Packing for Sekrat

So, in just over two weeks we’re heading back to the village with our eight month old baby in tow. If I thought packing for the village was a task pre baby, post baby packing is horrendous! Omer doesn’t seem to think we’ll have that much stuff, but I know we’ll have two extra large suitcases, a cabin case, hand luggage, the car seat, a pushchair plus a walker wrapped up separately (hopefully it will make the journey!). Omer suggested we get the train to the airport. I’ve convinced him it’d be better to get a taxi! 
It’s been two years since I’ve been to Sekrat. I didn’t plan for it to be so long, but  

I fell pregnant and didn’t fancy going whilst pregnant, nor did I fancy it with a newborn. 
I’m so excited to go back and see everyone and also for them to meet the newest addition of the Yildirim family, but I’m also very anxious. Firstly about the journey – 4 hours to Istanbul, a 5 hour wait in Istanbul, then a 2 hour domestic flight, arriving into Elazig just after midnight. I’m also anxious about taking Yusuf out of his usual setting and routines, plus I already know how differently they bring up their babies over there. Building up my confidence as a new mum is an ongoing thing and I’m the worst at second guessing myself at the best of times never mind when I’m being told by several people that my baby needs a blanket on despite it being thirty degrees! 
Anyway, I’ve started making many lists in order to get prepared. Omer would be happy to sort everything out a couple of days beforehand. Good job at least one of us is getting organised! 


What I did today

i didn’t know what to write about as I could easily write a post ranting about how crazy my MiL makes me. But her hearts totally in the right place and she’s a good woman so it seems unfair. So I thought I’d just write about what I did today.

So Omer woke up at 6:30 to pick up a man from the local town to come and work at ours for the day. He’s going to skim the outside of the extension. A full day’s work will earn him around 100YTL (£25ish) with meals included. I went back to sleep as I find the days long and the earlier I get up the more I’ll have to do. Lazy I know. When I say I went back to sleep, I mean, I dozed on and off. My family here have absolutely no consideration for anyone sleeping. They’re banging pans, bickering with each other, shouting at the chickens and generally making a real clatter. I used to think it’s because they wanted me to wake up earlier, but to be honest they do it when they wake up at 4am for morning prayers. Being quiet just isn’t a thing here. 

Anyway I woke up at 8:30, got up, showered (no hot water yet as the solar heaters hadn’t had enough sunshine) and went into the kitchen where the women were about to tuck into breakfast. The workman and omer had already had theirs. My husband’s Aunt and her daughter had stayed overnight so along with my mother and sister in law, that made five of us. We had olives, egg, sausage, yoghurt, clotted cream, pastries, fried peppers, fried potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onion, honeycomb, butter, jam and bread and of course lots of tea. I then washed the breakfast dishes whilst the other women got on with other housework. Sounds simple enough right? The plumbing on the sink is really poor and the water takes forever to drain away. So any slops and as much used water as possible goes into a bucket, which is taken outside and used in the garden at several intervals depending how many dishes there are to wash. It’s a right pain, plus the fact that Turkish people have a very precise way of washing their dishes which I’m sure I’ll have describe elsewhere. Needless to say it involves LOTS of water, rinsing, soap suds and more rinsing. If there’s no one in the room I’ll try and get away with simple English style! 

After that I played with my niece for a little while. We went and picked some ‘Erik’ from the garden until my MIL told me we had picked enough. Then we checked on whether there were any eggs laid in the old house, (they were in the process of laying). I generally tried to stay out the house with my niece for a while. Omer and the workman plus two other male relatives were working outside the front door. They handmix the cement which involves a hose running from the bathroom outside and them shouting ‘turn the water on/off’ as required. It was like that all day. I would try to discreetly nip to the loo and unplug the hose and they’d be outside shouting ‘someone turn the water on!’. 

At one point my MiL and aunt were off out to visit someone and so asked my niece to nip to the local shop to pick up some fruit and cola to take with them. I said I was going to go too as it’s only about a minutes walk away but I’ve never actually been and I’m intruiged as to how it is. Anyway the whole family came together to say no, it wouldn’t be right, everyone in the village would be looking at me, it would cause a stir. It makes me feel suffocated and means I’m completely reliant on other people if I want to go anywhere. I hate that. It’s completely opposite to my life in the UK. Part of me thinks I should just go and sod them, but then part of me thinks I’d be causing a lot of grief and at the end of the day I’m leaving here, they’re not. 

As I mentioned the workmen get fed and watered as part of their terms so when we went back inside it was time to start in food. It was quite nice, my heavily pregnant sister in law, 12 year old niece and I were cooking away in the kitchen whilst my MiL and aunt went to see an ill woman in the village to wish her well. I let my niece have full reigns with my iPhone music, so we were chopping and cutting away to alsorts of random songs. Between us we made chicken, rice, a mince based ratatouille type dish, ayran soup, Turkish salad and taş ekmek which is a tower of pancakes sliced into squares drizzled with a butter and grape sugar sauce.

