Last night we were invited to our neighbor's home for dinner. We have been invited into various homes for tea and have, of course, dined with Turkish friends who are connected to the school, but this was a first for us and was an invitation we happily accepted.
Just before we walked out the door, we endured (caused) a big commotion about house shoes. The neighbor lives right across the hall, so we had several options regarding footwear:
a)wear outdoor shoes to walk across the hall and wear our socks in the house (which would make the host feel obligated to provide house shoes for all 6 of us)
b)run across the hall in socks (which would cause them to worry that we might all get sick because we didn't have outdoor shoes in the hallway)
c)wear outdoor shoes and take a big pile of our own house shoes to put on after we got there (which might make them think we didn't expect them to be good hosts and provide enough house shoes)
d)wear our house shoes across the hall (which would make them be considered 'dirty' when we entered the house)
You laugh, but we stood in our entry for a full 5 minutes trying to figure out what to do. This is a BIG deal here. Cleanliness is part of the religion prevalent in this country. Not wearing outdoor shoes in the house is a BIG deal. But also, making sure your feet are in shoes is a big deal because many believe illnesses are caused by being in socks only (or worse, bare feet...little do they know what a hillbilly I really am in secret). Everyone was throwing out suggestions. Mary Erin had an enormous armful of house shoes to carry over, convinced she had the right idea. Eva had her crocs and her puffy princess shoes in her hands and was planning to carry both. Annika had her house shoes already on. Ross was saying to me, "Are THOSE our house shoes? Where did we get those? I thought you said we shouldn't take all those shoes, why are you telling us to bring our own house shoes now?" I finally halted everyone and said, "Look! Just trust me. I don't have time to explain..Ross, wear outdoor shoes and take no house shoes. Wear socks in the house or take the house shoes they offer you. Girls, wear outdoor shoes and take your own house shoes. That way they can provide shoes for the adults but don't have to outfit all of you kids." Then Esther panicked, "But I don't HAVE house shoes, they are at school!" (Yes, the kids wear house shoes in the school when it is wet outside and they come in from recess.) So I said, "Ok, Esther, just wear outdoor shoes and then your socks unless they give you shoes." Mary Erin said, "Mom, my feet are big enough for adult house shoes, can I just wear my outdoor shoes?" "YES! Now GET OUT the door!" We also quickly discussed how to handle the prayer and decided that since it was their home, we'd each bow and have our own silent prayer. 3 seconds later we had crossed the hall, all smiles, pretending we had no stress, and accepting house shoes for anyone who didn't come with their own. Can you believe all that?
Ayla Hanim had made a beautiful meal of manti and sarma. Both are extremely time-consuming to prepare. She poured drinks...Coke...and the kids smirked at me, knowing that because we were the guests, I would never say no to the caffeinated drink she offered them. Ayla stood as we ate. I do remember somewhere learning that the hostess would not eat with us. Her job is to make sure everyone has full plates and everything they could possibly need. I still felt compelled to offer her a seat and ask her to eat. Another cultural thing is to never let the portion be too small. Eva's bowl of manti was as large as Ross'. And she just kept shoving it in! There was no way we could possibly eat all she served us, so I asked her if we could finish what was already on our plates for lunch tomorrow. My friend, who is much more involved in the culture here, told me I did well on that! Whew! I kept whispering to the kids, "Just keep eating." but they were starting to blow up like balloons.
After the meal, they took us to their terrace for tea and dessert and roasted chestnuts (see photo). Cemal Bey cranked up his wood burning stove and roasted chestnuts for us. How you ever actually had them? We sing the song at Christmas, but I don't recall ever eating them. They were delicious!
We had a wonderful time. I asked God for favor with understanding the language and felt He really helped us. The kids did super. They ate, gave lots of thank-you's and hugs/kisses, then played hide and seek with their kids in the house. I have already begun thinking what I might serve when we have them to our house. I'll need to buy more house shoes for them before then, though...