Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Paging Mr. Rogers, Mr. Mustafa Rogers"


“Hallo!” called a voice from inside the courtyard.

My daughter and I were heading out to the manav to hunt down fruits and vegetables, so without breaking step, I called back “Hello!”

After this call and response, there was a rustle inside the courtyard, and a body came flying out to the street; it was a typical village woman, reminding me vaguely of my grandmother and great aunts, and she was determined to make contact. In a more typical Turkish greeting, she kissed both of my cheeks and greeted me with “merhaba” followed by a string of Turkish words, unintelligible to me except for “çok” (pronounced “choke”), meaning “very.” When she paused for breath, all I knew is that I’d been given a “howdy” and a “very” with a whole bunch of effusiveness sandwiched in the middle. In some fundamental way, I’d met a communicator of my own ilk.

Leading with my best Friendly Public Face, I attempted to ask, through exaggerated mime, if that was her house inside the courtyard. When she invited us in for “çay” (pronounced “chai”), I was certain it was—either that, or she was a cok comfortable squatter. My answer to her—because, MERHABA, this is Turkey—had to be yes. Our elbows firmly grabbed, we were ushered into the courtyard and told to sit down at her fly-cloaked table. Moments later, a bowl of cut-up tomatoes was set down. Darting a look at my daughter, I gave her the “Remember: it’s always your job to make a dent in the hospitality tomatoes in this country since Mom doesn’t like them, and in return, I’ll let you hand me all sorts of other ‘gross’ stuff under the table, ‘k?” look. Shortly thereafter, a bowl of stale bread fried up in eggs joined the tomatoes, and, feeling a piece of the stuff being placed into my hand under the table, I regretted our deal. On her third return to the table, the enthusiastic neighbor announced that her name was something sounding like “Jan-da-reh” and, in the unexplainable way of words + gestures, managed to convey that she knew we had more people at home, and so we needed to go get “Pa-PA.”

A bit breathlessly, Girl ran across the street to get Paco and Pa-Pa, returning with them in tow. At this point, there were four bowls on the table, all beset by flies--an unavoidable reality (unavoidable so long as the modern technology known as “screens” remains untapped) in this region in August. Finally, after her extended bustle, Jan-da-reh sat down, panting. In short order, we learned her husband’s name is “Hassan,” and she has five children, all living far away and in different towns, and that she is the proud owner of the donkey that goes into ear-splitting spasms on a two-hour schedule. Every few sentences, she used a word that sounded like “komshu”; later, I looked it up to discover it is komşu and means “neighbor.” Yes, yes, we were definitely soaking up A Very Particular Kind of Neighborliness and feeling warmed inside by being told, by somehow understanding her Turkish, that we should come outside her gate everyday and call “Jan-de-reh! Jan-de-reh, çay, çay!” and have a regular sitdown with her.

Suddenly, it seemed like we might forge some connections in this new village, that we might feel less alone and adrift, that we might discover meaning through people this year.

And then the headscarves came out.

Beckoning me to her and holding up a scarf edged in beaded lace, Jan-da-reh lassoed my skull with a deft touch, wrapping the ends around my neck. She stepped back, regarded me, and clapped her hands with delight.

Feeling mature enough not to mind being her plaything, I smiled and acted Natalie Wood in West Side Story. Turning to my husband, Jan-da-reh asked him if he didn’t think I was a regular “Fatima.”

Feeling mature enough to play along with my attempt at feeling pretty, Groom nodded and smiled appreciatively at the make-over she’d wrought on his harlot infidel of a wife. Why, with me all scarved up like that, he could see the benefits of having a modest woman at his side. One so modest would bring acclaim to his name, raise up some hearty children, and fry up some fierce egg bread!

Mostly, I rued the fact that I couldn’t point out how jarring it is to drape an aging bookworm in a tablecloth. I also rued the fact that Jan-da-reh called out the universal word of “photo” and tossed Girl back out into the street to retrieve our camera from the house.


You know what’s more jarring than a bespectacled English major capped by grubby linen? When that same Hamlet reader is told that the head scarf ONLY costs 20 lira, payable upon exit through the gate.

Unsure of the proper cultural response to this unforeseen business proposal, Groom and I launched into the couplesspeak made up of frantic eye-catching and hissed whisperings of, “Do we have to buy it? If we don’t, do we get stoned?” At one point, I decided we had to make the purchase in order to assure good neighborly relations, and so I murmured to Groom, “My mom could wear this over her shoulders to the country club or something. I’ll just give it to her as a present.” Groom still wasn’t certain, looking properly discomfited.

And then the beaded necklaces came out.

