Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The evening before a middle-aged man had called us over from our table in the central tea garden of this village, picturesquely situated in the midst of olive groves on the hills of the Aegan sea coast. Thinking we did not speak Turkish he made the gesture of a pair of scissors cutting, repeating "snippety-snipp" a couple of times, while pointing at an embarrassed 11-year-old on a bike, indicating that he was 'benim oğlum' -his male offspring. What he meant was "my son had his circumcision done". Seeing that we responded in Turkish, he then said "Tomorrow night will be the celebration. I love having guests, please come to the party!".
And so we did.

We arrived rather early in the morning. This way we had occasion to watch the ladies of the house prepare the feast for the evening. On the open charcoal hearths baby baths of broth were bubbling. An elderly woman dressed in a sharwal with flower print, wearing an equally colourful headscarf, was doing the round of them, sliding two entire blocks of butter into each pot, using wooden spoons so large and coarsely cut they ressembled oars. Next to her stood two buckets that held shiny, deep-green olive oil almost up to the brim, and at her feet in a massive marmite a white mountain of quivering hot rice was steaming. In a pan on the fire decapitated, plucked chicken jostled each other, slowly getting a tan. They resembled ugly and deformed human fetuses. On a spread-out newspaper on the ground next to them was waiting the concentration camp pile of those whose turn was yet to come. Later Keşkek, an Anatolian stew made of barley and chicken which is made on festive occasions would be prepared in marmites so gigantic, they used a tractor for stirring!
Noémie was on cloud nine. This was exactly the massive sort of Volxkeuken she always dreamt of organizing back home in Belgium.

The musicians arrived around noon. There were five of them: They had three different kinds of drums, a zurna -a wind instrument typically used at occasions like this-, and the singer also played the violin, which he had to hold at a strange angle away from his chin. The 11-year old kid whose party it was going to be, and who had just changed into his cream-coloured, gold-embroidered Persian prince costume replete with sceptre and triangular hat, which is traditionally reserved for the Circumcision celebration, started to dance with his friends. The boys spread their arms, snapping their fingers, and circled around each other as is the local fashion. After their dance, the child lit a cigarette. You could tell by his way of smoking this was by far not the first fag of his life. His uncle, a silver-haired man in his 50's, taunted him by asking: "Adam mı oldun?" -"So, we have become a man?".