Monday, 11 April 2011

Dying villages

There are thousands of villages like mine dotted about all over Turkey.  What is most noticeable about a lot of them is the ageing population.

The neighbour to the left of my house and also the one on the right, are both elderly widows.  There are many such women in this village.  My personal opinion is that Turkish women are used to working hard all their lives.  They raise families, take care of their husbands and their homes, as well as working in the fields.  They have immense stamina and they seem to live longer than men.  In my experience the men don't do as much work on the land as the women do.  They seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting in the men-only teahouses, drinking tea, playing tavla (backgammon), Okey (a game with numbered discs) and cards, in between watching TV and putting the world to rights.

In this particular village there is a history of alcoholism amongst the men.  One of the main contributors to their early demise.   Good muslims of course don't touch alcohol.  My father-in-law often comments on how bad the men are in this village.  He says they drink too much and when he is visiting here he tells me that the mosque is almost always empty.  He, of course, is a good muslim (she says with tongue firmly in cheek) because he doesn't touch alcohol and he prays the requisite five times a day.  Although I do recall a conversation I once had with him about religion, where I expressed the opinion that even if people attend mosques or churches on a regular basis, it doesn't necessarily make them good people.

We have an infants school and a secondary school in the village, but the youngsters wanting further education have to go away to obtain it.  And it does seem that parents here do their utmost to achieve this for their offspring.  When they have finished college or university they seldom return to the village because there is no work suitable to their qualifications.  Even those young people who don't go on to further education no longer have any interest in farming, so they set off for the tourist areas to find work, perhaps returning for the winter months, but more often than not moving to the big cities to find work until the summer season starts again.

So we are left with people who are getting old, and farming isn't easy for the elderly.  My FIL mentioned when he was here recently that some years ago all the olive trees were on the hillsides, and the farming land from the village to the main road 5km away was completely flat and given over to vegetable crops.  This is no longer the case.  The elderly can't manage to harvest the olives on the hillsides, so now a lot of the farming land is filled with olive groves.

My next door neighbour has two cows, two goats, a donkey and chickens.  She has problems with her back and legs but still she struggles on.  Her son and family visit every couple of months, but they work and live in Milas.  When she passes on, there is little chance that he will take over her house and livestock.  No doubt the house will lie empty for years.  There are many of these dilapidated dwellings all over the village.  No-one wants to buy them. 

Mr A mentioned recently that there is a golf complex being built on the other side of the airport, due to be completed in two years time.  His source tells him that this will be good news for villages such as ours, because people will buy up old properties and land, and maybe they'll even build a hotel or two.  

I don't always trust Mr A's sources.  It's very common for men in the teahouses to start such rumours.
Although I would hate to see this village commercialised and overrun with tourists, I have to admit that this could be a good thing.  It's very sad to see the village dying slowly, and maybe it needs something like this to bring it back to life.


  1. I remember 'dead' hamlets in the Languedoc years ago, before I moved to France...everyone had gone.
    Dutch people were buying them up wholesale as bases for the camper vans to come to in the summer.

    Here, no 'dead' villages, but the youngsters are agitating about not being able to find jobs suitable to their level of education outside the Greater Metropolitan Area....involving either moving from home or a lot of commuting.

    The early buses from our town run in a non stop stream, getting people to work in the see the feeder buses from the villages come in and their passengers join the queue for the express buses.

    I can't quite believe it after rural France!

  2. This sounds very like what I see in our very rural part of southern Normandy, Ayak, and, to a lesser extent, in remoter parts of the UK. Village populations, except within communting distance of urban centres, are ageing, as the youngsters leave for further education and don't return for lack of work. Our two went through school in Mid-Wales, but never lived here again once they graduated.

    The populations don't drop too much in many cases, as people still like to retire to the country, but of course, by definition, they are older people.

  3. Life is changing everywhere in the world, Linda. Sad that the villages are dying out but I'm sad that the women don't seem to have much of a life.

    Hopefully things will change for the better.

  4. I think change is happening everywhere now where ever you happen to be.
    The young ones don't necessarily want to do the same things that their parents did.
    It would be a pity to let all those little farm houses go to waste.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I removed my earlier post due to a spelling mistake that put the post out of context. Here is the revised version:

    If Mr. A's sources are correct about the golf complex being built then it could indeed be good news for the villages in the area.

    A lot of golfers do like to go to different courses throughout the year, and there are a lot of both men and women in the sport. The golfers do seem willing to travel to different countries to play golf 12 months of the year.

    I can only speak with regards to my experience of golf resorts in Portugal where they do seem to provide a lot of employment for the local populace and businesses seem to thrive.

    Fingers crossed that it is true. You may see the younger generation returning to your area.

  7. I hope the village doesn't die out. It sounds so charming and delightful. And happy anniversary! 12 years is quite an accomplishment. 12 years ago I was single and kicking up my heels in NY City. Ah... I like it better now.

  8. amazing observations, and they're all accurate, Ayak. and it is a pity that the young generations with a farm to work on dont know what kind of a trasure they have.

  9. why cant i follow my comments in the first place?


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