Quickly snapped around each child’s neck, the necklaces were much praised by all, many thanks were uttered…and then the price of five lira each came out.

Somehow, at the same time, Jan-da-reh also threw some of the Turkish mainstay called “pekmez” (basically, a molasses made out of grapes…terrific stirred into yogurt or put on bread) into a jar and ladled three teaspoonsful into my husband’s mouth.

Oh, yea, and by the way? Five lira.

Fortunately, Our Delightful Neighbor’s pushiness hit a critical mass with me, one that allowed me to overcome the blight known as Minnesota Nice. We stood up to leave, offering up many thanks for the food and tea, at which point we declined any and all opportunities to support her donkey’s need for feed.

Looking crestfallen, Jan-da-reh attempted to lay guilt upon our heathen souls, but we pushed past her, out into the street, where the manure-tainted air of her donkey’s tethering post served as a welcome relief.

Two hours later, our friend Christina arrived in the village for a visit; as we stood in the street, chatting, Jan-da-reh bubbled out to shout a loud HALLO. Christina, an expat of seven years in country, had a quick exchange with her before turning to us to say, “Oh, gawd. That woman. I should have warned you about her. She does this thing where she lures tourists in and then sells them crappy overpriced socks, which they’re willing to pay for just to escape her clutches. A couple years ago, she was even on the news, bragging about how she does this. If she ever comes near you, run.”

Equally reassuringly, when we retold the story to another expat, this one with twelve years (and three husbands) in country, she was shocked and could only utter, “But. that’s. so. rude. How dare she? Don’t worry: that wasn’t anything that could have been a cultural violation on your part. She’s just awful, that’s all.”

In a simple world, the story would end there, with everyone condemning Jan-da-leh as a greedy viper. However, and I actually like this best of all, she remains completely undaunted. It’s as though she gave us a run, and we set down a boundary, and now she’s free lay the hell off.

Tonight, as we sat outside the wine shop, having tea as guests of the owner (and doesn't he appreciate our business?), she breezed past with a plate of lemon cake, probably meant as a donation to the iftar meal (the night time dinner that breaks the fast during Ramazan) that is offered up for men who don’t have families. Blowing us huge kisses off the tips of her fingers, she slowed down long enough—not to call out an ensnaring “Hallo,” but rather to break off a chunk of the cake and place it onto our table. Babbling away, she gave us a “merhaba” and a “çok,” and in between, there flowed a stream of words that managed to mean both

nothing

and

everything

all at once.


Thus was our introduction to the concept of “komşu” in our new home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Shortcutting"

Because we're on a limited Internet plan here at the house, I'm taking the quick way to show you pictures of our new abode.  I put a gallery of photos up on our Family Blog that is linked to my husband's comic blog (his comics are at http://www.layingfallow.com/).  So if you follow this link, you can see pix of the joint:

http://layingfallow.com/turkeyblog/

My husband also put up an audio file of the Call to Prayer that blares six times a day right above our heads, so if you have time, scroll down to previous posts and give it a listen.

Enjoy!  I'm hoping to get around to visiting blogs and doing some actual writing in the next bit here...  Do know how very much I'm enjoying the comments and the continued feeling of community in the blogosphere during this time when we know so few people.  Thanks, y'all.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"In a Pistachio Nutshell"

After nine nights in a pension, two nights in a hotel, and four nights crashing with a friend, we are now in our house for the year. It's all very exciting, and pictures will follow, but since I'm typing at an Internet cafe, I'm going to have to cut corners and post a copy and paste of an email I just sent to a galpal. At the end of the message is a series of pictures taken at the Saturday market in a town called Ürgüp.

Brace yourself for, er, "uncrafted" prose!
------------------

Hıya, Sweets:

I'm ın an Internet cafe usıng a Turkısh keyboard (we'll be workıng on gettıng Internet ın our house thıs upcomıng week; thıs process ınvolves a new frıend who lıves ın a dıfferent vıllage travelıng to the nearby cıty of Ürgüp to meet us there at the post offıce, where she wıll do the talkıng to explaın that we need the phone lıne turned on ın our house but not for phone, only for DSL [we've gotten one cell phone and may up that to two]), so forgıve all the weırd letters and such...ıt slows down my typıng too much to hunt around the new layout of the keyboard and be super perfect, so...

