Saturday, November 17, 2012

End of house-sitting in Turkey

House-sitting has been an interesting way to spend time in one place, get to know it, and not spend much traveling money in the process. There are a fair number of websites out in the world catering to people who need a house sitter and those who want to do it. Generally speaking, no money is exchanged; though some long term “sits” require the sitter to pay the utilities. If a business is involved like running a B&B or lots of watering and harvesting then perhaps some salary or like-exchange could be involved.

Most countries have strict rules about working, mostly tied to their tax revenues and the fact they don’t want jobs taken from their own people. Although in the US, if it weren’t for all the undocumented workers, there might not be any food production at all. Not many Americans, as spoiled as we are, would be willing to toil in fields all day for less than minimum wage. Days of toiling in my aunt’s garden as a kid convinced me that an education and a profession would be an excellent idea!!

Yesterday I finished up a month in Ortahisar, Turkey, house and dog sitting. It was actually only 3 weeks with one week off to go touristing about the countryside. Initially I was quite fearful of coming to a country where I didn’t speak a word of the language, but there have been so many helpful people; several Brits are retired here, and there are a few Turks who speak English well so I’ve not been lonely at all.

I’ve gotten a chance to learn about Turkish culture, to hear the gossip and rumors about men who beat their wives, and wives who have exacted revenge. Though most of my observations have been of  compatibility based on the fact (I think) that in this culture men and women rarely socialize together. Most daily interactions are in the company of one’s own sex, and while same-sex relationships can be stressful, they generally don’t lead to much violence. Married couples with children are often seen, especially on Sundays having picnics in the parks. People live in extended family groups, or if not, the extended family lives nearby. This is so healthy for children, to be exposed to many people giving them the same messages about how to behave. With many people to love and support them it provides a great security.

That sense of family importance finds its way into business. I had a bunch of photos printed by the FujiFilm store in Urgup. The young man was just about to close the store, but offered to stay open to print them for me. I said, no, I’d come back on Monday and pick them up. He asked if he could deliver them to me in Ortahisar. I was so surprised. I told him I could get them at Hezen Cave Hotel if he wanted to drop them off there. The next afternoon, on my way past the hotel I stopped and sure enough, there was a package with my name on it. I’d only paid the equivalent of $5 for the photos, and got next day delivery in a different town!! That’s the kind of service you could only expect from family, and not a whole lot of families either!

Crazy Ali is another example. I have gone almost every day to sit in his shop, drink a Turkish coffee, or a freshly squeezed orange juice, and have a Turkish lesson. Mostly we just chat about life, and lately I’ve been telling his other friends their “fortunes” looking at the coffee grounds or reading their palms. I just make it up as I go along; based on all the fortune teller tricks I’ve picked up over the years. And of course if the statements are poetic enough, or vague enough, they hit the mark for each person. He’s never once mentioned my purchasing anything, though I did insist on paying for a book once. I asked to buy some blue evil-eye beads like the ones he uses on the hangers for little painted globes, so he ordered several hundred. He looked them over carefully and picked the best 100 for me. I paid barely twenty-five cents for each one.  Then, as a parting gift, he gave me a turquoise necklace. Not all customers get this kind of treatment, but it makes me want to come back to Cappadocia, it makes me sad to leave.

And of course when house sitting involves animals, it becomes even harder to say goodbye. Milo and Zeno both sat on the stairs at chest level to me with my an arm around each one. They snuggled and nuzzled as if they knew I was saying good by. It brought tears. I’d snatch either of them in a microsecond and take them home if I could. And Evelien would certainly spare no expense to come after me and take them back!!