What to expect when you’re expecting abroad…

The arrival of a baby is a big deal in any culture. That magical combination of expanding a family, cementing a bond between parents, and good ol’ biological survival of the species. As expected, we found some cultural differences when The Girl shelled out her progeny abroad!

Two hours after the baby was extracted, The Girl, her husband, Metin, baby Ada and i were getting settled into the hospital room. The Girl was mostly naked, with the new baby laying across her chest.

fresh bebek

The first visitors arrived – two close friends who are also expecting a baby in the summer. Just a quick “hi”, hugs, and they were about to leave when the next wave of visitors arrived. Metin’s mother and father stopped by, followed by his oldest brother, his two teen children, his younger brother and his wife, and their 3 year old daughter. It became a party!

Meanwhile, another friend (American ex-pat) showed up with a bag of snacks – cheddar cheese may seem like a strange thing to bring to a hospital room, but it’s hard to find good sharp cheddar here! It was a thoughtful gift…

i was a bit boggled at the number of people now crammed into a fairly small hospital room. In addition to the three of us and half-pint, another 11 people were in the room, some spilling into the hallway. It was at this moment a nurse told us the larger room they’d requested was ready – time to pack up mom, baby and gear and move to a different room – on another floor of the hospital!

During this transition, i expected some people to leave – silly me! Two more friends showed up! As we tried to get settled into the new room, the baby was crying, and a first time mother was attempting to nurse a brand new, fairly confused newborn.

The Girl and i exchanged a few glances – “This is bullshit!” she said (knowing that most people in the room wouldn’t understand it). The baby continued to cry. People were still gathered while she attempted to put the baby to her breast – most of the menfolk staying in the hallway. i told Metin that a little privacy would be fucking awesome!

Turns out, in Turkish culture, this is expected. If friends and family do not immediately stop by the hospital for a brief “Welcome Baby” visit, it means that they don’t care. We explained that in the US, groups of people visiting people in the hospital after the birth of a baby would be quite inconsiderate.

Lesson acknowledged, and compromises proposed. After returning home the following day, The Girl asked if the family and friend visits could be done in smaller groups – maybe 5 – 6 people at a time. Metin agreed, and visits over the next few days were done in smaller doses. It worked out pretty well…

official grannies

Other observations:

Attack of the Random Grandmother: During the first hour in the hospital, trying to change a tiny diaper on a squawking baby, there was a knock at the door. It was a woman visiting her own family, who had heard the baby crying, and stopped by to make sure the baby wasn’t in danger. “What’s wrong with your baby? Why is it crying?” When The Girl and Metin took Ada to her first pediatrician appointment, there were plenty of other helpful grandmas telling them that the baby was too cold. The Girl is perfecting the smile that says “Thanks. Fuck off.”

Thermal Management: Layers upon layers upon more layers of clothing are required to keep an infant alive in a fairly temperate climate. While The Girl was in labor, a nurse came in to the room to inspect clothing brought to get the baby home. She looked at the three outfits, shook her head and said “That’s it?” If a baby sneezes, it’s not because she’s clearing her nose after a feed. She must be freezing. Their pediatrician laughed – he said it is always easy to spot babies of non-Turkish mothers! He said it’s perfectly fine to not bury the baby in too much clothing and blankets. i suggested they get this in writing to ward off overly helpful street grannies…

Three weeks into the new family venture, and Ada is thriving. Parents are gaining confidence and comfort, and we are all starting to get more sleep. The days have a battle rhythm. Metin returned to work this week, i’ve been focused on meals, cleaning, laundry and making sure The Girl gets showers, plenty of fluids, and sleep.

ada

i’m sure there will be more culture clashes in the future. But for now, they’ve got this…

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re captive on the carousel of time…

Seven years ago, The Boy and i hopped a plane for Istanbul to spend Christmas with The Girl. She’d accepted a job in Izmir the previous summer, and at the age of 25, moved here in July, 2011.

