Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Oh So Friendly

Our dear friends Steve and Kristal came to visit us recently. I loved almost everything about their visit. Wonderful conversation, good food, playing games, seeing the country. They jumped right in and loved, played with, and took care of our kids as if they were their own. Kristal even babysat all three of them so that I could take a nap. That act alone will make me sing Kristal's praises until the day I die.

One thing that I loved about Steve and Kristal's visit, though, surprised me. I wasn't expecting their visit to make me love Turkey more. But it did. Somehow seeing my home through fresh eyes reminded me of what an amazingly beautiful part of the world I live in. Turkey is gorgeous. It just is. Not only that, Turkey is full of super friendly, super helpful, super nice people. Sure, not everybody is friendly and nice, but a lot of them are. And today I want to take a moment to remember a few of the examples of people who put a smile on my face just by taking the time to be friendly to a stranger.

While out on our whirlwind tour of Turkish sites, we went through a little village whose claim to fame was an underground city. In the Cappadocia region of Turkey, these amazingly huge matrixes of ancient caves are sprinkled all over. Apparently they could hold 2-3000 people during times of war. Hopefully a future post will tell more about it.

This particular village wasn't on the main tourist route, so although they have a huge amazing underground city underneath them, they aren't swamped with hoards of people coming to see it. That was good news for us because it meant no crowds, and cheaper prices. Some of the local women were trying to capitalize on the trickle of tourists who wander through by making and selling traditional dolls. At only $1.50 a pop, the dolls were a steal.

Kristal and I took the girls across the street to check out the dolls and when the ladies found that I knew Turkish they swarmed us, asking questions, taking turns holding baby Clara, and of course trying to convince us to buy more dolls.

Once we successfully picked out a few dolls, we let the ladies know we were waiting for our husbands who were out buying some bread, cheese, and tomatoes for our picnic lunch. One of the ladies who had been holding and rocking Clara for me under a shady tree looked up disappointed and asked, "But I live so close by. Why didn't you just come over to my house for lunch?"

See, didn't I tell you they were friendly?!

The next morning we walked into a pottery shop where we interrupted an old lady as she ate her cucumber and cheese breakfast. Not only did she insist on showing us how her husband made the pottery and how strong it was by making Kristal balance on a wobbly clay pot (which I'm still kicking myself for not getting a picture of), she also insisted that we split her cucumbers with her.

Later that day as we were driving back from our Cappadocia adventures, our tire blew out. We had just passed by a creek and a couple of little restaurants, but the area really looked like a ghost town. We pulled to the side of the road only to see a completely shredded front tire. James and Steve stood there looking at it deciding what to do when a few men came out of the deserted restaurant across the street to see if they could help. Word spread and pretty soon every male in the area was crowded around our car chatting away trying to come up with a solution.

Kristal, the kids, and I meandered over to the empty restaurant (which happened to have a little trout pool and a play area for the kids) and were served free glasses of Turkish tea while the guys across the street finally decided to put James in one of their cars and take off down the road (actually way down the road, the nearest tire selling town being a 35 or 40 minute drive). Eventually they came back, a few guys gathered around, and a couple of them got down in the dirt and changed the tire while James looked on. Finally, James shook hands all around, came over to the restaurant, ate a nice fish lunch, and we were on our way again.

Thank you friendly guys! You made what could have been a big headache into a really pleasant experience! And your fish tastes good too.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Life on the first floor of a ten story building

A couple of months ago I was talking with my friend Tracy over Skype. She recently moved to a hay farm and was talking about the amazing feeling of walking out your door, looking over acres and acres of land and seeing no one. To Tracy, the open spacious emptiness feels nice, free, peaceful. She said that before moving there (they moved because her husband went to work with his dad on the farm), when she and her family lived in the suburbs in California, her father-in-law would come visit and ask them how they could stand living so close to other people. Just knowing that right on the other side of the fence were more houses, and random strangers were constantly walking by made his skin crawl I guess.

