Ok - this post is going to be unbelievably long! Before Safak, Ben, and Erica left last Thursday, we did a photo swap - and going through their photos, I realized I have lots of fun things to share. So bear with me!
Things here are rapidly winding down, but we are really enjoying our final days here. Last Wednesday, Samantha arrived from Ithaca. Yay! It is great having her here. Unfortunately, Safak, Benjamin, and Erica left on Thursday – so she didn’t really get to experience Team Hamster.
In honor of her arrival and their departure, we had a big kabob dinner on Wed night with a bunch of our friends. It was incredibly fun!
[Cumali (standing), me, Sam, Safak, Turgut, Erica, Makas, Halil, Yusuf, Camil, football friend (I can't remember his name); Photo by Ben]
Actually, over the past several days, we’ve been very social. Tuesday night Erica and I invited our neighbors from across the street over for tea. How delightful! It was Zeyrin who is probably about 30 and has a young son Yusuf, her sister-in-law (?) Fatma, Fatma’s daughter Tuba, and a friend of Tuba’s. They are all such energetic fun women – we really enjoyed ourselves.
[Tuba's friend, Tuba, Yusuf, Zeyrin, me, Fatma; Photo by Erica]
One of Safak’s good friends here is a man named Ramazan - his mother and wife had Sam, Erica, and me over for lunch on Wednesday. That was fun because we got to watch Mom make lentil köfte – a yummy Turkish dish. After lunch, we went and had a final tea (final for Erica) with Zeyrin.
Thursday was spent watching Erica, Ben, and Safak run around getting ready to go. They took off at 1ish, and after they left the house was so so quiet! That night Cumali and Zeliha had us over for dinner – it’s kind of like when I was a kid and Mom would go out of town. All of the neighbors invited us over for dinner!
That day we also went across the street to meet a brand new set of twins. Zehrin’s sister-in-law, Elif, had just given birth. I probably should say, “They were so cute!” but actually, they were just babies. I was, however, interested in their attire. They each had heavy black eyeliner around each eye – I don’t know the significance of that; and they were wrapped in little cocoons such that they couldn’t move at all. It was incredibly hot and not only were they wrapped, but when they were in bed, they were covered by a cloth.
On Friday, Sam and I had the neatest experience! In the afternoon, there was a knock on the door, and it was a little girl, Emine, who I adore. She was inviting us to come over and have tea at her grandmother’s house. We got there and her mother (Turgut’s wife - I can't remember her name!) was there as were her two sisters. They are possibly the most beautiful set of women ever. Before we had tea, Emine’s mom, took us into a small room with an adobe oven in the corner. There were two other women in there (Emine’s grandmother and a friend) – and they were all making bread over this oven. It was amazing to watch. I wish I’d had a camera – and I wish I could really describe the experience. But to watch these three women sitting on the ground, in their Turkish garb, in the heat, making bread… Emine’s mom was responsible for rolling the dough into balls; then friend rolled out the dough into big flat discs and threw the discs onto a big black circular metal disc that covered the fire; then grandmother took the bread off of the circular disk, draped it over a big metal rod, and slid it through a slot on the oven’s side into the fire. The entire process took hardly anytime at all. But the job was an all-day one as they were making enough bread to last for two months.
And believe it or not, I actually tried to make some! They let me roll out the dough – and I did a horrible job. It took me two tries, and the roller women still had to re-do it. But after my piece was cooked, mom gave it to me because it was the bread that I made. So I have bragged to multiple people here that I made bread (in Turkish: “Ekmek yapdum!”) – everyone just laughs at me!
