Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Wedding Begins

Tuesday morning I went down to Gulsum. The wedding was finally beginning this evening. I needed to find out what the format was.
When I arrived Gulsum and her Mum were busy. Her house is divided into two apartments and the tenants of the downstairs apartment had moved out. They were busy getting this ready in case the evenings were cold and  guests might want to sit inside.
One room was set aside for the cook. As usual I didn't think of taking photos when I should have. There were sacks of rice and chick peas in aditio to gallons of oil, litres of water and rakı. İ was informed that it is usually only  at the grooms home that alcohol is proffered.
Food would be provided here for two days and at the brides home for three. Generally the groom's guests eat at the groom's home and the brideis at her home. The two groups will only come together in the evenings.
In the meantime there was work to be done. Gülsüm was struggling to connect a soba, a woodburning stove to the chimney. The soba is the most common form of heating in Turkey. They are assembled in winter and taken down and put away once the weather warms up in spring.

 The flue for the chimney didn'tseem big enough for the pipe. Gülsüm was balancing precariously on top of the soba, banging on the pipe to make it fit. Pieces of plaster started to fall. Even though she lives in an all male household there wasn't a man in sight. İ suggested İ give Metin a ring. Within ten minutes he had arrived, unblocked the flue. There was a build up of soot and this was why there was a problem. He was not escaping that easily though, there were suddenly several other jobs that needed to be done and he was a man with a toolbox who knew what he was doing.

A short while later Olcay arrived home. He supervised us as we cleaned and got the place ready. Metin went off to buy parts to fix the built-in bidet in the toilet. Most toilets in Turkey have a built in faucet at the back of the toilet. And he thought he was just coming to connect the soba!

In the meantime we went upstairs. The cook arrived and Gülsüm realised that she had forgotten to buy garlic in the market the day before. Luckily it wasn't too late to go to the market in Gölköy. İ offered to drive her.
She had already spent over $300 on vegetables the previous day. An enormous amount considering that a kilo of tomatoes can be bought for just over a euro and onions for less. There was  some hard bargaining done as leeks and parsley were added to the purchases. These were to be delivered with the rest of the
vegetables later.

The vegetables arrive

What next?

Olcay helps to unpack the lorry

The afternoon was spent in preparations. İ drove Gülsüm, her eldest son's fıancee and her fıancee's mother to the hairdresser, where their hair was tweaked and twisted into elaborate updos and curls.

İ sneaked off home for a couple of hours and then the main event began. This night was fairly low key. We went to the bride's home or should I say in the communal space between several houses.  Tables and chairs were laid out in the garden and a chef was on duty here.  Metin and İ sat down to eat.'İ was glad to have some company as Gülsüm was busy with family. Trying to follow the format, İ asked at what stage would the formal wedding take place. İmagine my surprise when İ was told the  'nikah' the formal civil wedding usually takes place a week or so before the 'düğün' the wedding celebrations. The henna ceremony would take place the next night and the takı, the pinning o of the gold and money would take place on the last night.

Once we had eaten however Gülsüm arrived over and said we were now moving down to the lower level where the dancing was to take place. Metin got up to come with me but was told to stay with the men! The grooms female family and friends sat together and so did the brides. Though the two families knew each other well there was not much conversation between them. İ was aware of pre wedding tensions between the families but thought that now that dowry and where the couple were going to live had been decided that the worst of the tensions were over.

The fun begins......the bride was 18 in Sptember.

The dancing began. The bride had appeared dressed in red. This was the first of four outfits she would wear over the course of the wedding.  First of all the ladies began dancing. They danced in small groups of four or five. These were traditional dances and were not about getting up and joining in. When each group finished another group got up and did the same thing, followed by the original group doing the same thing again. İt became slightly repetitive, as sitting in the dark the evening got progressively cooler. The beautiful style of the close family was soon being covered over by shawls and winter jackets, only being removed when it was time to dance.

On the right is the grooms brother and his fiancee. 

