My normal response is to explain that life is life--wherever one lives. The laundry still needs doing, the car needs gas, the ironing pile stacks up. We hang with friends, shop for groceries, chat with the neighbors and pull weeds. Today it is raining.
|Spa for the Soul|
Gőkseki, Kaş/ANTALYA, TURKEY
Tuesday was a good day. I rose at 6am and padded down the two flights of stairs from our room to the kitchen. Softly, because every room sheltered a sleeping guest. Or my sleeping husband. It is still dark at 6, with stars and only the faintest suggestion that the sun will rise. The house was warm, so I opened doors and windows to the light breeze. I molded some dough for the morning's bread and left it on the board to rise while I made coffee and emptied the dishwasher. Oven set to 235C, timer set, I took my coffee to the sofa, lit candles, and settled into the quiet of dawn with Bible, journal and ipad. Email, a bit of news, Jeremiah, Paul and Asaph. Prayers for those in the house, for our kids who need to sell their house, and for the peace and prosperity of the community around us.
Guests turned up for the breakfast of eggs, cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumber and peppers, yogurt and fresh orange juice. And bread warm from the oven and mugs of strong coffee. By 9am only Curt and I remained. Dishes. Desk time working on some last matters related to my dad's estate.
Tuesday was Kurban Bayram, the day sheep and goats are sacrificed and shared among family, friends and the poor. And it was Halil's birthday. Halil is dear to us, and just four months younger than our Caitlin. So at 11am we headed for town to sit with him at his restaurant for part of his 20-hour workday. 6-year-old Yasemin ran to meet us as we crossed the square, kissing our hands and touching them to her forehead in the greeting that honors family elders. Similar greetings from Halil and others of those we "mother" day by day. We hugged and massaged sore backs and shoulders and hugged again over the next two hours. Gul and Halil were happy-weary from the heavy load of serving countless holiday-makers. Good business but coming right at the end of the long season--well, they count the days until they can rest.
At 1pm we strolled over to another friend's restaurant to enjoy their annual art show and a chat in the shade of their garden dining space on the harbor.
By 2 we thought it time to venture up to the Kocaer family Bayram doings. Fatih had phoned the evening before to invite us, saying they would start at 10am. A phone call told us that our dear Ramazan was covering the office while the rest of the family enjoyed the holiday, so we stopped at Andifli to pay him Bayram greetings. "Did you see Fatih?" he asked. "Just on our way now." "You didn't go yet? But I think he told you they would start at 10. They are finished now. He is not there!"
Assumptions. Messed up. Because it was a big family do, I imagined an all-day-into-the-wee-hours affair. Done already by 2? We missed it? Ouch! Ramazan phoned Fatih and we all laughed over what we foreigners didn't know.
"But my mother is making food now. What are you doing? Will you come to our house?" Ramazan was eager, and not dissuaded when we said we had our own guests for whom we needed to prepare dinner. So we picked up some veg and some chicken and ran them home, then picked up Ramazan back at the office and headed up the hill to Circillar and his family home. His mom sat before an open fireplace stirring a huge pot of boiling meat while his morning-sick wife Melike good-humoredly stayed as far from the smells as she could. Three goats had been sacrificed for this family's feast and sharing. For us they grilled rib pieces and roasted peppers in the coals. And homemade baklava. Ymmm! Neighbors came and went. All the while packages of meat and plates of baklava were carried to the homes of yet other neighbors. When we rose to leave at 5pm, a huge bunch of late grapes and a dozen early mandarins were plucked from vine and tree as a parting gift.
Home for an hour of playing together before Curt grilled chicken and vegetables and I made a candlelit dining room on the terrace under the stars. Gentle conversation with our guests, an American couple who work in Ankara and have also lived in Iran and Kenya over their many years together. By 9pm the kitchen was clean and we headed to our rest.
So are our lives full of adventure and excitement because we live outside our home country? We still cook and clean and shop for groceries. We take part in community events. We have guests and are guests. We drink coffee and invest our time and hearts in the people around us. We mess up and receive grace. A mundane existence.
And yet not. I love our time in the US, but I also love this. Things I love: the culture of hospitality and generosity, the habits of spending time sharing and listening and simply being together. I love speaking a second language--well, trying to, studying and practicing and understanding more and more. I love the tenacity and generosity family and friends give one another. I love the simplicity that envelops us: people have less and make do more; gardens are planted with food more than with flowers; public transport and walking are ways of life; chickens cluck and scratch and crow and we enjoy their eggs, and they are not designer birds living in elaborate coops either. Our food scraps feed the neighbor birds. Books are passed around until they are tatty. Things don't get recycled so much as they are not consumed in the first place or they are re-used and re-purposed. Laundry is dried on the line and water is heated by the sun. Lentil soup is our neighbor child's favorite food.
I love our summers in the US surrounded by believers and soaking in teaching, studying together and communal prayer. But at this point in my life I would feel adrift, or maybe just excess, in a land of spiritual abundance. I feel privileged to be Jesus' hands and feet in a place where the magnificence of his power and love are little known.
I wonder if the foreignness keeps us more alive to the beauty and the sorrow around us?Our lives truly are "just life." Not much different. But are we different here? Do we experience the gift of each new day, of every opportunity more fully? Are we more alert, more alive to possibilities, more present and listening?
Maybe it is not so much the exotic foreign land as it is the clarity that we are indeed aliens and strangers here, sojourning for a season with a purpose to bless.