We have been ın our house for two nıghts now--ıt's been fun but tırıng...the place had been emptıed out but not cleaned, and we've dıscovered how deep the dırt goes ın a house that hasn't been occupıed for ten years, especıally a 400-year-old Greek stone house that ıs constantly droppıng pıeces of the roof and walls ın the form of dust, crumbs, and dust. My body aches from all the sweepıng and moppıng! Our frıend Chrıstına and I spent an afternoon orderıng furnıture at some secondhand shops ın the neıghborıng cıty of Nevşehır, so we have a rudımentary set-up emergıng--beds and thıngs...plus the landlord, who seems to be The Godfather of the town (ın a benevolent way...our frıends who were translatıng for us durıng the fırmıng up of the rental say he's lıke a trıbal "lord"...comes from old money, owns lots of propertıes, ıs very powerful, gets to choose when he's feelıng benıfıcent or not), ıs also an antıques dealer and put at our dısposal a "depot" of furnıture that's housed off the courtyard, so we've been draggıng thıngs out of there. Some of the stuff ıs antıque and has good character, but mostly ıt's newer furnıture that smacks of, em, the Turkısh taste of LOUD AND PATTERNED AND EVEN BETTER IF IT'S SYNTHETIC. We've also been hıttıng the vıllage markets and housewares stores for dıshes and such; Groom braved the Saturday people's market ın Nevşehır to forage for 'seconds' on bed lınens; Chrıstına has found ıt's the only place that sells anythıng made of cotton--all pıllowcases and sheets otherwıse have an acrylıc feel and are shıny--so Our Man shored hımself up and hıt the stalls. For Chrıstına, the experıence ıs always hellısh, as the 'headscarf ladıes' are pretty agressıve about throwıng elbows and takıng ıtems rıght out of her hands; however, she predıcted the ladıes would respect Groom's personal space, sınce he'd be the only man ın the crowd, and that they mıght have to tıtter a bıt at hıs presence. He found thıs to be true--although he was asked a few tımes ıf he's Dutch. Anyhow, he emerged wıth a few good fınds ın the form of dıshcloths, bath towels, duvet covers, and sheets. He couldn't fınd everythıng we need, but ıt seems lıke goıng back week after week wıll get us there. And get thıs: sınce many Amerıcan companıes have factorıes ın Turkey, the stuff he brought home was Calvın Kleın, Ralph Lauren, and Wıllıams Sonoma. Heh.

Other ımportant news about our move ıs that we now lıve dırectly under a mosque's loudspeaker and next door to a hıgh-strung donkey, whıch ıs makıng for awe-ınspırıngly loud nıghts. We fıgure ın a few days, we'll adjust and sleep through ıt all. Apparently, the mosque next door ıs only ın daıly usage durıng Ramazan, and after that, ıt'll go down to beıng used only on Frıday (the maın day of worshıp). The donkey, unfortunately, ıs a year-round addıtıon to our audıtory and olfactory lıves. I keep tellıng the kıds, "There are very few thıngs I can ever tell you are for sure, but I feel certaın that I can predıct you'll never agaın lıve between a mosque and a donkey." Gırl moved upstaırs to her "garret" bedroom last nıght, and she reports she heard neıther the Ramazan drummers goıng around the streets nor the Call to Prayer at 4:30 a.m. Only the donkey's hee-haws and general Havıng a Fıt spasms made ıt up her staırcase.

Because the house ıs so old, and because the ıdea of separate lıvıng and sleepıng spaces ısn't always part of the tradıtıon here, we don't have clearly segmented bedrooms. Gırl ıs up a ladderısh staırcase ın a "dressıng room," whıch ıs bıgger than her room at home; Groom and I are ın the closest thıng to a bedroom; and we're transıtıonıng Paco ınto hıs own room, whıch ıs actually the grandest room ın the whole house--ıt's kınd of the maın 'salon.' There ıs a raısed sıttıng area ın that room, and whıle we're consıderıng gettıng custom cushıons made for that area, we're not sure ıt would be worth the cost sınce ıt's for only a year...so he has hıs mattress on that raısed sıttıng area, and then he also wanted hıs lıttle desk up on that raısed area, too...so, heck, why not? We're about a day away from hangıng Pokemon and Lego posters underneath the ornate carvıngs and alcoves that hold hıs Geronımo Stılton books. And, thus, modern crashes ınto ancıent wıth an echoıng HEE-HAW. There ıs the "guest suıte" off the courtyard, too, but we kınd of lıke havıng all of us sleepıng on the same level and not beıng separated by havıng to go out of doors and down the staırs to get to each other ın the nıght.

Our town of Ortahısar ısn't the prettıest place, although ıt perches on the edge of a beautıful canyon, whıch we hope someday soon to have the energy to explore, and there's a volcano ın the dıstance. I do really lıke the maın street of the vıllage, but the rest ıs kınd of blah, wıth apartment buıldıngs that smack of Old Sovıet constructıon.

