An early breakfast back at the hostel, and on the bus again for another long trip including a cargo ferry trip across the Euphrates. Our destination was a tiny village near Sanliurfa, to stay overnight in a family’s home – for an authentic peek into the lives of a ‘Turkish’ family. The family were beautiful, welcoming, eager to please and delightful! The experience is as much great for them as it is for us – as it gives their children a chance to practice their English and opens their minds to the wider world. It also widens our own minds – as we discover and change our perceptions of middle eastern way of life.

A typical family home has 2 main rooms – one room for the whole family to sleep in, and the other for eating and for guests to sleep in. There is a small kitchen and an outdoor roof top space that they sleep on during the summer months. Next to their humble house, was a couple of stables with a few cows and some goats. They also own chickens that run free around their yard. It is the womans job to milk the goats, cook, clean and wash clothes.

The girls of our group had a go at milking a goat – not as easy as it looks! Especially with a baby goat trying to head-butt us out of the way for some dinner! We also watched Pera make flat bread – quite impressive was the speed and the ease in which she made it. All the food they eat is home grown and home made. We had a feast for breakfast and dinner! To eat, we would sit in the dining /guest room on the carpeted floor around a plastic table-cloth mat. The food would be spread out before us, and we’d eat with our hands.

The family kindly gave up their room so that we could use two rooms to sleep in. It was squishy, but fun.I made friends with their 9 year old daughter – Aylin. She was a bit shy at first, but warmed up quickly when we found some common ground in clapping games. She recited songs in Turkish while I tried to keep up with her clapping patterns. Quite a few laughs at times when I obviously had no idea! I was her playmate for most the evening then! Her two older brothers aged 16 and 17 were keen to engage in conversation with the rest of us with their broken English. They had such beautiful smiles and open honest faces, and were very respectful and loving towards their parents. It was refreshing to spend time with such a warm loving family!
Toilet paper was often a topic of interest during our travels. In the middle-east, and parts of Turkey people don’t generally use toilet paper – which we found interesting. (It is funny how we are brought up with a certain way of doing things we consider completely normal, assuming everyone else in the world does the same and then to discover they don’t and we each believe each-others way is a bit weird!) Because of this, their sewerage system doesn’t handle toilet paper all that well, and so we were constantly reminded by Jess that our used toilet paper needed to be discarded into either a waste bucket in the cubicle or just on the floor near the toilet. To break the habit of ‘wipe and drop’ ingrained in us was really hard! It became ‘wipe, think, look around for the bucket, drop carefully so as not to offend the next person…’. Most of us agreed that using the squats actually made things much easier than the normal western toilet.

Originally written for Intriguing Abstractions and Curious Diversions