Well, I’m packed, I’ve thrown the last bucket of water over my head for a while and we are saying our goodbyes. I hug Tuba; she may be a vain, irritating little madam right now, but I’m sure she will grow out of it. I have decided to let her behaviour go and not mention it to Murat; it is, after all, not like she has the opportunity to behave that way often. Under normal circumstances, she would be out with an older sister or aunt and as such would have to act accordingly. Her future consists of an arranged marriage and a life of cleaning in a headscarf so why shouldn’t she have that one day of freedom without repercussions? Even if it was at my expense. As I pull away from her she tells me that she hopes, when a husband is found for her, he will live in Didim so that she can be near me. I just smile.
Grabbing Kerem, I crouch down and pull him to me, giving Selim my phone as I do and asking him to take our photo. “Don’t forget your English Auntie” I tell him before giving him squeeze. His sister Yaren gets the dual kisses and a little hug and then I’m standing in front of hard faced Ayse. I give her an extra-long squeeze, hoping that my hug will convey the sympathy I feel for her situation and give her a little strength, the kind that comes from knowing somebody gives a damn.
As undeniably, absurdly crazy as it sounds, I am sad to leave……I must be a masochist.
I bounce down those 95 steps and, if my ankle would allow, I surely would have clicked my heels Tommy Steel fashion at the bottom. With Haci Amca driving and Ide along for the ride, we set off but, we have one stop to make before we venture into another family village. The car pulls up outside a shop. Dursun goes in, hands over some money and returns with a full black bin bag which is ice cold. She sets it down in the middle of us and I know it contains chopped up bits of a dead body…….. Don’t panic, Dursun is not really a cannibal; she has just bought 15 kilos of meat from the butcher because here in Urfa it’s 12tl per kilo. Less than half the price of meat in Didim. She’s a smart cookie my mother in law, but, if any of it starts to decompose in this heat, she is on her own.
That done, we are ready to play chicken on the roads with Haci Amca and his cataracts, all the way to Akziyaret, where Dursun’s niece Myda lives. Taking a turn off the main road, we clunk along for around half a mile, chasing a vast white mountain on our left. Ahead the village comes into view, village perhaps being an overstatement. There are just a few flat roofed houses scattered haphazardly around and these look like Lego blocks that have been left out to bleach in the sun. We pull into a picturesque small holding and park under a canopy of vine. Stepping out of the car, I have a second or two to look around before the family descend upon us. It’s enchanting, this little house that sits looking out over a wooden trellis alive with vine, a grass lawn, a few well-placed trees and a vegetable patch. There is also a large shed at the bottom of the garden. I suspect shed is the wrong word but right now, I can’t think of another. Suddenly, I’m glad we came and any thoughts of “I wonder what they will torment me with next” disperse like a popped speech bubble. What a pleasant way to spend the last couple of hours before flying home I think, but really, I should know better…..
A man shakes my hand; a woman kisses my cheeks and we are ushered up the steps, into a large lounge and there, my pleasant thoughts are slapped away by cloud of flies. “Please tell me we don’t have to eat” pleads the inner me.
Making a huge mistake, I walk over the rugs and sit at the far end of the room, in the corner. The air con is turned on and out wafts the cool breeze, scattering the flies to the four corners, in one of which I sit. They dance around and play tag using me as their playing field, giving me cheeky little nips each time they find a bit of exposed flesh. They too must be Muslims. The polite grin I have mastered, sits silently on my face as the inner me screams. I try to comfort her by saying it can’t be for long, because we have to be at the airport in less than two hours.
Haci Amca lounges like an Ottoman Sultan in the corner opposite me and for some reason, he remains fly free. I wonder if one of the kids has eaten sweets in my corner and rubbed their mucky little mitts on the cushions? Either that or Haci Amca knows something I don’t and that wouldn’t surprise me as …..There are no flies on him (groan – sorry, that was too good an opportunity to miss!).
Çay is served by one of the older sons and after that I go for a wander around the garden and start to feel more relaxed. In the centre of the grass is a tree bearing unusual fruit. Packed within its branches are rolled up rugs and small cushions, obviously stored there for convenience to be used for outside dining and general chilling. Dursun has followed me out and we are now joined by Myda, who bends to pluck fresh cucumbers from their earth hugging vines. As she places one in my hand, I ask her what is in the shed?