We then lay the table up for the men in the extension and everyone got annoyed as the cat I adopted last year when I was here kept coming in. My MiL and I don’t mind it but everyone else does because it keeps trying to come into the house. We feed it every day, my MiL takes over when I’m not here, and it sleeps in the old house with the chickens in the evening. My sister in law gets annoyed as I sneak fresh cheese or the best part of the yoghurt out to it. It only has one eye which I think is the main reason I took it on, I thought it wouldn’t stand a chance but I’m proud to say it made it all the way through the winter. 

Once the men had finished I heard my MiL calling me to clear away the table. Now since I’ve been here  I have been cleaning the house better than I clean my own, washing dozens upon dozens of dishes, making numerous trays of tea, cooking food, laying breakfast and getting the family bedding out in the evening (mainly so my 9 month pregnant sister in law isn’t heaving it about), but I’m doing all that off my own back because I want to help, it fills my time and also gives me a bit of exercise. Anyway the point is, the minute I’m told to do something you can forget it. The daughter in law traditionally does most of the cleaning/cooking/housekeeping etc and it’s bloody hard work with very little in return. I’ve made it very clear that I’m not that sort of daughter in law. I’ll certainly help but I won’t be ordered. Anyway I just ignored her and left the men to clear the table. We then ate and it was really delicious. I did the washing up again. 

After lunch the women started getting potatoes, cocktail sticks, matches, water glasses and a candle out. Totally confused, I later realised they were ‘cupping’. They slice the potatoes, stick a cocktail stick in it, light the cocktail stick place the potatoe on wherever hurts on your body then the glass over it to create a vacuum sucking the skin up into the glass. The premise behind it is the suction caused blood to pool in the affected area and encourage healing in the affected area. They asked if I wanted to have a go. I did because it meant I could lie down. I let them do it three times to my leg so I could lie for longer. Can’t say I feel a difference but I told them I did because I’m evidently a ‘yes’ person. I’ve since been told that normally, after they take the cups off, they use a razor blade to nick the area and do a bit of blood letting. Luckily for me they had no razors in. 

 Tea break time, so I out together a tea tray for the workmen, tea glasses, saucers, tiny silver spoons, sugar cubes, lemon slices and a bowl of nuts and seeds. I let my sister in law make up the double tea pot and take it out to them. It’s been warmer today which I thinks make me tired so I went into the lounge to read for a bit but fell asleep for about an hour. I woke up covered with a blanket. My sister in law had returned the favour as I’d covered her earlier when she’d fallen asleep whilst I did the dishes. If I didn’t do them she would, and she’s due any day. I think it’s too muchfor her but then I’m childless as everyone keeps pointing out here, so what do I know? On that subject, word on the street here is that we haven’t had children because I don’t want any. Obviously because I’m a European woman and we European women don’t cherish family or home life, we just want careers and loose morals (says said word on the street) . I would love to know who started that rumour off. 

It’s 8:30pm now, my aunt and niece have gone, as has the workman so it’s just the four of us, omer, me my sister in law and my MiL. It’s all gone quiet and I’m hoping we don’t have any last minute guests as I’m tired and so is everyone else. 

Anyway I’m hoping to read for a bit then get an early night ready to see what tomorrow brings.

I’ve only been out twice since I’ve been here – once to my sister in laws the day after we got here, and once to the hospital with her to pick up some blood test results. I think I’ve become institutionalised. I nipped outside the house boundary earlier this evening to see how the outside walls were looking. It was like a little snapshot of freedom. Then I saw two huge dogs coming along the road, nearly pooed myself and scurried back inside. 

Finally an update

we’ve been here nearly a week and this is my first blog post. To be honest, it’s just been so busy and when I’ve not been busy I’ve been zonked out. 

I’ve got loads to write about even thought I’ve only actually left the house twice, and debated whether to do long one post but I think I’ll end up drivelling on too much so I’ll split things up a bit. 

Our flights were great – I managed to get us exit seats on the way over to Istanbul so loads of leg room, and then I’d booked first class seats for the domestic leg. When I say first class seats, I mean seats that were previously used as first class but for whatever reason they’re just classed as ‘steerage’ or whatever now. So we had the normal service, but in first class seats, so again loads of room.

Our flights were a bit delayed so by the time we got to our house it was about 12:30am. I was shattered and tired and had that grubby feeling you get after a day’s travelling. I was looking forward to a nice shower then bed. It was great seeing my mother in law again and she was obviously thrilled to see us. Unfortunately for me, the hot water was broken so I had to make do with washing with a kettle full of water. Better than nothing. 

Then was the task of making up our bed. By this time it was after 1am. Turkish bedding is not like ours. There are either heavy extra thick fleece type blankets, or heavy home made duvets filled with local lambs wool if you’re lucky, or old clothes and rags if you’re not. Either way they choices were heavy. So by the time we’d lugged all this heavy bedding into our room and made up our bed I was knackered. Despite my earlier request, the soba (a type of tin stove) had been removed for the summer and it was a cold night. Despite all the blankets I was freezing all night – bet you didn’t think I’d be saying that from over here in Turkey! 

