Christmas Eve Feast in the Classroom
This was Tatiana's first Christmas away from her family in Peru, and the first we'd be celebrating together as a little family of our own. All that was important to her was that we spent it together, in the company of a warm host and home. …and that there was food—lots and lots of food. (I certainly still remember such things from Christmas at her family home last year.)
Our hostess, Neşe, has certainly provided the cozy home and warm spirit. She's really fallen for little Aidric, and has (thankfully) extended her invitation to keep us around long past the initial two-night offer she'd saved us with back in Bulgaria. The mood was set for our Islamic Christmas.
Show and Tell (and Taste)
With no particular plans in mind for today, Neşe stepped in and insisted that we attend her adult English class (something she normally does with her CouchSurfing guests). She's an English teacher by trade (having been as much for the better part of two decades), and in addition to teaching at the high school level, also teaches an evening course to somewhere between a dozen and 20 adult students once or twice a week.
To sweeten the deal on getting us out of the house in the rather miserable weather, she told us something that was supposed to be a bit of a surprise: Some of the students would be cooking for us. There was no need to go out and plan a Christmas Eve dinner on our own, we'd be taken care of.
The experience was actually quite entertaining, and Aidric was doing great getting passed around from admirer to admirer (until the end of the evening, when he was getting very sleepy and a bit too over stimulated). One woman in the class, Emine, actually stayed up all night cooking for us and knitting a beautiful gift for him: a pair of blue booties and a matching scarf. What a sweetheart!
Of course, we told everyone that we were already married (as that's just what's expected in this culture), and answered some questions out of left field (like "what's your favorite male actor?"). People seemed more interested in asking Tatiana questions than me (perhaps because I was mostly minding Aidric), but of course the girls swooned when they heard that I cook, change diapers, and do all those other things that men typically distance themselves from in this culture.
I'm looking laughably haggard in one of the photos below (though I do like how the writing on whiteboard behind me lines up). Walking through the rain and sleet to get to the classroom certainly left me feeling about as worn as I looked, but the good thing about Turkey is that there's almost always a hot cup of tea waiting for you wherever you go.
The homemade food was absolutely amazing. Full bellies were accompanied by even more satisfied taste buds. Many of the culinary flavors and textures we'd never experienced before, making the experience all the more rewarding.
Some of items merrily indulged in:
- Çiğ köfte: meaning literally "raw köfte" in Turkish, eaten by by sandwiching it within a lettuce leaf. Deliciously spicy.
- Dolma: perhaps the best-known is the grape-leaf dolma, served to us this evening (in addition to another variety).
- Su böreği: meaning "water pastry" in Turkish, is a type of baked or fried filled pastry, made of a thin flaky dough and are filled with salty cheese (often feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables.
- A batch of homemade baklava and a box of lokum (Turkish delight) also made for big smiles.
What a night!