The people here are frıendly and lovely--we had to have a cup of coffee before beıng allowed to leave the housewares store today--although ıt's clear to me that I am made more comfortable by vırtue of havıng a husband and kıds. Quıte often, the streets here are lıned only wıth men, who sıt all day and play games and chat and hang out. As well, the tea house ıs only frequented by men, so we can be assured of an attentıve audıence of 60 guys ın full stare as we walk by. However, beıng a mother and wıfe makes ıt okay for me to be out. Sıngle women are made more uncomfortable. Thıs ıs very much a small vıllage phenomenon, not somethıng one would feel ın Istanbul or a bıgger cıty; even ın Goreme, because ıt's so tourısted, no one looks twıce at shorts, tank tops, or the women ın them.

Yesterday, whıle Groom fought for bed lınens, the kıds and I joıned Chrıstına and frıend Elaıne (who had her 19-month-old along) ın the very small salon of a Romanıan beautıcıan named Mırella. Gırl got her fırst manıcure, and I got my fırst-ever pedıcure and an amazıng facıal, and the others got waxıngs and such. It was an epıc 5 hours of wranglıng space, chıldren, body haır, and the phılosophızıng of an accented woman who has an opınıon on everythıng. I had an unadulterated blast.
------------------
So, Gentle Readers, as movıng house calms down, and we settle ınto some normalcy, I'll post some photos of the house. Serıously, the frıends who helped us fınd and rent ıt swear they've never seen the lıke ın all theır years ın thıs country. It seems a lucky star fell from the heavens and crashed dırectly ınto our famıly and the donkey next door. The house ıtself ıs buılt on top of thousand-year-old cave homes. Offıcıally, my mınd ıs blown.

Here now are some photos from market day last week ın Ürgüp. Wıth temperatures runnıng hıgh and Ramazan ın full swıng, you can see ın the faces and postures of the sellers what mıd-afternoon feels lıke for people who have neıther drunk nor eaten.













I certaınly hope, as you skımmed thorugh these photos, that you dıdn't overlook the one I call "Cabbages Bıgger Than Hıs Butt."

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Let's Ponder Why This Business Might Have Failed"


Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Life in the Pen(sion)"

Here are the facts that got me 10-to-Life (I was totally framed--circumstantial evidence!):

1) We're in Turkey, hanging out in the same pension (read: small hotel run by a family, kind of a hostel meets B & B) for nine days. Because the average turnover of guests seems to be 2-3 days, our longer stay is allowing us to tap into the rhythms and arcs of our fellow travelers. Already, in this short while of ours, we've seen 'em come, and we've seen 'em go. This casts me into the viewpoint of the pension owners, who watch Sunburned People In Shorts Wheeling Suitcases Behind Them While Wearing Sunglasses on Their Heads get into and out of taxis, shuttles, mini-vans in front of the place for six active months of the year. Such a mass of clacking gawkers quickly loses any individuation for the weary native. As part of that mass of clacking gawkers in my own way, I have realized how anonymous I feel here and how that reality rather irons me flat. If I have a rare quiet moment in the presence of the pension owner, for example, I am empty, without comment, not sure how to open a conversation with her when I am hyper aware that I am just another warm body easing through her warm spaces, spaces she has created with profit--not companionship--in mind. On occasion, I start to feel I am actually flat and empty, someone who is capable only of staring vacantly and twittering about the weather; then I shake myself and chide, "Girlfriend, really. You do have things to say back home--you know, when you're not baking, and you're not spending huge parts of your day trying to find clothes for the family members, and when you have a house with a kitchen and feel like you have some control over the structure of your life. Honestly, you are someone who can ask questions and make appropriate responses. This current malaise is just a bad case of Pension Head."

2)  While I am fairly uninspired externally, I am on the intake.  As I watch guests flowing through the door, being introduced to their rooms and the locations of the bathrooms, booking their tours, and belly flopping into the pool, I am eating them up.  But I'm here to tell you, Smiley Father from Britain with the Funky Glasses Frames Who Spent an Awfully Long Time Next to the Pool Today for Someone Who Never Entered the Pool, that I noticed you noticing my funky glasses frames, noticed you thinking--however briefly--that if we were living in the same place for any time at all, we'd probably compare frittata recipes.

