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A meandering river

A meandering river

Last night, absolutely worn out, I was praying for an early night. After a bucket of water shower, I sat yawning in my pyjamas, complete with headscarf and was delighted when Ide noticed how tired I was and told Ayse to get my floor bed ready for me.  Ayse does as she is told and just as I am about to lay my weary bones down there is a knock at the door. Its Havva’s parents again. I shoot into the spare room and put a skirt over my pyjamas, then go to the kitchen so that I can fume with a cigarette. They stay for around an hour and when they leave, Miesa leaves with them.

“What’s happened” I asked hard faced Ayse

“She’s gone home to her husband” she says


I am gone the minute my head hits the pillow, which is just as well as tomorrow we are leaving the house at silly o clock and are off to Hilvan to visit Bekir, Dursun’s older brother.

At silly o clock, Dursun calls me and I get up, have a wet wipe wash and get dressed. We set off around 7:30am and drive for twenty minutes. No near crashes this time but, that’s because there is hardly anyone on the road.

We make a quick stop at a local firin for a pile of flatbread before leaving civilisation behind. Before I had encountered this back road to the house, I thought the roads in Didim were bad. In comparison Didim roads are as smooth as a glacier. After car clunking and headscarf bashing on the roof of the car for a considerable way, we spy the house. Up ahead is a flat roofed abode nestled in a clump of trees. The fertile green landscape slants toward a lake as it meanders in a turquoise curve, cutting a path at the base of a sand coloured mountain. “Chocolate box pretty” I think.

2 lambs a napping

2 lambs a napping

On hearing the car, the grinning brother comes out to greet us. The first thing I notice about Dursun’s brother is his big smiley face. In it is a touch of Hasan Amca, a splash of Hussein Amca and a great big dollop of Dursun.  At the front of the property, plastic chairs have been placed in a circle next to a pen full of bleating lambs.  Here we sit and drink tea, me just chilling and gazing at the sun bouncing off the water as everyone else catches up.  It’s not long before breakfast is ready and we wander into the house.

The lounge is a very small oblong. An old maroon sofa up against the window next to the door, a desk next to that and the rest of the room is bare, the floor laid with red patterned rugs. Over the rugs is a tablecloth on which sit dishes of cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, cream and honey all of which are being thoroughly investigated by a legion of flies. I am reminded of a scene from The Amityville Horror.  Fortunately, there is a fan and when this is cranked up, it goes some way toward dispersing the nasty black critters and we dig in. I sit next to Dursun on the far wall with Ide opposite us. Haci Amca sits on my right and Bekir is opposite him. When the conversation is in full flow I wonder why Bekir keeps talking to me in Kurdish and furthermore, why does Haci Amca keep answering him? This happens a few times and eventually I say “pardon?” Everyone stops talking and looks at me. Dursun shakes her head with the “what is it you want” look on her face and then moves the dish with the cheese in it closer to me, thinking that I can’t reach. It happens again. I say “efendim?” The men don’t take a breath but Dursun gives me a funny look as if to say “who are you talking to?” I’m getting a bit confused. Eventually, Bekir turns his entire head to face me and it is then the penny drops. His left eye looks directly at me but his right?  Well that is now looking up toward the ceiling.  As he swings his head back to look at Haci Amca, his right eye once again focuses on me; doll like and unmoving. I am very glad I said no more than “pardon” & “efendim” and feel I have escaped major embarrassment.

Due to the flies, I don’t eat much. Normally this would be met with cries of ‘ye ye’ from Haci Amca but they are so engaged in “man talk” that this goes unnoticed. Ide has finished and has decided to stretch out on the sofa. Bekir turns to her and speaks. I have no idea what he says but I can guess as the next minute she is saying to me ‘Kym, hadi gel.’ I don’t move. Haci Amca says I should go with Ide and have a little nap. I am aghast. Here I am directly in line of the fan and minding my own business and I don’t particularly want to nap, I’m not a child! I get an encouraging nod from Dursun then, so reluctantly, give in.

