Chapter 38    December 5, 2007- January 15, 2008

Did we say “Stay tuned for complete photos of the finished saloon?”  Has Christmas come and gone? Impossible! Sharon has a favorite saying, “Life is what happens when you didn’t plan it that way”. Well, everything we planned didn’t happen. Our sole refinisher decided the varnish required a week to dry between coats so we are still struggling with coat #8. Jobs #2 and #3 are being re-evaluated. The rebuild of the hatches has been allocated to John. He is faster, more thorough, far more meticulous and a whole lot cheaper. The Formica in the galley is being installed by weeks end.


 And Christmas.  Well, that’s hard to celebrate in a Muslim country. But we did put our best foot forward. We orchestrated a progressive dinner on three boats here in our marina. Hor d’oeuvres were aboard a Swedish boat with pickled herring, eggs and caviar and Norwegian salmon. The traditional turkey and mashed pumpkin was celebrated American style. And dessert was hosted by us aboard our friend’s boat with Viennese Chocolate Mousse and a Pear and Pomegranate Crostata. So it did feel a little like Christmas while we were eating. We had the Christmas carols blasting for weeks prior to Christmas but the lack of twinkling lights, gay carolers, bustling street shoppers, Salvation Army bell ringers, snow and cold was glaringly obvious. So Christmas just wasn’t like any other year. But we have each other and all the joy that comes with our lives. The pristine skies, 68 degree temperatures and the endless exquisite mountains that hug the marina reminded us that there is another way to celebrate. For this we are truly grateful.


We did fit in a party here and there!


About the party. All electricity went out just minutes after all guests arrived. When our hostess (a powerhouse in the marina community) frantically expressed her concerns and interrogated the marina staff she learned the situation had gained immediate attention. She was assured power would be restored by dinner time. The local electrician who was severely afraid of heights could not climb to the top of the pole to solve the problem but his competitor from twenty miles away would arrive in less than two hours! Problem under control! And we did have a hot dinner!


The feast celebrated in Turkey while we were celebrating Christmas is called Seker Bayram. It is a three day festival that celebrates the end of Ramazan, the holy month similar to Lent. Fasting during Ramazan is one of the five pillars of Islam and for thirty days a good Muslim lets nothing pass their lips during daylight hours. No eating, drinking or smoking. Bayram is a festive time referred to as the “Sweet Holiday”. Children go from door to door in search of sweets and treats. Family and friends gather to drink tea. This “sweet” holiday is observed by all. Our Swedish friends were stopped mid-day by the Jandarma (local police) when biking to visit friends. They were immediately alarmed because they were not carrying identification which is necessary at all times. Armed with the best excuses they could come up with in a flash, they were approached. But the Jandarma didn’t interrogate them at all. Instead, they extended their hand with a fistful of sweets.


Seker Ramazan is followed by Kurban Bayram, and is the most important religious and secular holiday of the year. This is the Festival of the Sacrifice. The festival commemorates Ibrahim’s near sacrifice of Ismael, the same story as biblical Abraham and Isaac. Every year about four million rams, camels and/or cows are sacrificed. Every head of a household who can afford to buys a beast to sacrifice. Immediately following early morning prayer on the first day of the holiday, the head of the household slits the animal’s throat. One third of the meat goes to the poor, and this must be the best part. Another one third goes to your neighbor and the last one third is kept for your own family. The most significant tradition of this holiday is that everyone makes amends with anyone they may have offended during the course of the year.  We learned from our Turkish teacher that this is earnestly observed. What a nice tradition.


The marina threw a nice Christmas Eve party for those of us living aboard.  It was nice of them to help us celebrate, knowing we are all so far from home.  A feature of the party is the Christmas Present Drawing.  One-by-one, the tickets are pulled from the bin, and the presents could be anything from a free haircut to discounted laundry services, to apparel donated by the local shops.  John’s ticket number was pulled about half-way through.  He won!!!


Only to discover he had incorrectly heard the number called, and he actually lost!  Aww….


New Years festivities abound here in Turkey. Turks celebrate the evening with family and friends enjoying homemade food and drink and playing tombala (a form of bingo). At midnight ladies give each other red knickers symbolizing the hope that the recipient will never be short of new clothes in the New Year. We traveled over to the larger marina outside town to celebrate with friends. The food was superb and the entertainment was fabulous. The tradition on New Years Eve in Turkey is belly dancing. So there were two professional belly dancers performing after dinner. It was phenomenal. They were beautifully dressed, of course, with tiaras and fringe in all the right places. It was wildly entertaining.


We hired a small bus called a dolmus to take us to and from the party. But we learned later that we exceeded the limit by two. The driver consented to take the extra two people only if we would agree to share in the expense of the fine should we encounter one. We agreed, of course, but resolved that the two most petite women would be referred to as children should a problem arise. Cute children, yes?


There are other interesting tidbits that keep us involved and interested in local community events such as the Ladies Holiday Bazaar. There were homemade everythings from cake, breads, pies and chutneys to hand-knit baby items and crocheted toilet paper holders.


Then there was the Children's Art Opening. All proceeds go to "Send the Girls to School Foundation". It was very sweet. And every week we frequent the market at Beldibi. We ride our bikes and visit our favorite ladies for the freshest produce in town and hit the bakery on the way back. Big Sunday treat.


Also worth mentioning is the Turkish Bazaar which houses hundreds of vendors selling clothing, jewelry, antiques, ceramics, carpets, silver, you name it. Sharon headed out on a search for some perfume recently.  After a bit of shopping around she chose an American brand but didn’t like the price so she returned it to the shelf where she took it. The merchant said to her “When you see the sign in other shops that says 3 for 30 TYL, don’t believe it. They’re fake”. Sharon said “Really?” He assured her it was true. Eventually she decided on another brand and as she was driving away she said “By the way, is mine real?” He said “Oh no. Nothing’s real in Turkey. Only the sun”. She laughed hysterically and drove away. Turkey’s great.


In between the galley refit, the painted overhead and varnished sole we are re-caulking all the stanchion plates on deck. In fact, we are making a master carpenter out of John. He has spent three weeks rebuilding our hatches. Our Turkish refinisher was far too slow and we finally decided we could wait no longer. We received a second bid that was so astronomical that we decided to tackle it ourselves. John did a better job than any professional because he was meticulous in his work, all the time fearing he would make a mistake. We will soon have beautifully varnished non-leaking 30 year old hatches that look brand new. So for those of you who thought we watch videos and sip tea in mid afternoon in the winter months you can see you were seriously wrong. We’re working hard. But we have long dreamy sails in the Aegean to look forward to when the work is all done.


Güle güle!