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Yuvacali Kolu, Hilvan, Şanlıurfa Province

Modern Nomads or, How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)

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The guide books say that Şanlıurfa is where you start to 'feel the Middle East,' but I disagree. We have certainly left Europe behind, what I feel is more a connection with the mountains that stretch across Iran to India, and north of that the vast steppes and deserts of the Silk Road. This feels like the beginnings of Central Asia to me.

I just came back from Hilvan, or rather a small village just outside Hilvan. We've left the rough terrain of the Tigris behind us, and are now in the gentler (at least, this part is) Euphrates River basin. I haven't seen the Euphrates directly yet, but we could see the mist rising from it in the distance yesterday afternoon.

I've been moving quickly, which is not my style. From Hasankeyf I spent the morning in the Suriani stronghold of Midyat, then it was back to Mardin to visit a friend from İstanbul who is doing his medical service there. I got more out of one hour's wander with him than I did in two days of wandering solo. The next morning, Palm Sunday, I took a bus to Şanlıurfa, and from there to Hilvan, and from there to Yuvacali. Good luck finding that on a map.

The villages there were a strange mix of the ancient and the almost-modern. There were three of us, hosted through Nomad Tours Turkey. Our first stop was visit to a Turkmen nomadic family camped in a 'village.' The camp was four long tents and one smaller one. Two of the tents were for the sheep and lambs. Massive guard dogs lay outside. There were troughs and trucks and even water and electricity piped in from the closest houses.

It looked almost like a complete American farm, except that it could be packed up and moved every month. The nomads estimated that they spent only one month of the year in their home village. The rest of the year the village breaks up, each family moving with their flocks from pasture to pasture. They use trucks to haul the equipment, so at least in one respect their lives are easier than 2000 years ago.

The family was only two brothers, their two wives, and the six children of one of the couples. It seemed like there was a massive amount of work for such a small family, especially considering that women do most of the hard labor. That part, and the strict gender segregation, remained traditional.

And yet there was a television inside the tent!

More mysteries of Turkey. Or rather, of human nature. They have this exposure to a wider, more cosmpolitan, world, and yet seem completely bound to their own traditions.

The same with the Kurdish village we stayed in. The family was wonderful, and we enjoyed home cooked meals with food fresh from the farm throughout the day. You could see the connection to India in both the food and the names. There were no harsh spices, but we had peynir and yogurt in the morning, and the mother cooked naan over a wood fire for each meal.

The village sat on the base of a tell dating back to at least the Bronze Age. They have found pottery with cuneiform inscriptions on it. Once people say that a Roman sarcophagus washed out in a rain storm and crashed into the living room. The kids have collections of old coins, rings, and sherds that they have collected. So many civilizations have come and gone here.

There was also a strict gender segregation, and we heard brutal stories of what happens to those who violat them. Five years ago in İstanbul I met a guy who was heading back East to his village, and he intended to be the first man to come out openly as gay in traditional Kurdistan. Now I wonder if he survived. They might be heirs to forgotten empires - and though the first unıversities in the world were founded here - but this generation are farmers trapped in poverty and illiteracy, and defenders of a culture that is both beautiful and oppressive.

And yet each summer the men of this village head to Marmaris to work as bartenders at the pools and discos. I'm always amazed that people can jump back and forth between a Biblical-era lifestyle and a Babylonian one. In the Peace Corps we lived, briefly, in a traditional world. All of us came back. And the Micronesians who move to Hawai'i rarely move back home to the islands. I always thought it was a one way street, that you could move from the past to the present, but never back again.

These boys come back.

... cue music ...

How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm
(After They've Seen Paree)

Reuben, Reuben, I've been thinking
Said his wifey dear
Now that all is peaceful and calm
The boys will soon be back on the farm
Mister Reuben started winking and slowly rubbed his chin
He pulled his chair up close to mother
And he asked her with a grin

Chorus:
How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'
How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway
Jazzin around and paintin' the town
How ya gonna keep 'em away from harm, that's a mystery
They'll never want to see a rake or plow
And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow?
How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'

Rueben, Rueben, you're mistaken
Said his wifey dear
Once a farmer, always a jay
And farmers always stick to the hay
Mother Reuben, I'm not fakin
Tho you may think it strange
But wine and women play the mischief
With a boy who's loose with change

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'
How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway
Jazzin around and paintin' the town
How ya gonna keep 'em away from harm, that's a mystery
They'll never want to see a rake or plow
And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow?
How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'

http://www.firstworldwar.com/audio/howyagonna.htm

Posted by kanewai 23:54 Archived in Turkey

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