Today, Hacivad Bey poked his head around the corner of my living room and inquired about my well-being. “It’s been a long time, M’lady, since you’ve let us come out and play!” Sighing, I responded, “Indeed, Hacivad Bey, it has. I’m just not in shape for blogging like I used to.” So much has peaked the puppets’ interests in the last six months – by my fingers have been leaden to their whims.
What has, however, managed to sneak through, are the puppets’ thoughts on the Top Ten Moments of our Ten Year Cross-Cultural Roadtrip. We celebrated our ten-year-together anniversary this year (and 5 years with the legal papers)…and there is much to look back on. So much, in fact, that Hacivad Bey has handed me a stack of notecards with careful calligraphic penmanship indicating which of those rise to the top, and here they are in no particular order (with my narration)….although not the best blog post, if nothing else, I have enjoyed recalling these special moments, and I am grateful to Hacivad Bey for appearing today and shaking me up a bit!
10. Eating Ayva Tatlisi (a.k.a. poached quince): Who knew a quince could bond two people together quite so deliciously. For years, M. ranted and raved about his love of Ayva Tatlisi – but only made it last winter. As soon as I tasted his carefully poached confection, I was taken back to my Spanish Granny’s kitchen – and a dessert I had almost forgotten. We had two helpings each, as we recollected our childhood love of that dessert. And then M. told me what Ayva is a slang word for in Turkçe. And we had a good laugh. Click the hotlink that is the title of this item for the whole story.
9. Bargaining for a Car in the ABD (USA): Nobody ranks quite as low on the totem pole of scorn as car salesmen…and one of the worst set of offenders are located nary a few blocks from our house. When we decided on the car we wanted, we headed down the block with our heads held high, an order for me to shut up, and a very secret weapon – namely M.’s Turkish negotiating tactics. It was all I could do to keep a straight face – and M. scared the bejeezus out of the car salesman who dropped the price as soon as possible. I loved every minute of it.
8. Freestyling in Turklish: Over these ten years, I have struggled to make time for learning Turkish. Once successfully off the tenure track at my university, I had no more excuses. While I amped up my efforts – my attempts to freestyle with my slowy-acquired skills have led to many corrections – and a few big mistakes. None was funnier than the one I dropped on the 2nd bridge while stuck in gridlocked traffic with my Abla (Big Sister) and her kids, namely “Taş gibi.” Translated as “like a stone,” this phrase is also slang for a hot woman – a woman with some substance. You’ll have to read the story at the hotlink above to get the picture – literally and figuratively.
7. Su Gibi Git Su Gibi Gel with Teyze: After visiting M.’s Teyze (Aunt) for the first time, a trying visit to say the least, I was happy to be leaving. I felt terrible about it. I never imagined not being able to get along with someone – much less someone with whom I did not share a language (the only person in M.’s family for whom that is true). I turned around to wave goodbye, still hoping I could make a good impression – and saw Teyze throwing water after us. I burst into tears, presuming that this was her wish to get rid of us. Pulling over the car to comfort me, M. tried to understand what was wrong – and when I explained through boogery sobs, he descended into laughter. I had no idea that the tradition of throwing water behind those leaving on a trip was to wish that they would “go like water and come back like water.” In other words, safely!
6. Seeing Turkey Anew with Our “Child:” One year, we decided to bring our niece, Melia, to Turkey with us. Fascinated by world religions and travel at a young age, her parents decided to let us have her for three weeks. And they were a grand three weeks indeed. While we did all the standard stuff, the most wonderful thing that happened was the response that people had to us as a couple – with a child. We were clearly “legitimate” as a couple and gained entry into elements of Anatolian society that we heretofore had not. We were even told “not to come back without Melia next time!” Over the course of the trip, this led to many rich conversations about our different cultures’ expectations of women, men, couples and families.
