Simple Pleasures

Last Christmas, we made the sixteen hour car journey to Kahramanmaraş to see some of Ahmed’s family.  As I slept for most of the journey, it wasn’t too much of a hardship for me and although I had suggested we stop halfway and stay at one of the many roadside inns, Ahmed was having none of it. True to his frugal roots he drove on through the night, however, we did stop at a couple of roadside cafes frequented by the many coaches taking hordes of passengers to visit their families during the holiday season.  I also soon discovered that the clothes I had packed back in England for a sunny Turkish resort weren’t equipped to deal with the very cold Kahramanmaraş weather.

Nothing had prepared me for the visit to Kahramanmaraş, as whilst I was warmly welcomed by Ahmed’s non-English speaking family to the point where they insisted I sleep in the only bed, I hadn’t realised how traditionally Turkish the town was.  When we pulled up outside Ahmed’s family home situated in a dusty little back lane the surrounding wall and double gates hid the house from view. Once inside the gates, I discovered that the house was little more than a concrete structure with one of his brothers living in an annexe upstairs with his family and another living at the rear of the building.  All his family were on hand to welcome us; his sisters and sisters-in-law wore the traditional Turkish dress although the men wore western attire.  The meals were prepared by the women folk and the whole family congregated in the small lounge with the Soba, wood stove, being the focal point and the only source of heating.  A tablecloth was placed on the floor and the entire family sat alongside each other eating their meal amidst companionable chatter and laughter. This was a very different Turkey to the one that I had become accustomed to in the sunny resort of Altinkum.

The women in the family were much to my surprise, fascinated by their visitor and later after our evening meal we all gathered around the family computer for a question and answer session via Google translate.  They apologised to me as most of them hadn’t finished their education and said that they were just mothers & wives; but I said that in my humble opinion, that was the most important job in the world whatever your nationality happened to be.  They wanted to know everything about my life back in England including my family and home and excitedly chattered amongst themselves in rapid Turkish when I answered their questions.  When I asked them what they thought was the main difference between English and Turkish women; one of the sisters-in-law paused for a moment before replying that she thought that Turkish women were more content with their lives.  We spent the rest of the evening sorting through my make-up, listening to my CDs and straightening each other’s hair with my trusty GHDs.  Although none of us spoke each other’s language, there was a lot of laughter and good-natured banter as we danced around the room to Rihanna.

As there were only one other bedroom, the majority of the family slept on tapestry floor cushions alongside the Soba. The following morning I was awoken by the curious beautiful brown-eyed children of the family wanting to meet the mysterious stranger; particularly as it was Bayram and we had followed Turkish tradition by bringing lots of sweets with us to hand out to all the youngsters.  Breakfast was served early and as the electric shower wasn’t working, the women heated pans of hot water for me and filled a plastic refuse bin which they then dragged into the shower room so that I could bathe.  Although it was very cold and the shower room little more than an outhouse, they found much hilarity in the fact that I wanted to bathe every day despite the temperature being sub-zero; even so I was touched that they had made such effort for me

I often think of that small Turkish house where the welcome and smiles were as warm as the Soba and time spent with loved family members was more precious than gold. It occurs to me as I write this that usually the ones that have the least to give, inevitably give the most and that there in that small Turkish town, a loving family shared with me the most priceless gift of all – simple pleasures.

Sometimes the simple pleasures are more meaningful than all the banquets in the world
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Turkish breakfast

105 thoughts on “Simple Pleasures

  1. Sounds like a wonderful experience. I sincerely hope this is a side of Turkey I will see for myself once I move to Fethiye in 3 months, in fact I shall make a point of seeing it – I don’t want to be one of those expats that lives exactly the same way as I do now (albiet in less clothing!) and doesn’t embrace the opportunities, sights, sounds, smells and traditions that the local culture offers. 🙂

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  2. I have enjoyed having a look around your blog. I have a villa in Turkey, near to Saklikent (Nr Fethiye) and I have enjoyed getting to know the Turks who live in the village. We have made some good friends. We had a great time at one roadside cafe with the owner’s wife and sister who we now call ‘The Ladies!’ I shall never forget when we first met them and they asked what we thought was “Silly pink fairies?’. It took a little while to work out they had said ‘Sleeping, where is?’ as in where are you staying! We always visit them when we are there. I seem to have written an essay to you! Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

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  3. I love this! It sounds like a great time, despite the not-always-comfortable accommodations. I always freak if there is not a working bathroom, or there is a lot of people but only one bathroom, because I have a bladder issue, but I remember “camping” at this cabin one time with like 10 others and the toilet had to be filled by hand each time to flush because the water was shut off. I was so worried, but we ended up having a great time!

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  4. I loved everything about this story, Dallas. In the first place, I so enjoy how you tell your stories. They roll through my head like a movie, and I can see you with the women. How fun to use the computer translator to chat with everyone. It sounded like a slumber party as they looked over your makeup and played your cds. Your ending sentiment warmed my heart – yes, it is those who have so little to give who seem to give the most. Thank you for the lovely story this morning! 🙂

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    • Thank you Maddie, I’m really flattered by your compliment! It’s easy for me to write about what I know and I like to think of myself as a people watcher more than a story teller. I think you’re right as well, wherever you happen to be its the ones’ with nothing that give everything

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    • Have you noticed Jennifer, that the Turkish can squat whilst putting their heels to the floor and that’s something I’ve never been able to do but there again I can no longer do cartwheels into the splits and finish with jazz hands either!

