One of the great things about living here with an infant is that Turks LOVE babies. We can’t go anywhere without hearing “Mashallah!” or “Çok Tatlı!” Mashallah literally means “God has willed it to be so,” but it’s basically the way to say something or someone is awesome without calling down the wrath of the evil eye on said object or person. (Çok tatlı means “very sweet.”) Men and women alike come up to us all the time and fuss over Stephen, kissing his feet and rubbing his fuzzy little head. Happily, he loves any and all attention so he doesn’t get upset when strangers get in his face making kissing noises and fussing over him. In fact, he usually smiles for them.

One of the funny things we’ve noticed is that Americans and Turks worry about very different things when it comes to babies. Turks, for instance, don’t usually let their babies stand up or even sit up much at all until they’re like a year old, for fear of hurting their backs or legs. They also seem to think that babies should be fully bundled even in the summer, or at the very least be wearing socks ALL THE TIME. The fact that we let Stephen stand up on our laps all the time in his naked feet has garnered us more than our fair share of dirty looks from concerned grandmothers.

Apparently, however, being mowed down by an oncoming vehicle is not an issue of great concern here. Not because it’s not a risk, mind you. There are no stop signs here, and a red light here is approximately equivalent to a flashing yellow light back home. Drivers might slow down for them, but stopping is certainly not mandatory (and will in fact get you honked at).

To get back to the issue of babies, the other day Danny and I were taking Stephen over to a friend’s house (incidentally, the temperature at the time was no less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Stephen was in his lovely new (bright red, very visible) stroller, and we were walking down Çankaya Bulvarı, which is a very large, very busy street. Of course, the sidewalk was under construction so we had to walk on the side of the road, between the parked cars and the cars that were careening down the road. We passed a group of middle-aged Turkish women.

I’m not kidding, they tried to stop the stroller. In the middle of the street. With buses whizzing by no less than six inches from his stroller. To fuss over his chubby little cheeks and tell him how sweet he looked. I paused just long enough to be polite, but refused to linger in the street any longer than was absolutely necessary. And the best part? When we moved past I heard them muttering to each other about his feet being bare. Danny and I had to bite our lips to keep from laughing about the fact that they apparently thought nothing of stopping his flimsy umbrella stroller in the middle of a busy road during rush hour, but were seriously concerned that he would catch his death of cold because he wasn’t wearing socks IN JULY.