Life in a peaceful Turkish Village

Breakfast was drawn out as everyone was waiting for the rain to stop. When it eventually did, Aidan and Jack went outside to start work and Hennessy and I went to the centre of Kurtkoy (“Wolf Village”) to catch the bus into town. Today was market day so we’d fetch fresh fruit, veg, cheese and olives. There are three of those little mini buses going into Yalova at various times. Each is owned by the driver, who will let his relatives go free and the rest must pay 3TL each. He doesn’t demand it, you just pass the money to him. If us volunteers don’t pay, he will ask Chevrel for the money later.

The bus is always an amusingly noisy affair. As per old Turkish tradition. the women usually sit in the front, each with their granny shopping trolley, that must stand right beside them, or else. They complain loudly when they have to squeeze past but none are prepared to move their trolley. The men traditionally sit at the back, quietly shaking their heads at the “clucking chickens” at the front. The thing is, they all know each other from when they were kids and everyone in Kurtkoy is related to everyone…

We had lots of time to kill in Yalova, since the next bus back wasn’t till 2.30pm. So we wandered about and explored the cloth and clothes market next to the veggie market, the latter of which is in a multi-storey car park.

But then it started raining, so we decided to do our food shopping. The cheese man said hi to Icebear first, and then let us try lots of cheese and olives, of which we bought heaps. Turkish cheese seems to have a kind of sour note to it, but it’s still yum 🙂

The market is lively and colourful with the vendors shouting, selling their salad greens, courgettes, red tomato and strawberries, oranges, yellow lemons and bananas, eric-fruits, mushrooms, melons, fresh garlic and even stinging nettles, as well as a couple of things I’ve never seen before. The vendors weigh everything to the nearest half kilo and ask for the smallest change you have. They let you try anything you want and happily use sign language to communicate.

One lady selling a bunch of stinging nettles explained to me in Turkish and with elaborate gestures how to make nettle soup: chop some of the other herb she had (I’d never seen that one before) and boil in a pot with the nettles. Add salt and let simmer for a while. After that I got confused. Two guys asked if Hennessy and I were together. When I declined, they joked, “Yeah right!” or something sounding much like that in Turkish, accompanied by the equivalent gestures. We all laughed…. The cheek of it!

We went to a cafe to while away the time till the bus arrived, only to find the timetable had changed, and we’d missed it. We asked the driver of the next bus about it, but he didn’t understand. He told us to wait and called someone on his phone. Then he handed it to me. It was Chevrel! Lost foreigners? They must obviously be Forest Gardens’ volunteers!

This second bus didn’t leave for some time, but then it turned out to be the school run, doing a lot of detours to pick up all the Kurtkoy children. The first girl on the bus had called another guy to ask us all the questions she had in english. The guy addressed them all to Hennessy, even the ones about me. Its good muslim manners. A man would not address an unmarried woman directly, in order to protect her dignity. This part of Turkey is quite modern and liberal, but every now and again we come across manners and traditions like this, making it feel like we’re definitely leaving Europe behind. As the bus filled up with kids, they were obviously talking about Hennessy. You could hear them repeat “Chino! Chino!” Many of them had never met a Chinese person before.

While we’d been away, Lea and Leo arrived. Lea is a lively hippie traveler with henna red hair and baggy cotton pants who has been backpacking for quite some time. Her brother, only seventeen, was off on school holiday and so she had a very short time to show him Turkey. It had been his birthday last week, so Lea made their mother’s traditional strawberry birthday cake for dinner that evening. Yum!!

On 1st May no one in Turkey goes to work. Protesting is illegal, so there are loads of protests and parades everywhere. This meant Chevrel, a landscape architect by profession, didn’t go to work either. So she was outside, instructing us on today’s jobs: preparing planting soil, weeding the plants in her nursery and preparing a flowerbed, which meant pick-axing and wheelbearering lots of soil and a couple of blisters on our hands. 

It was actually lots of fun. The chickens joined in – apparently the juiciest worms are exactly under the pickaxe! The work is real easy though, often interrupted with tea and biscuits in true English fashion (and of course lunch) and we never do any job for long, so it doesn’t get boring. There is so much to do, we can choose whichever we feel like.

Dinner is always cooked by the volunteers, so we get an amazing variety of tastes and cuisines. Tonight it was Jack’s turn, and we had his famous Bolognese, made with minced boar – Yum 🙂 We cook on the wood fired stove, which is lots of fun and makes for interesting cooking. First it takes ages to heat up, then it has you dashing back every few minutes to rescue whatever is burning! Now that I have an oven again, I went baking crazy! I made cinnamon rolls and chocolate covered shortbread fingers that evening. After dinner we all played a game of whist, which Aidan and I heroically lost!

The next day we were mulching the young fruit trees with sawdust, only for the chickens to scrape it all away again that afternoon.

Once we finished mid-afternoon, Aidan and I grabbed a beer and sat on the broken pub bench soaking up the sunshine. I wrote my diary, while he started drawing up plans for Alan’s shed renovation. The local bus drove past, diverting from its route to bring a certain woman from the village to her front door. Then it reversed straight back. The neighbour had dug a deep trench across the road to lay some pipes. Alan went to open the gate so the bus could turn in the driveway while said lady was trundling off, loudly ranting on about how rude it was to drop her off here, so far from home, with all her heavy shopping. Soon peace and quiet returned and we resumed our sun-soaking activities.