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      • Indeed I have noticed. The Asians in Hawaii can do it, too. When I try it, I fall over backwards. Perhaps we should just call it “body dynamics.” Cartwheels and splits—Bwahahahaha. In high school, I got an F in tumbling.

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  5. Lovely story as usual, Dallas. Yoga might help with the “bendy” thing. 😉 Though you have me stuck on just exactly what you do if you don’t “do” Turkish toilets?

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      • I’ve heard of these glamorous toilet facilities. I think I’m getting too old and spoiled to deal with this sort of (bleep)… meant literally and figuratively. 😉 One thing for sure, my bendy-ness is long gone, too. Though that’s probably not such a good thing.

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  6. Seconding “Fethiye is Beautiful” and I’m off in search of that post as to how you two met, too. No, I don’t at all understand what it is that makes us so discontented. (me, I should say) The knowledge that there is so much out there and that we are missing out if we can’t do it all? Great post, Tink. (sorry, Dallas- I can’t get that name into my head)

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  7. They were amazingly welcoming! That was quite an insightful comment from the sister-in-law, about being more content with their lives. Quite a bit of truth in that I think.

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  8. Yes that observation about the poorer in possessions the wealthier in spirit is so true all around the world. The smiles and welcome is warmer and friendlier in the “poor” countries. Turkey sounds a beautiful place you must be so keen to get back there

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  9. Reblogged this on The Daily Muse and commented:
    I thought this post very poignant and educational which I hope my readers will take the time to read. Although my experience was not exactly the same on visiting my husbands family in Pakistan it was similar. This post brings back memories of visiting friends relatives in Konya, Turkey. A time I will never forget and although I found it hard I would certainly do it again and be more prepared. Genuine people and hospitality as tinky says far outweigh the materialistic needs we have got used to.

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  10. 16 years of living here in a village and travelling off the beaten tracks all over this country and I’m still surprised and delighted by these wonderful Turks. So enjoyed reading this post.

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  11. What an experience …. you’re a bold woman … moving to Turkey of all countries – I totally agree the simple pleasures are most of the time … the best experiences we get. Never really fancy visiting Turkey … still suffering from the movie – Midnight Express – have friends that goes there every year and just had one living there for 3 months, he loved it. Fantastic post.

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      • It was a nasty movie … sure that I have seen even worst violent films after that – but it really stick to me. Great ending were he hangs the guard on the hook. *smile If I would visit Turkey I wouldn’t even go against red light. *laughter

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  12. Beautiful post Dallas! You are truly fortunate to have experienced the love and simple hospitality of Ahmed’s family. I see the kind of contentment you speak of, in every poor country we visit, as well as in my own, but only among the less privileged! ‘More’ is never ‘enough’ is it?
    PS: Have been putting off reading your ‘In the begining’ series to be able to do it at leisure. Shall get to them soon 🙂

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  13. This is so true, your experience reminds me of the one I had in India… Enjoyed reading your post. We only had time for Western Turkey this time, but I have to come back to this wonderful country and hopefully see some of the central parts too.

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  14. Hi there, I love your blog and that you are so open to adventure and new experiences. Also thanks for visiting my blog (StopandSmellTheRoses). Sounds like you are a girl after my own heart, noticing the small simple things is so easy to overlook, but as you say the family made you feel so welcome and I bet that’s what made it so memorable. Look forward to reading more of your posts.
    TheLittleThings AKA – Amber x

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  15. As I read I thought of the Maya Angelou quote ““I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Reading your post I could feel the honor and love they bestowed upon you and the joy you shared. Wonderful.

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  16. This is lovely! Just for the record, I think Ahmed’s sister in law is probably right in thinking Turkish women are more content than their English counterparts. Mind you, I bet that has all changed since trying the GHD’S eh?

    An old boss of mine married a bloke from the depths of Russia- the first time she met his parents sounds similar to this. She took them all a gift, including a cardigan from M&S for his mother (something that her Mother who was a similar age would have worn). Upon opening it, the mother began speaking in frantic Russian and then exclaimed to her son “Dallas!”. I think that is the last time she took them clothes as a gift 🙂

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    • I knew you would like the bit about GHDs! I always shop in the sales and send them little goodie bags with stuff from Accessorize, Avon (one of your faves) and other make up bits and pieces; all cheap and cheerful but they love it. So any cheap recommendations from you will be most welcome!
      PS How’s married life?

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  17. 🙂 How sweet every city and every region has also their own traditions and delicious food types as in every country. l love that difference enjoyable to see and learn.

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  18. Great story! Sounds like a lovely family you met. The bathing scene reminds me of some of my own on Crete. A pot of hot water and a briki (small thing to make Greek coffee in, i’m sure youve seen them in Turkey) and voila a shower! Definitely somewhat of a departure from the modern amenities I was used to in the US!

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  19. I’m really enjoying reading about your Turkish adventure! What an amazing life and it’s great you use a GHD! Mine has been with me for the last 5 years and I hope it will last for a bit longer! It’s traveled with me to all the countries and no problems so far!

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