). Pretty soon music broke out and dancing ensued.

Don't these pictures just make you want to run into a grassy field and belt out, "The hills are alive . . . with the sound of music!!!!" I just had to throw in this last picture, the scene they were all looking at while dancing. . . Now that looks like some dancing I could whole heartedly join into!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Volleyball practice

James came home from school today with an extra skip in his step. He informed me that several of the staff were getting together for volleyball after school. He said it was some sort of staff vs. students game. He LOVES sports and doesn't get to play often so was really excited to jump into some athletic clothes, jump out the door, jump into the game, and jump up to spike that ball.

He returned about an hour later a bit disappointed. Apparently the man who told James about the game was the girl's volleyball coach. When poor James walked into the gym, ready to get his game on he found that guy and 10 high school girls... the volleyball team.

Apparently there were a few awkward moments and then James joined them for one game... The coach plus 5 girls vs. James plus 5 girls. James' team won. He told me he felt really weird being there... but felt a little more weird about showing up in athletic clothes, obviously ready to play, and then just turning around and leaving, so in the end decided that one quick game was the best solution.

After every point the teams ran to the center for a big group high five. Mostly because he wanted to maintain his distance and not give any appearance of being creepy, James didn't really want to join in the 14 year old girl group high five and tried to stay out of it. Somewhere around half way through the game though, one of the girls did a really nice set, and James spiked the ball. His whole team ran over and surrounded him for the big high five when suddenly one of the girls exclaimed "Wow! Your eyes are blue AND green!!!!" and suddenly James had five adolescent girls all trying to look at his eyes. Not exactly what he pictured when he jumped out the door and over to the school for a volleyball game.

Note: Most, though not all, Turks have dark brown eyes. They LOVE blue and green eyes and almost every time they notice them have to stop and take a look. Once while I was in the middle of delivering a baby (by c-section) a nurse noticed my green eyes, said something about it and everyone in the delivery room gathered around to take a look.

So now I'm wondering about this volleyball coach. Who knows what the guy was trying to explain... perhaps that once in a while staff members join the volleyball team at practice? Perhaps he was just explaining his job to James? Maybe the Turkish word for team and the word for staff are similar? Or maybe he just wanted to trick James into helping out at practice... I'm afraid it's doomed to be an unsolved mystery.

And what were those girls thinking about all this? Would you have thought your high school Spanish or French teacher was weird if he decided to join your volleyball practice? Don't answer that, because my poor husband really isn't that strange... culturally challenged, yes. Lingually handicapped, definitely. Strange, no.

*after writing this post, James told me that the next day at school the PE teacher told him, "James gitti mac bitti" translation: James left and the match was over. Apparently the team continued their tournament but James' team (minus James) lost miserably. Poor girls.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mmmmm.... Ketchup.

Warning: The photos on this post are deeply disturbing... please do not proceed if you have a weak stomach...

Or if you are allergic to ketchup.

A few years back my friend Nimet her two teenage daughters and I were eating some leftover spaghetti at my house. I made it your typical American way... noodles with a tomato based sauce on top. Nimet's older daughter asked how I made the sauce (no jars of spaghetti sauce here... I have to do it from scratch).

I explained the whole process - browning some ground beef, chopping peppers, onions, tomatos, garlic... adding things to the pot, simmering, tasting, adding a little more of this or that.

Melike (Nimet's daughter, pronounced Mel-ee-kay) seemed surprised by all the work I'd done just for pasta. As far as I can figure, pasta is kind of a poor man's food here. Unless you can't afford more, you generally don't serve it to dinner guests. It's something you eat for a quick lunch, or when you're in a hurry, or because you can't afford something better. Maybe that's one reason why not much work is put into it.

Melike: Wow! This took you a long time to make (inferring, I think, that if something takes that long it should really taste much better)

Me: Yeah. In America I can just buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, but here I have to make my own.

Melike: A lot of times we just boil the noodles and then put some ketchup on top.

Me: Ketchup... really?

Melike: Nodding an affirmative. Mmmmm hmmm. It's delicious... sometimes we squirt ketchup and mayonaise on top together. You should try it, it tastes really good!

