Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Tuesday Report--mundane joys

A cloudy, blustery day between major storms. I was so very weary by the time we returned home Friday night. Decided I would not return to Antalya for another week of classes. Curt, however, is in his last week of the beginning course, so early Monday morning  he packed his things yet again and headed out. A friend, the pastor of the international church in Antalya, has been holed up in our flat for two weeks to work on his doctoral dissertation while his wife continues her work in Antalya. Saturday was their anniversary so Renata had come out with us for the weekend. Curt picked her up on his way out Monday morning and enjoyed her company for the three hour journey. I continued to wade through exhaustion. Tuesday, however, joy and peace returned with the dawn.

I went straight to my desk upon rising, and allowed myself to work until just in time to shower and wash my hair before our helper Ayşe arrived to clean Spa for the Soul. She often arrives early, and today I met her with clothes on and sopping uncombed hair. Kisses of greeting, a bit of chat, and off she went to the top of the house while I settled in with my coffee for some time with Daniel and Peter. Both spoke to me of the importance of disciplines, resistance to temptation, persistence, and the vastness of God's grace and bounty towards His people. A grey morning invites candlelight and incense and I found rest in the peace of it. After prayer I headed for the kitchen.

After two weeks away the frig needed a good cleanout, and pots and bowls remained from Monday night's kettle corn. Ayşe would need lunch, too. So. First I  sorted and emptied. Next I washed. Made a fresh batch of bread dough. Then I pulled out a load of gorgeous produce. Onions, garlic, chard, green beans, scarlet runner beans I'd soaked and cooked on Sunday, quinoa, tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage. Put on the album made by friends in our college group long ages ago, and turned it up loud. I still know every word. (So why can't I recall the Turkish vocabulary I looked up 15 minutes ago?) Ayşe came down to start a load of sheets, me wondering why on such a grey day. 

Slicing knife. Chopping knife. Three cutting boards. A climb over the terrace railing to collect some rosemary. A bit of sage plucked from its jar. Though windows and doors were open I sang loud, meaning every word, while I chopped. Had fun taking pictures with my phone. How long has it been since I have been present to the joys of vegetable bounty and a morning in the kitchen? A month or more, I think.

The soup was ready just at 1pm and I called Ayşe to join me. I used a new recipe posted by Christine Sine on her blog, a recipe about savoring the fall produce of her Seattle garden. Ayşe and I agreed it was tasty. The sage, I think, was the sparkle. Not something ordinarily used in soup. Here in Turkey they call sage adıçay and use it to make a sort of medicinal tea. I also introduced Ayşe to chocolate spread on Wasa fiber crackers, and we each consumed several. Feeling just that bit naughty. Up to now, when we eat together we don't talk much. Ayşe is from this village, and speaks the village dialect. I find her harder to understand. But today I decided we must learn to talk more, so I asked her questions. "Where is your husband today? What is he doing? What will you do when you get home? What are you thinking?" At the last question she gave me a sidewise "who took Jeri abla and replaced her with this crazy woman?" look. I laughed and explained that I wanted to speak more Turkish, so I was trying to ask questions we could talk about. "I get it now, but I still think you're a little crazy today," said her quizzical expression. She gathered the dishes and I headed up to my desk.

"Momi! Momi! Jeri abla!" Çiğdem's tone told me she'd been calling me from her balcony for awhile. Loud music and my sing-along, I explained, and she laughed. She said she'd made aşüre and wanted Ayşe and me to come over. When Ayşe finished at 3, we decided. 

One of my goals this week is to go through all my Turkish language papers, pitch what I no longer need, and organize the rest. And to look at new materials our new language coach has forwarded to help up change our paradigm to self-directed language learning. I spent some time playing with new web-based programs. Found them unhelpful. Worked on flash cards, read articles--and overall felt like I was working on working on Turkish, rather than spending time with the language. Necessary process, but not my favorite.

When Ayşe was ready we went next door. Discovered that a whole party of Çiğdem's best friends were there. No doubt finding this foreigner most strange. I said my greetings, then sat and listened to their conversation while we enjoyed our treat. Fast Turkish. They spoke of children's doings, where to buy this or that for the best price, and the like. Soon they all rose to go. I wondered if it was because school was finishing, so I asked if they had children to pick up. "Oh my," said one. "My children are 18 and 21." "But you are young!" I replied. 

After they left, Çiğdem asked me why I'd been so quiet. I said to her in my halting Turkish, "If you were in a group of my American friends all talking very fast, would you say much?" Chuckles. She got it. But would later tell me that she had told her friends I spoke very good Turkish. I imagine she felt let down that she didn't get to show me off more. Smile. She also told me that one of her friends wants to have me to her house. More chances to speak where I can't fall back into English if I get stuck!

