The Expat and the Cow Lady

by missfootloose on April 20, 2012 · 29 comments

in Expat foodie, Turkey

I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.  ~Caskie Stinnett

Dear readers, I may live the expat life in Moldova, but I keep footloosing it across its borders. I was in Italy in February, and here I am in the land of döner kebabı sandwiches, Mediterranean beaches and smiling people: Turkey.

Turkish market vendor

Smiling people everywhere!

We’re on the southwest coast in the small town of Koça Çaliş, with its stony beach, beautiful views and cows munching grass along the roads.

Sunshine, you ask? Well, yes, but some stormy weather and downpours as well; it is April after all, even in Turkey. The rain is said to come from Greece. From what I gathered, other unpleasant things are blamed on Greece as well, but I may have misunderstood the smiling man who spoke to us in a fabulously entertaining mix of English, Dutch and German.

This is my first visit to Turkey. I’m gobbling up the sounds, the sights and the food. My mate and I were lured to this place by Julia whose blog Turkey is for Life is a delicious mélange of posts about all the delights found in this area. Thank you, Julia!

From our rented house, I hear the waves of the Mediterranean wash ashore, doves cooing their love songs, and the call to prayer from a mosque. It’s all so peaceful and relaxing. Oranges hang like light bulbs from the trees. Mimosa is in full bloom. I’ve never seen mimosa before. Clearly I’ve been deprived.

Mimosa in Turkey
This morning I watched a woman pull a cow on a rope through the street. She was dressed in long, loose bloomers (salvar) and wore a headscarf knotted under her chin.

Turkish village woman

A few days ago I saw her sitting by the side of the road near our house, two cows munching the grass on a bare patch of land behind her. She was sitting on the ground, knees apart, knitting something bright pink. We exchanged a friendly merhaba and she offered a beautiful smile as we walked past her.

It occurred to me (being so profoundly philosophical for a weekday morning) that only the accident of birth separated us. Had I been born here in this small spot of Turkey, instead of Holland, I’d be wearing bloomers, tending cows and knitting something pink. I’d be going to the mosque rather than not going to church. Possibly I’d be perfectly content with my life as the woman seemed to be, but I would not have traveled the world, lived in many places, have the footloose life I have. I’d not even own a pair of jeans. Imagine that! I find these little thoughts humbling, don’t you?

As I look around me as we wander the streets or drive through the villages, I notice that everywhere in the coffee shops and outdoor cafés, groups of men are socializing, playing cards, drinking coffee or tea. Not a woman among them. Possibly my husband would be sitting there if I were a cow lady. Then again, he might be fixing the barn or plowing a field.

As always, the local market draws me like a fly to sugar. Mother Nature’s offerings appeal to me so much more than, say, the snack and soft drink aisles in a supermarket. The produce in the Fethiye market is stunning, the displays a delight to the eye. Nuts and spices make a work of art. The place is clean and cheery and no, not a fly in sight.

Turkish market

I love sitting in the pancake place in the market, eating a spinach and cheese gözleme while watching the women produce them one by one from scratch. Their efficiency and skill make a great show.

Turkish pancakes

Turkish pancakes, spinach and cheese filling

And then I’m thinking, I could have been a pancake lady rather that a cow lady if I’d been born here. Rolling dough, or making the filling or cooking the gözleme. And instead one of these women could be sitting here in my chair, a gawky tourist taking photos.

And if I were a Turkish pancake lady, or a cow lady, what would I think of Miss Footloose? Probably nothing at all. After all, she’s only a tourist.

(Yes, I’ve got more. Come back next week.)

* * *

Do you have any deep thoughts about being a tourist? Please offer me your two liras worth of philosophy or opinion. I can’t wait!

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy April 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

This is awesome. Those pancakes make me hungry!!