We spent Christmas Eve in a hotel, building the most beautiful Christmas Tree from beer bottles collected from the executive lounge. This year, my own tree is once again nestled in a box in my garage, five thousand miles away. That is perhaps the only similarity between that holiday and today.

2011: She knew no one when she moved here. She had made a few friends, was sharing an apartment with another English teacher at her school, and had a 45 minute commute to work via public bus.

2018: Her collective of friends is glorious, many couples including Turks and ex-pats. They surround her with love and support. She met and married a good man, bought a home, and continues to thrive as an English teacher in a private school.

2011: She’d studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at university. Not Turkish. Giving herself a crash course in the language during her first few months in country, she’d become conversant, and was able to take care of her personal business, connect with her students, and serve as an able tour guide.

2018: Fluent in the language, she can generally do rapid fire translation for me in real time. She has no trouble conversing with her in-laws, and has built friendships with vendors at the local shops. Unlike Europe, the vast majority of Turks speak no English, so she learned this by necessity.

2011: The Boy was 23, still attending university full time, and fighting The Demons that led me to believe he might not live to see 25. We were close, but i lived in constant fear of That Phone Call.

2018: He is married, with two children. After a stint in the Army, he’s made a home in the great plains, surrounded by extended family. A good government job, a fierce and gorgeous wife who has managed to tame the wild beast… When he and i were here seven years ago, this was an unimaginable future.

2011: i learned enough Turkish to order food and beer. To find a toilet. Navigate an airport or two. It wasn’t pretty, but i could generally pantomime my way through a transaction.

2018: After several visits, and over a year of online studies, i probably have the conversational skills of a small child – animals, colors, numbers, food. No problem with food/beverage, or shopping. i’ve even managed to have a few short conversations with my son-in-law’s family! They are probably more surprised than impressed, but are very supportive.

Christmas 2011

2011: The tree that year was beautiful. All that mattered was that we were together. The Boy and i were outside our comfort zone, traveling for a holiday in order to spend time with The Girl as she charted a new course for her life.

GammaRay with Bebek

2018: The tree this year? Pretty gorgeous. Seven years ago, this was also an unimaginable future. A gentle reminder from the universe that we really don’t know where we’re going…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Hello Baby!

3 a.m. It’s always 3 a.m.

After a week of lounging, walking, watching movies and Netflix, there was a knock on the guest bedroom door at 3 a.m. “It’s time! We are going to the hospital!”

The Girl had packed a bag. i was in my night shirt, but quickly threw on clothes, tossed my phone charging cords/brick into a small bag along with my toothbrush, and met them at the door.

A week past her due date, with a known big baby trying to make an entrance, the labor didn’t progress enough before there were minor signs of fetal distress around 2:00 pm. We were all a bit astonished by the speed of the staff as they whisked The Girl off to an operating room.

Her husband and i waited – only about 15 minutes later, a nurse arrived with a tiny bundle of squawk! All the fingers, all the toes, and an expression that said “Screw this! It’s cold out here!” Weighing in at 4 kgs (9 lbs), she’s almost outgrown her newborn clothes!

It was just over a week ago (on the 14th), but it seems longer. When i delivered my two spawn via c-section, i was in the hospital for about four days. The Girl was released 28 hours after delivery – high quality health care here!

For the past week, Mom, Dad, and baby are all getting used to each other. That dazed feeling of “We made this?” and “It doesn’t seem real!” and “Holy shit! We are totally responsible for this tiny human and we have no idea what we’re doing!”.

Welcome Ada

When the last grandcritter arrived, i had a fairly well defined job. Entertain the 3 year old big brother, cook/clean and take care of household stuff. This time, i had more of a ‘front line’ involvement – The Girl couldn’t lift or bend, and needed some help getting around. Taking the 3 a.m. to morning shift with the baby, making sure the exhausted parents get some sleep.

cutie

A week into the adventure, The Girl and her husband are gaining confidence. i only lend a hand when asked – and am focused on cleaning, cooking, laundry – with the added challenge of having only a basic working knowledge of the local language – but i’m proficient enough to shop!

