Turkey 1 Bios
Corps I traveled in the Middle East for months, returned to Turkey then
headed home via Europe, visiting friends there. Days before Xmas, I boarded
an ill-fated Icelandic Airlines flight from Glasgow to NYC. Ill-fated
because an engine caught fire as we were landing in Iceland. When I saw the
flames, I wasnít scared, I was pissed. "This is a crappy time for me to die.
Iíve just finished two years in Peace Corps and Iím ready to start my REAL
life, and besides, my poor family is waiting for me to celebrate Christmas
say, I didnít die. In fact, I was the second person to jump from the plane
thanks to a cute law student who I got to know while we were stranded in the
airport for 24 hours. We later dated for a year in NYC.
I tried to
get a job in DC with no luck and settled for NYC and working at AFS
International Scholarships. A great job with good people at very low pay. At
the request of my aunts, I lived with my grandmother in Weehawken, N.J. She
was dying of cancer and it was a privilege to be able to share in her care,
but it did put a cramp in my social life.
After a year
I returned to Turkey to sort out my "personal life" there and to apply for a
job with the Peace Corps. Neither worked out. I returned to NYC having sworn
off men for life. Within a few weeks I met Frank Grant, an artist, and the
following year we got married in Maine and bought a house in Round Pond.
years of back and forth, we realized we were a lot happier in Maine, so we
made the permanent move. Working with foreign students was not possible, so
I got a newspaper reporter job with the Portland Press Herald, a daily. On
the side I did travel writing which paid poorly but had great travel
dabbled in antiques. Then I was asked to be editor of a Bath-based weekly.
Our son, Evan was just entering first grade, so the timing was right. Nine
years later, Courier Publications which owned 6 weekly newspapers decided to
start one near my home town. I jumped at the offer to be its editor. We had
a great staff and ended up winning many awards and having a lot of fun doing
it. Only trouble was we were working 55 -60 hours a week which didnít help
my already failing marriage. So we divorced, which was a good move for both
Frank and I who continue on friendly terms.
later, thanks to the takeover of our company by a big corporation from South
Carolina, our paper was closed down and my job was eliminated. At first I
was angry and then I realized how great it is to have time to do things.
With severance pay and unemployment $$, I took many trips that Iíd been
wanting to do for years.
that full-time work for others is no longer the way to go. So I do freelance
writing from home and also do publicity and press releases for art
galleries. I have 5 on my list now and other odd jobs keep turning up such
as helping a holocaust survivor write his book, doing photography etc. And
to get away from the computer and make money, Iím back in the antiques game
and sell my wares at fleamarkets.
to enjoy living in Round Pond and a few years ago bought a charming condo
apartment in a Victorian house smack in the middle of Portland. I now live
in both places, teach English to refugees, work with peace groups,
especially one helping Palestinians and am doing quite a bit of writing.
Other good news is that my son, Evan, now 32, is a really nice person,
concerned with saving the planet.
think of the Turkish "Hayat bazan tatlıdır".
Thanksgiving in Turkey
1962, Bandirma, Turkey
Thanksgiving and Iím feeling blue. No family, no football, and especially no
Thanksgiving feast. Iím far from home, teaching English in a Muslim country.
My students have never heard of Pilgrims and Indians and probably donít care
about their gathering together to celebrate the harvest and friendship. They
surely have never seen a football game, although they are rabid fans of
their "futbol," our soccer.
Thanksgiving and I should be thankful, especially since I landed a plum of a
Peace Corps assignment. Bandirma is a beautiful small seaport town on the
Marmara Sea several hours south of Istanbul, but far more conservative than
that metropolitan center.