“Inek” she says
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, this would explain the flies.
Out of curiosity, I wander in and traipse through piles of dung to reach a pen at the back where the cute baby calves live. Awwwwwww. Myda then opens the back door and there stands a whole herd. They are huge and mean looking and they definitely don’t arouse the same cutsie feelings in me that the calves did. It’s more of an “errrm when were they last fed?”
Our shoes are hosed down before we return to the house and once again, I sit under a buzzing cloud. Myda and her husband are outside cooking and the tantalising smell of beef creeps up my nose. Her daughters are in the kitchen chopping and dicing salad bits and her youngest son, Hassan has wandered closer to me. Since we have been here, I have been pulling faces at him and finally we are friends. He lays sprawled out on a cushion, chuckling as I run the tassels of my headscarf across his face. A better sensation than the flies I’m sure.
The floor is being laid; a huge red plastic table cloth that is soon filled with enough food to feed an army. Plates of fillet steak, chuck steak, liver and cig kofte are laid out around bowls of bostani, sticks of radish, lemons and salad leaves. Homemade yufka is thrown around and people start to eat, casually shooing away flies with their hands. Surprisingly, I eat and adapt the same manner as everyone else, waving my hand to create a breeze that keeps the flies at bay. The food is delicious of course, the meat so fresh it’s practically mooing.
When everyone is exceedingly full, Myda and her daughters set about clearing the remains away. I nip outside for a smoke.
There is no sign of an outhouse here and so I gather, there must be a squat drop somewhere inside. Myda leads the way and it’s the normal affair with a small jug under a tap on the wall, but when I come to wash my hands, there isn’t a sink? Myda, who has been waiting for this eventuality, pushes open a door next to the toilet and shows me a blue plastic tank with a tap at the bottom. From this she fills a pink plastic jug that is shaped like an Ottoman coffee pot and hands me a bar of soap.
Returning to the lounge, I go back to my corner but within minutes, Haci Amca says,
“Kym, go to the kitchen. There are guests coming” Hmmmmmmmmmmm
As I’m walking down the hall, I hear people coming in behind me and turn to see a couple of wizened old men wearing şalva and each with a puşi on his head. A daughter passes by laden down with a tea tray. There is obviously an important meeting taking place and it’s not for the ears of us little women.
In the kitchen there is a hive of activity; daughters fastidiously cleaning all those bowls and Myda, who sits on the floor cutting melon and arranging fruit on plates. Looking at the clock, I realise we should have left a while ago if we are to make the ‘2’ hour before check in time. It is only then that I realise what an idiot I am.
I feel a nervous film of sweat break out on my upper lip as I explain to Dursun about check in times and watch her face panic. Why on earth would these people know about things like that? They drive or take coaches everywhere. Dursun heads toward the lounge and I hear her call Haci Amca into the hall where she explains and, to my horror, he replies telling her that our flight doesn’t leave until 16:20. She comes back into the kitchen, worry free and tells me there isn’t a problem. “We don’t have to leave yet” she says.
It’s my turn to panic now. We are here in the land of ‘men know best’ and they are not going to listen. Thinking it is probably best to show evidence and get someone else to reiterate what I have said, I pull the information from my bag and, without a condescending bone in my body, I say
“Can anyone here read?”
Fortunately, one of the daughters can. She takes the paper from me and I ask her to read aloud the paragraph that contains the rule. She then goes to the hall and calls her Dad into the kitchen. He glances at the paper, then dismisses it with a wave of his hand and returns to his important meeting.
I am now an emotional wreck. Worried about missing the plane but oh so much more than that, I’m filled with indignation. In a previous life I sat at boardroom tables, equal to the men around it; professional, highly educated men at meetings where my voice was just as important as theirs.
I am just about to storm into the lounge, whip off my headscarf and shout “under this I have a brain” when the inner me says,
“What’s the point? What will you gain by doing that?” and it’s true. There is nothing to be gained. All I will achieve is disgrace. Disgrace for Dursun and Murat and I love them both enough not to do that to them.
As I sit seething, wondering if we are going to miss our flight, another thought pops into my head. Should a professional, highly educated man wander into the vicinity, no doubt, these village men would run rings around him. Different worlds, different rules.
“Go with the flow Kym” I say to myself and sling in an “I’m going to kill Murat” just for good measure.