[Turgut and his wife - this was taken at a tea we hosted a few weeks ago, but because I don't have any photos from the bread-making experience, I thought I'd include this one; Photo by Erica]
On Saturday, Sam and I needed to go to Kilis to run a few errands. Because we don’t have the van anymore (nor do we have a driver), we decided to take a dolmus (shuttle). That was a huge adventure because we had no clue where it would drop us off, nor were we sure where it would pick us up. We thought we had agreed with the driver that we’d be picked up at 12:00 at the vegetable market. Well – either we missed him, or he didn’t go there. Then when we asked if this was the right place for the dolmus to Elbeyli, we were told it wasn’t. So we ended up wandering to a bus stop on the road out of town – and waited and waited. While we were waiting, our friend Makas from Elbeyli drove by. Luckily he stopped and offered us a ride – because he said there were no more dolmus to Elbeyli! If we hadn’t seen him, we’d still be there! We were squeezed into the front of a truck with him and his mother (Sam sat on my lap) – which was very cozy. But his mother was adorable and kept smiling and hugging us. (Her incredibly good mood was probably due to the fact that Makas’s wife was going to give birth in a few hours!)
Then Saturday night, we went over to Camil’s house for tea. I absolutely love love love his family. They are all so warm and friendly – I feel like they are my own family here in Elbeyli. We had a marvelous time – and the fact that I could hold a conversation in Turkish for 2.5 hours is astounding! We have spent a fair amount of time with them. A week or so ago, we were invited to their house for dinner in celebration of Camil’s daughter’s first birthday. What an honor. After dinner, tons of other family members came over – and we all had cake and tea. So much fun.
[Ayse's birthday party- before the crowds arrived: Zeliha (not Cumali's wife Zeliha!), Halil, Camil, Camil/Halil/Zeliha's mom, Ayse, Yusuf, me, Erica, Ben, Dad)
Photo by Erica (or with Erica's camera)]
(If you haven’t picked up on the baby theme yet: Elif just had twins, Camil’s wife had a daughter a year ago, Makas’s wife had a boy last night, and Yusuf’s wife had a boy yesterday morning!)
In addition to the recent events, there are some not-so-recent adventures to share.
1. Yusuf invited us to a BBQ in his fields. It was wonderful. We sat under his trees and ate yummy kabob and enjoyed the company of our friends.
[Dad, ?, Safak, Yusuf, Makas; Photo by Erica. Camil and me; Photo by Ben]
2. A week ago Saturday, we went to a picnic with this same crew (Camil, Makas, Yusuf, etc) in Kilis and then afterward Camil, Safak, Erica, and I went dancing in Antep. That was an interesting experience! After spending four months in a world where women cover themselves (legs and arms and hair), going to a disco where the women were wearing virtually nothing was a bit of a shock! To be honest it would’ve been a shock anyway, but this was REALLY a shock! But we ignored them and just danced and had fun for ourselves.
3. A week or so ago, Ben, Erica, and I went to Urfa and Harran for the day. What an incredible trip!
According to wikipedia, Urfa "dates as far back as 8000 BC... It was one of several cities in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, the cradle of the Mesopotamian civilization. According to Turkish Muslim traditions Urfa is the biblical city of Ur, due to its proximity to the biblical village of Harran....Urfa is also known as the birthplace of Abraham, ...and the birthplace of Job." Amazing.
On the left is the very old mosque built to commemorate Abraham. The pond is full of sacred carp - because when Abraham was being burned for destroying pagan gods, God supposedly turned the coals to fish and the fire to water. On the right is the entrance to the cave where Abraham was born. I've been in lots of mosques, but never have I been in something that was so intense as this cave. There were many women inside this cave praying (they have separate sides for men and women) and it was the only time I have felt like an intruder on an incredibly private experience. (Both photos by Erica)
Harran was even more amazing. According to some sources it is the oldest continuously inhabitated city in the world - it is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis). It is also the site of the first University. Being there was indescribable.
[Remains of the first university, and one of the beehive homes that are common in Harran and down in Syria. Both photos by Erica]
Now I know it’s hard to imagine that we’re getting any work done in the midst of this social whirl, but Sam and I are walking the fields one final time just to get a count of potentially active hamster burrows – and I’m trying to get the house cleaned and organized for our departure.
And to prove we're working, here is a photo of me driving a tractor with Cumali! We are plowing up a field trying to find hamsters.
(Photo by Erica)
Tomorrow, Sam and I are going to Cappadocia for three days, and then we go to Istanbul very early on 9 June and fly home 11 June. I can’t believe it!