Me: Glancing at Nimet to see if I can catch a twinkle in her eye indicating that her daughter is pulling my leg. It wasn't there.

Nimet: I'm surprised you don't eat it that way! It's so much easier and really delicious!

Me: Realizing they're completely serious... Yeah, um, maybe I'll try that. . . and maybe pigs will fly over Turkey and you'll shoot them down and eat the bacon. Okay, obviously nothing about pigs came out of my mouth... and in case you didn't know it, Turkey is a Muslim country, so eating pork products is a big BIG no no. . . at some point James and I decided that pigs flying was not quite impossible enough so instead of just saying "when pigs fly," we added in the second part too. . . ya know, to make the unlikely even more unlikely. Plus it makes us laugh, but anyway . . .

I had forgotten all about this conversation until I looked at our ketchup bottle a couple of weeks ago and saw this:

Just the thought of covering my spaghetti noodles like this makes me cringe.
Euch... eeew... blech. I've got to look away.... and switch to a brand of ketchup that doesn't have indecent pictures.

The sad part for me is that apparently just the thought of choking down my homemade sauce makes Nimet and Melike cringe.... and they didn't have to just look at a photo of it... I actually served it to them for lunch, poor things. They'd much prefer the scene on the ketchup bottle... a forkful of noodles happily swimming in a sea of ketchup.

*note... if you happen to enjoy noodles with ketchup, please don't hate me because it makes me gag. I'm happy for you and for whoever cooks your food. It's really great that you can enjoy such an easy to make meal, just don't invite me for lunch, okay?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Adventures at the Health Clinic

The H1N1 shot has just been released here in Turkey for children age 6 mo. to 5 years. Previous to this week only health care professionals and Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca (the haj) had access to the shot.

I decided to take Elise and Marie down to the public health clinic to get the inoculation. Clara just turned two months old and was due for another round of shots, so it made sense (in my mind at least) to just get all the pain and agony out of the way in one fell swoop... kill two (or three?) birds with one stone...bite the bullet... go for the gold... you get the picture.

A couple of days ago while James was at work I dressed my children warmly, put Elise and Marie in a double stroller, strapped Clara onto my chest with a baby carrier and headed off to the health clinic.

I should re-state here that Turks in big cities do not normally have children as close together as Americans do. And for reasons that I can't fully grasp, whenever I am out with my three little ones (three is too many kids according to many of my friends) I am stared at as if I came from another planet or am a strange freak of nature. I am asked almost daily if Elise (almost 5) and Marie (2 1/2) are twins, even though Elise is head and shoulders taller than her sister. I think people just can't comprehend me having that many children that close together.

So my freaky brood of kids and I went down the street a few blocks for the dreaded shots. We were stopped 3 times in the 10 minute walk by people who wanted to ask me if I had twins or inform me that my kids weren't dressed warm enough. We arrived at the building to find it crowded with mothers and children waiting to get shots. A nurse noticed the baby hanging off of me and ushered me upstairs for baby shots since downstairs was dedicated to the swine flu vaccine.

Fertile Myrtle (me) and her three kids were put in a small room with two desks, a table for the patient to sit on, and one nurse who first asked if Elise and Marie were twins, then asked if I had all these children on purpose, and why they were so close in age, and then started taking down Clara's information. Another nurse soon joined us with the three shots for poor little Clara, and after getting all the important information (no... not about allergies, medical records, etc... but why I had so many children so close together) she had me get Clara ready for the shots and instructed me on how to hold her still while she administered the inoculations.

The nurse pulled the shiny little needle out and Marie's eyes grew big as saucers. Poor Marie's curiosity drew her closer and closer until she was watching the needles go into her baby sister's arm and legs, and listening to her sad little screams from about 6 inches away. If she wasn't already dreading her own shots, by this point she was pretty much scared out of her socks.

The two nurses decided that since the line downstairs was so long, they would just bring up two H1N1 vaccines for Elise and Marie. So they got on the phone, and soon two more shots and three more nurses were crowded into the small room. I think the new nurses assumed that I didn't know Turkish and so they proceeded to ask the first two all about me. A conversation ensued about how strange and hard it must be to not only be a foreigner, but also to have to look after three small kids. "Why would she do that?" "It had to be an accident!" "They are beautiful... but that's so hard!" "Look at the chart... they are all two years apart! At least she was orderly about it," were just a few of the comments they made to one another... right in front of me. They also laughed about the fact that five of them were upstairs with the yabancilar (foreigners) while only two were left to give vaccines to the masses below.