3)  While Funky Framed Fathers from Britain provide good spectacle (hahahahahahaha), my people watching the last two days has been dominated by a large and annoying-as-Fran-Dreschner's laugh group of 20-year-old French youth.  Now, I'm trying not to swear here, as my mom has let me know she's sent out this blog address to everyone she's bumped into in recent years, along with a cadre of those she hasn't, and I would hate to offend a dedicated quilter or Red Hatter, but hell if I can stop myself nevertheless:  Mon Dieu, mais The Young Frenchies are a crapass group of mo-fos.  It's not the smoking that gets me, as I'm well aware we're not at The Mall of America anymore, Toto.  That noted, smoking around children, particularly my children, will never cease to peeve me.  What gets me is:

the noise;

the jumping in the pool with a scream at 2 a.m. and at 8 a.m.;

the doing a running cannonball into the pool quite literally on top of families with small children who are already swimming;

the blocking off of every possible walkway while gesticulating wildly and broadcasting a lack of clothing;

the yapping until all hours on the balconies;

the knocking on the bathroom door when a friend has just gone in to take a shower, yelling comments and insults through the entire shower while continuing to knock loudly, as though the act of knocking loudly and yelling comments during a friend's shower somehow makes The Knocker clever;

the laying all over any seating available in the lounge area; the taking up of every breakfast table even though there are only 8 in the group;

the rumpling of every possible rug, floor mat, or curtain in the joint so that all future passers-by trip;

the careless tossing of the roll of toilet paper onto the floor so that it is completely drenched by the end of a shower (Aha!  It's their friend in there, so they should make sure they knock and yell, oui?) because the bathroom is just one undivided room wherein the shower is not sectioned off in any way;


the emptying of all provided shampoo bottles before 9 a.m., which is not so egregious, as it does happen, but why leave the empty bottles stacked in the sink so that a person who might like to brush her teeth has to scoop them out before she can spit?;

in short, why are they so young, so French, so jejune, so acting like Jocelyn's last nerve is their own personal discotheque playing the extended dance remix version of "Riding on the Metro"?


4) The thing about bad manners, especially Bad Shared Bathroom Manners, is that it puts fellow travelers into a pickle, and by "pickle," what I really mean is what the bajeebus am I supposed to do about the hair in the drain that looks like a weasel crawled in from the Sahara, in search of its last sip, but it arrived a bit too late and expired from heat exhaustion right there on the grate?  Seriously.  Yesterday, I was sitting on the toilet, not at all having Day 5 of eye-averting diarrhoea so shut up already, thinking a shower might be in order.  Already feeling a bit fragile, I quietly contemplated la douche.  Wouldn't it feel good to shed the day's worries, to rinse off the dried sweat, to freshen my lank hair?  Wouldn't it feel good--OH SWEET HASSELHOFF, WHAT IS THAT IN THE DRAIN?  Eyeing the dead shrew clumped over the drainage, I emitted a whimper strangled by a shriek. 

So, what?  My options were to:  a)  not shower because eight French youth had just stood in line for 45 minutes outside this bathroom, knocking and gibing and gallumphing during their wait to shower...and then when each had his turn, he somehow Nair-ed off 4 ounces of bodily hair?  No wonder the poolside garcons had chests smooth as air hockey tables!  The hair was all laying upstairs on the bathroom floor; b) not let them Frogs' denuding clog my opportunity for Shower Happy...which would mean ME removing the hair from the drain, for no suds of mine could exit the bathroom with a dead marmot stopping up the drain.

I opted for c):  go for the restorative shower, but stalk the other floors of the pension for their bathrooms, leaving the strangled hedgehog there in the drain for the poor underpaid maid to deal with in the morning.

5)  The beauty of my longer-term stay at the pension is that I'll outlast The Frenchies.  Their requisite three days will come to an end tonight when they gallivant off to catch the bus to Istanbul, yet I'll still be here--for a whole 'nother day--ready to stake my flag of triumph (maybe building an Arc de Triomphe would be more appropos?).  As their bus pulls away from the village, I'm planning to take their breakfast forks, thoughtlessly discarded onto the floor where a baby is crawling, and stab them into the towering laundry pile of their smokey, grubby, hairy bed sheets.

Au revoir, poodles.  Va te faire foutre!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"We're in the Throes of a Frustrating Search for a Home and Have Only Two More Nights in the Pension, Which Means I'm Both Disheartened Yet Still Enjoying the Spectacle...Hence, I Call This Post 'Snippets'"

I woke up the other morning to the voice of a balloon pilot calling out to our neighbors at the pension, who were sitting out on their balcony, taking in the morning balloon launches. The pilot, hovering incredibly close to the pension, called out, "Can I offer you a cup of coffee?"


The celebration of Ramazan (as it's called in Turkey) starts today: 28 days during which devout Muslims neither eat nor drink during daylight hours. They have one meal just before sunrise and one just after--and if that's not an occasion for gluttony, I don't know what is. Everyday's Ramazan for Jocelyn, in that respect.

Anyhow, due to Ramazan, the village bakery was pulling fresh loaves out of their ovens at 6 p.m. last night, so that folks could load up on good food on their way home from work, shopping, gouging the tourists... We scored a steaming hot wheel of sesame bread, already a favorite of mine. When I took the picture above, though, I looked at it and thought, "Wow, it looks like Domino's delivers in Cappadocia."