Pat April 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

Interesting thought about random luck determining into which place, culture and family we are born. It will certainly inspire me to look at the locals in a new light on my next X-pat adventure. No immediate travel plans on the horizon, so I will look forward to your next adventure.
Pat recently posted..Geneva: Chic City Streets by FootMy Profile


missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

Our birth really is one thing we have no control over. In my travels I often wonder about what my life would look like if I’d been born in a different country and culture. It makes me grateful for my luck of having been born in Holland and I try not to take it for granted.


bettyl April 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I love your photos! Everything is so colorful. Sorry, no deep thoughts to offer.
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Judy April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I’ve often thought … “There but for an accident of birth …” not just when travelling but also at home. It’s a good thought to have. In fact just 2 days ago I heard Gen. Rick Hillier speak (former Chief of Canadian Defense). He’s a lively guy, a Newfie with a wicked sense of humour and probably a great person to have a beer with. His opening line was “Didn’t we all win the lottery? To be here living in Canada?” As someone who’s seen a lot of tough situations, I know he spoke from the heart.
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missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 9:55 am

Rick Hillier certainly did good by reminding Canadians, and yes, I won the lottery too, being born in Holland. I’m often reminded of that when I see beggars or handicapped people living in poor countries: There but for the grace of God go I. I really try not to take my good fortune for granted!


Jenn B April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I love the juxtaposition of the Coca Cola bottle while the ladies are making the pancakes! That look fabulous, but the way, I want one!


missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

Hi Jen! Yes, I noticed the Coca Cola bottle too. It has oil in it that is used for frying the pancakes, which are made with a soft flat bread rather than a batter. Not as quick and easy to make in a home kitchen or I’d make you some in May 😉


Joy (My Turkish Joys) April 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Gözleme is one of my favorite Turkish street foods! We often enjoy ours on Saturday mornings while shopping at the pazar in our neighborhood. Enjoy your travels in Turkey!

There are so many wonderful places to visit and ancient ruins to see. We are off to see the 17-th century Ottoman houses in Safranbolu this weekend. Can’t wait!
Joy (My Turkish Joys) recently posted..Lale Excitement in IstanbulMy Profile


missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

We’re having a great time in Turkey and we’ll certainly be back. Haven’t even been to Istanbul yet!


Turkey's For Life April 21, 2012 at 11:34 am

Great to meet you! So good to put real life faces to photo faces and writing. Glad you enjoyed your time being a tourist in Turkey and we’ll be enjoying being out and out, unashamed tourists next week, too – that’s right after we’ve had a meet-up with the lady above, Joy. What a coincidence. 🙂 Nice to be a blogger.
Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Turkish Food: Konya Etli EkmekMy Profile


missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Hi Julia. Great fun to meet you in real life! You live in a gorgeous place in Turkey and now that I’ve been there it will even be more interesting reading your blog. See you in cyberspace.


Cally April 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

What a wonderful post! Thoughtful, evocative, beautiful photos. I’m so glad Julia tempted you to Fethiye and then let us know you’d posted about it. I will certainly be back to read more.

As for deep thoughts… I’m on deep thought overload having been recently offered the chance to do exactly that – swap my life in Scotland for a life in Fethiye (having reconnected with a long lost love). So reading this post got right to the heart of my current thoughts.

I too loved the juxtaposition of the coke bottle and pancake making, though I’m guessing from the pale colour that it was not coke inside, but some fabulous local elixir, or maybe tea.

Thanks for sharing your thought and photo’s. I really enjoyed your writing style too.


missfootloose April 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Cally, nice to meet you! I hope your new life in Fethiye will be exciting, and that you’ll have a bit of a garden for growing things, which I read on your blog is what you love to do. The soil and climate in the area around Fethiye is fabulous for gardening. We saw entire hedges of rosemary, all sorts of blooming plants, loads of aloe vera, even banana plants. I’ll write some more about our trip next week.

The Coca Cola bottle on the photo has oil in it for frying the pancakes. The world over these types of bottles are used and reused for storing everything from gasoline to olive oil. Best to know which is what 😉


Jack Scott April 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

It’s always a relief when we Turkey bloggers encourage people to visit our fosterland and, when they do, they actually like it!
Jack Scott recently posted..Wacky WeatherMy Profile


Mara April 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Deep thoughts? Nope, can’t help you on that.