Corps site-mate, Carolyn, and I got a small top-floor apartment on a hill
overlooking the harbor. The view from our window would be wonderful but for
the fact that the terrace outside also holds the washlines for the entire
building, so the scenery is perpetually blocked by waving laundry. In
addition to its beauty, Bandirma is a "plum" because of the receptivity,
hospitality, and kindness of the people. Carolyn and I not only are the
first Peace Corps volunteers here, we are the first Americansóif not the
first non-Turksóto live here. Our arrival in late August caused a major stir
and generated an overwhelming welcome. Even now, we are followed daily by
small troops of childrenósome who want to learn a few English words, others
who are just curious.
assignments are great, too. A full load of middle- and high-school classes
and a school principal who has afforded us much freedom. Thus, we were able
to start an English club after school, a student-run English newspaper, a
student theater group, and English classes for adults in the evenings. With
so much work to do, we still have endless social obligationsóresponding to
many dinner invitations and especially attending "gŁns"
(pronounced "goons"), which are teas that various women put on each week.
Since Carolyn and I donít want to offend anyone, we go to all the "gŁns"óas
many as 10 to 15 per week.
exhausted. Iím also sick. I have a perpetual cold thatís turned to
bronchitis and my coughing is so bad that the Turks are worried that perhaps
I wonít survive. Teachers and neighbors are plying me with home cures,
ranging from herbal teas and soups to rubdowns with olive oil and hot
my physical deterioration that has me down in the dumps this Thanksgiving,
but Iím determined to rally. I have no afternoon classes, so I decide to
surprise Carolyn by making a real Thanksgiving dinner.
I grab my
string shopping bag, some money, and a fistful of handkerchiefs and head out
to the market. First stop is the meat market, to buy a turkey. Simple
enough? Not here.
market is in the center of the town market. A dozen small butcher shops
encircle a plaza where the "meat" is kept alive, on-the-hoof. The butchers
only slaughter one animal at a time. The carcass hangs in the shop and the
buyer points to a section. Leg? filet? liver? Then the butcher slices off
the chosen segment and wraps it in paper.
huddled in the plaza are the next victimsólong-tailed, curly-wool sheep
marked with dots of colored dye that indicate the owner. Butcher Ali might
use blue dots, while Mustafaís sheep sport red ones.
It is not
unusual to see the face of a kitten or two peeking out from between the
dye-dots on a sheep. The meat market is a favorite place for stray cats,
which live off entrails tossed out to them by the butchers. Since Turks
believe it is bad karma to kill a cat, and few Turks would consider keeping
"the filthy animals" as pets, stray cats abound and vie with each other for
food and shelter. The mother cats no doubt long ago spotted the woolly sheep
as great places to park their offspring while they are out hunting up food.
The sheep, for some reason, seem to tolerate this, hence the cute kitten
faces nestled on tomorrowís supper supply.
mission today is not lamb chops, itís turkeyócalled "hindi" in Turkish. I
head for my favorite butcher and ask for a "hindi." Looking dismayed, he
says he doesnít have any. (Come to think of it, I had never seen turkey
served in any Turkish homes, but I was sure they must be available.) In my
weakened state, I become teary-eyed, saying, "But I must have a turkey.
Today is our American Ďbayramí when we eat turkey."
bayram strikes a chord with the butcher. In Turkish, "bayrams" are not
just holidays, they are religious holidays, and therefore quite sacred and
serious. The butcher panics and runs out of the shop to gather with the
other butchers. After much discussion about the American teacher who MUST
have a hindi to celebrate her bayram, a plan is laid. The
butcher comes back and tells me "not to worry"óthere are no turkeys in
Bandirma, but the butchers will find a very large chicken for me. Will that
do? I smile through my tears and thank him.
pulls up a stool for me and dispatches a small boy to fetch a glass of tea.
In a flash the boy returns, holding a Turkish-style tea tray with one
finger, which balances two tulip-shaped glasses of dark tea and a small dish
with a pile of sugar cubes. (Turks drink endless glasses of tea all day
long, and they consume it with enough sugar to cause early diabetes.)
