Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Turkish Home and Customs

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...


Melanie Keffer said...

How nice that they think so much of your family to invite all of you to dinner. I giggled at the last minute houseshoe discussion thinking how much you sound like us. Mom is also the one here that gets everybody organized and moving.

That's all from me . . . Don't faint. Short comments today. Love ya'll Sara.


Allan said...

Sara, I loved the blogs. What an excellent description of the Christmas and the Turkish dinner. Now when I tell you the next thing you will know for sure how old I am. As a little girl in the fall of the year before frost we would pick up Chestnuts and save them for winter. The biggest Chestnut tree was on the hill behind meadow at Granny's house.A Chestnut tree that is old has huge sprawling limbs. The limbs would sometimes be as large as a horse's back.I would often pretend I was riding horses or flying to the heavens. I would too play as if it were my house, and each limb would be a different room. I do wish I had a picture of that tree.
Then in the late fifties a blight struck all the Chestnut trees in the US. Dad ordered some hybrid trees and planted near our brick home, but they did not take to the VA climate.
Now to tie my story together. At Christmas we would roast the
chestnut in our oven. We had to be very careful to cut the ends off before roasting. Dad would pull out his pocket knife which he always carried with him and do the honor. Once Martha and I did not adequately cut the ends off and they exploded in the oven of the wood burning stove. Oh!such a noise and such a mess. However, we enjoyed the sweet taste of roasted chestnuts. The chestnuts had a taste very much like a sweetened almond, but so much bigger and better.
Yes I have experience the taste of chestnuts and enjoyed the pleasures of living in a time when I was able to get my own.Mom

Allan said...

Benaiah looks like that picture I have of Ross in the school newspaper. I will see if I can find it and copy it. Mom

Allan said...

Dad here. What a wonderful opportunity to display Christian love by the respect and sensitivity to the culture of your kind Turkish neighbors. Your children are learning and experiencing what it means to understand, appreciate and even tolerate cultural differences. Sometimes those cultural traditions of any culture are humorous. Glad you enjoyed your time and meal. Kudos for figuring a way to accomplish American tradition of your own "Cracker Barrel take-out box" of leftovers!

The Fish Family said...

We loved your blog and could picture the entire scene of what shoes to wear. Sounds alot like something we would do.
Tim and I had chestnuts in Iasi, Romania for the first time - bought them off a vender in the streets. What a special memory you made. So will you cook them Turkish or American food? A good ole Southern style creamed corn, mash potatoes with gravy, fried chicken and pecan pie???

Sara Campbell said...

I loved all the comments! thanks everyone! Mom, I never heard that story but I loved it. It sounds so much like the girls. They find places and designate them as 'houses' all the time. I hope to one day get them up to see Granny's home and VA. Virginia is for lovers, not fighters, right?! Our neighbor was explaining why he cuts them b/c they will explode. I thought they were delicious. I see guys roasting them on the streets here, I'll have to try them again.

Laurie said...

That is all so very interesting. Roasted Chestnuts, I have never had them. Sounds like a fun evening!

Melanie Keffer said...


Just a small note to let you know that I will not be blogging/commenting very often, if any. Things are slowly getting back to normal here and I am on the computer less and less these days. I didn't want to just disappear off the face of the planet without saying bye, for now.

Once again I thank you for the marvelous stories and the pleasure it was to share in your family adventures for a brief time.

Take care and may God bless each and every one of you!

Always a friend,
Melanie Keffer

Natalie said...

hey...i was wondering if i could link this post in my blog. i think some of my readers would love the cultural story. since my blog isn't private you would probably have quite a few hits from people i don't even know. if you would rather me not link it would it be ok if i copied and pasted the indoor/outdoor shoe part? i would just say it was a recent experience of a friend in Turkey. and i would change the names to keep that part private as well. just let me know. if you aren't comfortable with that just say so. no pressure!

it was a funny story! i can totally picture the discussion and thought processes!

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