it’s a lot about gore

Today was the day the sacrifices were made. Walking down the main street of my neighborhood this morning, everyone was in a festive mood. Families were out in their gardens, kids were running around. And piles of meat were everywhere. Everyone was butchering a sheep or a steer.

There were aspects of the everyday that seemed confusingly familiar. Men smoking and drinking tea, women cleaning. But today the men had blood all over themselves and the women were carrying garbage bags full of offal.

At the same time everyone looked so happy. This was bounty. Both sacrifice and bounty.

Mom and I came home and made a nice vegetarian meal.

To be honest, the violence I saw today offered such a release for the internal tension and confusion I’ve been feeling since being confronted with such underlying systematic violence.  “ah yes, sacrifice is how I live the way I do, eat the way I eat, pray the way I pray”  There’s no free lunch.


I’ve made it back to Istanbul, closed up my Middle East mission with a bang. The day I left Israel pictures of settlers being forced out of an occupied house in Hebron were splashed everywhere. Riots and general mayhem apparently ensued. Just another explosion of all the tension I felt there, I guess.

Today is the last day of the haj, everyone’s s’posed to be straight with their pilgrimage at this point. We’ve got a direct feed of Saudi TV at the house here, at the moment it’s just sweeping pictures of 3 million folks clad in white.

Meanwhile just down the hill from the house and all over my neighborhood folks are preparing for the culminating event of this pilgrim season, Kurban Bayram. In every available strip of public land there are makeshift corrals full of fattened bulls and sheep. Just outside the pens hunched men display all kinds of knives for sale. butcher knives, little knives, cleavers. The connection is clear.

So what is sacrifice? Let’s all think about it and get back to each other.  My host family escaped to the mountains for the holidays so here’s the predeparture gathering yesterday morning.  That’s me, mom, host brother Yunus on the truck with Haylas and Kütük the dogs, host mom Lütfiye and younger bro Deniz.


To be a little boy again….

I arrived in Istanbul and have settled in with my host family once again. Sitting by the truck on our way back from the mountain cabin today, my host brother actually complimented my Turkish (“Well it’s not THAT good, but it’s enough”) We’d been talking about how dolphins catch fish and the various attributes of his favorite soccer players and I realized those topics aren’t as basic as they appear in one’s own language.

It feels almost like coming back to a second home when I’m here, albeit a home filled with a language I only 80% understand. I’ve almost let go of that concern though, trusting that eventually I’ll become more fluent and in the mean time feeling remarkably peaceful. I’ve completely let go of the sad and difficult memories of this place now, especially the challenging high school sojourn, which frees me up immensely.

I had a dream of standing beside a house fire last weekend while I was staying in Philadelphia. Just a few days before my aunt and I had discussed the scripture passage where we are promised that God offers beauty for ashes. In meeting the day after my dream, ministry focused on how we can burn away our hangups to be as children again, open and full of wonder. Perhaps our choice to burn away our personal hurts in order to build deeper spiritual connection and recapture child-like wonder is part of God’s gift of beauty.

Staying with my little host brothers, who I’ve watched grow from toddlers to preadolescents, I connect again with the beauty I remember finding everywhere as a child. I’m also eternally grateful I’m not a willful little brat anymore.