Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Bit of Turkey Before Thanksgiving

We come home from the market in our little town of Gundogan on Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula, laden with sharp and mild goat cheese, olives, pomegranates, fresh and dried figs, heavy grape vines, sweet peaches in season and freshly picked watermelon. Our knapsacks are filled with garden tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, beets, spinach, dill, carrots, lettuce and zucchini. We’ve discovered a Mediterranean chicken spice for our kebabs, Turkish homemade tortellini, thick, soft flatbread for our pides (Turkish pizzas) and huge rounds of freshly made filo pastry which Mom uses to make spanikopita pies. One of our favorite stops is the gal with nuts where we get samples, then treat ourselves to the freshest almonds, hazelnuts, and corn nuts we’ve ever tasted. Then it’s a heavy box of fresh Turkish delight. We make sure to sample all flavors so we know which ones to buy from the friendly vendor who gives us drinks of cold apple, cherry and lemon “sweet teas”. We walk back up the mountain to our gorgeous villa which overlooks the Aegean Sea. We bought spanikopita from the same vendor who sold us nuts, which we then eat poolside for lunch along with our other bounty from this weekly market excursion. We also have access to a BBQ which we use to cook up all these fabulous vegetables in the evening. As you can see, a big part of our Turkish experience has been the incredible food.

What a way to live, to heal, to finish our 8 month odyssey. For our first week in Turkey, Terry and I both felt a bit restless, perhaps guilty, not exactly sure what we were going to do here for 30 days. It’s like anywhere we’ve been, it always takes a few days to adjust to the new language, the different currency, routines that revolve around finding a place to get groceries and determining a time table for work and play in this new culture. The kids were more immediately able to jump in and be at home, thrilled to unpack and set up a semi-permanent place to live. Our third day was market day which I think was the catalyst for us being able to finally settle into relax and enjoy mode. We also got into a fairly regular routine of homeschooling in the mornings, then going to the beach or hanging out at our pool in the afternoons. I was in heaven going for early morning runs which alternated between travelling up various mountain roads/trails, or heading down to the sea, or both in one run. On my runs I found a couple of good local hikes to do with the kids, but unfortunately on one of them I carelessly sprained my ankle about half way through our month here. My running wings were clipped, but it has forced me to spend more time in the pool and I’ve finally made a breakthrough: I think I have discovered the relaxing zen of swimming that I ‘ve been envying in others for so long. The kids are all big endurance swimmers now too. Lilianna often swims with me and is faster and more efficient in the water. She is up to 40 nonstop lengths of the front crawl in our little pool.

By the second week we began to break up our homeschooling days with excursions to ancient ruins, a boat trip, a day at the waterslides and even a Turkish bath. The kids are learning so much. They’ve each decided now that they want to be archeologists when they grow up. Dezmond and Riley’s latest make believe game has them working in an office as tour operators in Turkey selling trips to various ruin sites, Kos, Greece and Istanbul. They use air conditioning remote controls for their phones and have arguments about whether or not a one day excursion to Ephesus should cost 50 or 100 Turkish Lira. There are so many images that will stay with me always: Josie’s grin as a young Turkish man in a towel sings and gives her a bubble massage on a warmed marble slab; the boys’ jumping from ancient stone to column to pillar in the 3000 year old Temple of Athena, oblivious to their stirring surroundings, as they chase a grasshopper; finding a family of turtles in a 2000 year old Roman bath, the youngest turtle crying as it knocks his shell against and climbs up onto his Mama’s shell; Dezmond and Riley lying side by side for their massage at the Hamam (Turkish Bath), wide eyed as they get a slap on the bum to indicate it’s over. We’ve been blown away by the ruins here. I get tears in my eyes as I walk over ancient rocks imagining people who labored on these sturdy structures and lived their lives over a thousand years before Christ was born. The temple of Apollo with its huge columns, defines the true meaning of the word awesome. Terry is finally able to see the sights he dreamed of when he worked on the Greek isles picking olives and was unable to see Turkey because of the outbreak of war in Iraq.

It’s our last week in Turkey now and we are savoring every moment of it. The weather in this place couldn’t be more perfect. Every day we wake up and it’s sunny and warm with a slight breeze, about 29 degrees which at night cools to 23 or 24 degrees. I’m going to miss our evenings walking home from town still warm enough for no sleeves, smelling the fragrant pine trees. I’ll miss the moon we see rising each night from our mountain perch in different shades of orange. The Muslim call to prayer here is exotic compared to Ghana as it echoes hauntingly, artistically through the valley between the mountains and the sea. I’ll miss reading or playing “President/Janitor” with the kids outside on our patio before bedtime. Mostly I think I’ll miss our family time together with no pressures, responsibilities or stress. We’re not ruled by work, school, or the clock. It will be wonderful to be home again with family, friends, school, work and a regular routine, but it will be hard to replicate ever again the time we’ve spent here on the Aegean sea. The other night I reminded the kids, “You have no idea how lucky you are to have this”. Riley very innocently yet wisely replied, “Yes we do, cause you keep telling us that”. So now I think I’ll just leave it at that and let them experience it and hold it in their hearts as I do, each in their own individual way.