She never got it. Never felt crowded in, wasn't bugged by the small piece of land her family called home. And then they moved to the farm. And then she breathed in and looked out over the open space and understood. She told me that no one just happens to walk by. If a car or truck comes driving up it's because they're coming to see you. And all of that openness and space feels really really good.

So a few mornings ago I was standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth, remembering my conversation with Tracy. I was thinking about the suburbs, about hanging out in the backyard and knowing that you're surrounded by three other backyards. I was remembering a house in California that we lived in for a short time and how people would sometimes walk by who we didn't know. I was trying to decide how I felt about it all.

And then I heard the sound of a man standing directly above my head peeing. And then I heard him flush his toilet.

And that was the first time in my life I ever considered hay farming as my next possible career.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Day Trip

Last week our friend Chris came to visit. It was a good excuse for us to get out and see some things.

James went to Istanbul to meet Chris at the airport and then tour him around the city a bit. Istanbul is AMAZING. It's one place I would highly recommend to anyone. Absolutely beautiful city with so much rich history. You have to watch out for everyone trying to make a buck off the tourists (carpet salesmen, shoe shiners, people selling all sorts of trinkets) but it's well worth braving that circus to see the sights.

Or is it see the sites? I'm confused on that point, among other things.

I just have to mention here that this is James' second trip to Istanbul since we've been a family of five (the past four months) and I've gone a total of zero times. I stay home and watch the wee ones. I've told James that once Clara is weaned I'll be getting paid back for my multiple sacrifices. He'll stay with the kids and I'll. . . well, I'll go do something. Not sure what just yet. What do mothers of small children do for a weekend away? I don't know. But it will be something. That's for sure.

Upon James and Chris' arrival in Ankara, I forced them back out the door (I think they were hoping to catch a few winks after not sleeping on a night train) and we took a day trip to Beypazari. Just an hour away, but I'd never been before.

Beypazari grows something like 65% of Turkey's carrots. That's a lot of carrots man. They make some tasty stuff with the carrots too. One kind shop owner gave us homemade pieces of carrot flavored Turkish delight. I didn't have high expectations, I mean carrot Turkish delight? Serious? But I was flabbergasted. It was quite possibly the best tasting Turkish delight I've ever eaten. And that's really saying something.

The little town is also full of silversmiths. They make absolutely beautiful jewelry.

I spotted this friendly chap in his shop tinkering away at a delicate silver necklace like the ones displayed on the wall behind him. He told us (and demonstrated) all about cutting the silver, bending it, making it into beautiful things.

I think Elise and I could have enjoyed perusing the sparkly stuff a bit longer, but James wasn't into it. Boys... what are you gonna do?

This is Beypazari's fameous 80 layer baklava. A bit of baklava trivia for you. . . most baklava is 40 layers, but the folks in Beypazari stepped it up a notch or two or 40 and make theirs with 80 layers. Free samples. De-lish.

Hand made soaps in all different scents. I bought pomegranate, orange, and apricot.

Dried peppers, eggplants, spices, and what not. I picked up some dried celery to throw into my soups. Celery stalks are a bit hard to come by around here, so dried celery leaf seems like just the type of thing I need.

Saving the best for last. These ladies are dressed in the traditional clothes for this part of Turkey. I think it is one hundred percent awesome! I mean if I lived here and donned one of these flowey outfits, nobody would know it if I ate too much baklava and turkish delight and gained five or fifty pounds. Beautiful.

The verdict: I LOVE BEYPAZARI. I can't wait to go back. I hear that in May cherries are in season and the thought of fresh cherries and cherry treats makes me giddy with anticipation. And May would be the perfect time to visit Turkey. Chris, do you want to come back?

Monday, 4 January 2010


I went down to the yarn store a couple days ago. Apparently they also sell lady's nylons. Just to make sure everyone knows it, they put one on display out on the sidewalk. So tasteful...

Wait a minute. . . this scene looks strangely familiar. . . could it be the leg from The Christmas Story major award?!