The next room has no fan. It is smaller than the one we have just left but it does have a sofa; a sofa that is currently moving under a sea of black flies. Ide grabs a bolster cushion and lies down falling instantly to sleep. Shooing the flies away (pointless by the way) I lie down, wrap my headscarf around my face and lay there sweating with flies landing on my legs as I plot Murat’s demise.

Surprisingly, I sleep.

On waking, I check my phone and find it is just 10:30am. I am covered in a thin film of sweat, it’s not easy to breathe and a fly just tried to get up my nose. Forget Murat, I want to kill myself.

After the first day in Urfa, I realised this was not going to be quite the trip I had imagined. On previous visits I have been with Murat and he knows we have to go exploring or he will be met with my sulky face.  This time he has outfoxed me but, I have decided to front it out and not let on that I am having anything but a great time. When I get home however…..

Sweet sisters

Sweet sisters

In any event, after the first day, I decided that I could spend the week stressed and angry or, I could give myself over to the experience and go with the flow.  Now, going with the flow, I get up and wander into the next room. In it is a young girl, propped up on bolster cushions watching Tom and Jerry. I love Tom and Jerry. Seeing me she bolts up, offers me her seat, switches on a rotating fan that is tied to the wooden beams overhead and says “cay?”

From the ridiculous to the sublime in 20 seconds.

I lounge on cushions cool and fly free drinking cay and laughing at the cartoon antics of everyone’s favourite cat and mouse. Going with the flow is good.

I am hungry but I’m also kind of dreading lunch; aware that flies are full of protein but I’m not feeling very spiderish.

Lunch is cig kofte. A celebratory dish made by kneading raw beef with bulgur & various bits and bobs. Again, we eat in the small salon with the wife, sons and daughters in another room. That’s not the norm for my regular in laws in the village and I am sad to see it here.  Bekir is obviously the old fashioned authoritarian type.

Once again the fan is cranked up and it’s possible to eat without having to share food with those pesky flies. Of course I understand that this is a small farm and flies come with the territory but, mosquito nets, hello!

The fly free outhouse

The fly free outhouse

More tea than is good for you is consumed and I know I am not getting out of here without a visit to the outhouse. Gingerly I make my way across the stony dirt in someone’s flip flops, enter the outhouse and close the door behind me, securing it with a rock. The toilet is spotless and there is not a fly to be seen.

More tea now, outside by the lambs as the afternoon drags on in conversation that I can’t understand nor have any interest in. I sit with a polite smile plastered to my face and gaze longingly at the lake wondering how long it would take for me to drown myself?

Çay drinking chat mongerers

Çay drinking chat mongerers

It’s gone quiet. I bring myself back to reality. Haci Amca has just asked me a question. “Efendim” I say.

“How old is Gobeklitepe?” he repeats his question.

I am surprised that this is their conversation piece. Announcing to the gathering I say, “12,000 years.”

Bekir looks suitably impressed. He mentions Nemrut. I say I have been. He follows that with Haran. I say I’ve been there too. What about Diyarbakir? He says. Yep, there too I grin.

As this is going on I notice Dursun’s smile getting wider. She nods her head and makes a small grunt each time I tick a place off his list. Her face is saying, ‘that’s my yabanci gelin.’ She is proud. No doubt this insignificant female has just gone up in Bekir’s estimation.

“I’m leaving this place with a gold star” I think.  Hmmmmm, perhaps that’s not enough thinks my alter ego “Miss Overachiever” and suddenly, I am like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I clear my throat and say

“And the Veysel Karani Mosque in Siirt”

It is the ultimate in cake icing



Bekir raises his eyebrows and looks at me…well I think he is looking at me anyway. It’s a contemplative face and I wonder what he is thinking about this non-Muslim Yabanci venturing into one of the holiest of holy places that a lot of natives have not even been to. I hold my breath but, no more is said on the subject and the conversation moves onto something else. My bragging, it seems, is done.

We are on the move. Comments are made about the bad roads and Haci Amca getting past them before it gets dark. The smiley family all come out to wave us goodbye. Bekir standing tall with his wife by his side, the shy girls huddled next to her and two strong looking boys next to him. It’s a lovely family picture set against an effortlessly beautiful backdrop. I am reminded of the Waltons.