I'm reminded by a
photo of the rubber plant that served as
the Christmas tree the first year I was there. Volunteers were gathered -
Ann Ringland, June Beale, Rick Ash (our rep), Lynda Wycoff - for a meeting,
I guess. Maybe it was a gathering to stave off the Christmas blues away from
home. A copper tray served for the coffee table.
I had invited my students over for a Bingo party during the season and took
a photo of all the shoes by the door. They mentioned Baba Noel to explain
Anderson (T-13), Gaziantep
The messages made me think about my Peace Corps Christmases
and especially about the last one. We sent an invitation to Jeanine Tonetti
and made it fancy with burned edges and big crosses and God knows what
else. I remember her talking about opening this piece of art at school.
Then we planned a pageant - not to really do it. I think Karin Bergmann
was supposed to be Baby Jesus - and Jeannine Mary - or maybe Jacob. It's
been so long ago I forget - but I remember we had lots of fun with that
invitation and our fake Christmas pageant. In terms of cross cultural
celebration I remember Armenian girls bringing us eggs and a yogurt dish - I
think it was at Easter - but it was very hush hush.
--Gretchen Nist LaTurner (T-8), Malatya
Our first Christmas in Adiyaman John and I
spent the whole day in Kahta teaching. I think maybe it was also Ramazan.
Maybe we went off to Gaziantep for the weekend, I don't remember for sure.
The second year Steve Clark showed up with a scrawny turkey, but maybe that
was Thanksgiving. I also recall an inebriated New Year's celebration in
Antep. Maybe others can sort out what was when. Jeannine might remember for
which holiday Steve brought the turkey. John will be here tomorrow and I'm
sure he will remember all the details and we'll send an update. I don't
think we ever even thought about a tree. Since nothing Christmassy was
happening around us I didn't miss it.
--Colleen Clark (T-4), Adiyaman
What I remember about Christmases in both
Turkey, and later in Iran, is that the holiday centered completely around
people, food, and that one day...there was, of course, no commercialism since
it wasn't a Muslim holiday, so the day was especially precious. In Kozan,
as volunteers, we wanted to have a Christmas tree, but it was against the
law to cut down a tree, since they were scarce in that area. Some Turkish
friends, knowing that we wanted to decorate a tree, cut down a big branch
from a pine tree (also illegal, I am sure) and brought it to us. We invited
all the children in the neighborhood to help us make decorations and
decorate the tree.
We also remember a New Year's Eve party at Ron Stegall's (CARE rep) house in
Adana, during which some vials of possible TB, on there way to Ankara with
some Peace Corps Nurses, got opened up and sprinkled about...not funny,
thought the PC doctors, and we all ended up having to go to Ankara to be
tested for TB....
--Mike and Judie Jerald (T-8), Kozan
We (Kay Zakariasen and I in Konya/Eregli, 65-67) also had a tree provided by
our neighbors, actually a large pine branch which we propped up in a corner
and decorated somehow. We celebrated and exchanged gifts with the same
neighbors, and the daughter of this Muslim family made me a kind of burlap
storage bag with a strap for my Bible so I could hang it on the wall, and
even embroidered the word "Bible" on it. I still have that bag, and of
course have not forgotten the kindness of these people.
--Carol Kocan, (T-8), Eregli, Konya
To answer Colleen's question - the Antep party was Dec
1965. My daughter has lost her passport and can't find it at her place, so
in ripping apart ours I ran into my journal:
The days before Christmas went busy and fast. Before we knew it, Karin
(Bergmann) was off to Erzurum and we were heading for Antep. On Christmas
Eve we got there in the late afternoon. The scenery on the way was so
pretty and white - Turkey looked like a big snow pile. Just after we got
there we all went to the American Hospital for Christmas service. It was
nice to see and talk to people we hadn't seen since September. Lots of
gossip of people leaving. That night there was beautiful Christmas music.
On Christmas Day we all watched the parade in Antep to celebrate the Turks'
victory from the French. There was lots of noise - children in national
costume, etc. We (Judy Moser & I) were shopping with a guy from CD and
John Thompson. We saw some shops for antique guns with new wooden parts
and also went to some antique shops and picked up our copper. Judy went
wild and got a new brass tray.
The party that night was just perfect - a mixture of Christmas and New Years
- with lots of holiday liquid spirits - if nothing else. We even had a
Santa Claus and the gifts were funny too. ..... We got to sleep just
as the Ramazan gongs were waking all Moslems to eat. The next day we spent
part of the morning at Joanne's (Omang) eating and talking then wished
everyone Happy New Year and left for home. Karin didn't come in that
Dec 24 1966 -
All went as planned, but the skit never got further than my "Hark! I bring
you tidings of great joy!" although Jeanine did bring an Arab headdress
for her part as Joseph.
--Gretchen Nist LaTurner (T-8), Malatya
I mentioned Christmas trees to my kids (in an
area where tree cutting was forbidden due to reforesting), I discovered a
tree at my door when I got up one morning. I went to a neighboring village
(I was in Sultandagi and this village was in those mountains) and thanked
them for the tree. I was served Dag tea (mountain tea) made from branches of
what looked like a tumbleweed almost and found it delightful and said so to
my hosts. The next day a year's supply of the branches to make the tea were
outside by door.
Still trying to figure out how the tea was made. It tasted not unlike
I remember a nice get together in Izmir for Christmas 1966.
It was my first trip to Izmir which I returned to several times.
It seems that a lot of trees and branches
were cut while we were there. Our first Christmas in Turkey also included a
large pine branch decorated with colorful ribbons and cloth, given to us by
our very dear Turkish friends. They brought gifts and food, and said they
knew we were missing our families and feeling homesick. They had gotten
permission to cut the branch, and their generosity made us feel that we were
"strangers in a strange land". After all these years, it remains one of my
most memorable Christmases.
--Judith Jenkins (T-4), Nigde