'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

A Stitch In Time . .

. . an appropriate title for a trip back in time to 2004. J and I were on one of our periodic wanderings around the east of the country; Erzurum in general and the ‘almost’ town of Çat in particular. ‘Almost’, because the place is only about the size of a village and had to be twinned with another village a few kilometres away to qualify as a town.

Before I get back to the appropriateness of the title, here’s some background. We were there visiting our ‘son’ who was the resident kaymakam with responsibility for an area covering some 30 villages. One of the splendid bonuses on these trips is getting to ‘shadow’ him as he goes about his daily tasks and visits to outlying parts of his ‘empire’.

So it was that we were on our way to a village, where there was a project to raise the status and earning ability of many of the young women by teaching them skills to do with machine embroidery. There was to be an exhibition and a presentation of certificates and, of course, the inevitable speeches.

Our official car was followed by a convoy of minibuses filled with bureaucrats; most were happy to get some time away from the office, but there were a fair number who were decidedly glum-looking. Knowing the attitude of many of these pen-pushers towards those they consider a lower form of life; our man had instituted a programme that demanded all managers attend any function of this type where they were required to smile and be nice to the people/natives.

In the centre of the village we were met by the muhtar and his delegation – not a woman was to be seen apart from J who is usually deferred to as an honorary man on these occassions. We were escorted to the education building where the young ladies and their teacher, along with all their proud mums, were gathered. The young ladies were dressed in their conservatively elegant ‘Sunday best’, and looked splendid!

Our man’s speech was radical to say the least; he informed the ladies and their men-folk that women were the equal of any man, not least because the Republic said it was so. He also encouraged them to use their new skills to create some financial independence. There was much mumbling by the men and much giggling behind hands by the ladies!

The presentations were made with all of the ‘protokol’ (including J and me) required to take our turn. You could see the reluctance of some bureaucrats to demean themselves (except the boss was watching), until that is, it was time for the group photo.

The protokol, as is their wont, rushed to the front, smoothing their hair and adjusting their suits, in the process hiding the stars of the day completely! That was too much for J who set about organising the group and, with one persistent exception, bringing the young ladies to the front – possibly a first for Turkey!

Photos done, it was time to view the exhibition of the students’ work and we trooped into the display. A picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll let some photos speak for what we saw; suffice to say that my reaction was to grin like a Cheshire Cat – it had that kind of effect!

‘Congratulations!’ and he meant it

the work is so beautiful – J surrounded by proud family members

proud student and her work

shy student, proud family, opportunistic bureaucrat!

J with a proud teacher and her students

At one point this young girl brought the room to silence as she sat and sang to us; her voice, I remember, was quite something! ‘Silver Treads and Golden Needles . .’

 Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

12 thoughts on “A Stitch In Time . .

  1. Aah, the thorny issue of equality. I’ve always thought of the fairer sex as superior considering what they have to put up with.

  2. Fab day – This is what finding out what Turkey is all about. Not being holed up in one of those all inclusive hotels serving watered down beer on tap!

    1. . . spot on Natalie! So many people we talk to about our travels say the same thing, ‘Oh! You are so brave!’ I suspect it is the same when you chat over a beer back home – turning off the autobahns of life is much more rewarding.

  3. That posting was so, so inspiring. Women and girls, who by virtue of their talent and hard work bring beauty into our lives are recognized for how valuable their contribution is! Your ‘son’ sounds like such a superior human being for spearheading the project and for forcing the bureaucrats to behave as though they, too, were part of the human race. And good on J for shoving their mugs to the side during the photo op.

    1. . . in my experience women contribute more to ‘life’ than men. J and our ‘son’ have enjoyed some pretty radical chats, and he takes so much on board. His speeches and meetings are often peppered with stuff from her (having a parrot springs to mind, but I wouldn’t dare say that!).

  4. Great post. Loved that J reshuffled everyone on the photo so the ladies could get to the front! We went to see a turtle being released back into the wild a few years back and that was the same. All the guys who’d worked so hard to rescue it were stuck behind the suited dignitaries for the newspaper photos but hadn’t shown any interest a few minutes previously as the turtle’s rehabilitation was explained to us. Hope these ladies are still producing their fine work.

    1. Hi Julia! Our man is certainly ‘unconventional’ by local standards; as for the young ladies and their work, I don’t think they are going to forget the skills they’ve learned – some sort of cooperative would seem a logical step forward, but I don’t know.

  5. I was pleased to learn that the present government is paying some families in the East the equivalent of the minimum wage if they send their girls to school. If the schooling stops, the money stops. That’s progress of a sort.

    1. J and I have seen first hand some really positive use of government funds in the form of relief for various individual/family needs. I have mixed emotions about it because I believe that everyone is entitled to a dignified life – at the same time, the situation is what it is, and a humane application of the rules of the system is much better than nothing at all.

  6. Seems like you and J have a great stich time and I am happy to know that the Government in the east are paying attention to pay some families to send their girls to school. Thanks for sharing this I was having so much time to learn while reading this.

    1. It was a really nice visit, and there are parts of the bureaucracy that works well for people, but there is also much that doesn’t.

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