Metin appeared, handed me the car keys and said he was leaving. He was freezing and his bed was beckoning. İ watched him go enviously as İ was also feeling the chill and hadn't come prepared. Thankfully it was time for everyone to dance and İ was able to get up and move about. İ pitied the ladies in high heels who had to dance in rough ground. İ take off my hats to them for their agility in staying upright. İ can't manage heels at the best of times, what wpould they have been like here.

Traditional dancing

The bride's extended family

Gülsüm, her mother on the left and her daughter-in-law-to-be, Tuğba  on the right.

The two Mammies
Dress styles were varied

Note the shawls and jackets of the spectators.
Then it was the men's turn.

 I looked around me and noticed that many had left. I pulled my phone from my bag and told a little white lie. I have two more nights of this so I didn't feel too guilty. I made my excuses saying Hubbie had rung me couple of times and I needed to return to the house.

I made my way back to the car and headed for home. In spite of the time I made a nice big mug of coffee. I needed to warm up, then I headed for bed with a good book. Tomorrow will be round two

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stereotypes or not?

 I still had a day before the wedding. The first order of business was to go into Bodrum to buy a gold coin as  wedding present for Onur.

I hadn't a clue what I was doing so I asked Metin  what was the procedure. He kindly offered to come with me......he will endure a shopping trip if it means he gets a chance to drive the car. We would also go and get his caricature framed.

We went straight to Bodrum and headed for the jewellers. Metin must have had practice at this because he knew exactly where we were going Had I known where to go, I would have managed on my own. . There were rows of coins on display, each one attached to a small red ribbon and a safety pin,  all ready for pinning to the bride or groom. The coin was incredibly small and light so I asked to see a bigger one but at double the price it was out of my budget. The deal done, the coin placed safely in my bag - with dire warnings from Metin to be careful with it (he has seen me in action, looking for phone purse and keys)- we decided to head downtown.

I wanted to do some early Christmas shopping, No.2 daughter wanted knitted socks, a hoodie  and earrings and No.4 daughter wants a new handbag. The sun was shining and it was much to beautiful to go shopping so we decided to stop and have coffee instead. What can be more relaxing than sitting in the sun , looking out to sea knowing the weather is wet and miserable at home.

Our view while drinking coffee......it was raining heavily at home in Ireland :-)

The Castle of St. Peter Bodrum

There is only one thing that makes me uncomfortable.  Stereotyping.  In Turkey  middle aged women have a terrible reputation for falling for young handsome Turks. They are reputed to park their brains.....and pants..... at the  airport.

 So here I am sitting in the sun with "my young Turk" enjoying the sunshine while at the same time wondering is everyone thinking I'm just another foolish "Big Bertha." Metin, on the other side of the table is wondering if everyone is thinking, here is another young Turk milking another stupid woman for all she is worth. It also makes him uncomfortable.

Coffee time!
For me, the feeling is a hangover from my primary school years, when a group of girls tried, and succeeded,  to make my life miserable. They would talk behind their hands, looking at me and laughing. In retrospect, they were probably talking about something totally different but their intent was definitely to wind me up. This left me very uncomfortable around people for a long time, wondering were they talking about me, and of course, finding me wanting. It took me a long time to realise they had better things to do with their time. But now and then I still have to battle with the feeling that everyone is talking about me.

For Metin, Turkey is the original "valley of the squinting windows" There are so many unwritten rules. One example is he will never stay in my house beyond 11p.m. if I am on my own. This would be totally "ayıp - disgraceful" It is probably ayıp that he visits in the first place. The ridiculousness of this is that you could get up to whatever you want at 10am if you wanted.

Why do we insist on labelling people? Why do we try to fit people into boxes? Why should we care what other people think about us or for that matter why should we speculate about others? Why should we rent headspace to people we don't really know and who don't matter.

For me it is important,  that while having respect for the customs of an area, not to let idle speculation ruin an honest and valuable  friendship.

With this in mind, we ate outside that evening, where we were in plain view of those who might wish to speculate.  Who knows does this add to or mitigate from the gossip :-)))))

mmm......Barbie in November!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Recited Gifts.....A Wedding Invitation"

 After breakfast I went over to visit Gülsüm. She was up to her tonsils with visitors coming to call before the wedding. We just had time for a short chat. She also told me the wedding would now start on Tuesday evening instead of Wednesday. It is now a three day wedding. I can see my holiday getting shorter and shorter.