There are several stories to share about culture shock and adjustments, but right now i’m operating on about 4 hours sleep. It will have to wait…

As excited as i was to welcome the new member of the clan, i’m just as excited to watch The Girl and her husband become parents. Somewhere along the way, her dad and i didn’t completely screw up… She’s got this.

perfection

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of babies – ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The hardest part…

Tom Petty got that bit right. The waiting. The countdown to “Due Date” seems to go into  slow motion during the final weeks of pregnancy.

i arrived in Turkey* almost a week ago. For the first time in my life, i bought a one-way ticket out of the country. My daughter let me know she was expecting right before i left for an extended trip to Spain in mid-April – she was about five weeks pregnant. As i trekked El Camino, i added weeks to the count as we crossed Spain. By the time we got home, she’d cleared the first trimester.

She and her husband traveled to the states in July, where we orchestrated a gathering of our entire clan – including my ex-husband and his wife. The first time we’d all been together since… well… pre-divorce (2004). When The Girl got married, The Boy was in the Army and couldn’t attend the wedding. The logistics were complicated but we were all together for a few days. It felt good.

The Band with Chorus RS

The rest of her pregnancy has gone well. Her school had hired an assistant/team instructor, so the transition to her maternity leave was seamless. She gets great medical care here – even with some cardiac issues, visits to the emergency room, and specialists in September, it didn’t cost her more than about $15 out of pocket**.

Yesterday was her due date, but Bebek has shown absolutely no interest in arriving on schedule. According to her obstetrician, “She’s very comfortable in there.” Bebek is already about 8 pounds. At the weekly check up yesterday, the doctor went through status, risks, options. The current plan is to let it ride for a week, with two check ups, and if nothing is happening, the delivery will be on Monday.

So we wait. We walk. It’s about 6 kilometers round trip from their home to the weekly bazaar. Their home is about a kilometer from a beautiful walkway along the Aegean Sea. It rained yesterday, so we wandered/waddled inside a gigantic mall.

Missing my travel buddy, who opted to stay home for this open-ended visit. We’ve discovered how much mindless fun it is to play with chat filters. We are dorks. We have enlisted the entire clan in this endeavor. They are dorks, too!

i’ve re-learned household routines, shopped, and planned meals to keep them fed. Put together a stroller that has more bells and whistles than my first car! Figured out their washer and dryer so i can assist with laundry.

Seeing her and her husband work through the preparations… Watching him help her put on her boots because she can’t bend over much… i’m excited to watch them become parents! They’re going to be amazing!

The waiting… Damn… It’s going to be a long week!

waiting

* The country, not the poultry.

** She gets 20 weeks paid maternity leave. Her husband gets two weeks. Paid. Her health care has been stellar, with very little out-of-pocket expense. She is a US Citizen, working and living in Turkey. The US has GOT to get its shit together on health care and family leave…

Balancing Act

Balance. With each passing day, it becomes more important.

If i lose my balance at this age, i can break a hip. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for the elderly. As with any other skill, it must be practiced – which explains why i watch the news on TV while perching on one leg. Frequently screaming obscenities at the television when the news is particularly stupid. Balance is more challenging for me when i’m standing still.

