Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Istanbul, small fish and strange packages

A relaxing day in Istanbul started with borek, simit--which is kind of like a big sesame covered bagel, honey and kaymak for breakfast. With tea, of course. Not enough tea however. Mina hasn't been sleeping well--shes waking very frequently, like every half hour, 40 min all night for the last 2 nights. I felt like someone was sitting on my eyelids all day.
We went to meet k's friend, who suggested we meet at Starbucks. Granted it is an especially beautiful and well placed starbucks, right on the water. Turkish people love Starbucks--it's very upscale and fashionable here, that and some other American place called Gloria jeans. We met some fabulous Korean flight attendants who took many photos of themselves posing with Mina-hilarious. Mina is a big hit.
After a delicious lunch of grilled hemsi we headed back to pick up the package sent from k's parents in the village. First we went to the package pickup place where I was amazed at the things people were shipping; shopping bags taped together, mysterious bundles. Then we went home to meet the delivery--it was a plastic basket stacked with pomegranates with a piece of blanket tied on top(!), 2 metal cans full of liquid fruit syrup and a sack of other stuff including 10-15lbs of dried figs. I couldn't believe you could ship things like this. K says it's normal.
Before dinner I whipped together a cheesecake using a recipe off the Internet and some creative ingredient sourcing. Hopefully its delicious, our host was interested in cheesecake--is this another thing Turkish people love? It's one of the only things k requests that I make him.
Mina was playful and stayed up past her mothers bedtime until 10pm so no blog posts were written until this morning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Istanbul, so beautiful...and showers too.

We dropped off the rental car in Izmir this morning--it was a little filthy after transporting the picnic, etc. but we didn't feel too badly as the owner charged us a really high fee for picking up the car, saying that's how much it would cost to send someone to pick it up, and then he showed up himself to pick up the car.
We also barely made our plane as the airline mysteriously changed the takeoff time from 11am to 10:20. Aside from that, Turkish Airlines is great--lots of space between seats, delicious snacks and drinks even if the flight is only an hour and very friendly flight attendants. We are so used to mediocrity we don't even know what we are missing.
Another interesting data point about Turkey--in the us when you get on a plane with a baby, people generally look annoyed or look away, hoping you won't sit near them. We got on the plane late and everyone looked ecstatic to see Mina, people were cooing and making funny faces and engaging her all around us. The flight attendants grabbed her and walked up and down the aisle, chatting and playing with her. Turkish people love the babies. Of course she was almost attacked by a big group of Japanese ladies in Istanbul--only the arrival of our luggage saved her from being carried off, so maybe it's just Americans who aren't as enthused with babies.
We had a third breakfast of the day after we arrived at Olga and Mustafa's apartment in Istanbul. All three were different and Turkish breakfast is delicious enough to eat 3 times a day.
Mina tested out sucking directly on the bottled water spout which I thought was a little disgusting but luckily our hosts have a great sense of humor and thought she was hilarious. Mina was highly entertained by both if them.
We did some walking around Istanbul, had coffee in the beautiful garden of the archeological museum and finished off with su buregi and olive oil baklava, 2 of my favorites. Olive oil baklava doesn't sound like it will taste better than butter baklava but it is truly amazing. Su buregi is available in new york but all the versions I've had just make me want the real thing more. It's kind if like lasagna with only a little cheese in it, and not stretchy cheese but more of a not-so-salty feta type, and then a layer of pastry on top. I warned K that we may have to eat burek every day since we're only here for 3 days.

More picnic photos

I just looked on k's phone since we have email and am including a few more photos from the picnic including one of me picking olives and several showcasing all the crap we brought along.
Also I wanted to note about the photo from yesterday of the village house with the tractor parked outside: note the solar panels on the roof. Most of the village houses in the west have these to heat water, they are even on some big apartment buildings. Apparently the solar isn't enough for house electricity but works for showers and laundry.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2nd day in Emine's village