On one hand, I'm looking forward to experiencing my first Turkish wedding but on the other hand, being the only "yabanci" will not make it an easy experience. I'm not sure what to expect but I imagine the family will be busy so what I'm going to do I don't know. Murphy's Law, this is the first time in four years that I'm out here at this time of year on my own. Ah well, we'll see what the next few days will bring.

As I was leaving Gülsüm produced my offıcial 'invitation' to the wedding. She considers me her big sister so my invitation was a little special.

İt soon became evident the invitation is a little more elaborate than our cards. İ was handed a plastic shopping bag and the invitation was inside. İ waited until İ got home to unwrap the parcel.

The "Invitation"
It is fastened with a Nazar Boncuk, it protects against the "evil eye" and brings luck.

Inside the parcel.........

Inside the invitation.......First up, a strappy t-shirt. I love the lacy bit
Pop socks, or a direct translation of the packet, thin under the knee socks!

A headscarf

This is the detail of the beautiful hand crotcheted border

Next came the pashmina

........a hand towel. This will have pride of place in my guest bathroom. The colours match perfectly!

In closer detail

.........and again

This tradition of giving gifts of food, a handkerchief, a piece of cloth is known as "recited" gifts. The Koran is recited as the gifts are prepared. They are then distributed to everyone in the village. The tradition is now dying out but it is alive and well in Türkbükü.  The closer the 'invitee' the more lavish the gift.

In addition to my invitation Metin had placed flowers on the table for me and there was a wonderful note and gifts from my second group of house swappers.

My flowers

Lake Garda looks absolutely beautiful, I need to retire so I can have more time to travel!
 I feel cherished.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Breakfast Conversation.

I was hardly in the door when Metin arrived to invite me for breakfast. This is something I had missed. I'm not a breakfast person, leaving it until the last moment to come down and eat, often as İ run out the door. But here, while everyone else sleeps İ usually join  Metin for a chat, a cup of coffee and simit.
Simit is a circular bread  covered in sesame seeds. If it is market day I am treated to freshly cooked gozleme, a spinach and cheese pancake.

 Breakfast time is the time of the day when I  used to give Metin English lessons. These days we just tend to chat in both English and Turkish and catch up on the daily goings on in our lives.

He had been in great humour the week before he arrived. Things had been looking promising for him on the girlfriend front.


A bank clerk had kept him chatting on  a couple of  occasions when he was in the bank, even though there was a queue waiting behind him.

I had encouraged him to invite her for a coffee or a meal. He had done nothing about it for a while but then the previous week he got her number from a mutual friend and he invited her out. 

They had several conversations and the text messages were counted - 35 in all. Things had been going fairly well but after Metin told her he didn't own a house, though one day he would inherit the family home and one fifth of the farm she seemed to cool off. The text messages became briefer. She told him she needed time to think.  I'm told the girls in this area check a potential suitors assets before they choose who to fall in love with. Money in the bank was not enough.   

He told her he didn't understand why she needed time to decide about meeting him for coffee, after all it was not exactly a marriage proposal. He  also told her he thought she must have greater expectations and he prayed that she would find what she was looking for.
Breakfast time, tea and sympathy

I don't think this was the response she was expecting. She did not expect that a "mere" gardener would give her the heave ho. She waited four days and then sent him a message to say his message had upset her greatly, goodbye.

While realising that he had probably had a lucky escape, he was very downhearted. We had the usual questions for breakfast. When will I get married, how will I find a girl? We had yet another counselling session. I think I have Mammy tattooed on my forehead!  He finds it hard to meet girls, yet when he is offered an introduction to some girls, he has his own set of criteria. They have to be prepared to work, life is hard, wages are low. If both of them worked  they would have a better chance to provide for their one child.

