The weather here at the moment is idyllic; sunshine with a breeze and no humidity.
Waking up to the sun streaming through the window and the birds singing is like natures Prozac – the kind of weather that keeps a smile on your face.
Yesterday, after a leisurely Turkish breakfast, we decide to spend the day in the village. I’ve been in the village a lot lately…..making up for my seven month absence!
My mother in laws house is a hive of activity when we arrive. Dursin and Zebiha (another daughter in law) are out on the balcony washing carpets; barefoot with salvar tucked into their knickers.
Murat and I sit on the kitchen floor drinking tea after which, Mu stretches out his long limbs and slides down from the bolster cushion for a little nap – Lazy sod.
Brother in law Hassan and his wife Zebiha have a two month old daughter, Melisa or ‘Zengi’ (black girl) as she is affectionately called (there is nothing derogatory about that here) and she has, up until now, been fast asleep in a crib in the bedroom. I stand over her for a second or two, watching her take tiny shallow breaths as she slumbers before picking her up and nestling her in my arms.
On the balcony, Dursin is now washing the smaller rugs. Instead of laying these on the floor and attacking them with a hose and a scrubbing brush, she has them in a large plastic bowl and is dancing up and down on them, washing them with her feet as suds go flying up her legs. I laugh my head off.
‘Ne Kym’ she says shaking her head at me
‘Cok komik’ I tell her
She grins and carries on with the dance.
Zebiha is gathering together all the necessary bits and pieces to bath Melisa and when she has them all in a pile, she lines the large plastic bowl with a fleece blanket. I have already stripped Melisa and now put her little wiggling form in the middle of the bowl, on the blanket. Dursin takes a break from the balcony and comes in to help bathe her granddaughter and myself and Murat, who is now awake, watch from the side-lines.
I remember bath times with my son Jordan. As a Brit, who is used to treating babies with kid gloves, I would take such care not to rub his skin too hard or get soap in his eyes. Bath times were fun and he used to giggle and laugh as the water poured over him, although saying that, I have seen plenty of babies cry at bath time, soap in their eyes or not.
Dursin scrubs Melisa quite firmly and when it comes to hair washing, well the baby shampoo goes on, is rubbed vigorously over her head and face and then a jug of water is poured completely over her head to wash it all off. She catches her breath and starts crying; Murat says it’s because of the soap in her eyes. No Dursin and Zebiha say, it’s baby soap, it doesn’t sting. This is what the adverts say so why shouldn’t they believe it?
Soon Melisa is clean, dry, smothered in talcum powder and none the worse for wear.
I sit contemplating bath time. I’m thinking I would have done that differently. It’s a bit of a contradiction in terms lining a plastic bowl with a fleece blanket for Melisa’s comfort and then washing her like you would a doll but then, all of this has been done with love. These village babies are more than loved, they are adored and no-one would do anything to harm them. Perhaps it is ignorance and lack of education but then I think, is treating our children with kid gloves really good for them? I’ve watched these babies grow over the last seven years from babies that are passed around and loved by everyone they come into contact with to healthy and happy children who respect their elders and I wonder who has it right?
Murat stands, clearly bored with this ‘women stuff’ and takes himself off to Orman Kampi.
Another daughter in law, Ozlem, wanders up from the house downstairs. She is a first cousin from Urfa who recently married brother in law Hussein. Murat had strongly advised Hussein against this marriage, not because Ozlem was a cousin but because Hussein had only just got out of the army where he had seen quite a lot of action. This can obviously screw with your head and Murat’s concern was that when Hussein got used to the real world again he may change his mind and this would cause a family war. It’s happened before in this family. There were other reasons; Hussein had no real job to come out to and no real prospects of one and that’s not an ideal start to any marriage is it? Still, here in the village, what you have is shared so they won’t go hungry.
Ozlem takes parsley and spring onions from the fridge and starts chopping. Zebiha lays a sofra (tablecloth) on the floor, takes out an aluminium dish from the cupboard and fills it with bulgur wheat, chopped tomatoes and diced onions.
‘’Ne yapacak’’ I say, asking her what she is making
‘’Domatesli cig kofte’’ she says
She adds salt and spices to the dish and sits on the floor, mixing it all together with her hands.
Before the mix is complete, Ozlem adds the ingredients she has been chopping along with some oil then starts making Ayran.
All the washing is now blowing in the breeze and Dursin in on her knees in the kitchen with a cloth, cleaning up any speck of stray bulgur or parsley that the girls have missed.
Brother in laws and cousins wander in, join us around the sofra and we all eat and chat and somehow end up talking about snake and scorpion bites. Not a great subject as I have brought some herbs with me to plant up in Hassan Amca’s garden later; Now I’m home, I can start making this years herbal teas and tinctures.
After lunch I take a walk outside and chase the chickens. The mother hen has eight babies that are running around on their tiny little legs chirping, seven black and one white. She does not take kindly to me following them so closely and tells me so by turning on me and furiously clucking ‘’get away from my babies you giant’’ – I think that’s what she says anyway.
Having done all her chores, Dursin comes with me to Hassan Amca’s house where we sit drinking yet more tea and watch Islim (Hassan’s wife) gather kindling for the outside oven as their son Yusuf tries to get me to play ball.
Hassan and I walk over to his garden where lined up in neat rows and irrigated with lengths of black hosepipe are tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, none of which has fruit as yet. He finds me a corner by the gate next to his nane (mint), starts chopping away at the earth with a pick axe and before you know it, my green bits are in, watered and basking in the sun with not a snake or scorpion in sight
Murat returns and the rest of the afternoon is spent under Hassan’s grapevine, eating cherries and watermelon while talking about the past.
At dinner time, various family members wander in we end up with thirteen around the sofra eating Dursin’s lahmacan and Islim’s kizatma.
I end the day much like I started it; with a smile on my face 🙂
Here are a few photos from the day and a little clip of mother hen and her chicks
Getting the washing done
Domatesli Cig Kofte
Mitchie & Ferat
Hassan & the Nane
Melisa & I
Mu & Melisa
Hassan & Zebiha
Yusuf hogs the cherries