Kurban Bayram, Sacrifice Holiday

So today was the second day back to work for many and for me back to Turkish classes after Kurban Bayram, sacrifice holiday.  It’s the third holiday I’ve seen so far while I’ve been here including Şeker Bayram, (sugar holiday) ending the monthly fast of Ramadan, and Cümhuriyet Bayram (Republic Holiday) celebrating the creation of the Turkish republic in 1923.  But to me, and I think to many others its one of the stranger Muslim holidays.  To me the holiday itself is not strange, just how it is celebrated drastically differently by people in Turkey.  There seems to be two drastically different views of the holiday by the Turks.

The holiday itself remembers when Abraham was going to sacrifice his son but instead sacrifices an animal.  Families sacrifice a sheep or cow and split the meat between family, friends and neighbors and give the rest to the poor.  Some people even give organizations money for a sheep to be donated solely to the poor.  So the holiday has the right idea of giving back to others.  But instead many see it as cruel and animal torture.  The government has enforced rules that people can only slaughter the animals at approved locations.  This is literally so the process is cleaner unlike the past (and still sometimes now) it is done in people’s backyards or out on the streets and the blood is left spilling down the street.  Instead this is a cleaner fashion.

But many families don’t nearly celebrate this way.  They think the sacrifice is cruel and brutal.  Instead they use the holiday as a time to travel abroad or visit family members.

Talking to people before and after the holiday asking them what they were doing some were proud to say their family made a sacrifice.  (One family I know had split a cow between six families)  Others I asked answered with a grunt-like, ashamed, yes that their family sacrificed an animal.  I’m not sure if the sad answer was since they disapprove of their family’s tradition or because they were afraid I would judge them.  And those that didn’t celebrate with a sacrifice, when I asked they made it clear with an affirmative, no way does my family do that.

The holidays is four days long and one of the first three days families usually do the sacrifice.  I was in Ankara on the first day of the holiday and in the afternoon I was looking out of my window to see bunches of men with rain bloody rain/work boots carrying bags and buckets.  It was strange to realize those three men were probably all carrying one sheep.

Later when I went out that afternoon I realized that the local site for the preparation was right on my street just down the hill.  On my way back home I stopped by to look for a second and asked a man in Turkish if I could take a picture.  He had no clue what I said and told me to wait for his son getting out of the car who knew English.  So I then asked him.  And he said yes you can just don’t write anything bad, you know it’s just religion right?  So once again it may have been the assumption that the foreigner thinks it’s cruel, or maybe just that I am with the other side of Turks that disagree.  I find it funny how there is a drastic love and hate by the same people for the same holiday.

I did not partake in any sacrifices in fact people probably even thought it was strange I stepped foot in the pavilion where the sacrifice was, since I realized after a second I was the only female there.  With most of my Turkish friends in Ankara busy visiting family and many of my foreigner friends dating Turks busy visiting their boyfriend or girlfriend’s family I wasn’t sure what to do for the holiday.  My Turkish teacher was asking me what I was doing and when it was just a couple days before the holiday and I still wasn’t sure she invited me to her house for the holiday.  She was like you can’t do nothing.  Especially since Ankara was empty for the holiday.  I saw tons of people out at bars on Friday and Saturday night before the holiday, many with suitcases showing they had just arrived, but Monday and Tuesday there was barely anyone around and nothing open.  The busiest place I found was the bus terminal itself.  Even at midnight when I boarded my bus to izmir.

So I spent three and a half days in Izmir on the Aegean coast with my teacher and a bunch of her friends.  It was great the weather was beautiful at the bay.  We ended up going to one of their summer houses about an hour away at çeşme.  It was so warm there that we were even able to go swimming.  So I definitely didn’t celebrate in the traditional way, but it was great.

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Hello world!

So I’ve finally started a blog for my time in Turkey.  I’ve been here for two months in Ankara, the capital city.  But I know a lot of you have been asking, what are you up to…what are you doing… Well, now I’ll finally let you know.  The past two months I have been taking intensive Turkish classes every weekday from 9-1.  But starting this week until August I will be working on historical conservation and restoration research.  So now that my Fulbright fellowship period has started, its only suitable to start blogging.

You would think being here for two months I would be perfectly settled in.  Well I’ve found a good group of friends both in the Turkish and international community.  But on the bureaucratic front there are still things to be sorted out.  For example I have been waiting for a residence permit for about a month.  Supposedly with the combination of research and studying Turkish at University I have created my own category that is neither research or student visa worthy.  What a surprise I don’t fit easily into a category.  I am also still waiting for my phone to work.  But thankfully I have been given a loaner for the year.  In both instances I have been told, “bekliyoruz” meaning “we are waiting” but every time I am unsure if that is said just to get me out of the Turkcell phone store or the Police Station.  As with most processes in Turkey progress is slow but in the end no one worries.  So I’ve learned to not worry about such things, otherwise I would go crazy with all the running around I have been doing.

But beyond bureaucracy life has been good.  I have one turkish friend that is always telling me, life is beautiful.  So that has been my motto as I’ve been sightseeing around the city and meeting new people.  So far so good.  And more details to come soon!

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