Village Life in Turkey

A Turkish woman picks fresh green onions from her garden for her family to eat during their picnic. She grows food to keep down the family's spending, as her husband is on costly kidney dialysis.

A Turkish woman picks fresh green onions from her garden for her family to eat during their picnic. She grows food to keep down the family’s spending, as her husband is on costly kidney dialysis.

Life in Yesilyuva is simple. It was easy to get used to the sound of sheep and roosters, the big communal meals, and the busy bazaar. Located in southwest Turkey, this small village sports a small population, where everyone knows each other. As foreigners, our presence was noticed.

Turkish women work at a dishwashing station, while all the men of the village feast to celebrate the marriage of a young man in town.

My visit lasted five weeks. I stayed with extended family, giving me the opportunity to become immersed in this new lifestyle.

Meals are a main attraction in Turkish culture, eaten cross-legged around family-style dishes on the floor. Food is picked and cooked the same day. Unlike America, meat is a minor dish in the Turkish diet, often substituted by vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and watercress. I ate a lot, but still found myself yearning for a bacon cheeseburger.

The culture shock was real. Prayers play over loudspeakers five times each day, and the sound of screaming sheep makes you miss the quiet rush of cars on the Highway 101. The stray cats and dogs milling about every corner make you grateful for your pets; fed, happy, and safe in their homes.

The ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma. Next to Delphi, Didyma was the most renowned oracle of the Hellenic world.

In America, we go to the grocery store when it’s convenient, making selections from a vast array of goods. In Turkey, there’s the Saturday bazaar. You can find anything from seeds to spices, toys to tomatoes. Greetings ring out at the sight of every cousin, friend, and coworker. There’s fruit you’ve never heard of, and enough characters to fill a stage. A glorious culmination of work, sustenance, and community.

It was at bazaar that I first noticed how much we stood out as visitors. My stepsister, Jackie, has blonde hair, uncovered and free of the traditional hijab. I sported Vans, Levis, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap, chatting it up in English with Jackie’s son, Okan. We stuck out like sore thumbs.

Taking this trip made me wonder why it is so many people have the desire to travel. Is it to see the world? Is it to expand their horizons? I think for me, it’s to better know if I am where I need to be. Being away for so long has brought a new vigor to my life. Five weeks in the poorer part of a foreign country has opened me to appreciate what I have. Take a trip and learn something about yourself.