“She is Problem”

On Friday, Kuba and I were invited to the house of Hasan, a student of mine, for a late breakfast and, eventually, dinner. Hasan is a friend of another student of mine, Rabia, who is very sweet and was kind enough to take me around Istanbul a few weeks ago, particularly in Eminönü, which I posted pictures of in my last post. During my tourist date with Rabia, I mentioned sarma, or grape leaf rolls, was my favorite food. Rabia admitted to being a professional sarma roller and promised to teach me one day soon – but that’s another post altogether.

After meeting Hasan at 11:30 near our school, we rode in his amazing no-frills Volkswagen van to pick up another guest and student, Melike. Having only eaten a bowl of cereal (shared with Kuba, as we have only one [mixing] bowl), I was ready to get breakfast started.

Two days later, and I’m still full. Hasan prepared a sucuk omelette, Rabia prepared a delicious veggie tray with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and green bell peppers, and Melike helped bring in the rest of the breakfast: breads, homemade apricot jam from the garden of Hasan’s mother, sweet butter, an assortment of cheeses, fresh honeycomb, and probably something else delicious that I’m unfortunately forgetting.

For the rest of the day, Hasan charmed us with his wit, never lost in a rocky translation from Turkish to English. When referring to his good friend Rabia, it was always in a teasing manner. As helpful, kind and generous as Rabia is, and despite the respect and love they have for each other, Hasan only described Rabia with the same three words: “She is problem.” He would say it, shrug his shoulders, and smile at Kuba and I as if we knew exactly what the problem was (we didn’t). Rabia would glare at him. Melike would laugh.

Hasan has a guitar in the living room, which seems to be merely “for the ladies,” as he does not play. He also has a ney, which might not be so much for the ladies as for Hasan himself, but he couldn’t play that either (to be fair, none of us could – Rabia even referenced the video of the little girl on YouTube trying to sing “I will always love you” as she blew into the ney and heard nothing come out but her own breath).

When it was time to make the sarma, Hasan criticized my slow attempt. “Lauren, today,” he said. The grains of rice rolled out from the grape leaf as I tried to tuck it with the same precision as Rabia and Melike had. If my sarma wasn’t the most beautiful roll, at least it got some laughs.

Kuba and I were very excited to spend the day with our new Turkish friends and grateful for the opportunity to experience Istanbul in a new way. Next week we will meet them again – this time, to have some of Melike’s mantı. I’ll keep you updated…


Hasan and Rabia, always happy


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