Marie was next to hop........ er...be dragged... onto the table. By this point I had one nurse still taking down info, one holding Clara, one administering the shot, and two more, plus myself holding down poor kicking, screaming, and struggling little Marie. Screams rang down the hallways, snot and tears flew everywhere and then it was over... well, except the crying.

By this point, Elise had quietly retreated to underneath a desk and was hoping that her freakishly fertile mother and the chatty nurses would just forget about her existence and leave her alone. No such luck. I had to drag her clawing, scratching, and screaming from under the desk, all the while listening to Marie and Clara's cries and to the nurses rehash how close in age my children are. It then took me and two nurses to pry her little hands off her coat, her coat and sweater off of her shoulder, and hold her down so she could have her turn at the dreaded flu vaccine. More screaming, kicking, crying, and snot, and I breathed a big sigh of relief... it was over.

I tried to quiet the girls down with marshmallows and fruit roll ups from a care package from Nana (thanks Mom!), but it was a no go. In the end I had to walk out of the room, down the hallway, past scores of people waiting for shots, all the while holding a baby and dragging along two screaming and crying little girls. More than one person tried to pick up one of my two crying older girls to comfort them, which only made things worse... I mean, really, would you want a stranger grabbing you right after your mom betrayed you by holding you down to be jabbed by a sharp instrument of torture!? Me neither. A few curious people tried to stop me to ask if Elise and Marie were twins... and by this point I just wanted to yell, "Can't you people mind your own business?!! Yes I have three kids! No they're not twins! Yes, I wanted all three of my children, and NO, it's not hard to raise them, I'M HANDLING IT JUST FINE, OKAY!! NOW JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR PEET'S SAKE (While throwing chairs, and knocking over tables... yeah, things are fine... just fine. I totally have it all together)!"

It was probably only 30 to 40 minutes start to finish, but I felt like I had just endured hours of torture and was quite honestly just wanting to be left alone when a nurse chased me down, handed me a couple of cards with the girl's names on them, and told me that I needed to come back for round two of the flu shot in a month.

What? I thought this was a one time deal!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Pumpkin Fun!

In Turkey, it's tough to find orange pumpkins. We usually end up carving a big greyish green one instead. Let me tell you, those things are tough to carve! The rind is at least 3 inches thick, and hard as a bowling ball. Try carving through your kitchen table, and you'll get an idea of the pumpkin carving experience here in Turkey.

James took the pumpkin I carved for our girls to school to show his students and they were impressed and EXCITED. They'd only seen jack-o-lanterns on TV. His tenth graders immediately begged him to bring pumpkins in for them to carve. They all threw in a little cash and sent "Teacher" to hunt them down.

By the way, Turkish students call all their teachers "Ogretmenim (my teacher)," so when they have an english teacher, he automatically becomes "Teacher." In the US, you'd only hear that coming out of a kindergartener's mouth. So it sounded strange to James to be greeted that way by 16 year olds, but I guess he got used to it...

Anyhow, with 20 lira in his pocket, Teacher headed out to the pumpkin patch.... er .... roadside stand... and did his best to pick out a few nice round greyish-green pumpkins.

Kind of ugly, aren't they? And those orange things in the background... the ones that you probably think are pumpkins... I'm pretty sure those are overripe melons. They're supposed to be green, like the melons on the right.

After James chose a few, the melon/pumpkin guy weighed them with his yellow crate and pulley thingy. He threw in a few melons so that James could use up the entire 20 lira.

I'm pretty sure James tried to swipe an extra melon... check out that guilty look on his face.

A few days later the highly anticipated event finally came, and several excited 10th graders got to sink their butter knives into the pumpkins! The administration wouldn't let them use sharp knives, so James made the first cut then handed the hard and warty green pumpkins over for those poor kids to try to continue carving with butter knives. Good thing 16 year olds are strong.

