In the end we only went for three days. Thankfully Husband was willing to come back a day early, even though it meant driving at night. I think the real deciding factor was Fatso, who has turned out to be a less than cooperative traveller. The half hour screaming session whilst on the drive down, for no discernable reason other than perhaps being bored, made the journey a little less than pleasant so the return was after bath time to ensure he slept. Needless to say the journey home was far better, and quicker than the journey there.
Mersin itself wasn’t too bad this time. Being November it was actually quite warm and so the boys and I enjoyed putting on our lighter, summery clothes once again. this was much to the horror of the Mersinites who were carrying on as if 22 degrees was somehow deep winter and so wrapping themselves, and even more so the children, in hats, scarves, jumpers, and thick coats. I think the best day was Saturday when meeting up with Husband’s other children Smelly had an overwhelming urge to strip off and leap in the fountain – all the more fun when I rolled up my trousers and leapt in with him. Fatso also got dangled in the water. The water certainly couldn’t be described as warm, but anyone who has paddled on a British beach during the summer can imagine that most British kids would have done the same as Smelly. Had there been more people about disapproving comments would have been forthcoming, but being a foreigner I can generally get away with quite a bit.
The first day of the Bayram was pretty awful, with Husband and brother-in-law dragging home bags of dead animal, supposedly butchered but in reality just hacked into smaller bits. They were then sent to the balcony to continue hacking it into ever smaller bits, while women appeared to select and chop the meat in preparation for the meal. Being vegetarian I was let off this particularly pleasant duty but was dismayed to find that Sister-in-law had decided that the day’s meal would be the liver. Even when I ate meat liver was the one thing I really couldn’t stomach (or kidneys for that matter).
As a result of the death in the family, this Bayram was turning out to be much harder work for Sister-in-law. Rather than just preparing a family feast for 15-20 or so visitors, she actually had to prepare inordinate amounts of food for those descending upon the grieving widow. It seems to be a rather unfortunate custom over here that the grieving relatives have to endure days of visitors (often for as long as 40 days or if really unfortunate longer), and not just the odd one or two. The worst part is that they all expect to be fed and watered. Fortunately this responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of those directly related to the person who has died, but it is still their home that is constantly under assault from the hoards of visitors who supposedly come to pay their respects. Apparently it did not used to be this way, the visitors, though still large in number, in the past were expected to bring the Widow food and drink to ensure that they were looked after whilst in the initial period of mourning when they would not begin to think of looking after themselves. Even in recent times when this tradition fell off, neighbours would take on the burden of catering for the endless stream of ‘mourners’. It is hard not to be disrespectful but this latest twist seems rather self-centered on the part of those visiting the grieving relatives, and the rest of the close family who are now taking on the burden of not just ensuring that Widow is taken care of, but feeding and watering literally hundreds of people streaming through Widow’s home. As such Sister-in-law was cooking masses of meat and rice in some of the biggest pans I have seen outside catering companies, most of which were borrowed from neighbours as these days it is less common to frequently have to feed such vast numbers from a domestic kitchen.
In fairness, while Widow did look awful and drawn, as would be expected, she did comment that the visitors were a distraction and the nights were the worst after they had all gone. Even so, we popped in on only two occasions and would I be mean in saying that in the sea of faces several on the second visit seemed to be the same? If I am, then I don’t really care too much. After losing Enis I only had to endure one day of visits, having to sit politely and welcome people I didn’t or barely knew and listen to them jabber on as if it was a normal social occasion. Luckily grieving relatives don’t have to stay in the same room for the entire time these visitors are there, but where could Widow really escape to with so many people invading her home.
With all the cooking and meat preparation going on at Sister-in-law’s where we were staying, Smelly, Fatso and I escaped to the park to make the most of the mild weather and enjoy the parks that are spread out along the seaside promenade. Fatso is still in love with the swings while Smelly prefers the ‘exercise park’ as he calls it where there are signs saying that the equipment is unsuitable for under 15’s, yet the vast majority of those using it are certainly under 15. We treated it as a mini summer break and ate ice creams more than once and sat out at a municipality run cafe eating gozleme, sikma and chips along with his much older brothers and sisters. Only a little spoiled later by Fatso going into melt-down, so far from the placid accepting boy that Smelly is.
Now we’re back and Ankara feels colder than ever, but probably no colder than when we left 3 days ago. The boys are now sporting Anatolian style body warmers that we found in an odd shop at the rest stop in Pozanti (just ahead of the Taurus mountains which you pass through to reach the coastal climate of Mersin and Adana). So I have two little Anatolian shepherds about the house now and less than a day left before we all switch back to the normal daily routines of school, work, and Fatso and me finding a truce – trying to enjoy each other’s company while Husband and Smelly are out.
So all in all it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, hot water was available without fuss (Sister-in-law finally saw sense and has installed an electric immersion heater as a boost to the solar system), cooking in another person’s kitchen was the usual challenge, and the warm weather provided ample opportunity for escape. Husband also participated, as he is desperately trying to help me find something to love about being here, and took me to a fishing village for lunch that he’d never even told me about before. So the highlight ends up being spending some quality family time and watching Smelly’s face as he looked at the fishermen mending their nets by their boats.