5. When the Karagöz Puppets Met the Archers: Although I (still) have not blogged about it, one of the best moments (drawn out over a week) of our relationship was meeting the illustrious Archers of Okçular and bonding over scads of things – including the receipt of a GENUINE Karagöz set of puppets for me! After starting this blog, Alan became a devoted supporter – for which I am so grateful! We became e-friends and several years ago, made the jump from 0/1 bits to face-to-face contact near Dalyan. Our sharing conversations barely paused for a week – and spanned the gamut from hilarity to tears about all manner of things Turkish, political, botanical, familial and otherwise. Can’t wait to see the Archers of O this summer on our hunt for the blue mollusk in the Black Sea region!
4. Shared History in Gelibolu’s Lone Pine Cemetery: On my first trip to Turkey with M., we drove from Istanbul to Bozcaada – stopping at Gelibolu (Gallipoli) on the way. Many people have heard of the national friendship spawned by the terrible battles at this location between the ANZAC forces and the Turks. Each year, on ANZAC Day, the displays of international friendship are extreme – and being known as the relative of an ANZAC soldier in Çanakkale, for example, is likely to get you a free meal, a story and a sympathetic hug. While I’m not an Aussie – or a Kiwi – my great uncle ran away from Southern Spain, gained Aussie citizenship and was promptly drafted into WW1 – only to die on the second day of battle at Gelibolu. My Granny’s favorite, her grief over his death never quite left. By sheer luck, M. found my great uncle’s gravestone – bringing some level of karmic closure to a painful familial fissure on my mother’s side. We both cried and hugged each other in the sun, the first of many cultural overlaps on our road trip.
3. Finding another Turkish-American Couple: We know plenty of Turkish-American couples – many of whom we adore and share interests with. Many of whom we protested with during Gezi Park solidarity protests. But it was one particular couple we met – and became fast friends with – that have brought an even deeper cross-cultural element of life examination into our lives. Meeting J. (American) and S. (Turkish-American) has been life-changing. Something about the constellations of our respective relationships allow us to delve deep into topics that are unique to our relationship combinations. For example, J. and I have commiserated about our at-times “Turkish wife” status – or the unexamined expectations held by our Turkish partners. Meanwhile, M. and S. have bonded into blood brothers based on their acculturation level to the U.S. – and more importantly their equal (in my eyes) identification as Turks and Americans. This sets them apart from others who seem to be one or the other. We have been welcomed into their extended family and cannot imagine life without them. So here’s to the Internet for making that happy accident a wonderful reality that has led to so many ‘elevated’ conversations. That’s for you, S.
2. Gaining an Abla and Her Kids: This one can’t be quantified as a moment – but rather a span of time during which one of M.’s best friends became one of my closest…and through that process I not only gained a wise Alba, but a close friend who can translate my unending cultural confusion into understanding and relief. But she is much more than that to us – she has become our family member in heart. She once famously said to me of her child who stayed with us for a time “You take the meat, I’ll keep the bones” when referring to a short period of collective child-rearing we engaged in. While we have blood siblings – we often wonder – what would I (therefore “we”) do without her? (We love you and your kids, G.)
1. Saying No Over Lamacuns in Kilis: For years and years, there have been odd and somewhat unsettling moments in our marriage. They have always involved me posing a question – and Murat looking at me, but not saying a word. One of these moments came at a lamacun shop in Kilis, on the Syrian border. We love trying out lamacun wherever we go – as we both grew up with them – M. in Cihangir and me in Watertown, MA, where my Dad picked boxes of them up from the “Exotic” Armenian bakery on his way home from work. But in any case, there we were in Kilis. I posed a question to M. He stared at me – his mouth full of the best lamacun either of us has ever eaten. And just as I began to feel that familiar feeling of frustration at his odd lack of responsiveness, he lifted his eyebrows – and it hit me – he’s saying “NO!” It took me 7 years to learn his Turkish body language for “No.” Oy vey, what a laugh we had. I wonder what else there is to learn!