This week was decidedly Turkish. Last week, eh, Georgian/International Travel culture. This week, I’m definitely in Turkey.
Wednesday night, our friend Ugur took us out for kofte (meatballs) and mezes. I drank Ayran (cold yogurt mixed with salt), scooped up my salata with lavash, and finished with a few bardaks of Çay. After dinner, we went to the “Erzurum houses,” a group of 5 or more houses from the 1700’s built in the traditional style and full of antiques from the area. The walls were 80cms thick of stone and the ceiling is incredibly sturdy in order hold up another 90cm of sand which acts as insulation in the winter. The houses have been preserved and a collector has filled them with pots, kettles, snow shoes, skis, tea pots, horse harnesses, baby carriers, leather goods, purses, water jugs, instruments, and thousands upon thousands of rugs. Peter thought I was in an opium den when I sent him pictures. I’m sure he wasn’t too far off.
We’d come to the Erzurum houses in order to drink Turkish khave and learn about fortune-telling. A fairly typical activity in Turkey, our hosts took turns examining the grounds in their cups and telling us what different pictures means to the Turks regarding the past, present, and future. They also had an amazing wealth of knowledge of ancient, cross-cultural symbolism. It was fascinating to hear them describe the differences in meaning of, lets say, an owl, from a Greek, Persian, Turkish, or European perspective. Symbolism and evaluation. I enjoyed it!
Last night, our colleagues from the department took us to the state theatre to see a performance of Deli Ibrahim- the Mad Sultan. Before the play, I spent a few hours trying to read up on the content. For quick reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_of_the_Ottoman_Empire
The play was beautiful. The costumes and lighting design were impressive and, despite not knowing what they were saying, I felt the actors were poised, subtle, and impressive.
Of course, after the play, we had cay. And finally, Janesh, Leah, and I were able to grab the bill before our Turkish friends! Victory! They have never yet let us pay for anything. Its maddening to me, especially because we’ve been taught that Turkish culture does attend to and appreciate equal reciprocity. You’re sort of supposed to keep track in your head who has paid for what and make sure to repay the debt in full. While we are foreign, I still want to attend to the tradition and make sure that our colleagues don’t feel that we are unwilling or unhappy to treat them as often as they treat us. When we grabbed for the bill, they literally tried to crawl over the table to take it back. Leah had to sit on the leather bill folio while we pooled our liras and called the waiter back. After we’d paid, our colleagues thought it was the most amazing thing! They kept saying over and over again, “You’re so Turkish! Its so wonderful!”
All in all, tales of the Orient and Occident always coincide, determining and muddling the meanings of the other. Welcome to gedik!