Thursday, October 25, 2012

No Turkey for this Thanksgiving!

For the last week, I've been taking the dogs down into the Ortahisar valley. Along the way, on one or both daily walks we see an older man and his flock of seven sheep. The man carries a long stick and is dressed in dark trousers, a white shirt with a dark vest, and on his sock-less feet he wears purple crocs.

He knows the dogs. I keep only Milo on the lead as he chases chickens, but apparently Neura also has an interest in animals, sheep in particular. She eyes them and they eye her as they move away quickly. She eyes the man, he calls her over for a pet, albiet a gingerly one, and she leaves the sheep alone. The Turks don't typically keep dogs as pets and most exhibit fear of them if they get anywhere close. Supposedly it's because there is such a mandate for cleanliness in Muslim life and dogs are seen as filthy creatures, vicious to boot.

Three girls who now know the delight of dogs.
Today is the sheeps' last day. I don't expect to run into the little herd again. This is the eve of Kurban Bayrami, the feast of the sacrifice. It's a little like Thanksgiving in the US except that sheep are the main dish in Turkey, not turkey! It's the fall holiday, to celebrate the harvest, and to remember Abraham's almost sacrifice of Isaac. People travel all over to visit their families so traveling this week is soundly discouraged unless you have to.  Thousands of sheep are being butchered today and tomorrow. A good portion of the meat is given to the poor, some is frozen and stored, but most of it will be eaten in the next four days.

It's a week-long national holiday, maybe the longest and largest in Turkey.

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?
This afternoon three pre-teen girls giggled and chattered outside the gate, wanting and being afraid at the same time, to see the dogs who were up on the balcony barking and wagging. I put Milo on his lead and let the dogs out. The girls, who have probably had only scary interactions with dogs were afraid to touch them,. "Choki" I told them, meaning OK, but they didn't warm up until Neura chased a stick I threw and then they all wanted to throw sticks for her. After a few minutes, they were happy to go for a walk with us, one of the girls took Milo's lead and the other two petted Zeno, who is always happy to sit still for that. We were joined shortly by Jim and his dog Daido, the one that Milo ran off with a few days ago. The girls had so much fun with the dogs but still would squeal whenever a dog did something unexpected like jump or bark.

The girls were from somewhere else (?), here visiting relatives, and staying in the hotel up the street. Between their few grade-school English words, and my three-new-words-a-day Turkish, we mostly just had fun with the dogs which didn't require elaborate verbal detail. When we got down into the canyon, the girls turned back, saying they had to go to dinner.

Zeno - now who couldn't love a mug like that?

Jim invited me to a dinner too, with a bunch of English speakers, some of whom come from as far away as Goreme and Urgup. There aren't many people living here who aren't Turkish. The host is a British pilot named Dave who rents a house here while he works almost daily taking tourists up in one of the hot air balloons that I see every morning floating in or above the canyons.

With all the loud baaaaa-ing going on in the walled yards nearby, I do hope we aren't having mutton for dinner!




A neighbor boy with his pet chicken.

Inside an abandoned cave home, with pigeon
nest boxes carved into the walls.  People keep pigeons
for their guano and nesting materials, fertilizer for the gardens.