Sunday, September 20, 2009

Steph Goes to Asia

Hi all,
So, today I went to Asia, but it was only a minor (ha ha) part of my day. Today marked the beginning of the 3 day celebration of the end of Ramadan, called Bayram (pronounced Bye-rum) - which is what you'd think people would do after a month of fasting. Alas, since there's a tenet against drinking alcohol, that would not be the case. Ok. Enough Puns.

HD's Family Visits
So, when I went to bed last night, HM hadn't told me anything about what to expect today. I was upstairs and showered by 9:45, catching HM in the kitchen. "Oh!" she said, "I forgot to tell you that today we will go to HD's great aunt's house for a Turkish breakfast because of Bayram...I'm glad you're ready - we leave in 10 minutes!". Ok. I can go with that. We swing by HM's Mother's house (she doesn't drive) and drive into the city - without my camera. After about 45 minutes we enter the great aunt (and uncle's) apartment. It's very much what I now imagine the classic view of a Turkish apparent to be like. It had the beautiful carpets (guess who will be lugging one home..?), family pictures galore, heavy and ornate wood furniture, and crystal chandeliers (albeit now electrified). I was, for the first time so far, given the full-blown Turkish welcome: the double kiss. I discovered I have a lot less problems kissing old people (and trust me, I got plenty of practice today!) than I did in Germany whenever I met young guys from Spain!

Breakfast was a very nice treat, the full-blown traditional breakfast, plus delicious baklava and Boerek (a new favorite...). Nevermind the plentiful cups of tea. As custom, I was offered food continuously, but managed to balance the line between politeness and being stuffed. K was rather impatient, as his mother had thought to bring along UNO. A great idea, as kids have no love of 3 hour long visitation sessions. However, the people behind Bayram were geniuses and even thought of a way to bribe -erm-reward the kids for visiting: it's traditional to slip money to them near the end of the visit. It was very interesting to find out that the great aunt was like a second mother and that the great uncle was a colonel in the Turkish army (a lifer) who had his decorations in a large cabinet and he also apparently spent a year stationed in the US in CA. He was very sweet, and gave me a grand tour. But all good times must come to an end. So, several hours and kisses later (with many hands of UNO), we continued with what was decided on as an impromptu trip to visit HD's mother. She, however, is dead. So I got to see my first Turkish cemetery. It was gorgeous. The graves are actually more like marble boxes that double as flowerbeds, with the name plaques behind them. There were degrees to the opulence, but all were white marble and cultivated in some way. It was also a very popular destination today, and parking was scarce.

HM's Family Visit
So, unbeknownst to me, at some point a discussion happened that decided that all the family visiting should take place today. So we set off to see HM's great aunt. She apparently is a fascinating woman - never married and independent - although it was a much shorter visit. I discovered that it's definitely a tradition to have a well-stocked chocolate candy dish (much to K's delight), and of course there's always a beverage offered. Afterwards we went to the family's old neighborhood (a lot of families buy whole apartment buildings -smaller ones- and my family still rents theirs out) restaurant for a traditional Turkish meal. It was very good, with exceptional service (I wore the poor waiter out refilling my water glass, I'm afraid).

After lunch we struck off to HM's Grandmother's house. She lives on the Asian side of the Bosphorous, so I got to visit a whole new continent! It wasn't very exciting. However, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge - think near copy of Golden Gate Bridge - which spans the Bosphorous, charged no fee today because of Bayram. So naturally it was a mess. The news ran a special showing all the drivers that tried to insist on trying to pay anyways, which was amusing.

However, we finally arrived at the Great Grandmother's apartment. She is a tiny thing (HD calls her a dwarf in an affectionate (?) manner) who also brought out the tea and baklava. (Quick point to ponder...if I manage to eat my body weight in both yogurt and baklava will they balance out? I'm thinking no...unfortunately!). The visit took about 2 hours, and I spent a good chunk of time playing UNO. Luckily we headed back after that (at around 7:30pm) and the traffic caused the normally non-rush hour 40 minute-long trip to take 1.5 hours. So, a very long day ending with K crashing in the car.

Tomorrow we will stay home (or that's the plan, anyway) and I'm looking forward to that!
Hope all is well,

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