A Turkish tradition during Ramazan is to have crews of drummers walk the streets in the hours before sunrise, banging on huge olive oil cans. As they pass each house, they call out the names of the inhabitants, along with words to the effect of "Roll your hungry belly out of bed, you layabout, and have a stack of pancakes. Then have an omelette. Maybe tack on some sesame bread and feta. Plus a nectarine, some figs, some mulberries, and a Snickers."

Thus, between 2 and 3 a.m., the streets are literally being pounded by the feet of hollering drum crews; at 4:30 a.m. the first Call to Prayer echoes across the valley; and at 5:00 a.m. forty hot air balloons fire up their roaring propane jets and take off.

But get this: sure, I'm waking up for some of it each dawn, and a few times I've just stayed up, but mostly, I wake up, listen, register the activities, and then fall deeply back to sleep. Even my bones are tired.

All right, back to the day now. It's market day in Goreme, and we need to ask every single person we encounter if they've heard of any rentals. So far, it's looking grim, but we'll expand our search to neighboring villages starting tomorrow.

More anon!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

"One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect, the whole world looks like home for a time."
--Herman Hesse 



Sometimes, 5,700 miles from Minnesota, 480 miles from Iraq, a person scans the landscape and thinks, "Jump back, Mehmet, and crumble me with feta: this place looks just like central Montana!"

Admittedly, there are some dramatic differences, particularly in that Göreme, Cappadocia, has cave homes and towering rock "fairy chimneys" whereas Billings, Montana, has rimrocks and dazed-looking people sporting Black Sabbath t-shirts.  Ozzy Osbourne worship aside, however, the places share remarkable geological similarities. 

Since I'm an English major whose academic career was designed with great precision around avoiding science classes, don't expect me to know what any of them are, though.  Probably the words "volcanic," "erosion," and "sedimentary rock" should be used.  Mostly, my humanities-bound brain wants to wax lyrical about "forty shades of brown," "scrub with a backdrop of striation," and "nestling in the palm of a valley."  To punctuate these sentiments, I am contracting tuberculosis and coughing blood genteely into a handkerchief as I type.

Indeed, it would seem I've come home, at least topographically, to this arid place of dust and hoodoos, this place that resonates with the American West, that reminds me not only of Montana but also of Utah and Arizona, that blows with the hot winds of my youth (hesh up with your comments that Jocelyn's Hot Winds continue to blow unabated).

In every other way, of course, I'm agog.  'Cause I'm in TURKEY!  And the people here are Turks!! And they speak Turkish!!!  And some books say the Star Wars scenes of the Lars Family homestead on Tatooine were filmed right here in Cappadocia, but they don't know what they're talking about because my husband's telling me that's a myth and that they were actually filmed in Morocco!!!!  But then I googled this pressing issue only to discover it's a myth, indeed, that the scenes were filmed in Cappadocia because they were filmed in Tunisia and who ever knew I'd have to come all they way to Turkey to discover my husband doesn't even know the difference between Morocco and Tunisia, and he's even been to Morocco, but maybe he thinks he went to Tunisia, but I'm not going to bring up this point right now because he has bags under his eyes and is waiting for the kids to fall asleep in the hotel room before he goes in, and while he's waiting, he's playing Super Mario Brothers on the DS, which kind of gives me a reality check of "Holy Atari, I married a grown man who has taken up playing Super Mario Brothers, and that feels like a weird betrayal since he was all about pointing out the first trillium of spring when I first met him," and suddenly the whole thing seems like an onion whose layers I'm not ready to start peeling back which is not even an Islamic phrase but it sure seems like something they should say here because they do have onions.  And hands.  For with which to do the peeling. 

All of which is to say that coming to Turkey has been really good so far because it's got me considering George Lucas films and the bedrock of my marriage is actually pumice.

To be honest, I'm also spending about three wakeful hours each early morning fretting, "Nowthdhubillah, what have we done?"  Then it gets really hot, and we jump in the pool about three times, and then we lay around in our room at the pension feeling all dopey, and then the sun sets, and the village comes to life, and, as we walk about in search of food and cold drinks, spirits and eyes lift, and I'm left with a feeling that all will be well once heat and jet lag are banished, once the tourist season ends and we have more options of a home to rent, once the four of us aren't living in one small room along with twelve pieces of luggage,

once I can find a pair of clean underwear without spending ten minutes out on the balcony in the unrelenting sun, sifting through the stacks of suitcases, because pretty much this method means I'm dripping with sweat before I ever score the undies, and so then, Hanes in hand, I have to spread out on the bed like a sea star for another ten minutes just to let the sweat dry off before I slip into the much-sought-after pantaloonies, and if you ask me, putting twenty minutes a day into getting myself into a pair of clean unmentionables (prudes, nuns, and Dr. James Dobson:  ignore the places where I just mentioned them) is twenty minutes of my day that could have been better spent watching French backpackers smoke and take a single lap around the pool in their mini swimwear that reveals they come from a culture that may eat small portions and sip anti-oxidantizing red wine but doesn't give two whits about toning upper arm flap.