Suddenly the man from the hole was jumping up and down at the gate, shouting. Alan went to investigate, and we heard them talk and then “Ah, you almost made it!” I assumed the Italians we’d been expecting to arrive by van must be stuck on the wrong side of the hole. “No, they are stuck IN the hole!” Alan announced and rounded up the troupes to help push them out.

The guy in the hole had waved the Italians on, suggesting they could get round the hole, but they’d got sucked down into the mud. Chevrel had taken the car in the morning, so we had nothing to tow the van (the bikes were too light). We pushed and pushed, but the VW wouldn’t budge, while hole-man jumped into his trench to have a ciggy. Turns out the chassis sat on a big pile of rocks with the wheels spinning freely in the brown slush! We got busy digging out the rocks and someone found a jack to try lift the van (even hole-man came out to help!), but nothing worked.

Then our saviour arrived in the form of the gas-man with his little truck laden down with gas and water bottles. Buy now half the village had arrived to watch the show, discussing whether we should use the rusty chain or the blue rope, while hole-man told the Italians off for not carrying a tow rope (in case people like him direct them straight into the hole they’ve dug I presume). I think the guy’s name might be Mustapha, but just in case its not, I’ll keep calling him hole-man. In any case, I think there are a few Mustapha’s in the village….

The van rescued, the Italians (PG and Emanuella btw.) hosed it down to check for damage. All seemed ok though. Time to relax and say hi to Jasper and Bruno, who made it clear that they were overdue a good scratch!

Hennessy, who had sunk knee-deep into the mud himself, washed off at the fish pond.

That night we ate at the big oval table in the hall, there was just no room for all of us in the kitchen. Leo and Leah had cheffed up a spicy veggie bake and rice pudding for dessert. Everyone tucked in….. the room went quiet for a long time, it was so yum! 🙂

Saturday is market day, so Jack and I went down into the village, to catch the bus to town. On the way we bumped into a young lady, who spoke a little German (they often do here, as Germany and Turkey have a special connection so that a lot of them go live there for a while) and told me how she too had lived in Germany for a bit, but had come back, as Kurtkoy was so beautiful. People watching from their balconies kept calling down, where she was taking us foreigners and she kept calling back “Yalova!” with a big smile and wave.

Today was also milk delivery day and the bus filled up with women, their shopping trolleys of course, and stacks and stacks of old coke and water bottles filled with yummie fresh milk from their cows. It was chaos and noisy with shouts and banter. The bus was so packed, one guy had enough and asked to be let back off, he’d walk instead. (He did get a lift in by another car in the end though.)

In Yalova we stopped all over the place for women to jump off to deliver milk and guys to come fetch theirs straight from the bus. When we finally got off, we wanted to know where Kipa was, as we’d be able to get some beer there, and cheaper than in the corner shops. We asked a random guy in town, who understood what we wanted, but wasn’t sure how to describe the way. “Come, I take you to my English teacher!” A few shops down the road, up some stairs, we found ourselves in the reception of a language school, watching a class of children on a CCTV screen. After we’d been sat down, having declined the offer for coffee or tea, the guy disappeared. He reappeared shortly after, a small, young Iranian lady in tow, who took us back down to the street to better explain where we should go. Shame neither of us had anything to write, as she offered I should call her if I needed anything, when we get to Iran.

We eventually found Kipa and stocked up on supplies. We should have got off the bus much sooner as it goes right past the supermarket (Kipa is actually Tesco). Whoops! But at least we got to see some of the city and the walk back to the market along the beach is quite pretty 🙂 You can see some islands in the distance across the sea and Jack got all exited! “In Australia, when you look across the ocean, it’s just endless water!” 🙂

A quick run through the market, loading up on fruit and veg until the money ran out and we rushed back to catch the bus. The driver stowed Jack’s heavy rucksack in the boot and we sat back to watch the women’s trolley-shoving-ceremony. We stopped at the bread shop of course and the driver calmly went off to fetch himself a few loaves and some ciggies next door. In the bus all hell broke loose. The youngest lady had to go fetch bread for everyone. The women threw money at her and called out their orders all at the same time, even after the lady had already entered the bread shop. It took her three runs to fetch all the right orders and get all the right change back. The men in the back of the bus just shook their heads with a bemused smile and looked on.

The bus made its rounds through the village, trying to drop off as many of the demanding ladies as close to their front door as possible. Then the rest of them hopped off in the centre, and so did we, but we were told to hop back on, the driver would bring us all the way to Forest Gardens. I told him about the hole in the ground, accompanied by some charades to explain. But the driver made some frantic backwards motions with both arms, telling us he’d simply reverse all the way back down the winding road into the village and ushered us back into the bus. Ok, real nice of him! At the trench, hole-man and the driver helped us unload our shopping from the bus before sharing a ciggy and waving us off.

Back at the house I set about making meringues that turned out a little gooey. But covered in strawberries and chocolate, everyone devoured them anyways, after having munched the yummie dinner Emanuella had cooked. That evening we stood by the wood-fired stove, poring over maps, discussing where we could go next and what other Workaway places Chevrel knew to be good.

One response to “Life in a peaceful Turkish Village

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