10 minutes, I see another small boy running toward the butcher shop,
carrying a big fat red chicken in one hand and a white one in the other. The
chickens are clucking furiously, maybe because they know where they are
headed, but certainly because it canít be much fun to be hanging upside down
with hands gripping your legs.
butcher then asks me to choose a hen. It doesnít matter to me, but the white
one looks fatter and cleaner, so I go with "beyaz" (white). To my surprise,
the butcher takes the hen, ties string around its legs, and hands me the
birdóalive and well and complaining loudly.
expected this! Even though Iím a meat-eater, the thought of killing
something myself is not in my nature. I donít want to look like an American
wimp, but I just couldnít do it. So I hand the chicken back to the butcher
and, since I donít know the word for "kill," I make my request by indicating
a chop to the neck with my hand.
gets the message. In a flash he whisks the chicken to his chopping block and
with one swing severs its head, spraying a bit more blood on his already
bloodstained white apron. Then, with sign language, he asks if I want him to
pluck out the feathers. Indeed I do.
When the hen
was nearly nude, except for dozens of small pinfeathers, the butcher wraps
the bird in paper and puts it in my string bag. He refuses to accept
payment, insisting that the chicken is a gift for my bayram.
picking up carrots, potatoes, onions, and some flavorful tangerines for
dessert, I head home to prepare the Thanksgiving feast, which I know will be
appliances consist solely of a two-burner hot plate hooked up to a cylinder
of natural gas. In lieu of a real oven, we have a movable, top-of-the-stove
tin oven that looked like a miniature Quonset hut when placed on one of the
burners. It has a door on front but the interior is only large enough for
about three baked potatoes. My fat chicken is never going to fit.
I turn to
the only other kitchen gadget available, a pressure cooker recommended by
the Peace Corps office in Ankara. I have never used one before and worry
about blowing up the apartment or something. But it will hold the chicken,
so it will have to do. Since I canít understand a word of the Turkish
instructions that came with the cooker, I turn to the cookbook I had brought
from home and look up "pressure cooking." On page 12, it says, "Just follow
the simple instructions that come with the cooker." Thanks a lot, Fanny
I decide to
turn my attention to the chicken, which is still quite warm, since it hadnít
died that long ago. The feet are still attached, but I screw up my courage
and hack away at them until they finally fall to the floor. Next I turn on
one of the burners (which have to be lit with a match) and singe off the
remaining pinfeathers. I am feeling pretty proud of myself . . . so far.
chicken aside, I prepare stuffing, using bread, onions, olive oil, and
thyme. When I am ready to stuff the bird, though, I realize it was missing
the usual convenient opening where the stuffing goes. Uh oh, the innards are
still in there. Well, I had dissected a cat in Biology 101, so I take a
scientific approach to what otherwise would seem a gory experience. I cut a
slit by the anus, reach inside and start to pull stuff out. The entrails are
even warmer and bloodier than the outside of the chicken. In my
determination to be "scientific," I start to name the parts as they slide
through my hands. Ugh. It isnít pleasant, to say the least.
Back to the
pressure cooker. I cram the stuffed bird into the pot, throw in the carrots
and potatoes, put in some water, and crank the top down tight. Carolyn would
be home from school soon, and I figure that in an hour, the entire delicious
feast would be ready.
I set the
table and pull out a container of wine from the cupboard. Of course we have
no such luxury as a refrigerator, so the white wine will have to be served
at room temperature.
delightfully surprised by my efforts, and we sip some wine while waiting for
dinner to be ready. When I open the cooker after an hour, I find that, even
though the vegetables look done, I canít even dent the chickenís skin with a
fork. Oh well, maybe a really fresh chicken might take a bit longer to get
A half hour
later, the chicken still is as hard as a brick. Another glass of wine is in
order. By 7:30 p.m., we are getting very hungry, if not a little tipsy. I
open the pot once more and the damned bird still wonít yield.
By 9 p.m.,
we have had it. Carolyn is now griping and I am frustrated and coughing my
head off. The Thanksgiving dinner is going to be served NOW, do or die. Out
comes the chicken, still tough, as only a really old bird can be. It is
surrounded by the most overcooked vegetables ever.
starving, so we cut off whatever meat we can manage to remove and proceed to
chew and chew and chew. We wash it all down with the last of the wine and
completely forget to say "Thanks" for our blessings.
All in all,
it was the most memorable Thanksgiving in my life.
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