Everybody took a turn digging out the guts...

This girl found a plastic glove to wear while digging out the pumpkin's innards. Smart! She must have a good teacher.

Mehmet and Ahmet. Good friends putting their heads together to design their very first jack-o-lantern.

Gotta love the uniforms. Makes me wish I had one in high school.

The finished product. Three beautiful pumpkins. Twelve happy students. One happy teacher (the guy in the back with the teeny head and a goatee). And the english practice?? They wrote all about it three times. In past, present, and future tense.

James is a great teacher!

Love and Marriage

Had an interesting conversation with a new aquaintance, Bahar. It gives a good picture of the marriage experience for many women her age, and what things are still like in some parts of Turkey.

Bahar: My granddaughter is 22, she's about to graduate from college with her Master's degree.

Me: Wow! You don't look old enough to have a granddaughter that age!

Bahar: Thank you! I'm 57. I got married young. My mother gave me away when I was 13.

Me: Weren't you scared? Had you met your husband before you married? How old was he?

Bahar: Yes, of course I was scared. I was very scared! We'd never met before. His mother saw me and asked my mother for me, and then we got married. He was 22.

Me: How old were you when you had your first baby?

Bahar: I was 14. I was still a child myself. I liked to play with my daughter's dolls! We grew up together.

When I am 35, I will have a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a 3 year old. When Bahar was 35, she was a grandma!

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Not long after I arrived in Turkey a friend of mine, Gonul, was showing me how to make stuffed cabbage leaves (which, by the way, are one of the most mouth wateringly delicious little things I've ever eaten). After we were done we had quite a lot of cabbage left over. If you've ever seen a cabbage here, you'll understand why. Anyway I said (or at least kind of tried to say... I used a lot of hand motions during this phase of my life), "What should we do with all this extra cabbage?" I must have communicated somewhat effectively because she looked at me with a smile and a sparkle in her eye, raised a finger in the air as if to say, "Ah ha!" and then started making pickles.

Gonul found a large jar, chopped the cabbage into wedges and stuffed it in. She opened my refrigerator and started pilfering the contents and throwing them into the jar - carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, bell peppers. Then she grabbed my vinegar, dumped it in along with water, salt, some garlic and lemon juice, and screwed the lid on. Next Gonul pointed to my calendar and showed me that I needed to wait at least a week and then (pointing to the strange assortment curing in the corner of my kitchen and motioning with her hand to her mouth) I could dig in and eat it up, and (patting her tummy, smiling, and saying "mmmmm") I would like it.

What Gonul couldn't have known is that I'd already tried a similar concoction of pickled vegetables at a neighbors house and absolutely hated it. It was, let's see, how can I put this delicately, well, it was absolutely disgusting. But I ate it. I ate a whole lot of it. After choking down one bowl of pickled who-knows-what in order not to offend my hostess, she assumed I loved it and served a second even bigger bowl.

Back to Gonul's pickled assortment. I let it sit for a week so that when she came over she'd see I hadn't just tossed it, then I put it in the refrigerator and every day threw a little bit away. Yep, in order to keep from offending, I basically lived a big fat lie until the giant jar was empty.

Since that time I've learned to speak Turkish and become less scared of offending. Whenever anyone offers me a bunch of pickled stuff I kindly explain that I don't care for pickled stuff. Then, without fail, they say, "Oh, that's because you've never tried MY pickled stuff" As if their recipe is so very very different from everyone elses.

They serve me up a big bowl and wait eagerly while I try it. And without fail, I plaster a fake smile on my face, say, "Oh, you're right... this is better." Then I try my best to choke down at least half of it before lamenting about how full I am and how I can't possibly eat another bite. I lie, I know it's bad, I know I shouldn't, but at least I'm being honest for you, right?

Now I feel like my world has turned upside down. I feel like I've become the thing that I once detested. I've entered a dark and confusing phase of my life.

I make my own pickles. Not only that, I feel really really cool making them, like a pioneer, or a pilgrim, or at least a really homey domestic make everything yourself kind of gal.

It makes me feel so cool that I want to fit it into conversations, just to let people know how crafty I am... but I don't find the opportunity very often.

