“Do you drink?” Füsun asked me as I got in her car.
“Yeah, sometimes I guess,” I tried to respond coyly.
“Oh, wonderful! You’ll come over for dinner next week and meet my husband. Make sure to bring wine, though! We both drink.”
“Yes, yes! I am a modern Muslim! I don’t cover – I think covered women look so ugly – and I drink. A modern Muslim, I am a modern Muslim woman!” Füsun continued to rant like this switching between broken English and Turkish on the ten minute ride she gave me from the campus shopping market to my apartment.
“Really!” she insisted, bright red dyed hair glinting in the street lights in front of the apartment, “We would love to have you over for dinner next Wednesday. Okay?”
“Uh, yeah, sure” I smiled back at her.
“Wonderful! See you then, iyi akşamlar!” hung in the air as she sped away back to her own apartment.
I grabbed dinner last night with Füsun and her husband, Muhittin – a wonderful mild mannered man who spoke almost impeccable English. Although they had both already eaten, they insisted I come over for dinner with them after I got off work. Before they even served food they asked what I would like to drink – wine or beer.
Choosing beer, and with a huge platter of food in front of me, the two also had a beer each prompting an undisturbed flow of conversation for close to three hours. At first the conversation stayed close to teaching and learning English, but then strayed to travel and their time living in Florida 18 years ago when they had a research grant.
“We loved it there,” Muhittin said with a smile. “The people were good and the weather was beautiful.”
“Like Antalya,” Füsun chimed in.
“When was the last time you went back?” I asked.
“Last summer. Our son loved it. We gave him shots in secret,” Muhittin laughed. “Because under twenty, twenty right? No, twenty one, alcohol is forbidden and our son was only twenty so we gave him drinks in secret.”
“We enjoy drinking!” laughed Füsun as she light a cigarette off of the candle in the middle of the table. “We believe in God, though. We love God, everything is from him. But drinking is not so bad. Would he really care if we drink a little but are good? I don’t think so.”
“Modern Muslims, right?” I said.
“Yes, yes exactly!”
“We were very lucky to go to America,” Muhittin continued, “It was easy for us because we have green passports – research passports. Since the eleventh of September, it has become much harder for Turks to go to America. They are afraid of terror, Islamic terror.”
“So are we,” said Füsun, taking a drag on her cigarette.
“Not so much, but in general,” Muhittin replied. “Terror is terror. They just use Islam, the name, but they are not Muslims. They have no love for Islam, or for Turkey. You know, secularism is very important here.”
“Definitely,” I said. “Ever since Atatürk, right?”
“Exactly! We love him. Atatürk was a great man. We love him,” said Füsun.
From there, the conversation slowly turned to rakı – Turkish alcohol made from raisins and aniseed. When I told them I really liked rakı Füsun was delighted.
“Next time you come for dinner we will drink it! Not too much, don’t worry – only two glasses of it.”