But i have not been standing still. So far this year, i’ve been out of town, or out of the country, for 18 weeks. Given that i haven’t poked my head out here since August, here’s a glimpse of what i’ve been up to since my last post.  If you want more detail, just ask! Hoping to have some time next month to write more…

  • It’s not just about balance, but flexibility. Studley’s daughter, Pixie, moved to Alaska last spring. We decided to visit her before it became too cold and dark. Two weeks of exploring a few tiny corners of the state left us both ready to go back for an extended visit!  In two weeks we barely scratched the surface. We also deployed our small town tactic – stop by the local VFW or American Legion hall for a beer. Drink cheap, talk to locals, and find out what’s going on in town.
  • Speaking of what’s going on… We went to our first regional “burn” – like Burning Man, but on a much smaller scale. We felt quite at home among the 500 or so burners assembled at the site of a reclaimed strip mine. My days of sleeping on dirt are mostly behind me, so we brought our teardrop camper. One of the requests by the organizers was that we find a way to disguise the camper to better blend into the temporary tent city. i think we did ok…
  • Speaking of camping… We’ve been off in the woods a bit this autumn. That little metal egg keeps us plenty warm down to freezing. The bourbon helps, too.
  • Speaking of bourbon… Haven’t seen much of the extended family this year – in large part due to me being gone for months at a time. When my Florida sister, T, was selected for a significant honor this month, it presented an opportunity to reconnect. Oldest sister, S, has had a tough year – she beat back another round of cancer (Lymphoma), and finally retired. We decided to grab some cheap tickets and head south. A lot of water under these bridges, but there indeed be bridges. Baby steps.
  • Speaking of babies, i miss the crap out of these two li’l critters. Max is 3, and Ellie is now 1, and they are so much fun! But The Boy and his family are 1,000 miles away. That’s harder than i expected. Even more fun? The Girl is due to shell out her first child in a few weeks – which means i’m packing a large suitcase, and preparing for a trip to Turkey (the country, not the poultry). My third grandcritter is about to arrive – and will be living 5,000 miles away.

There’s more. So much more… but i seem to either have time to live hard, or time to write. For the moment, it’s going to be “live hard”. Operation “Speedball to the Finish Line” is well underway…

Road nuggets

Somewhere between London and Philadelphia, the fever hit. i have spent the past week dealing with a mild case of the flu, while managing re-entry after being away from home for a month. Some random nuggets…

  • Thirty days. That is the longest i’ve ever been away from ‘home’ as an adult. This is mostly because of The Job, which i no longer have. Studley and i were very deliberate about pushing our comfort limits, and we’re still sorting out how we feel. Not seriously considering life as ex-pats, but some gentle experience should we ever choose that route.B1
  • i missed my pets. If i am going to do this on a fairly regular basis, i probably should not have pets. My live-in pet sitter had a pre-planned trip in the middle of that 30 days, so i scrambled to hire people, and find a friend, who could cover those 10 days. One of the most stressful aspects of being gone – and most expensive. i took to feeding treats to the street cats and dogs. cIMG_6363
  • Air travel is still pretty awesome – about 12,000 miles flown on this trip. How long would it have taken by ship? Who knows? Luggage lost on the way to Athens, but it found us a couple of days later. British Airways thought we hadn’t shown up for our flights TO Athens, so they canceled our return, but still managed to get us on a flight home. For all the barking about how shitty air travel is, it’s pretty amazing when you stand back a bit…izmir to istablnu
  • Turkey – Izmir is a lovely city – about the size of Chicago. The public transit cards include use of buses, ferries, trams and bike share. To the people who consider this a ‘third world country’? Rethink that shit… We were out and about alone, day and night, and i NEVER felt unsafe.10
  • Plumbing – in Turkey, there are bins in the toilet stalls for the collection of used paper. The plumbing systems and sanitary waste processing facilities do not handle toilet paper. Surprising how fast you get used to this. On the plus side? Most toilets in Izmir (public, private) have built in bidet functions. Surprising how fast you get used to this, too. Exploring options to upgrade my home toilet…IMG_6268
  • Language – We started using an app (Duolingo) to learn Turkish about two months before launch. The Girl emphasized the need to be fluent in numbers – enabling basic commerce. We thought we’d done ok. We were wrong. i DID have a really cool conversation with my son-in-laws 2 year old niece about colors and animals. i think this topic requires a separate post, as there are numerous examples of how things worked, and didn’t, and many lessons learned along the way!b13
  • Baggage – The Girl had a list of things she wanted us to bring, and we hauled another bag of Christmas gifts from The Girl’s Dad and his wife. We had to bring the big suitcases. Limited to 50 pounds each, we still had to deploy two roll aboard suitcases, along with our standard travel backpacks. Didn’t leave a lot of space for our personal belongings – so we packed REALLY light. Turns out, i can live for a month with just a few shirts, trousers/leggings, a dress, a fleece jacket, raincoat, two pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, and four pair of undercrackers. Excellent training for what lies ahead…55

