Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010 - No comments

Sugar Festival Recovery

I realized today that it's been almost a week since I've visited any Turks or had any neighbours over. It's not for any lack of love - in fact, I miss them - it's more that I needed an "introvert vacation" after the holidays! Ramazan finished a week and a bit ago, moving us out of the month of fasting and into three days of feasting. Or, rather, sugar binging.

Normally on the first day of the holiday, everyone gets all dressed up and goes to visit their oldest relative, and then over the next two days they move on down the line through family, friends and neighbours. Since most of our neighbours are "foreigners" (meaning they are from other parts of Turkey, as opposed to being locals), no one really as any relatives nearby, so all the visiting happens within the neighbourhood. Everyone cleans their house from top to bottom, makes up a bunch of sweets (usually baklava) and then alternately goes visiting or welcomes guests into their home.

We live in a smallish complex - maybe 25 families - so the way the migration pattern goes, you may run into the same neighbours four or five times over the holiday by the time you've been to their house, had them at yours, and bumped into them at multiple other houses. Each visit might last an hour or less, which makes for a lot of repetitive small talk and rehashed neighbourhood gossip by the time you're done, but still, it's fun to make the rounds and see everyone.

Here's how a visit usually goes. Doorbell rings - in Turkey, this generally means a terrified chirping bird sort of a sound. Guests are welcomed in, and everyone greets everyone else. For me, this means shaking hands with the men, a kiss on each cheek for the women, and a kiss to the hand, followed by pressing it to my forehead, for anyone old enough to be my grandparent. Then the youngest girl of the house goes around the room and pours lemon cologne on everyone's hands and offers each person some candy. (I scored this year cuz we have a temporary roommate who is 3 years younger than me! Still, I had to do my share of work.) Then come the pleasantries, asking back and forth about each person and their relatives. (I found it amusing to hear the same people ask each other the same questions at multiple houses over the weekend.)

Next, either Turkish coffee or tea are offered, and plates are piled high with syrupy baklava or sweets. Zeynep Teyze in the house on the corner has a reputation for making amazing baklava, so many of our friends cheated this year and put in orders with her instead of making their own. I can't tell you how many times we were served Zeynep Teyze's baklava! :) I'm not usually a fan, but it's growing on me.

I have no hope of ever being able to make baklava like a Turk (it is a dang lot of work to roll out all those paper-thin layers of dough!) so I stuck with things like shortbread and brownies, and that seemed to go over well. We had storebought baklava on hand, too, to round out the sweets plate.

We were spared from making tea during the holiday, partly cuz it was hot and most visitors weren't staying long enough to brew a pot, but also cuz we had a gas leak in the back of our stove and had to shut it off. (Gee, I was really disappointed!) Serving fruit juice was a relief....for a few days, until a friend fixed the leak. (They were appalled that we had gone without tea for several days....little do they know that we pretty much only make it when they come over!) But the day after the holiday was over, we had "several" of our closest friends over for most of the day, with various combinations of kids coming and going, meaning that we had fifteen people in our house for like seven hours. That is a lot of tea, let me tell you! Turkish tea glasses are small, downed in a few gulps, and expected to stay topped up and piping hot....meaning the "younger roomie" and I were back and forth to the pot on the stove every ten seconds. And then when tea time rolled into dinner......let's just say at the end of the night, we were wiped. And wishing we had a dish washer!

The plan that night was to watch the World Basketball Championship Final (Turkey vs. USA) with one of the families that was over, but I informed them that if they wanted to watch it at our house, there would be no tea service, cuz I was gonna be glued to the game. Yeah. We watched it at theirs. :) (America beat us and got the gold, but we were still so proud of our boys for making it further than any other Turkish team ever has - way to go, 12 Giant Men!!!)

After four solid days of socializing and pouring tea and filling plates and smiling and chatting, I felt richer in my relationships, more in love with this culture.... and also completely spent and exhausted. Hence the hibernation in my house for the last 5 days. A few nights ago, I woke up from a nightmare where guests came knocking on the door at 3 AM demanding tea and sweets, and all of us were running around trying to serve them and not let ourselves fall asleep standing up.... After a week of productive photo-related work and then a nice day off today, I think I'll be ready to pour some tea and swap stories on the balcony tomorrow. They must all wonder where we've been hiding ourselves. Then again, they haven't come knocking either. Maybe we aren't the only ones who had a post-Sugar Festival crash.....