Over the years, I've worked in a number of offices, and I've managed various staff members. Some were good, some were great, and some were, well, they gave me lots of practice in writing performance reviews. These days, my "staff" is limited to a cleaning lady who helps me out two days a week. Luxurious according to US standards, I know.
And, honestly, I think sometimes she manages me more than I manage her, teaching me how to make various Turkish recipes, tsk-tsking me when I go out the door without my hair being perfectly dry, zipping up the kids coats and they bolt out the door to school, and instructing me on what we should do about the ants in the kitchen.
I like to think that I was a fair boss, sympathetic to work/life balance issues and reasonable in my expectations. I understood the need to leave early for a doctor's appointment, catch a child's school performance, or even take the occasional mental health day, as long as there was no abuse of the system. So when Nurcan, my cleaner, explained yesterday that she might need to leave early, it was OK with me. In my Tarzan Turkish, I asked if everything was OK, if her daughter was fine, and she gave me a reason that I can honestly say I've never heard before:
Our cow is going to give birth.
A rapid exchange of Q&A: Inek var mi??!! You have a cow? Evet, inek var. Yes, I have a cow. She uses the international sign for pregnant - hands together outlining a large balloon shape from one's belly. You have a COW? Yes, a cow. And the COW is pregnant. I surmise that it is indeed the cow that's pregnant, and I haven't misunderstood her need for a obstetrician visit of some sort. Don't ask me where the bull is in the scenario. My Turkish doesn't extend to reproductive processes or IVF vocabulary.
She doesn't live on a farm. She lives in a nearby village on a street with other houses next door. Not exactly center city but not exactly country, either. I ask Darcy, who has been to her house for a birthday party that Lucas and I had to miss because of the flu. Yeah, she confirms the existence of a cow. Nurcan's father-in-law offered for the kids to come over sometime and visit the cow.
So now I'm planning on a visit to the non-farm that's in the middle of the suburbs to see the baby calf next week. I can't even begin to imagine what we will find.
On a side note, Nurcan covers her head (except when she's cleaning), though her sisters-in-law who live with and nearby her, do not. We had a interesting conversation the other day about the whole head scarves in university debate that's currently the hot topic in Turkey. When I asked why she did and her sisters-in-law didn't, she simply said, "I'm Muslim." She explained that her family wore headscarves and she started when she was nineteen. She had some problems with her hair being dry and a doctor told her it was better to keep it covered to prevent it from falling out. Interesting. That and the fact that her father told her to cover it. It's times like that when I wish my Turkish was far better than it is.