Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Trip to the Village

My mom left Turkey a week ago, and I have many, many posts to write to get you up-to-speed on the latest happenings. But, before I write about my mom's visit, I'm going to take you back to the first weekend in October, when we traveled to the village of Alaatin.

Alaattin is the village where Ferit's family is from. We went to Alaattin to celebrate the Muslim Kurban bayram. Yes, my friends, this is the much anticipated holiday during which animals are sacrificed. Woohoo!

This was one of the homes in Alaatin, not too far from the center of the village.
Of course there were fancier homes, too.

Traveling to Alaattin was a bit of a culture shock for me. Most of the traveling we had done thus far within Turkey was to urban places. But this was the first time that we traveled to a part of Turkey that had hardly been influenced by money, tourism, or the western world. Visiting Alaatin was the first time that I understood why Turkey is considered to be a "developing nation."

Although cars and motorcycles were in the village, it wasn't uncommon to see
villagers traveling to and fro on wagons such as this.
Typically the wagons were towed by tractors.

The matriarch of Ferit's family is his "anneanne," or his "maternal grandmother."

Ready to learn some Turkish? Ok, great! Let's go...

"Anne" (pronounced ah-ney) is the word for "mother" in Turkish. If you concatenate this word twice, "anneanne," then it means "mother's mother," or "maternal grandmother." Likewise, as "baba" (pronounced ba-ba) is the word for "father," "babaanne" would therefore mean "paternal grandmother."

At 88 years old, Ferit's anneanne is one of the oldest members of the village. She is able to move about by walking, though only with the assistance of two canes. It isn't uncommon to see her crawling around on all fours; sometimes that's an easier way to traverse shorter distances.

Meet Ferit's grandmother.

Though we in the United States complain of sore knees after sitting "Indian-style" on the floor for more than five minutes, Ferit's anneanne spends most of the day sitting on the floor. If you were to have a sitting-on-the-floor face-off with Ferit's anneanne, I'm pretty certain she'd kick your ass.

This is Ferit's grandmother's house.

Ferit's grandmother's house.
Extra Credit: Can you spot the kitty?

The bottom floor of the house was dedicated to sheltering the family's animals -- primarily sheep, cows, and horses (the chicken were stored under the stairs). As Ferit's grandmother no longer keeps animals, the barn is mostly empty, aside from the recent addition of a washing machine.

You must climb a rickety old set of stairs and walk across an unstable porch to reach the living quarters for the two-legged creatures. At the far end of the porch is the kitchen sink. It's open to the air.

Ferit's grandmother's kitchen sink.

It's rare to find a clothes dryer in Turkey -- this is especially so in the village of Alaatin. As such, there is always an array of clothes and towels hanging out to dry.

Clothes drying from the porch.
Ferit's cousin, on the far right, is using the kitchen sink.

Ferit's grandmother's house is a simple four rooms, plus a new addition (a bathroom, with a shower!). One room serves as the pantry, filled with piles of fruits and vegetables and nuts. Another room, lined with futon-like mattresses, serves as the bedroom. Another room, containing two couches, a stove (think "two-burner Coleman camping stove"), and a set of kitchen cabinets, serves as the living room. The fourth room is empty.

As Ferit's grandmother's house would be packed with visiting relatives, Ferit and I decided to stay at one of Ferit's uncle's houses, which is located right next door to Ferit's grandmother's house. Because the uncle resides in Italy and the house hadn't been lived-in for awhile, we spent a little while cleaning up the house.

I swept the front patio...

...while Ferit mopped the floors.

After cleaning the house, making the beds, and settling in, we walked to the town bakery to pick up some bread. As bread is a staple in Turkish meals, we bought tens loaves. The total cost of the ten loaves was 7 TL -- that's $3.10 USD!

Our ten loaves of bread.

One thing about folks in developing countries is that they make excellent use of resources. For example, they plant and harvest trees and gardens, and they swap their extra food with neighbors or families for food their don't have. Us folks in the "first world" have a thing or two to learn about maximizing resources and bartering.

We spent some time harvesting walnuts from a few of the walnut trees outside Ferit's grandmother's house. After experiencing first-hand the effort involved to harvest walnuts and then crack the walnuts open, I have a different appreciation for the ready-to-eat walnuts that you purchase at the store.

Ferit's mom climbed the walnut tree and
then whacked the branches with a stick
to encourage the walnuts to fall to the ground.

There was a fig tree at grandmother's house, too.
I'd never before had a fresh fig -- it was delish!

We gathered some corn from a neighbor's field.
Having grown up in the midwest, I'm no stranger to corn.

Oh, and I found these little watermelon-like-looking, cucumber-like-tasting
"baby melons" on a vine below Ferit's grandmother's porch.
The Turkish word for this fruit is "kemirdek"; I don't know the English name. 

I ate my first persimmons, pomegranates, and quince in the village. Here's my take on these new-to-me fruits:

  • I prefer persimmons when they are not yet ripe. 
  • Eating pomegranate seeds is as addictive as eating popcorn. I love it! 
  • Quince ain't nothing to write home about.

Oddly, the folks in the village removed the skins before eating apples. "But, wait," I wanted to say but didn't say because I don't speak Turkish; "the skin is the best part!" Perhaps Turkish people aren't so resourceful after all! I asked if I could eat the apple peels. Sure thing, the strange American can have the peels. Woohoo! I enjoyed the peels as I was barraged with laughter.

I had my first meal in true-Turkish style -- sitting on the ground.

Ferit's grandmother and I are about to eat some green beans and yogurt.
Notice the bread!

After eating, Dilek (Ferit's sister) and I played dress-up. While I dressed up in traditional Turkish garb, Dilek tried on her engagement dress, which she wore eight years prior.

Ferit's grandmother helps to properly adjust my headscarf.

In the context of a wedding, brides wearing the traditional gown are to look sheepish, ya' know, 'cuz they are soon to lose their virgin status. As you can see in the photo below, I apparently have a hard time with my "virginity expression." Fortunately, Dilek has the look down pat.

Me, sporting the traditional Turkish dress, while
Dilek displays her non-traditional engagement dress.

My, oh my, the Turkish dress was super-duper comfortable! There was no need to worry about sucking in my stomach or making sure my boobs didn't fall out of the dress.

And then we swapped dresses.

Stay tuned for more posts on the trip to the village, including the bayram holiday celebration...


  1. I am impressed how well you don't just get to know people, you become one of the people, and therefore experience more than anyone I know! And for the record, I am thinking AnneAnne could kick my ass in more ways than just floor sitting! She looks tough!

    1. Thanks, Tony. :)

      You're right, Anneanne could probably kick all of our asses at a lot of things (for example, praying all day long) -- but she also has a heart of gold. :)

    2. Your picture captured just that, and a headful of wisdom and experiences

  2. Never had a fresh fig before?!?! Figs are my favorite fruit, in taste, texture and appearance. "Every fruit has its secret..."

    1. I'm only slightly peeved that you never shared this secret with me. After all, that's what friends are for, eh? ;) Hope all is well for you, Erich. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comment. :)


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