Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 5 comments

Pretty Maids All in a Row

I have a thing for repetition and patterns.  My eye is always drawn to them and my camera loves to capture them.  I can't resist a rainbow of carefully lined up macarons or a perfectly stacked tray of simit, and an artistically arranged table of apples at the pazar is pure visual poetry to me.  Here are some of the fun patterns I've come across while out and about this week.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014 - No comments

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Turkey

Recently, our doorbell rang, and when my roommate returned from answering it, she was carrying a plate of Turkish delight and digestive cookies. 

"Who died?" I asked her.

"Cansu's grandma," came the reply.  "A long time ago.  She's been showing up in her mom's dreams, apparently."

As I chewed appreciatively on a sandwich made of two cookies and a squishy, powdered-sugary middle, I thought how absurd this exchange would sound to someone who didn't live here.  And yet it's something that happens at our house at least every two months.

In Turkish culture, both joys and sorrows are shared much more communally than in our own more privacy-oriented culture.  Funeral announcements are made over the loudspeaker at the mosque, circumcision parties are neighbourhood-wide affairs, and it's kosher to show up at a wedding (at least a village wedding) even if you don't know the bride or groom.

As for plates of lokum (Turkish delight) and cookies appearing at the door, it's customary to distribute them to friends and neighbours when someone has passed away, when a new baby is born, or when it's the anniversary of someone's death.  This caused me great confusion and no small amount of culture-stress when I first moved here.  Half the time I didn't understand what the child who was sent to the door was saying, or even who they belonged to, and I was never quite sure if I should be offering congratulations or condolences.  I remember being particularly embarrassed once when, following the delivery of a plate of these sweets by a girl to my doorstep, I told her grandma how sorry I was for their loss, only to find out that great-grandma had been dead more than twenty years!

In keeping with the theme of "random things you might not know about Turkey and Turkish culture," I've compiled a list for your amusement.

1.  When someone leaves on a long journey, it's customary to toss a cup of water after them, saying, "Su gibi git, su gibi gel" which means "Go like water, return like water."

2.  Pretty much the only time Turks ever eat turkey is at New Years.  

3.  No right turn on red.

4.  All the clocks in the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul are set to 9:05 - the exact time Atatürk died there on November 10, 1938.

5.  When young men go off to do their compulsory military service, it's common to see them being tossed up in the air at the bus station by an exuberant crowd shouting "En büyük asker bizim asker!" - "The greatest soldier is OUR soldier!"

6.  The doorbells of most homes in Turkey sound like chirping birds, and many school bells ring out with the tune of "Jingle Bells."

7.  According to their website, there are 50 Starbucks locations in Istanbul.  (I thought there used to be over 60, but maybe "demand is down" these days.)  

8.  We have a law against "insulting Turkishness."  It's Article 301 in the Constitution and is taken very seriously.

9.  The Turkish word for "cannibal" is "yamyam."  It sounds an awful lot like "yum yum...."

10.  We have a city called Batman.  It's pronounced BAHT-mahn and has absolutely nothing to do with the Caped Crusader.