Sunday, November 13, 2011

Luncheon for Teachers

Yesterday, the wife of the owner of our school invited the teachers for lunch. All I knew was that the lunch started at either 1 or 1:30 and that she lived far away from the center of town and that someone would try to get me a ride.

At about 11:00 a.m. I got a call from my friend Seda who apologized that she couldn't get me a ride. I replied that it was no problem. I just needed a phone number or an address and I would either take a taxi or ride my bike. The key word here is "address." You see, I don't think they function with addresses here, only landmarks. So my independent thinking just didn't register. Seda wouldn't hear of it and said she would call me back.

A few minutes later she called again and said I could meet a different friend, Aysegul, at the bus transit center in the center of town and we could ride the bus together. Well, I arrived at the center of town at 12:50 to a mob of Saturday shoppers and students who were all waiting to catch buses home. It was a zoo of people all wearing black coats and scarves so they all looked alike, except me of course who kept getting approached by beggars and obnoxious teenage boys saying "hello and what's your name?" and then laughing because they can't say anymore than that . It took 20 minutes to find Aysegul. Between her little English and my little Turkish, we finally were able to find each other.

For the next 20 minutes I held her arm while she dragged me through the crowd going from bus to bus asking the driver where he was going. Did I mention it was freezing cold outside? In the meantime, we ran into two additional teachers so now there were four of us. Because all the buses were packed to overflowing, and because we were not finding a bus heading in the right direction, and because a car had just run into the side of a bus and been dragged 100 yards and was blocking the only road through the center of town, and because there were four of us, I suggested we split a taxi ride. (I even said this in Turkish and I was pretty proud of my suggestion and Turkish.) One even said, that's a good idea. But group decision making takes time, so in the meantime, we just kept walking through the crowds stopping at each bus asking for directions. We even lost one of our colleagues. Later, I discovered that she had actually jumped on a bus. Long story short, we did not ride a taxi, and we did eventually find a bus, which by the way was a long way from the house of the lunch, and we did eventually arrive about 45 minutes late or 15 minutes late (I never was exactly sure of the start time for the lunch).

As soon as we walked in and sat down, everyone jumped up, headed straight to the food, and started gobbling down whatever was closest to them...not even bothering to pass until about about 20 bites had been consumed to fill the void in those hungry tummies. Once the immediate hunger was filled, we were able to enjoy the rest of the dishes: kofte (grape leaves stuffed with rice and bulger), manti (Turkish meat raviolli with yogurt sauce), sauted vegetables, potato salad, spicy red chili sauce and garlic on bread, Turkish pancake (more like a quiche) and chai. The table was set with china dishes and sterling silver utensils. I should mention that the main course is eaten with a fork and a table spoon and they use the table spoon like a knife. Then dessert was served on a small plate. Each person got four desserts; one chocolate thing, one baklava, one thing that had stringed sugar that looks like coconut, and one cheesy thing rolled in powdered sugar. Dessert is eaten with a knife and a small fork. Sweet is an understatement.

I'm sure the owner's wife had been cooking for two days and we inhaled everything in about 20 minutes. The rest of the luncheon was spent listening to a women give a talk on the Koran. Here were the four points of the talk according to my translator: 1) don't gossip 2) wives should respect husbands and husbands should respect wives 3) love God 4) pray. The only things I understood on my own were "Allah" and the fact that I was getting very sleepy from the food and the effort required to listen and look attentive.

On a side note, the apartment was exactly where I thought it might be in the newer, very nice part of town. I actually ride my bike there every weekend and could have been at the apartment in 20 minutes versus the almost 1 1/2 hours it took via bus, etc. I am 100% sure I could have found the place on my own with either an apartment building name or a phone number. Yes, this sounds like bragging, but I'm really trying to illustrate the fact that not only do many people not leave this town, many don't ever leave their neighborhoods.

On a second side note, no one told me to bring my rhinestone studded stilettos. The shoe thing still confounds me. I know to remove my shoes before entering someone's house. And, at a colleague's suggestion, I bought five pairs of slippers to supply to friends visiting my house. So, I figured that this house would have slippers for me, as well. Well, now I know that for "fancy" events, I should carry the type of shoes in shopping bag that, in America, we would wear for dancing at a nightclub or for the annual Christmas party, and slip them on when entering the luncheon. Luckily, I did wear my Ann Taylor tailored skirt but it doesn't give quite the same effect in stocking feet (thank goodness I wore the pair with no holes!) But, I will need to shop for stilettos...

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