Saturday, April 7, 2012

Signs of Spring / Baharın Habercileri

Every place has its special signs of spring. Back in Iowa, it was the first robins, even though they don't all migrate. Here, it's the first swallows, returning from their winter vacations in Africa.

In my neighborhood, we have another, more human sign of spring: Rom (Gypsies) who come to collect snails. Having multiplied and grown throughout the winter, they appear in droves underneath the thick spring mat of chickweed and creeping Veronica, as well as in thick clusters anywhere they can find a bit of moisture and shade. And they are ravenous, able to reduce a clump of emerging iris to shredded stubs in a night.

The women can gather a couple of buckets of them from our garden; less than in the past when there was a larger lower level full of fruit trees. That has now been turned into a gravel parking lot...

People don't eat snails here as a rule. They collect them to sell to cosmetics companies, who make skin-rejuvenating creams from their slime. Last time I asked, they were getting around a lira a kilo, not much money in a city like Istanbul. These aren't local Rom by the way, they all seem to come from around the town of Adapazarı a few hours east of here.