I lay in bed thinking ‘why the hell am I putting myself through this again’.

The next morning, the sounds of the village woke me up. Chickens and cockerels, cows mooing in the cowshed next door, a donkey plodding along with jingling bells on its rug and children squabbling with each other on the walk into school.  I was in a much better mood and felt ready to tackle the next challenge – the toilet!


We’ve got a real problem here at the moment – scrumping. 

I don’t know if scrumping just applies to applies, but it’s whatever the plum version of scrumping is.

Our house has some land within the fencing around it – enough for the chickens and obviously enough to extend out, but across the rubble road outside the front of the house, is a largish patch of land which my in laws class as their garden. When my father in law was alive he planted it up with vegetables and plants, but now it’s gone a bit to pot as its too much for my mother in law to cope with. Anyway, his pride and joy were three plum trees he planted. Here, plums are eaten early on when they’re  still green and sour tasting. It’s plum or ‘Erik’ season now and the children of the village are going crazy over the trees in our garden. There isn’t a problem with the children picking the plumbs, it’s the destruction they cause when doing it, they’ve already broken down a huge area of fencing at the back of the garden to get to the tree, and when they climb up them, try to snap branches off to take home with them. Omer’s also worried as there’s a deep well in the garden (which has been our saving grace when the water’s been cut off in the past) but as the grass is overgrown it’s pretty concealed. He’s terrified that a child might fall down it – something that seems to happen more often than you’d think over here.
A view of the garden from our doorstep – you can just see the gate amongst the hedgerow

Anyway, anytime we see children up the trees my mother in law or omer will go outside and shout them away, although it doesn’t seem to particularly deter them. There’s a little code where some of the neighbours children will throw stones onto our roof which is corrugated metal in parts, we hear the stones clattering and know there’s children in the garden. 

My favourite little niece came round today. She’s 5, very cute looking but really bolshy. Some Turkish children are really whiney, and despite the family seeming to prefer the whiney ones, I can’t stand a whiney child. I’d take bolshy with a side serving of naughtiness any day over whiney. Anyway, we were sat having a tea break outside, when we noticed some older boys starting to climb up the plum trees. This time we sent five year old Hayrunissa out. She marched up to them, fearlessly told them to get away from the garden and threatened them with a slap otherwise. That’s how it goes around here and it seemed to scare them off!

Going back to the village

so after a lot of compromising on both sides, we’re on our way back to the village. The suitcases are absolutely rammed and we’re enjoying our last evening in the UK at the wonderful radisson blu at Manchester airport. Due to the fact I’ll be subjected to a squat toilet for the next few weeks, I booked us into a business class room with access to the lounge which is fantastic. The view of the airport is great and we’re sat scoffing the canapés and drinks as if we haven’t been fed or watered for a whole week. 

Omer has had his suitcase packed for a month. I think he’s may be a little excited. 

You know those programmes where they show all the crazy things people have in their suitcases – we are those people. Omer’s suitcase includes amongst other things; a pneumatic drill, a cordless telephone, a cctv kit, a security floodlight, a Disney princess recorder, a child’s play gym, a wicker birds nest and a cuddly Paddington bear that speaks when you squeeze his belly. 

His sister, Sayyal, whose wedding we went to last August is pregnant and due this month. They want me at the birth if it happens whilst I’m there. I’m not sure how enthusiastic I am about that idea. 

I have the usual excitement/apprehension I have whenever we go.  I’m so excited to see everyone and catch up on the gossip. I’m excited for sunshine and vegetables that taste how vegetables are meant to taste and I’m excited about the slow village life which I intercede with plenty of reading. On the downside, it’s often hard work and I have little control over what goes on as I find myself powerless over there. Something I’m not used to. 

I’m enjoying a few more hours of luxury whilst I can. It’ll be a long day tomorrow with a morning flight to Istanbul where we head to the domestic terminals for our flight to Elazig. At least we’re flying Turkish airlines where the food is absolutely delicious! 

Anyway that’s it for now, I’m off to the spa! 

Images from Sekrat

Here’s a few photos I took whilst I was out there…

Hollyhocks in the garden

Hollyhocks in the garden

A melon field

A melon field

Hand picked melons

Hand picked melons

A surprise tortoise in a field

A surprise tortoise in a field

Tomatoes about to be sun dried on the roof of our house

Tomatoes about to be sun dried on the roof of our house

Goats blocking the road

Goats blocking the road

My friendly cat 'bir goz'

My friendly cat ‘bir goz’

Out on the open road

Out on the open road

A mosque in Elazig

A mosque in Elazig

Beautiful teapot at Harput

Beautiful teapot at Harput

and finally, delicious 'pide'

and finally, delicious ‘pide’