Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve. May a bit of its specialness rub off on you.

People party on this day of calendar change. Good for them, if it brings pleasure! I don't think I, myself, have ever attended a big party on New Year's Eve. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the mere idea of a transition from old to new. I like these silly little fabrications. They're a playful way to attack life.

Today, in Sirince, we celebrated New Year's Eve.

But first, the morning.

We haven't quite caught up on sleep, but when I look out the window and see that the sun is showing signs of popping through lingering clouds...

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(the view from one of our windows)

...I really nudge us to get going. And so, after a Turkish-ly wonderful breakfast at our inn…

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…we set out. To the market -- we're told to go there first. Start with the market.

We are a village of cats and dogs and even before reaching the market, it is abundantly clear that in Sirince, cats and dogs (and there are many of both) do not fight.

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No, not at all.

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Cats and cats tend to get along as well.

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Or so it appears to these two Americans, passing through.

Down the hill we go, along a stone slabbed road, down to the shops and stalls and rickety tables that always seem to have a handful of men at them, sipping sweetened tea from small glasses. Down we go, as another day in the life of the Sirence moves ahead.

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 there are a lot of tractors rumbling through: we're in the middle of the olive harvest

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...the ubiquitous Turkish pants

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...slabs of stone and a Turkish cap

[Sirence is a village of olive growers and, too, a few winemakers; some have said that the vibe here is almost of Tuscany. I wouldn't go that far, but it is true that olive products are a big market item.]

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The market is vast.

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Not too many shoppers, certainly not of the kind that would buy some of the items targeting visitors (artisanal jewels, crocheted this, embroidered that). But, it fills in during the day. And, as I said, you'll always find someone, somewhere, carrying (photo -- to the right) or drinking tea.

We're taken in by the many juicers. Meaning those selling the freshly squeezed stuff: pomegranate juice.

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And the man who pounds his almonds and sells the nutmeats.

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Those who speak English pick us out instantly and try their hand at conversation. When they find out we're American, they register surprise. Out comes the list of cousins: I have a cousin in Baltimore! I want to visit cousin in Washington! Again and again I am a little unnerved when I see how much status my home country, America, confers. It's not that I am in any way a better visitor because I come from "north of Chicago" (except that maybe I  have toiled more to get here than someone, say, traveling from Izmir or even Denmark). And yet, if anyone speaks any English, they will try it on us and they will welcome us. To their most private, happiest corners.

Take midnight.

After a fantastic dinner at our inn (see paragraphs below), Ed and I willed ourselves to get up from the table (too much food!). Ed could not wait to collapse in bed. But at a quarter to midnight, I nudged him. It cannot be that we're here, in Turkey, sleeping away the great transition from `12 to 13.

Is there a celebration in the village? -- he asks. Turkey is predominantly (99%) Muslim. The Islamic New Year took place at sunset on November 14 -- we are in year 1434 by that calendar!
I don't know. Let's go and see.

We walk down the stone road. A blast of music hits us from one place then another, but it's clear that these are private parties. Or at least places where you pay to eat, drink and be merry. I am about to suggest a return to our terrace -- not a bad place to light the sparklers our innkeepers gave us -- but as we pass one more merry outpouring of music, something causes me to pause. And as I do so, a very smiling (always smiling), very friendly young man urges us to come in. It seems to be a private party and so I hesitate. But he is so sincere, so delightfully happy to be escorting us in that we follow, up stairs, through the door... Inside, we are waved in by others, come in, sit down,  and so we do and we have a drink, and suddenly we are a part of whatever this is.

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 I watch the young and old dance to traditional music played by two older men -- one on the violin, the other an oboe,  and I am cajoled to join in this dance and I do. And the playing musicians mingle with the dancers in that tight space by the tables and we all raise our arms, young and old...

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Ed took this photo (I'm the one in the gray jacket)

... and then the very youngest takes out her iPhone (!) and notes that it is time for the countdown. And we do count down -- they in Turkish, me in English and though I am two numbers behind (they must have started with eight!), the cheer at midnight is obvious. We made it to 2013.

Happy New Year!

(Ed is there for the joyous embrace; at other times, he sits to the side, like these local guys. At one point one of the men bursts into a beautiful song for us. Ed does not respond in song, but we smile appreciatively.)

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Thank you, whoever you all are, for the welcome and the merriment.

But let me not neglect the earlier part of this day, because it was a fantastic day, even though we did the usual -- get lost, which is sort of odd because we knew exactly where we were -- high on the hilltops towering over the village. But slowly the village receded and we could not find a path down to it. Walk with us along this most heavenly hike.

It starts inauspiciously. With a man carving up the meat off an animal carcas. Don't know what, but I do know it had horns. (Considering the number of spent bullets we saw on the dirt road through the forest and the hoof tracks we encountered, I have to think that this was something someone hunted up there).

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And now up we go, in the beautiful light of the noon winter sun.

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two horses

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the olives

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the view down to the village

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...and mountains to the east

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the occasional vineyard

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mountains to the north

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the path veers into the splendid, scented forest

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we can still see the village, though after the next bend, hills will stand in the way

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the olive harvest: she spreads the tarp, he hooks up a branch shaker to a portable car battery, climbs the trunk and down come the olives...

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she bags them then, all in this beautiful hilly landscape south of Izmir

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around the next bend, we come to the view of the sea

When finally, after three hours of hiking, a path veers to the right and down, we come across a village alright, only not our village at all and actually, oh my goodness! It's the town of Selcuk! There it is, not too far from the sea!

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Well now, that won't do! Back we go, retracing our steps now, through the forest, past the olive groves, eventually finding a different path, a proper path, one that takes us back to Sirence. Yes, there you are, village of 180 houses!

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Down the proper hill this time, past barking dogs...

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...and very friendly children (what is your name? my name is Aiden...)

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…and men, returning home from the harvest (note the branch shaker)...

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... and finally the market. Where we linger.

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 It is more crowded now. People shopping, drinking tea (we indulge in yet another pomegranate juice)...

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A family is eating an early dinner…

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Eating, drinking, talking. Daily activities. More festive today perhaps.

And soon enough it is time for our own dinner at the Inn.

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All the guests come to it -- six Turkish couples and one family of four from a place with a language we can't quite guess. Our innkeeper is anxiously hovering, Two staff people are also in attendance, including a young man who so loves practicing his English (it is his first day working for our innkeeper and he mentions to us many times how much he is LOVING his job! Add radiant smile here). The foods are excessively abundant, Turkish and delicious.

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A young man came from Izmir to play the guitar and croon folk melodies for us (I try to sing in many languages, he tells me, maybe you can Facebook friend me and suggest there songs I can learn?) and it is all so wonderfully atmospheric!

So I'll end this post now. All things must end of course, but luckily for our planet and those who inhabit it, this midnight is just a flip of a calendar page.

Happy page flipping, dear Ocean readers and may the next set of 365 be filled with splendid notations indeed! A rich year, well lived -- my New Year's wish for you.