It is a difficult system, introductions and marriage in rural Turkey. Metin's parents are ageing and never made the introductions for him. He is the youngest of five, all the rest are married. He is a bit like the cuckoo in the nest. He is ambitious for himself and his future, but if you come from a poor farming family, without someone to help you, it is very hard to get that first foot on the business ladder. He doesn't want an arranged marriage, he wants a life partner. Someone to love and who loves him for who he is, not what he's got. 

Without a house and a car his chances are greatly reduced, in this area anyway. He is 33 and every time he goes home for someones wedding, he is asked when will it be your turn? Is there something wrong with you nudge nudge wink wink?

Previously, I had asked my friend if she knew any local girls who might be interested in meeting him. She made some enquiries and in one case, the family were poor but were indignant that she asked was their daughter interested in meeting him. They had less than he but were hoping to improve their lot through her marriage. That was the end of her enquiries!

She confirmed everything Metin said about the girls only wanting to meet men with houses. It is not about the ability to provide. Even in her case, her son was getting married and they were having difficulties with the Mother-in-Law-to-be. They have an empty apartment. Ideal for the young couple starting out, rent and mortgage free. However MIL was insisting they bought a house for the couple. Eventually she accepted this was not a viable proposition but insisted that 20 gold bracelets be bought as the "bride price" Each one cost 2000tl approximately €800. This was in addition to the cost of the wedding.  

In Turkey, for those opting for a traditional wedding, the majority of the expense falls on the grooms family. How do they afford the lavish three day affairs? If only I was living there, with 4 daughters the gold would be rolling in the door. Unfortunately, I'm living in Ireland. I have bought a long ladder and shown the girls where I keep it. Hopefully, they will elope and save themselves, and us, the expense of all the hoopla weddings bring!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Travelling from A to B

There are times I think I really deserve my name Cılgın Kız, Crazy Girl. Sitting in Ataturk Airport at 3 o'clock in the morning was one of those times.

I was on my way to Bodrum for my friend Gülsüm's son's wedding. School finished at lunch time on Friday. Unusally for me, I didn't fly until Saturday evening. There had to be a good reason. There was.
Flights are not cheap, Turkish Airlines, my usual choice involves 2 flights,  Dublin-Istanbul , then Istanbul-Bodrum. This time it would have cost me €430 and an overnight stop in Istanbul on the way home.

So I had to find a cheaper way there to justify me nipping off again for a week. This meant booking with Lufthansa, Dublin to Istanbul, €199. The downside? The flight was via Frankfurt. This is why I was sitting in the airport in Istanbul waiting for my 07.00am Atlasjet  flight to Bodrum.

Advantage of this route

  • Hubbie's mental health.......saving money. ( he wasn't travelling so waiting in airports not an issue)
  • could rent a car with money saved on flights
  • extra time in Bodrum, don't have to leave until Monday lunchtime instead of Sunday evening
  • three flights
  • security check in Frankfurt,  I think they don't like blondes
  • spend the night in Ataturk airport, arrive there 02.20a.m next flight 07.00am
  • Arrggghhhhh.........the hour goes back tonight at 04.00am in Turkey. I've got to sit for an extra hour. I normally love the hour going back in wintertime. I get an extra hour in bed. Now I've got an extra hour in Gloria Jeans drinking very expensive cappuccino.
Surprisingly, the time passed rather quickly. I bought my coffee, sneaked a Twix out of my bag, found a comfy chair, put my feet up and took out my book. We have to read "The Girls" by Lori Lansens for our next Book Club.

"The Girls" was my recommendation. I had read it before but none of the others have read it. It is novel about craniopagus conjoined twins. I decided to read it again because it had been a while. I would need to refresh my memory if I was to be able to discuss it. It was worth the second read and I didn't notice the hour going backwards. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the plane to Bodrum. Sleep finally caught up with me. I woke as the plane was approaching the airport. The sun was shining and the white sugar cube houses were dotting the hills and coastline as we came in to land.

My bag was one of the first through. I stepped out into early morning sunshine. My rental car was waiting for me. When I produced my credit card to pay for it, I was told we would have to go to his office, 4km on the Bodrum road, for him to take payment. Asking if this was a problem, I was told no, he just prefers cash. We chatted on the way. In the end, we decided that I would pay in cash for the car on my return, his suggestion! I dropped him at his office and continued on my way.