So, um, yea.  It's hot, and we're here, and we're acclimating bit by bit.  My husband's got his comic Website up, which will feature panels graphicizing our time here; if you're interested in seeing his etchings (I sure was back in '99, which resulted in an impressive baby bump a few months later)--or even if you're not but have always wondered if his parents actually named him Groom--go here:  http://www.layingfallow.com/.  If you do visit his site, maybe leave him a comment about the differences between Morocco and Tunisia. 

All right.  My intention when starting this post was to announce I was really tired and then say, "But here.  Look at some pictures."  As it turns out, I was so tired, I went to bed several nights in a row instead of typing "But here.  Look at some pictures," and now it's been a few days, and I'm feeling a bit more on my game--save for ailing with a little case of Turkish Tummy today--so I'm starting to think I might actually type something in this post after all.  Raise your hand if you think I should type long, rambling paragraphs about underwear and Star Wars.




Okay.  Put them down now.  I've followed your wishes. 

Having responded to popular demand, I now tell you that here are some pictures of the last few days, which I'll hardly comment upon at all because, really, I'm just too tired, having awakened this morning before the first Call to Prayer at 4:30 a.m.   After laying there for more than an hour, I decided to go out for a run--something Not Done here--and although it was delightful to explore dusty, winding roads that ended up in pumpkin patches flanked by cave homes, and although it was a trip to holler to all the staring early-morning tractor-driving Turks, "Yea, that's right.  We call this running, and we do it so we can go to the Olympics, like I did.  Just look me up in the record books:  Marion Jones.  Yea, look that one up for some big surprises"--the fact that I'd done entirely too much by 7 a.m. has left me a bit out of sorts for the rest of this day.

Which is why I'm only giving you some pictures to look at now.

This first picture is of Paco and Girl as they boarded our flight to Istanbul; even after a flight from Minneapolis to Chicago, even after a three-hour layover in Chicago, even after Paco had spent days protesting how much he hated Turkey and that we had to do this thing and that he just wanted to go home to his home, and even after Paco then hummed and jumped and spun and sang his way through the entire day of travel,

they started the long flight over the Atlantic with a fair amount of vigor.



Naturally, ten hours later was a different story because, HELLO, the airlines put a seven-year-old boy in front of a personal screen and gave him a remote control and license to watch about 15 different movies and tv programs, and what kid in his right mind and with restricted technological access otherwise could possibly sleep when HORTON HEARS A WHO is on?

Less than an hour before landing, his head toppled into my lap, and he was nearly unrevivable as the plane emptied.  Resultingly, there was some tugging, some dragging, some crying (I only wept for about five minutes, though), some near throttling, and some furiously whispered, "I know you're tired, but you need to get it together and get off this plane because we only have an hour and a half before our next flight, and we have to get our visas and go through passport control, so snap to and get marching, Friedrich!"

After buying him a can of pop in the airport, the fatigued trooper announced, "I'm better now, Mom.  All I needed were some bubbles, and now I'm good."  With everyone's attitude improved, AND THANK YOU, COCA-COLA LIGHT,  we hopped on the flight to Keysari, at the end of which we retrieved all 8 of our suitcases and wandered outside, where we were met by our pal, The Hospitable Expat, she who helped motivate and shape the entire plan for our year abroad.  Hospitable Expat had arranged for a 16-seat mini-bus to meet us, for a reasonable fee, and drive us the hour to Goreme, whereupon we were deposited nearly twenty-four hours after launching the trip, at this small hotel:




Since most pensions don't have rooms bigger than triples, a guy we call Stoner Shaun dragged in an extra mattress for us, through the door on the left:




The room is so small that our luggage has to live out on the balcony, as does Groom when he starts rambling about Morocco.