Fierce…

She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)

Ye (ancient) gods…

How would you travel if you had more time than money?

That is the question we chew on now that we are retired. Even with very reasonable retirement incomes, we make less money than we did while working – but must maintain our travel habit!

First up? Couch surfing with my daughter in Turkey! She camped under my roof for a couple of decades, so it’s time for her to repay the favor!

Given the political climate* between the U.S. and Turkey, getting the visa to stay for a month wasn’t trivial. In November, i had been stalking some travel websites, and learned that there was still a process allowing to obtain walk-up visas in the Istanbul airport – but only if you spent a few days in another country. This became Plan A.

Plan A, however, was scuttled somewhere around November 20th, as this work around was shut down – but both embassies announced that a limited number of visas would be processed. This became Plan B – we decided that we’d burn up some frequent flier miles, and hotel points, and plan to spend some time in Athens. Worst case? The Girl could hop over and visit with us, even if we were not given the opportunity to visit Turkey.

The application process was messy, requiring a metric ton of documentation – including pay statements from my son-in-law, a copy of the deed to their home. We had to provide proof of income as well.

We hired a service to expedite visa processing in Washington to hand carry our passports to the Turkish consulate. That was right before we took off for our Christmas holiday in mid-December. Much to my complete and total amazement, we were notified that the visas were granted just a few days later!

As excited as we were to have the visas, there was this bit of news. The US and Turkey came to an agreement to stand down, and return to normal visa processing about a week after we got our pretty stamps in the passports. Because of course they did…

We decided to proceed with a short stay in Athens on our way to Izmir. The Girl joined us, as neither she or Studley had been there before.  Thanks to my 20+ years as a business road warrior, the hotel gave us a room on the executive floor, providing free breakfast, and a happy hour with snacks! These served as two of our daily meals!

i’ll let some photos do the rest of the talking…

6 brealfast

Breakfast on the hotel terrace. That is the Acropolis in the distance. Truly a cradle of civilization, wandering the temples, gardens and facades scattered through the modern city provides a powerful perspective on “old”…

2 Evamgalismos

One of my favorite things about the old section of Athens is riding the Metro! As the Greeks prepared for the 2004 Olympics, they wanted to improve public transportation through the addition of a subway – but when you’re digging in Greece, every hole is full of treasures! Rather than remove them all, many were incorporated into displays at the Metro stops!

Street critters were generally well fed and cared for by some combination of residents and the city government. Many were tagged, giving some evidence of the “Trap, Neuter, Release” program. How very civilized. The U.S. could take a serious lesson here… Did i mention that they seem quite well fed? The three fat pups welcomed us to the Agora, near Monastiraki Square.

Street art abounds! i’m a fan of high quality graffiti, and Athens was not lacking.

10 late lunch

No visit to Europe is complete without time spent in sidewalk cafes. A bit chilly in January, we still managed to find several nice stops – for coffee in the morning, and beer in the afternoon.

We’re both embracing the gray hairs. Life is much simpler since i shaved my head. Studley still isn’t sure about the beard…

 

58

Being devoted “booze travelers”, we visited Brettos – a bar and tasting room operating since 1909. Ouzo, brandy and wine are available for tasting. Being in Greece, we chose the ouzo tasting!

i’ve had better ideas. The equivalent of one serious glass of ouzo got me pretty lit!  Stumbling Walking a few doors further, we stopped for a late lunch.  A giant plate of grilled meat helped me stabilize enough to hop the Metro back to the hotel! Perhaps the wine tasting is a better option?

