The Karagoz puppets tout the oxygen cure


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Image of Ulu Mountain near Bursa - where M. was taken as a child to recover from his second bout with serious pneumonia (In Turkish, this is : Uludağ)

A one year-old baby boy we know was in the hospital this week, with double pneumonia.  It is a scary time for his brave parents, who are by now totally sleep deprived, I am sure. The puppets are each praying in their own way for this little boy.

After hearing the news about our friend’s son, M. began to tell me about his childhood bouts (plural) with pneumonia.  He was so sick that he was left listless, skinny and uninterested in food.  After his second bout of pneumonia, his mother took the proverbial bull by the horns and moved him to a health resort in the Uludağ mountain area for several months so that he would regain his health, and most importantly, M. tells me, his appetite.  The Ulu mountain – or  Uludağ (ooh-loo-dah, the g is not pronounced) is the ancient Mysian Olympus, a mountain in Bursa Province, Turkey, with an altitude of 2543 m (8343 ft), per Wikipedia.  M. and his mother spent a good long stretch of time out of Istanbul there – the idea was that the high level of oxygen in the air would jump-start his appetite – and eventually, it did.

I can’t tell you how often I have heard about an area in Turkey “having lots of oxygen” in a way that I have never heard in the States.  I have written before about the obsessions some Turks I know have around fresh air – but not damaging night air – as I wrote about last fall.  Nilay, one of my dear Slowly-by-Slowly readers wrote back in response to that post, saying “My [Turkish] mum opens all the windows in the morning to circulate the old, stale and most likely slightly stinky air. She believes the cool breeze that hits you in the morning is cleansing.”   I, the Yankee, agree with this approach.  Nilay goes on to say that her husband loves the open window at night – but that she loves to burrow down under many warm covers at night and ” never gets a cold except for when I feel cold while sleeping.”  She goes on to say “So, my understanding is that Turkish people get a chill, catch a cold, and seriously attacked by viruses if they feel a breeze when relaxing… Doesn’t even have to be the air from outside. Even air conditioning can cause it. But if it is for cleansing reasons, it is good for you! It will increase your endurance against viruses for sure! ;) And since most Turks become seriously ill at a slight breeze, they somehow experience these imaginary draughts. They are like “Oh my gosh, do you feel the draught coming from the ….left or right or from top but most times to the feet?” At those times, all the doors and windows of the house have to be investigated and closed. And whether you feel it or not, you have to wear your socks and slippers, too, along with another extra layer of a vest or cardigan. You know you gotta because they won’t leave you alone till you do it. So, you’re better off doing it.  Briefly, cool air breeze is great when it is believed to have cleansing effects and your Turkish party does not feel cold. And it is very evil when your Turkish party feels the chill and doesn’t think that it is cleansing at all. ;)

When I reflected back on Nilay’s comments, and how that might synch up with M.’s childhood exile in Uludağ, M. just insisted that post illness, fresh, oxygenated air is the best way to regain one’s appetite.  As he spoke, M. was rubbing his tummy the whole time, “after I came back from that time in Uludağ – they could never stop me from eating since!”  Kenne, the Queen of manners, rolls her eyes at the tummy rub, she prefers that he does not accentuate his tummy in any way shape or form.  All of the male puppets like the tummy rub, and begin talking about the best foods to feed a little one who is sick…all of the female puppets are comparing notes on recipes and the best use of a cleansing breeze.  It is a very gendered Karagoz shadow puppet moment as all succumb to the intoxication of thinking about “the oxygen cure.”

Meanwhile, M., the puppets and I are all holding our friend’s little baby boy “in the light.”

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10 Responses to The Karagoz puppets tout the oxygen cure

  1. Alan says:

    J and I think that most Turks have a hypochondriac gene! Around here they don their winter clothing on a set day in autumn regardless of how warm and sunny it is. Suddenly all the men look like Queen Liz at Sandringham driving a tractor!
    I bet they catch most of their ailments through sharing closed down, steamed up public and private transport with other spluttering/sneezing/wheezing “Gecmis olsun”ing fellow sufferers who stuff themselves with self-administered anti-biotics and potions.
    None of the shops stock icecream in winter because it makes you ill – certainly makes me ill when I fancy a Cornetto!!

  2. Jack Scott says:

    Turks do seem to be mildly obsessed with keeping draughts at bay which is perhaps why houses are hermetically sealed without air bricks or other means of ventilation even in steamy bathrooms. We dread the approach of the mould season! Babies are so wrapped up (even in summer) they look like fat little grubs. Speedy recover to the little boy you know.

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