 It is hard to describe the feeling as I turned into our complex and  opened the house door. There were flowers on the table and  a present with a lovely note from my German house swoppers waiting for me. I was home!
Many of my friends love to go on holidays but hate the journey. To me the journey is part of the experience.
I enjoy meeting new people. This time it was two German ladies on the flight from Dublin. One lady was very excited and her companion explained this was because it  had been her first holiday abroad. They had spent a week with her brother in Drogheda. She normally travelled with her sister to visit her brother once a year. This year her sister's daughter got married and she had no money to travel. So she invited her work colleague to travel with her. They were supermarket cashiers. It was her first time abroad, hence the excitement. 

Do you enjoy the journey or would you wish to be instantly transported to your destination? What is your favourite mode of transport? Or like my neighbour would you prefer to stay in your own backyard?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Car, A Pipe Bomb and CSI Drumcondra.

Friday night after our late return from the pub, I checked my emails and of course had a quick look at my Facebook Page. I got a bit of a shock when I saw the post  No. 2 Daughter had on her wall.

No 2 Daughter

I've had a bad day involving a missing car, a pipe bomb and CSI Drumcondra. Long story short,  I had to take the bus home.
 ·  · 14 October at 19:58.

While I'm not a person who panics, I will have to admit to momentary alarm.  My daughter and pipe bombs? In Dublin? But using my brain, she was able to type so there can't have been too much harm done. I would have to wait until the morning to ring her and get the full story. Having had a stressful day she wouldn't appreciate a late call from an anxious Mammy, I phoned her to see what the story was and what had happened to poor old J-Lo.

J-Lo is No.4 daughter's car. She bought her when she was just 17, the legal age to learn to drive in Ireland. We live in a small village so No.4, unlike her sisters, was determined to get about under her own steam. She worked part-time, at weekends and during the summer, as a lifeguard. Unusually for her, she saved all her money, so when my work colleague decided to sell her Ford Ka at the right price, No.4 Daughter was in there like a shot. She named her new car Belinda but her friends soon renamed her (not it, her car was never an it).  Belinda became J-Lo, No 4's friends said she had to be called J-Lo because of her big bum and has been part of our family for seven years.

No. 2 Daughter has been driving J-Lo recently as No.4 Daughter's driving license had expired while she was living in France and she is waiting for her new one to arrive. They share a flat in Dublin and have been driving the car up and down rather than taking the bus every weekend. They have been able to find a free parking space for her in the back streets near their flat.

 So less of the back story, back to the pipe bomb! No.2 Daughter had just lugged her sister's dirty laundry to the car. She was coming home for the weekend. Her sister was staying in Dublin but planned on having clean laundry on Monday!!

Arriving at the place she had last parked the car, she discovered it was missing. She rang the gardai (police) to report it stolen. They told her they were the ones that had "stolen" it.

A jeep, belonging to a criminal, newly released from jail, had been parked in front of her car. Someone had placed a pipe bomb in the jeep and blown it up! The gardai removed No. 4 daughters car for forensic testing and would release it to her sometime the following week. This is the link to the newspaper report of the incident.


In spite of several phone calls to the garage where their car had been taken the girls could get no information on the extent of the damage to their car. If it was badly damaged it would be a big loss as they are both now students and would be unable to replace it. J-Lo is a teenager and the insurance would not pay enough to replace her.

The following Tuesday No.2 Daughter got word that the car was being released. She got to the garage to find the windows had been shattered. There was powder all over the inside of the car where it had been dusted for fingerprints. She had to drive it from the garage  in this condition as they would not allow the glass repair guy work on it on the premises.

The repair guy told her that the glass, in all probability, had been broken by the gardai. According to him they notorious for doing it. It made sense. They had the registration number. One quick look at the records and they could have identified the owner. She was just around the corner. A phone call and five minutes later she would have been there. It was easier to break the glass and haul it away.

However, there is no point in growling, the girls are ok, J-Lo lives for another day and boy, does No.2 Daughter have a tale to tell. She can dine out on this story for a while......and so can I :-)))