I keep hoping that one day a friend will be complaining about the price of pickles, and I can say, "Oh really? I wouldn't know... I make my own pickles... from scratch." Or maybe someone will say that they can't decide which brand is best, and I'll say, "Oh, you mean store bought pickles? I wouldn't know. I make my own."

It started with my friend Kim giving me a pickle recipe and a jar of pickles she'd made. This was the first and only time I've ever experienced homemade pickles in Turkey and actually enjoyed it. It probably had to do with the fact that she only pickled cucumbers. She didn't venture into the vile world of pickling vegetables that the Good Lord never intended to be pickled.

Thanks to my new inspiration, I made some pickles too. First I bought cucumbers. Do you see how cucumbers here are much smaller than cucumbers in the States? These are sold in grocery stores as pickling cucumbers.

I tried to take a picture of a cucumber in my hand so I could show you the size, but then I looked at it, gasped as I realized how badly I need a manicure, and immediately deleted it. Here's Marie demonstrating the size for you instead.

I washed these babies up, and threw them in a jar, like so....

Then I put a couple of cloves of garlic (they're called teeth, not cloves, in Turkish... thought you might enjoy a bit of Turkish language trivia). I poured a mixture of boiling vinegar, salt, and water over the top, then tossed in a few sprigs of dill. Last I put on the lid, put it in the fridge, let it sit a few days, and wa-lah! I had myself a jar of pickles. Easy as pie. Or really, it's much easier than making pie.

Sadly, I've now become one of those annoying pickle pushing people I once tried to stay far away from. If you come to my house it wont be long before we're having this conversation:

"So, do you want some pickles?

What? You don't like pickles?? Oh, well that's because you haven't tried MY pickles. Give them a try (pointing at the bowl of pickles that I've shoved in front of your face and motioning hand to mouth) and you'll find they're delicious (saying "mmmmmm" while I smile and pat my belly)."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Third time's the charm

When a baby is born in Turkey, friends and neighbors bring gold. At least that's what I was told and what I read in books about Turkish culture.

When Elise was born 4 months after we arrived in Turkey, I sat at home and waited for the gold to roll in. Well, not really. I sat at home and watched her breathe, sure that she was so fragile and tiny that she would die at any moment. But somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered the gold. Instead of gold...

I got a little vest someone knitted, kind of like this:

Those were nice and all, I mean I was really impressed with a neighbor taking the time and effort to knit Elise a little vest, but inwardly I was a little disappointed that no one brought gold. I decided I didn't get any gold because we didn't know anyone very well. We didn't even speak Turkish yet. I mean if someone had brought us gold, I wouldn't even have been able say, "Thanks for the gold."

Two years and five months later we spoke Turkish, we had friends, knew lots of our neighbors, and had another baby, Marie. This time I was fairly confident that at least a little gold would come our way. So again, in between nursing, watching the baby breathe, and wishing my belly fat would disappear, I wondered when we'd get our first piece of gold.

But this time, we were given about 5 little vests, several boxes of milk, a few baby outfits, and a pair of underwear for Elise.

I thought through the possible reasons why we weren't given any gold. Here's what I came up with:
1. Nobody really liked us very much. Hmmmm, I hope not...
2. All of our good friends were too poor to give us gold. No... we had some pretty wealthy neighbors.
3. Gold is only given to relatives. Maybe
4. This whole gold thing was just made up by somebody. It's a myth. But I've seen the little baby charms in the stores...
5. Giving and getting gold is more of a community savings thing than a no-strings-attached gift. Ah ha! I think I've got it!

I think there's a more official name for it, but it basically community savings has a goes around/comes around type of meaning. Like, we all live together... for the long haul. So, when my baby is born you give me gold, knowing that when your little squealer comes along I'll give you gold. Then, when my daughter says "I do" you give her gold, and when your daughter walks down the aisle I give gold to her. So, we all help each other out, but come out even in the end.

James and I are foreigners so even though we live next door, we're not really a part of the community. We are outsiders. If you give us gold, unless you're on the verge of giving birth yourself, you can't count on getting it back.

This theory made perfect sense to me and made me feel a little better about being shut out of the gold circle. Oh good, I thought when I came up with the theory. People do like me. It's just my foreignness that keeps them from giving me gold.