You keep talking about being a cow lady or a pancake lady. What about being Prime Minister of Turkey? There was one you know: a woman PM! You could have been it if you had been born in Turkey!!
Mara recently posted..Goodbye Norway, hello NetherlandsMy Profile


missfootloose April 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

True! Imagine, me the Prime Minister of Turkey! And, being born in Holland, I could have been a farmer’s wife, or a bus driver. You just never know, do you? 😉
missfootloose recently posted..The Expat and the Cow LadyMy Profile


Mara April 25, 2012 at 12:33 am

Ah, a busdriver! That sounds like a great job!!
Mara recently posted..Well, that’s new!My Profile


edj April 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I used to often have that “there but for the grace of God go I” kind of thought in Mauritania, watching even the better-off women walk down the street, their worlds made up almost entirely of their families and tribes, knowing little of the life of the mind. It’s humbling, isn’t it?

And I want to go to Turkey too! 🙂
edj recently posted..Why Everyone Should Have Arab FriendsMy Profile


Ayngelina April 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I envy you for being so close to other cultures.

Interesting fact about East Coast Canada, we are the home to a twist on the doner – the donair. It`s the same idea of spiced ground beef on a spit that is shaved and put into a pita BUT we have donair sauce that is a mix of icing sugar, white vinegar and condensed milk. Sounds disgusting but is a true East Coast treat that you cannot find in Western Canada.


Connie Chiwa April 22, 2012 at 1:29 am

Beautiful blog, thank you! Just off to Japan again , now six times! But six times to Turkey too….since the sixties ,mind you, but as recent as last year. We now enjoy renting cars and finding our own “hidden ” treasures….like the Datca road to Knidos and Palamat Boku or Ucagiz etc. and we do the same in Japan on Kyushu and Shikoku…
It’s easy, once you are underway everything follows…


Grace @ Sandier Pastures April 22, 2012 at 8:25 am

Oh I love this post! You just took me to Turkey with you!
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Walter Knight April 22, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Well, someone has to watch that cow.


Sonia Marsh/GutsyLiving April 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Now I know where you are. How come you get to travel so much? Too many vacations? Just kidding, but you know how few Americans leave home. How was the pancake? They look huge; enough for 3 people.
I also noticed that CocaCola bottle. What’s inside? Not iced tea, I’m sure.
Sonia Marsh/GutsyLiving recently posted..“My Gutsy Story” by Keren-Niccole BunnellMy Profile


Kelly April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

Thank you so much for showing such a lovely view of Turkey! I’ve Turkish friends I actually met playing online games, of all things, and I’ve been hoping for a chance to go visit someday.
Kelly recently posted..Ways The US is Better Than PeruMy Profile


ladyfi April 27, 2012 at 6:48 am

Sounds so lovely and peaceful and rural.. .I could definitely be a cow lady as long as I can keep the cow until she dies (and not kill her for meat)…
ladyfi recently posted..Swan lakeMy Profile


inka May 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I am an expat in Turkey and was delighted to read your post. As for the philosophy: I just went on a trip to Cappadocia with Turkish old age pensioners. No other foreigner on the bus, only me and I was immediately ‘adopted’ like a long lost friend. Yes, it’s the small things which make all the difference.


Cathie May 24, 2015 at 10:48 am

Beautiful post. I tend to travel alone, and have done so through Europe, the ME and along the west coast of Africa. I have often thought the same in many of the countries I’ve visited. I am without doubt fortunate in the location of my birth.

What travel has shown me is the reality of life and decisions is not black and white as the media would have you believe.

Everything in life is about context, and people make choices based on a much wider picture than we see in more developed countries. I think it comes down to the issue of ‘westerners’ applying their privileged values upon other countries.
An example being child labour in developing countries. We are advised to not purchase from companies who use children in the work force.
I agree that all children should have a good education and not have to work. The reality however is that oftentimes the child is the only breadwinner. What then happens to a family without income? Simple, they starve, and slip further and further into poverty.
So, what have I learned? Don’t see an action in isolation, and never judge.


missfootloose June 4, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Thank you for commenting, Cathie. I know what you are saying about child labor in developing countries. Having lived in developing countries I have learned, like you, to not see an action in isolation — it’s too simplistic. And judging while standing in the sidelines simply is naive at best.


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