This next picture should be entitled "The Day After HORTON HEARS A WHO":



Paco was so wacked that he slept through the first Call to Prayer that next morning, but Groom, Girl and I woke up and stayed awake, which provided the side benefit of watching the take-off of nearly 40 hot air balloons (one of Goreme's tourist mainstays).  While the recording of the Call to Prayer kind of cracks me up because it ends with a static-y "thump," as though the singer of the meuzzin is a sort of Johnny Rotten throwing the mic to the stage and stomping off after an encore of "Anarchy in the U.K.," the sounds of the propane fires in the sky at 5:00 a.m. are more mystical, like dragons raining down to invade the village.  A person not sufficiently worn down by Seussian adaptation could hardly be expected to sleep, really.










In case you got confused because I didn't caption each photo, those were all pictures of hot air balloons taking off to explore the valley.  Duh.

In our three days here, we've spent more time in the pool than anywhere.  Basically, we make it a few hours and then require a core temperature cool down.  Then we try to find a pair of clean underwear and have to go jump back in.




Despite the row of beds that makes our room feel like an orphanage (guess who gets to play Miss Hannigan?), the room does the job, and the overall vibe of the pension is laid back and comfortable.  In the photo below, you see Paco demonstrating "laid back" and "comfortable."




Every now and then, braced by a cooling swim and a Bitter Lemon-flavored Schweppes, we head out for a meander around the village.




In many ways, in addition to reminding me of Montana, this place reminds me of Central America, with its stone buildings, heaps of crumble, satellite dishes attached to seeming hovels, and trash-littered streets.  This morning, out on my run, the sight of an empty Red Bull can outside a cave house carved out more than a thousand years ago made me lurch to a stop and marvel, "Yup.  That pretty much summarizes the place."




Goreme village




The village.  Duh squared.




If you've ever wondered what troglodytes did, it was to transform these things into homes.  Vast numbers of them are still inhabited.

Kind of makes a person want to be a troglodyte.




High season for tourists means scooters for rent, speaking of things this troglodyte-wannabe would like to do but probably won't, thanks to heat and expense.




I once had a thumbnail that looked like this.  Not too sure how that happened, but gin was involved.




Don't you think these places must be a bitch to vacuum?




Oh, yes.  We will be buying carpets.  I mean, you know, because we have to.  Supporting the local economy and all.




I haven't read the newspaper in years, but the Zaman Daily might convert me back to the occasional sitdown.  How else will I know that it's hot?

The article Groom is reading in this photo is entitled, "INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAHI RAJI'UN: INTELLIGENT ADULTS SNARED BY MARIO BROTHERS."  In other news, Morocco declared its independence from Tunisia.

I don't make the news, just report it. 


(Incidentally, check out our PARADE magazine supplement, in which splashy photos of nectarines bought at the Avanos village market day are contrasted with the mighty castle in the village of Uchisar.)

Ah, hell, why make you leaf through the supplement?  Here's the castle right now, along with the nice ladies who invited us up to their roof so as to get a better view of the valley:




Which one do you think drinks Red Bull?


Sunday, August 01, 2010

"No More Hustle: All Flow"

The research papers were graded; the discussion posts logged. The nine day slow-motion swoon of goodbyes and "short visits" was drawing to a close. In the fridge, the crisper drawers had been emptied and washed out. At midnight, the windowsills received a vacuuming. Blessedly, the kids had sleepovers at friends' houses, so we'd been able to make thirty uninterrupted trips to the basement, carrying fans, chairs, baskets, tubs, Legos, balls, bedding.

By two a.m., I'd entered my grades for summer classes with the registrar and wiped off three years of dust from the molding behind a bathroom shelf.

Nearing packing completion, paperwork in order, a salutary sunset run through the trees completed, torso covered with dried sweat,

I eyed the house's one remaining in-use mattress and marveled at the peace that accompanies lack of stuff. Spartanism charms.



A simple pan downwards, though, reveals the barely-contained chaos



of a family's possessions, massed,



enjoying new intimacies.



May the next year for them be as it will for us--



peppered with new friendships--



daring the unexpected leap--



realizing the interconnectedness of all things.


I sagged into the mattress and marveled one more time at the stack of luggage, staged and ready to be loaded into a trailer, pulled behind a mini-van, and driven south for a few days before ricocheting much further east.



Sleep evulsed consciousness, but not before I noted to the congregated suitcases, "Wow, you boys are hecka lotta stuff for a family of four to be dragging around. Are you sure some of you wouldn't rather go have a nice, stimulating year in the basement, maybe join a fraternity, hit a few parties?"

Taking their stolid silence as a vote for enriching world travel over beer bongs, I faded to black,

arising a few hours later to push the mattress down the stairs, mop the floors with vinegar, and help my husband sit on and compress our overflowing garbage can in the alley.

When we pulled out of town some hours later, tshirts still wet with perspiration, we kept our eyes glued to the double yellow line of the road ahead--

resolutely refusing to glance back and see if the ravens were already pecking through our leavings.