Two years and three months later, when Clara was about to come along, we had only lived in our neighborhood for about a month and didn't know any neighbors well. We were definitely NOT an established part of the community, so for once I laid my gold wanting greediness aside and had absolutely no thoughts about it. I was sure that as foreigners we were just shut out of that part of the culture. But then this happened:

And this:

Shiny little gold charms. One for me and one for Clara.

Mine says Allah in Arabic. At least that's what I think it says... I don't know arabic, but think "Allah" is more likely than "Congratulations on your new born baby girl!"

Clara's is a little blue eye bead... to protect her from the evil eye.

The other English teachers at James' school chipped in to get them for us. There goes my theories about community savings... guess I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

Unless I give into the whole "people don't like us" idea, the best I reason behind who gets gold and why that can come up with now is third time's the charm. Do you get it? Third time... charm....

Oh, we also got a box of milk and a little vest a neighbor knitted. I think the books on Turkish culture shouldn't go on and on about gold when babies are born. Instead they should emphasize the obviously fashionable and wildly popular baby attire - hand knitted vests. And boxes of milk.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Things I LOVE about Turkey - The Pazar

Do you see this?
I LOVE it!
Almost every neighborhood in Turkey has a weekly fruit and veggie market. It's kind of like the Farmer's Market that I used to go to in my college town in California. Except on steroids. It's really really really big. Speaking of big... can you see that pile of veggies in my picture? No. . . it isn't the camera angle. . . those veggies really are piled about 12 feet high.
The pazar in our neighborhood happens every Saturday in a big covered concrete lot about the size of a football field. It's chalk full of colorful, fresh, delicious fruits and veggies. Turks are amazing at arranging things in an attractive way, and the result is that you (or at least I) want to visit every booth (and there are rows and rows and rows of them) and buy a little of almost everything.

Don't those carrots look delicious? And did you see the size of the cabbages? They're bigger than watermelons! I've always wanted to buy one of those big cabbages, but I have no idea what I'd do with the 4/5 of it that would be left over after I made coleslaw.
My parents came to visit and I took them to the pazar. They just stood and stared in awe. . . Or maybe it was jet lag. . .
The thing about the pazar is that you have to buy most things in bulk. . . I usually ask for a kilo or two. The first time James and I went to a pazar, he tried to buy one apple. The seller just looked at him then rolled his eyes, muttered something, and handed it over. Apparently it wasn't even worth going to the trouble of weighing it.
Yumm! Apples and grapes. And can you see those super red tomatoes in the background? I wish I had taken a shot of them. They are so so so sweet and delicious, they don't even resemble those tasteless things I would buy at the supermarket in the States.
I love it!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Ankara Zoo

A few days before Clara was born we took a trip to the Ankara zoo. There were a few really good exhibits. The monkeys were great, and so were these bears.

They looked pretty content. This one is taking a bath.

He doesn't seem to mind me snapping a few photos.

Can I hug you? You're such a big fuzzy teddy bear!

This guy doesn't look quite so huggable. What is that crust hanging off of his matted fur?

And how do those skinny little legs hold up his enormous body? What kind of animal is he anyway? A yak? A water buffalo? A pointy horned shag carpet?

I've never seen zebras so close before. I was kind of sad... their pens were tiny, but then again it was fun finally seeing those stripes up close.
Hello pretty horsey!

But wait! What's this? A sign pointing to the cat exhibit... not the big cats and lions. We'd already seen them. The house cat exhibit. Am I the only one who didn't know domesticated cats could be a zoo exhibit? Oh, and the arrow also points toward the pigeons. To be fair, I think guvercin can also mean doves, but what kind of an exhibit is that?

Um..... let's skip that one, and instead see the...

Oh, hello there! What are you doing in the zoo? Don't you belong with a family?

And you too, little dalmatian!

Please take me home!

Definetly NOT what I was expecting in a zoo. Dalmatians, Irish Setters, Huskies, Golden Retrievers, cute little hound dogs, and so many more.

It was the best exhibit of domestic dogs I've ever seen....

But then again, it was the only exhibit of domestic dogs I've seen.

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