Friday, February 4, 2011

Turkish Delight: Life-Changing Lessons

Last weekend I had another Turkish moment.  I was squeezed in with 13 people at my neighbors’ table, savoring her delicious chicken noodle soup, awed by the spread in front of me:  stuffed grape leaves, okra in olive oil, carrots in garlic yogurt, and some ten other dishes. Everyone was talking at once, a soccer game was blaring on television, and the kids were running around the house.
“You haven’t eaten anything,” our hostess lamented.  “Have some of these spinach pastries. All of this food has got to be eaten!”
After dinner when the ladies retired to the kitchen for Turkish coffee, I smiled to myself, remembering again how much I love Turks.  I came here to share God’s love with them, but they have changed me in the process. The longer I’m here, the more I appreciate what I have learned from them.
If you came to have coffee with my neighbor, she would surely offer you some Turkish delight.  I have a different offering for you this week:  little tidbits of Turkish style wisdom. These are life-changing lessons Turks have taught me.

·         Make Relationships a Priority

Turks live in community. Friends and family talk to each other almost daily and see each other often. (We Westerners would probably call this co-dependency.) At my neighbor’s dinner gathering, two of the couples had also gone to breakfast together the same day.  The women visit each other every Thursday.  They are lifelong friends who live in community.

·         Be Available to your Friends and Open to Interruptions

Many Turks will drop almost anything if friends call and ask, “May I come over right now?” As a Westerner I program and schedule my life down to the last hour, and I have a hard time putting aside my plans for friends who call to ask, “Are you free now?”  I wonder how many serendipities I miss when I’m not open to interruptions?

·         Make Room for Spontaneity in Your Life

Once my husband and I had plans to have dinner with a younger Christian couple. One hour before our dinner guests were set to arrive, my close friend Esra called.

“We haven’t had water in our apartment for 3 days. Can we come take showers at your house?”

I thought for a minute: Not only would our quality time with the couple be ruined, but I would need to then feed Esra’s family as well.  I asked her if she had any other options and explained that we were expecting guests, but I’ve wondered what lovely chaos would have resulted if I’d said, “Sure, come on over!”

·         Practice Hospitality

Turks can teach us the gracious art of hospitality, whether it’s offering a dish of nuts and dried fruits or a 5 course meal. The important thing is opening our hearts and our homes to friends.

·         Make Time for Slow Food and Slow Life

My favorite slow food is sarma.  It takes me 3 hours to make the filling and stuff the grape leaves. I tell myself, “I have three hours to enjoy cooking. I don’t have to hurry through life.” But I haven’t really learned this lesson because I only make sarma twice a year!

·         Respect Your Elders

When was the last time you kissed an older person’s hand?  Turks do it all the time.

So that was my box of Turkish delight for you. These are some things that make me love Turks.
If you have travelled or live overseas, what have you learned from your hosts?


Choate Family said...

Ditto everything you said for life here in the Solomon Islands. In a community where all of the houses are very close together with no windows, everybody knows all there is to know about each family. Relationships are certainly a priority, and people do drop by unexpectedly. No phones available for a warning call, though! Our "slow food" is cassava pudding which takes several hours to prepare and then cooks all night on the hot stones. Thanks for sharing your "Turkish Delight"!

Karin said...

Awh Betsy, heartwarming as always. I love reading what you write. You are such a dear friend and encourager to me. Many hugs and blessing to you.

Michael said...

It seems no matter how hard I try, I cannot slow down the pace of our lives. Sometimes, I want to move to Ruidoso, New Mexico as surely it would be a much slower pace. Perhaps I'll take a page from my siblings and start cooking some slow food.

OliveTree said...

Slow food is kind of a discipline in our fast paced world, isn't it? Today after I spent one hour dropping Camille off at a friend's house, I had to psyche myself up, "Okay, one hour taking my daughter somewhere is not a problem...I have plenty of time." I actually think Turks can live fast paced lives too, but they just do it all together!

OliveTree said...

Thanks Karin and Choate family for your comments. Sounds like I'd need more than Turkish Delight to survive in the Solomon Islands!

Barb said...

Hi thanks for the great "Turkish Delights" I am glad I was able to meet you via the Women of the Harvest. I am enjoying the process most days of adapting to a new culture here. Life is certainly a bit slower here in Chiang Mai and that is nice. Today we have our first two guests staying with us and it is a joy to be able to spend time with new and old friends as we open our home to them.

OliveTree said...

Thanks for stopping by, Barb. I enjoyed your blog as well.

Anonymous said...

I will be coming to Turkey in March and am really looking forward to it! Your words about life in Turkey made me take a deep sounds so relaxed! I will have to spend time now preparing myself to slow down in order to enjoy what is going on around me, but also to keep the pace with the Turks.

Thank you for your words of wisdom. I have just found your blog today and am looking forward to reading through it in the coming weeks as my trip date approaches.


Anonymous said...

I just found this blog, but love these lessons. It has been years since bring abroad, but I love the slower, more relational pace of just about anywhere other than US. Have you ever made Turkish delight?

OliveTree said...

I definitely never made Turkish Delight! We buy it. I've seen recipes for it, but they look way too complicated.