Lots of tractor traffic everywhere, on the highways, in the village, at the gas station--this is serious farm country. In this photo, k stopped in the middle of the road to buy a melon and tractors lined up in both directions waiting to get by.
I'm taking way less photos this trip partially since I'm always juggling the baby when I see the perfect shot and maybe I'm getting used to seeing it all, the village life isn't as foreign as it was, still fascinating and somewhat repelling at the same time. There isn't much space for romanticizing country living here.
We went olive picking today which involved packing a huge picnic lunch, including a grill, blankets, a rug, pillows, a watermelon and some other fruit, a bucket of tomatoes and onions, a gas stove for tea and 2-part tea pot of course, a couple of raw chickens, 5 loaves of bread, 2 bottles of soda and water, glasses for tea with spoons and sugar, 4 children and 4 adults. And no, our rental car is not huge--a 4-door hatchback ford. We picked olives and then barbequed and drank tea--it was a very comfortable picnic after a very crowded drive. Mina reclines on her fathers legs eating peeled grapes in one photo.
Later we ditched all the equipment and half the children and drove into manisa. Visiting the weekly bazaar for turkish towels, again without success-Turkish people don't use pestemel towels apparently, only foreigners like me. The bazaar was incredibly crowded--I was pushed by old ladies and young ladies and even multiple little boys, more shoving than I ever encounter in times square or the subway. I guess we arrived at vegetable mark-down time, late afternoon when the fruit and vegetables go on sale. One man bumped me deliberately, recognizing I was a foreign woman and K swore at him in Turkish to his face, forgetting he could understand. K swears at people in New York in Turkish or Zaza as he knows they can't understand--this guy definitely got it.
Then we went for baklava with kaymak on top--I had no idea these 2 things were served together. Kaymak is like creme fraiche, very rich and creamy, it kind of completed the baklava--adding creamy and cutting the super sweetness. Not a diet combination.
It's after dinner now and the other room is full of guests from the village, that are all originally from Siverek so everyone is yelling at each other in zaza. I was helping slice the olives to cure them but have gratefully retired with a sleeping Mina to the other room--amazed at what Mina can sleep through.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1st day in Emine's village

Again noting that I had no idea how much of Turkey is very, very rural. Emine's village is 40 minutes from a city of 6 million people and many worlds away. Its similar to the village in the east except somewhat more modern and the land is much lusher. More modern in this case means a bathroom in the house with a 'normal' western toilet, (--I won't go into the toilet thing as I wrote about it extensively on the last trip) a washer, electricity and running water but no shower or heat, other than space heaters and a woodstove. The first thing I noticed was that all the women were working hard; whitewashing walls, chopping wood with little knives, pushing wheelbarrows full of stuff and all the men were zipping around on motorbikes and tractors and sitting in the tea house chatting--of course, I'm a bit biased on these things.
Mina adored her cousin, Hatice Sena, 16 months, who busily toddled around the whole time, calling Mina 'aya' and giving her kisses on the head. She was really too cute.
Emine's husband works at the school so we visited and I was requested by the English class to answer questions--finally I can accurately answer some questions. I'm perfecting the smiling blankly like I understand thing.
All the neighbor ladies came over to bake their bread in emine's oven--unfortunately I didn't get a photo--the oven is a huge wood burning stone oven about 4 feet wide and the bread was amazing. Big rough round loaves of dense whole wheat but lighter than our whole wheat--they grow and grind the wheat locally and it is so much tastier than ours.
Mina got dressed up in her cousins outfit of burgundy velvet with gold patterns, it also had a little hat with a burgundy veil sewn with coins that Mina refused to wear under any circumstances--she obviously had no idea how cute it was. The outfit was part of some ceremony involving henna that usually takes place when the baby is 6 months. Then she pushed a little wooden walker thing around the yard--since we are not particularly eager for her to walk, at all actually, the walker got stashed away after a few rounds.
We ended the day with a walk around the fields. K lived in this village for a few years as a teen so the walk was accompanied by stories of how he picked tobacco in this field and grapes in that one, no documentary video today unfortunately. We met with a fig tree full of figs and emine fearlessly climbed above my head to pick figs. She is just great.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Izmir bazaar and forest agency

On our way to k's sisters house we stopped at the bazaar in Izmir--it was nuts. I'm not used to bazaars at all so unfortunately I was too stunned to take many photos. We managed to get some dried pepper from urfa, near where k is from in the southeast, but we were unsuccessful in finding pestemels, which are thin Turkish towels. Actually we found but they were all icky plaids instead of pretty stripes. Mina and I were both fascinated by so much to look at. We got pretty thoroughly lost trying to get out and find our car--it took about 45 minutes of walking different ways--we had to stop and get coffee and tea--the photo is of the coffee/tea guy in his stall.
After the bazaar we drove to the forest service, it was a long way away--apparently Izmir's population is 6 million? A huge city, I had no idea--plus it's really spread out, no highrises as it's on a fault line.
K's friend is head of the forest service for the region but unfortunately was called out to survey a fire by helicopter and was quite late. We visited and left in the dark for emine's village. Mina drove as we were a little tired.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011