tip o the fez
Whether we like it or not, the people we love shape us. It usually happens in small ways, slowly, day in and day out. It’s not beaten into us, but absorbed through observation, dialogue, and experiences. It’s only when we’re older that we can honestly look at ourselves, look back over our lives and say… oh wow, I really am a product of my family and my environment.
It’s hard to convey how pivotal these homes were. Exactly what they meant to our community…every inch was created with love and hard work and sacrifice. So when the auctioneer yelled ‘SOLD’, there were gasps, tears, relief, and sorrow. We all felt it… a House of Dreams torn down. Which one would be next?
Growing up an immigrant in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, and being a part of a minority ethic group within the broader Turkish community, my clan stuck tightly together. We flocked together, celebrated together. We commiserated together. We prayed together. We helped each other in hard times, and in good, we played together, we ate from each other’s tables, and… we married one other.
Last night, I was lucky enough to be invited to a special cultural event…a Bed Making ceremony, or Krevati in Greek. It’s purpose? To bless the marital bed and promote fertility.
For years, as a child, Santa used to visit us on New Year’s Eve.
It never occurred to me that this was odd, that Santa visited other children on Christmas eve. I never questioned why he would drop in on my rambunctious community New Year’s Eve parties, looking suspiciously like my dad, sculling a glass of Raki and handing out gifts in great noise and merriment with everyone gathered around.
Is religion a part of culture, or culture a part of religion? Are they the same thing or different altogether? Perhaps they are both threads in the same fabric, so intertwined, so tightly woven that there is no longer a clear difference in the pattern, design or picture. No matter which way I look at it, for me, they are so embedded in each other that I just don’t know where one begins and the other ends.
I’m a massive coffee lover and coffee snob too – and there are two reasons I drink it. One, as a stimulant, especially in the mornings, and two, in social settings. I can enjoy a cuppa with friends, colleagues, family and I’m willing to pay for the privilege… but in the middle eastern culture, coffee has a higher purpose too.
The cup of coffee you drink can also hold your fortune.
A few days ago a family friend contacted me and revealed that as a young girl, when visiting my family home, she was always impressed by how progressive my sisters and I, and our parents were. She saw me and my family as trailblazers! That she viewed me as someone who was breaking tradition and leading the way to integrating into Australian life. But back then, that was not how I saw myself. Instead, I felt like the community black sheep.
With the second piece of baklava quickly evaporating in my mouth, and a halo of sugar happiness around me, I pondered why I’m suddenly so fixated on learning how to cook Turkish/Syrian/Middle Eastern food. It is, after all, time consuming, fiddly and difficult. It didn’t take me long to understand my own motivation. I want my children to have the same connection to food that I had. For me, food means family, and it means happiness. It means fulfillment and community. It means my past and my future.
Technology is great for closing the gap that physical distance creates with close family and friends living overseas, but no matter how great the technology, the image quality, the clarity of audio, nothing can close the gap during times of tragedy.
Every year we had an Easter Egg Cracking competition. Boiled and dyed Easter eggs were distributed to everyone, and each person challenged another to a ‘duel’ of sorts. One person would hold their egg tightly in their hand with only the very tip exposed. The challenger would whack the tip of theirs against it. The winning egg would be the one that didn’t crack. That egg would go on to challenge another, while the loser would get eaten. It was soooo exciting and so much fun. We received chocolate Easter eggs too, but they paled in comparison to the eggs we could duel with.
Cars zoom past. Beeping horns, the rumble of trucks. Tall trees, a type I’ve never seen before, provide patches of shade like a linear chessboard along the cracked concrete footpath. The brilliant sun is hot against my face and my body is sweaty under my wintry clothes.
Where is this place? Why did we leave home? I don’t know, but a sense of wonder and adventure lurks in my chest.
Tip o’ The Fez is a space I hope to express my thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences regarding culture, cultural conflict, cultural balance, assimilation and acculturation. I’d love it if you joined me in my journey.