Friday, September 21, 2012


Sitting in the cool night air with a mug of çay (turkish tea), reading Rousseau's Les Confessions, and the sound of bamya (okra) frying in the could be a lot worse :)
The hardships of the farm life continued the next day as I gleefully jarred pekmez (pronounced peck-mass), a delicious sugar cane molasses, as Pavarotti filled the house. I could really get use to this torture.

Most days aren't as relaxing though, this past week we took on the process of making pekmez which is extremely time consuming and laborious. It consists of cutting sugar cane, removing all the leaves, passing it through a machine which squeezes out the sugary liquid, then boiling that liquid for hours watching it turn from a light lime green to a beautiful golden and then finally to the dark brown of molasses. So, all the workers were there in force, including three daughters (one too young to work) and one son. They started working at 8am and went on until 6 or later. Three fires were continuously burning to keep the liquid boiling in the cauldrons, the machine loudly screeching, voices yelling directions over the noise, and people busily tending everything to keep the operation going.
It was exciting to see and participate in  the process and be involved with everyone, but I've never been particularly good with crowds...too much noise, too many people, too much going on. So, when the lull in work permitted, I did what I normal do when I'm in a noisy, crowded situation, I hid. Thankfully though, the pekmez is all done and all we need to do is finish the jarring.
Cutting and removing the leaves of the sugar cane
Extracting the sugary liquid
Taste test to see if it was close to being done

Before I continue though, I would like to acknowledge the women of whom I work with. They are the epitomes of tough, strong pillars. They work twenty times harder than I do but then turn around and tell Berin that it's wonderful working with me because I work so hard. What I do in comparison to them is pathetic. They have callouses an inch thick (2.54cm for my foreign friends) and their strength is astounding.  I have so much respect for them and I'm truly honored that they enjoy working with me as much as I enjoy working with them.

Time for some stories:
As I mentioned before there were two daughters brought along to work. I would guess they were 15 and 13 ish. The younger one, Ishay (once again no clue how to spell anyone's names), was wonderfully eager to learn english/practice the words she did know. Cadash, the elder sister, was a little more shy about it. Yet Ishay and I would, throughout the day, point at objects, I would say the name in english and she would say the name in turkish and we would quiz each other. I learned so many words in the few days we worked together.

So, when we were cutting and preparing the sugar cane the two girls often sang turkish songs. One day, they asked me to sing a song in english. First, I would like to state that my mind does not do very well on the all. So, what was the first song that popped into my head? Alouette a french childrens' song about plucking the feathers of a bird...did I mention my mind doesn't do well on the spot? The only other song that came to me was Stop in the Name of Love...but I couldn't remember enough lyrics so I just went with Aloutte.
Both girls made serious effort to learn the song but they oddly chewed on the french words which their mouths had difficulty mimicking. 
I did better the next day and started teaching them Walking in the Air (The Snowman is an amazing movie, watch it).

The pekmez process also brought out another particularity about me that the other women find oddly amusing. Shoes and I have never been very close, my feet and shoes just don't get along, and don't even get me started on socks. My feet wear shoes begrudgingly and complain the entire time they're on. To avoid conflict I leave my feet in complete liberation during almost all hours of the day here on the farm. By the end of the day they are so dirty they resemble hobbit feet (excluding the hair). My lack of shoes included when we were doing the cooking process for the pekmez, and this brought out the mothers in all the women.They were horrified as I bounced around the fires barefoot and lectured me on how I was going to burn my feet. Each one of them took me aside and tried to explain to me, in turkish, that I should be wearing shoes. They fussed the entire day about I how I was going to get burnt and guess what? I did get burnt. where? my hand. I found that to be quite amusing aside from the pain.

My turkish is coming along, slowly, but I learn a few words every day. Yet, any amount of happiness that I gain from my increased level in turkish is quickly dampened by the sad deterioration of my french. I left France 14 months and 2 days ago and my level has dropped rapidly ever since. Every time I write a message to someone I look back at it and realize that I conjugated something incorrectly or forgot to conjugate it at all. I leave out articles, the structure of the sentence is wrong, errors riddle the message and my discouragement deepens. Everything I built and worked on is slipping away from me with lack of practice.
Stupid Schengen Zone, because of you I only have 90 days to reconstruct, refurbish, and expand my grasp on french. I think France should make me an honorary citizen just for being so goddamn awesome...I should shoot Hollande an email on this matter. I'll keep you guys updated on that status.
This is also a sad foreshadowing of what will happen to my turkish the moment I leave these borders. But, I shall not let this slow my fervor for learning languages. Turkish is now my third, and I'm determined to take it on as challenging as it may be...and it, with its completely different structure, is definitely a challenge.

Oh! We have a new addition to our family, Mr. Mallow. His name is short for marshmallow because he is the color of a perfectly roasted marshamallow. He's a cat, and from his coloring it's obvious he's either a brother or a close cousin of Mr. Cheese. We also had a dog for a day, but it never came back :/
Anyways, Mr. Mallow is a spastic cat who is always wanting petses, and his tongue is too long for his mouth so it is continuously sticking out, which creates an amusing sight.

 Mr. Cheese and Mr. Mallow

Mr. Cheese is still my favorite though. He has a wonderfully gentle disposition, unlike Mallow who has both bit and scratched me but, don't feel bad for Mallow, he's Berin's favorite.

Also, a week or two ago Berin and I went to a meeting of five of the neighboring villages to discuss the proposed construction of a thermal plant on a hill overlooking the villages. I wanted to go just to see what it would be like even though I knew I wouldn't understand a word of what was being said. I found myself in a large group, 30 or so, all in business suits or dress shirts. Town mayors and other officials were all there showing up, shaking hands. The female presence was sadly lacking in the group of 30 something people, it consisted of Berin and I. I, of course, didn't really count. Yet, even so, Berin seemed very respected within the group, and happily everyone was opposed to the idea of the thermal plant. Hopefully this unity will be enough to stop the company from building.

I really wish I could recount all the stories and be able to accurately depict all the details of this magnificent country; the old men sitting talking at the mosque late at night, the melodic prayers echoing over the countryside five times a day, the open friendly nature of the turkish people, but sadly the written language is far too limited to do so, and nothing compares to truly being there to experience it. If you have the opportunity, travel, you will never regret it.

I have more stories, but after a long day (and two bottles of wine between Berin and I), I'm a bit on the sleepy side. I'll try to recount them later.

Hugs to everyone ^_^

1 comment:

  1. Lauren! I got your postcard from Istanbul yesterday! Merci beaucoup, and yes we will have to catch up. Havn't had Peach wine yet, since that girl's night with you, so maybe upon your return we will...we are celebrating with it!
    I loved reading this( though I think I'm doing this backwords...I need to start with the previous ones first I think. I liked the story about your feet and burning your hand(i'm sorry, you got burnt though). It all sounds so unreal, I mean you're the one whos living it and I'm mereley reading it, but its quite interesting to imagine being there.
    Well good luck with travels and hope to read a new post from you soon!