Three days was enough! In general, i can highly recommend a few days in Athens – and January is perfect for missing the crowds (if you don’t mind a little chill in the air). Five suitcases and three backpacks into a taxi, and off to the airport for the next round…

60.JPG

* Two nominally adult men waging battle over the size of their weiners…

Wings (A Wedding, Part 2)

With the Islamic Marriage Ceremony and the Henna Party, two important Turkish wedding traditions had been celebrated. The wedding, as planned by The Girl and Metin, was to be a blend of cultures and traditions.

A traditional Turkish wedding can have as many as 1,000 guests – and is often a simple “Cake and Cola” event held in a salon for an afternoon. They wanted a beach wedding – and wanted to be quick with the formalities, and then on with dinner and dancing!

While she was home in July, we went shopping for a wedding dress. She had been absolutely terrified of getting a dress in Turkey, as the more modern Turkish brides are apparently fond of bejeweled bodices, massive piles of lace and tulle, and all manner of extreme glamour*. “I don’t want to look like a fucking cupcake!”

The dress found her. At a discount bridal shop, the third dress pulled from the rack fit nearly perfectly, and was beyond stunning on her. We had invited her father’s wife, Fahima, to join us for the dress shopping day.  Perhaps the main reason my ex and i have been able to connect well enough to strongly support our kid? This woman has a huge heart, and bubbly personality – and both of my kids adore her! Deciding that the term “Step Mother” has too many harsh implications, she’s been christened their “Bonus Mom”… a bit more appropriate in this case!

The minor alterations were completed just under the wire, and The Girl was able to get everything she needed packed up and headed home. Invariably, the luggage was lost for a few days – “If that dress is lost and I have to go out and buy another one here? AAAAAAAAARGH!” – but arrived intact a few days later.

We also learned that “RSVP” is sort of an alien concept regarding Turkish weddings. They had planned for about 150 people, but the final count was closer to 200. Since it is still somewhat unusual to have a formal sit down dinner at a wedding, i guess it doesn’t seem to be a big deal… i’d have been ripping my hair out, but The Girl and Metin seemed to roll with it…

Metin’s family comes from central Turkey, and over two dozen family members made the trek – at least 20 hours by bus – to get to Izmir for the wedding! He arranged for two tour buses to transport his family, and neighbors, from the city to the beach.

During the reception, Mehmet (Metin’s father) went to find a translator. He returned to our table with The Girl’s friend, Beth, and was enthusiastically asking her to translate something to us. Mehmet let us know that it is Turkish tradition for the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom to personally welcome each guest at the wedding – and he was inviting us to join them in this tradition.  With Beth’s help, my ex-husband EJ and i were schooled in the proper pronunciation of “Hoşgeldiniz!”

greeting

We agreed, despite being absolutely terrified of screwing this up! Trying not to look as mortified as we felt, we joined Mehmet and Haava and began greeting guests – and i can personally attest to the fact that there were at least 190 people in attendance! It seemed to take forever, but Studley assures me it only took about 30 minutes for us to make the circuit.

dancing

And then we danced. We danced and laughed and danced some more! The newlyweds had pulled together a playlist of both Turkish and English dance tunes. Balancing cultures, they had arranged for each guest to have two drinks – either beer or wine – during dinner. i wanted to be respectful to his family, so it wasn’t until those two tour buses headed back to the city around midnight that i felt comfortable enough to grab a drink…  and have a proper toast with the newlyweds!somewhat staged

i thought we’d danced ourselves out BEFORE midnight, but i was wrong! The DJ kept going, and so did we! Much relief for all that the formalities were over, and we threw it down hard! Many of their friends had booked rooms at the beach resort, so we didn’t clear that beach until somewhere around 4am. Vague memories of dancing salsa with a pretty Colombian ex-pat, and lying in the grass making friends with a stray dog are also in the mix…

It was a great party… And a beautiful wedding… Celebrating my kid and her husband! Merging two families and two cultures – across the old and new generations – as we cheer them onward! i am delighted that she has put down roots. She has a bigger family! And so do i…

new family

* Some examples can be found here… She made a good call!

