After Nermin’s return with her colorful dresses and masks, UmAy has begun regaining its dynamism and joy despite the hot humid summer days. We are working in the house, the garden, storage units, fences, picking the ripe fruits, discussing the current local and national politics, exchanging covid news, speculations, changing masks, recycling, cooking, cleaning, laughing and playing with kittens among other things. I never thought I would be spending hours sewing coffee bean sacks and recycle them as aesthetically and environmentally pleasing garden fences for the Mother Nature.

We purchased 10 leyland cypress (referred to simply as leylandii) and planted them after some deep pruning near the fences facing the street. They all look healthy and pretty, hopefully will get taller very soon since they are known to be the fastest-growing hedges available. Regular composting is something that we are proud of (still a rarity here), the fertilizer we made of them (or rather dug up) seems to be working fine although we also find unexpected tiny plants here and there due to the seeds in the compost mix.

We are doing more than manual work. Every week, Nermin makes a presentation and we record it as part of UmAy’s archival data. Although we had said that the theme choice may differ, we have been going quite steady with our NGO introductions topic. So far, Nermin covered three NGOs which work specifically with displaced women and children, and have a branch office in Sakarya where UmAy is situated. What she presents weekly is a mixture of online research and her efforts to reach out to the staff in Sakarya. It has not been fruitful yet but surely informative. People seem to be either using covid as an excuse or simply do not follow up their promises to her. She is persistent and likely to make herself welcomed at some point as a volunteer. Yes, all she wants is to volunteer and practice her English too if the opportunity arises. So far, we have hosted an Iranian young woman whom she met in the language course, and we had a pleasant conversation (mostly in Turkish!)

Coming up soon: Insulation of UmAy, aka a 2-week-long wellness treatment, which will make her strong, keep its residents warm, and heating bills low (fingers crossed!)

We opted for stone wool, which is a fire-resistant, water-repellent heat and sound insulation material containing 97% natural fibers and produced by melting minerals and inorganic stones derived from volcanic rocks. It is more expensive but we are happy that we won’t be using spray foam insulation something which the local contractors kept recommending. Some even tried hard to convince us so already it has been a learning process. In certain geographies, it is hard to live an environmentally friendly life.