Remembering to open my eyes to what is around me

Every day I notice the beautiful things about life here, the sunflower sunrises, the pomegranate sunsets, the quick changing light on the pine trees in the morning and I forget to notice the people things because they are now so familiar.

The stuff that the travellers who come here notice about life and living here is now part of the fabric of my reality and it is only when I explain things to them that I remember how different this place really is.

My neighbour cooking

My neighbours all cook on open fires, pretty much all year round, and many of them are now totally self sufficient as the village council is encouraging self sufficiency and diversity in the cottage gardens that patchwork the valley floor. My immediate neighbours are self sufficient in everything from meat and dairy produce to home furnishings (pillows are home made and stuffed with local raw cotton) and transport is via foot or horse. Their limited cash comes from the son’s job as a trainee hairdresser at the village barber and this is reserved for paying utility bills.

By the way, the neighbours find my utility bills hysterically funny. They don’t get jealous that I can pay a bill ten times more than theirs they think I’m bloody stupid for using so much electricity! They are probably right!

The cooperation of the villagers is fantastic, everyone works together from the family co-operatives that barter grape picking for firewood and vegetables, to joint cooking and preserving ventures when the harvests come in or a celebration is in the offing.

Communal cooking for a celebration

Group cooking takes place in the streets over fires and the other day in the square down from my house huge vats of hot oil were frying potato wedges for the feast that comes 60 days after a death. They were the best potatoes I have ever eaten – crisp and crunchy on the outside, fluffy and soft in the middle, and I would have seriously burnt myself if I ever tried to cook anything that way!

Cooking potato wedges in the street

Death is seen differently here. As I explained to some visitors the other day that saw the preparations for the feast, when the old lady who lived next door died there were very public and heartfelt displays of grief and her middle aged son sobbed over the communal coffin until they removed it to the cemetery. Now 60 days later the life of the old lady is celebrated and generous gifts of food and cakes are shared and happy times are remembered and the grief is considered passed.

Where do you stop explaining? When I mentioned the communal coffin I then had to go on to explain that there is only one coffin in the area and that is used to transport the shroud wrapped remains to the cemetery. People are buried in shrouds not coffins and the coffin is washed out and used again and again. It is all very respectful and sensible but probably too much information just after breakfast for even the most ecologically minded individual!

Not all explanations of village life are morbid though. Some are fun and visitors love to hear how Shadow our Labrador is changing Turkish children’s attitudes to animals. Shadow by virtue of being pretty and sweet natured is overcoming most Turk’s fear of dogs and village children that once cowered from her now run up and cuddle her and proudly pat her on the head.

Shadow successfully completes another Hearts and Minds Mission for dogs in Turkey!

And all that leads us into discussions of animals here and how they are seen and the attitudes about then and then we move onto Kurban Bayram, the feast of sacrifice, and how food animals are treated here and the talk goes on and on until I wear out my voice talking too much and trying to help people understand why this place is as it is and the reasons behind stuff that on the surface looks weird but is actually sensible!

Turkey is an endlessly fascinating and beautiful country, I know that, but sometimes it is only when I explain it to other people that I remember it is as much about the people and the life as the sunshine and the sea – so thank you to all the people who bother to come here and bother to ask questions and make me open my eyes and see afresh the amazing people that are around me.