Wings (A Wedding, Part 1)

They got married, then engaged, and then had a wedding – schedule flexibility was required to accommodate the bride’s family coming from the United States.

When The Girl left for Turkey back in 2011, none of us really knew what to expect – other than that she was embarking on a tremendous, brave and life changing personal adventure. She built a network, found her tribe. She grew professionally. She found love… and a partner… and now a husband.

Studley accompanied me, and my ex-husband EJ was joined by his wife, Fahima and her daughter Alexandra. We traveled and worked as a cohesive team, supporting the couple, and sharing expenses along the way. If you had asked me after the divorce if this would be possible, i’d have put it in the realm of “plausible, but unlikely”. But it worked…

i’d met Metin, my daughter’s fiancé, several times – and have shared many silly moments with him on Skype. We didn’t meet his family until we arrived for the marriage, performed at their home by the Imam. Still a bit jet-lagged, I managed to hoark up a few words in Turkish*“Oğlunuz çok iyi bir adam!” (Your son is a very good man!) and “Çok memnun oldum!” (Nice to meet you!)

His parents were warm and welcoming, and as soon as the Imam arrived, the service began. It was fast, and in Arabic, and just like that, they were married. Happy tears and smiles… and then it was time forthe engagement party.

The engagement – Henna Night (Kına Gecesi) – is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family. Under the circumstances, Metin’s family stepped up and handled all arrangements! A glorious meal, served to the families and a few friends on their terrace as the sun set. My daughter had placed several of her bilingual friends strategically around the table to serve as translators.

Metin’s mother, Haava, sat across from me – and most of our communication took place via smiles and pantomime. She is all of four feet tall and spends a lot of her time hugging and kissing everyone within reach! She assured me that The Girl would be loved and cared for as their own daughter. i thanked her for loving my daughter as her own.

When the engagement ceremony started, i got a bit of a surprise. As dictated by tradition, the groom’s father asked my ex-husband if he consented to give his daughter to their family. Feeling the hairs on my neck stand up, i smiled and shot a glance at my daughter. She smiled and shrugged and whispered “whatever…” and the celebration rolled onward as her father said “Evet!” (Yes!)

The women disappeared to the other side of the terrace, lighting candles and sparklers, and The Girl was given a black lace robe and a red veil. She and Metin were seated in the center of the terrace. Music started, and the girls danced in a circle, singing along… The words passed down through centuries.

These are songs signifying the bride leaving her family for a new family. Ages old, going back to the tradition of arranged marriages, these songs are designed to make the bride cry. İ might have shed a few tears myself that night…

YÜKSEK YÜKSEK TEPELERE – HIGH HIGH MOUNTAIN TOPS

Yüksek yüksek tepelere ev kurmasınlar – They shouldn’t build homes high up on the mountain tops

Aşrı aşrı memlekete kız vermesinler – They shouldn’t give girls to faraway lands

Annesinin bir tanesini hor görmesinler – They shouldn’t neglect the mother’s one and only

Babamın bir atı olsa binse de gelse – If my father had a horse, he could jump on it and come

Annemin yelkeni olsa açsa da gelse – If my mother had a sail, she could open it and come

Kardeşlerim yollarımı bilse de gelse – If my siblings knew the way, they could come

Uçan da kuşlara malum olsun – May the birds carry the message

Ben annemi özledim – I miss my mother

Hem annemi hem babamı – Both my mother and father

Ben köyümü özledim – I miss my village

Henna

*As any traveler trying to get by, i have managed to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish – but mostly related to food and beverage. For this trip? It was absolutely necessary to move beyond ordering beer!