in which I crack up

It has been a busy few days. I can’t remember if I already wrote about the barbecue at the home of a friend of the mayor’s, who is a big proponent of us and our excavation (as eventually it will become a tourist draw). It was a lot of fun, but somewhat surreal. I brought my camera, but didn’t take any pictures–somehow, I felt the spirit of the evening would not be capturable on film.
The house was off on its own near the village where we went to the wedding. Somehow, both for the wedding and for this, to get there we had to drive a couple of hours over terrible backroads in our little minivan; in this latter case even through a couple of feet of running water. But we got home much faster and on much reliable roads; does the landscape somehow fundamentally change after dark? Nothing would surprise me.
The barbecue of lamb and chicken on shish kebabs was quite delicious. Rakii was drunk (the Turkish national drink, reportedly licorice like in flavor) as well as Efes, the national beer. There was singing of Turkish folk songs, but when asked to reciprocate with American songs no one could think of anything. Somebody came up with a few seconds of Vanilla Ice, but it didn’t really compare with the Turkish music. There was also Turkish dancing and much hilarity. It was suggested that I could drive us home, since I had not partaken of the rakii, but fortunately our driver was also sober since we would probably be safer with a monkey at the wheel than with me driving a manual minivan over Turkish backroads in the dark.
Due to my sick day the other day, I have somehow gotten the reputation of suffering in silence with some terrible illness, even though I’ve been fit as a fiddle for the last couple of days. So I spent Thursday at home reading about Neo-Hittites and Aramaeans. Thursday evening my turn to teach the Fevzipasha village children English. I don’t think that I would call it an unmitigated success. I had a bunch of little boys who were having a great time but not learning much English, and one 12 year old girl who really wanted to learn English. I did learn how to say “Quiet!” in Turkish (“Susu!”), which had some effect. Better luck next time.
Yesterday was the first day of our two day weekend, and we all took a big sightseeing trip in the van. First we went to Gaziantep to conduct some business. We did some shopping in the Old Market, full of actual blacksmiths making tools, spiked dog collars, and other fearsome looking objects, people making things out of wood, clothes, kitchen stuff, and various plastic trinkets made in China. I bought one of the Turkish double-decker teapots for myself–water boils in the bottom pitcher while the tea brews on top, then you pour tea and water into your glass to achieve the strength of tea that you want.
Tea is drunk everywhere, all the time in Turkey, in little handleless glass cups on saucers with tiny spoons and sugar cubes. The little cups are difficult to pick up without burning yourself, but the tea is very nice.
Then we went to the supermarket, Migros, where I purchased granola bars and soap. Peanut butter is sadly hard to come by here. They do have nutella type stuff, chocolate spread, and hazelnut spread. The latter is incredibly delicious but
Then it was about noon and we went to lunch. I had some things that looked like corn dogs, of which the filling was like Runza filling (for those who know what that is) with some cayenne pepper added (others described it as sloppy-joe like, but w/o the tomato sauce), deep-fried in corndog batter. They were good. Also, I had salad. The amount of tomatoes people eat here must compensate for the ubiquitious smoking, since everybody looks awfully healthy.
Days last a long time when you get up at 5 or 6. After that, we drove to Zeugma, a Roman site which I’ll post more about later. We’d seen the mosaics from there at the museum at Gaziantep already, now we saw some of the areas under excavation. The tell is quite large and tall, and overlooks a large, blue, cool-looking reservoir made by damming the Euphrates. That’s the only cool looking thing about the place, as it’s hot, blazing, and dry, dry, dry. I guess the pistachio trees all over the hills around don’t need much water.
There was some debate about what we were to do next, but what we ended up doing was driving to an ibis farm, then to view the site of Carchemish from a distance, then to look at a train station in the modern village of Carchemish…because it was built by Germans.
It was at the ibises that I finally lost it.
It was very, very hot, our minivan is not air conditioned, and we and our various Gaziantep purchases were packed like sardines. Hot wind came whipping through the window into my face when we were moving; but it was hot and still when we weren’t moving so fast–like, say, when we were driving around some Turkish city looking for an ibis farm; or driving around a small village asking random children and men sitting drinking tea where the German-built train station was.
We found the ibis farm, parked outside, and slithered in through the large metal gate (it was a well-secured ibis farm). Sure enough, there was a large cage built against one of the hills, containing ibises. They flew back and forth a bit, and then I took a picture. Apparently, they are endangered, and they’re breeding them there. Very nice.
Then my advisor said, “This would be a great place for the official group picture!” I looked at the ibises, at him, then at the ibises again. A group picture of what? We’d already taken several official group pictures on several cameras at the barbecue. It was the stones thing all over again: surely I’d just imagined that he’d said that; yet it really seemed to be happening.
So, we all lined up for our group picture–all of the non-avian life forms at any rate. My face was shiny and my hair bedraggled from my attempts to stay cool by positioning my head next to the open window in the van, but oh well. This may well be the only photo of me ever to be published anywhere, and it might as well be accurate to how I really look.
We looked at the ibises for a while longer, then piled back into the van. We drove down the Euphrates to Carchemish, which we could only view from a distance because there’s a Turkish military post on top of it. We did take pictures from a distance–it looks like a big tell (flat topped hill) next to a river. After driving around in the small village of Carchemish for a while, we located the German built train station, which is under renovation. The train station is directly adjacent to the Syrian border, marked by double ribbon-wired fences and armed guards. We could look over into Syria but could not take pictures of it or of the train station.
[at this point Michele was interrupted and had to stop writing–she’ll be back later to continue the tale — Andy]

One Response to “in which I crack up”

  1. Jeff says:

    Hey! Just wanted to wish you a happy birthday. I’d sing to you, but I can’t sing in Turkish. And if you can’t sing in Turkish, what’s the point really?
    Hope you have a nice birthday. 🙂

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