We’re back! Smelly, Fatso, Lai Lai, Baba, and I. We made it safely back to Mersin.
Perhaps for the first time, after I’d got all the travelling out of the way (16 hours from start to finish before anyone thinks that it’s just a quick plane ride over here), I actually felt relaxed to be here. Even if it is the middle of Ramazan, and all that it entails.
And look what we got: less than a week after arriving and a trip up to the yayla to see the family. Admittedly the welcome began with a comment on my weight, but after a while the constant freedom to refer to whether a person has lost or gained weight soon becomes expected and so is water off a ducks back, politely ignored. Being part of a Turkish family is not to be recommended for those of you who may be sensitive about your weight. Here it’s part of normal conversation as is the freedom to openly question how much you earn, paid for something, or other such personal financial trivia.
So after the pleasantries about my having gained weight, I was soon dispatched with a bucket to pick the sour cherries from the small orchard which sister-in-law is growing ever weary from its’ demands. Like a fool I had scrubbed up before arriving and had opted for a new white top, forgetting that rather than commenting on whether I looked smart, nice, had new clothes or such, their gaze and comments would focus on my size. Cherries, white top, could have been a disaster.
This year there must have been quite a lot of rain. Instead of the expected small, tight, bright red, sour cherries, these were full, burgundy and bursting to be picked. Quite how I didn’t return with an indigo spattered top is something of a surprise. It didn’t take long before our small bucket was full and I had to tell M to stop. After all, who would be dealing with all this fruit once we got it home. We could easily have carried on as the tree was heavy laden, rather smugly so in comparison to the poor dead sweet cherry tree next to it. Even the regular, goodness knows what, spraying couldn’t save it. The cherries, apples, peaches, apricots and whatever else lays in the rather precarious orchard, are definitely not organic. It still doesn’t stop the more determined bugs and maggots making the fruit their home though.
Back inside I had to adopt the womanly role of helping prepare and serve dinner as the men sat on their bums. There were only two of them plus sister-in-law, and I didn’t mind as the days of me being able to get away with the role of strange foreign gelin have long gone. Plus I was rather impressed to see that heavily pregnant niece was dashing about and not complaining about being pregnant and how hard it was. It’s her second, and apart from frequently flashing her belly at us, she probably knew not to moan when someone who had 3, and for long periods was alone, was stood by her. I did try to make appropriate cooing noises in the right places but I appear to be in an in-between stage, where after having had my own the gooey broody cuddly feeling has yet to re-emerge. Then again I doubt anyone would ever describe me as having been like that before.
After a rather large and impressive feast for ifthar, the food just seemed to keep on coming. M brought out a traditional Mersin sweet, the name of which I can never recall; nuts stuffed inside a crust made of fine semolina, and all covered in a sort of uncooked meringue. While everyone else seemed to exert a degree of self control M had to be told that three was more than everyone else had had, and four was just excessive. Then came the dreaded çekirdek, banned in our house, in this case pumpkin seeds in their husks which all Turks quickly learn the skill of delicately cracking between their front teeth and extracting the seed. Why do I ban them? the mess, pure and simple, go to any Turkish park and you will see mounds of seed husks surrounding the seats. Though watching a yabanci try to learn the art eating çekirdek provides a source of amusement, and I was once that person and still can be from time to time.
While all this was going on, and just as a humungous plate of apples, peaches and apricots was brought out, the boys had gone into hyper mode with cousin. School seems to have agreed with cousin as he is no longer the only child desperate to stop these three marauding children from commandeering his toys. This time he was eager to share, and it was a relief to see that he was as much part of the emerging anarchy as Smelly, Fatso and Lai Lai. In fact, it was cousin who was teaching Lai Lai to leap off the back of sister-in-laws sofa in an impressive display of agility. Fatso, however decided that indoor football was an appropriate game and taught cousin the art of smashing the ball into the ceiling and other delicate glass objects. Oddly sister-in-law didn’t bat an eyelid at this and instead told niece off for shouting at the kids as she was sat next to her. This time we’ll put it down to the kids being excited to see each other.
Time to leave the yayla, with our bucket full of cherries and 3 very tired boys.