This is aşüre month in Turkey. Noah's Pudding is the English name for it. Tradition has it that when Noah's family left the ark they made a special treat with whatever was left on the ark. Beans, grains, dried fruits, cinnamon, pomegranite seeds. It is yummy, by the way. At this time of the year, women make big pots of aşüre and share it with all their neighbors. Whether they know them or not. In Antalya I was twice the recipient of aşüre while I stayed in our friend's apartment. Here if someone brings you a gift of food you are expected to return the dish with something on it. Except if the food is aşüre. Aşüre is a gift without strings, and it would be bad form to return an aşüre bowl any way but empty.

I didn't stay long at my neighbor's because Cait and I had a FaceTime date. An hour with my daughter and granddaughter. Technology most beloved! Lia and I chatted and waved to one another. She laughed at my hand-signed "I love you." She cried when her Mom wouldn't let her "hold Grandma" because she always ends up pushing the "end" button. Cait sounded relaxed, even while ever alert to her now-walking daughter and what Lia was getting into.

Dinner was a persimmon, a fruit I'd never tried until we came here. A fruit I now love. Later I played a bit with Rosetta Stone's Turkish program. I most like the part where it gives a sentence spoken by a native Turk and then records me as I repeat it. The playback feature lets me compare my speech to the native. The program also has this little meter that rates me. It looks like a gas gauge, with a red, a yellow and a green range. I tried over and over, but almost never got out of red. Even though I could tell no difference between my accent and the Turk's. Wednesday I would experiment with my language helper, letting both her and me do the exercise to see how the program would rate a native speaker. Giggles and exclamations--more often than not the computer decided my Turkish was better than hers. Now I know not to take the little meter too seriously. 

Before bed I enjoyed part of the second Lord of the Rings film in Turkish. Another new language learning strategy. The idea is to watch the same film over and over as long as I can stand it, gradually building up my understanding and my own usage and accent through the repetition. 

A day at home. A good day. Renewed rejoicing after a weary season.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Tuesday Report--It's a boy!

Yet another sunny, mild day. Again we were in Antalya for intensive Turkish classes. I got out the door late for the 35 minute walk to the school and apologized as I entered the group three or four minutes past 9am. 

We were six students this week. 40-something German Mirion joined for two weeks. This is her third language-study holiday to Turkey, and she also takes a class in Germany where many Turks have emigrated. Though we seem roughly the same level in knowledge, she speaks far more readily--and quickly. She is gregarious and energetic. Watching her, I realize that these are vital traits for moving forward in conversation. My introverted self tends to speak when necessary to get something done, or with people I know and can relax with. It is a rare thing for me to strike up a conversation with anyone I don't know or have business with--in any language. Or to plan things to talk about that will push my skills forward. Not surprisingly, my written, reading and "classroom" Turkish is much better than my ability to quickly frame and speak into conversation. Mirion looks for people to talk to and for things to talk about. It doesn't hurt that this is her fourth or fifth language, either.

Yet again Tuesday morning, most of the class had not done homework or otherwise studied. Seray, our teacher, always starts with a review of homework and the prior day's topic. We answer in turns and those who haven't paid attention slowly work out answers and again Seray teaches the topic. This morning we at last finished review at 11am, then took a break. So that just over an hour of our 9-1230 class involved moving forward. All with theory. And I finally admitted that this is not working for me. 

But what to do? I had previously spoken to Seray, and know that she is also struggling. But she doesn't know what to do. It is so rare for adult language students to behave this way.

Mirion suggested we go to lunch, and I took her to St. Paul's Cultural Center. St. Paul's was developed by an American couple to provide a gathering place for cultural exchange as well as a venue to house churches. The international church meets there, as does a Russian and a Turkish church. English conversation classes, ballroom dance lessons, conferences, team meetings, cultural tours and many other activities are hosted by the center. AND they have a cafe with good, simple food, excellent coffee, cheesecake and carrot cake, and internet. With tables, sofas and easy chairs, and outdoor garden seating, that invite one to sit for hours for conversation or study. Mirion loved it.

"What do you think about the class?" I was curious whether it was just me who was bored and frustrated. "Do you mean the teacher or the other students?" She asked. And began to role out a whole strategy. Like I say, she is gregarious and energetic. "You and I can change it together," she said. "We must get there early to make sure we sit so that Abla and Husam cannot sit together. We must ask Seray to save the homework review for last," she added. "Far better to work on new things when we are fresh."

Hmmm...I was dubious. Just then Diny saw me and joined us. Diny is Dutch, and works with women's ministries. Her group is planning a retreat at Spa for the Soul in January, and she wanted to talk details. I introduced her to Mirion, but she was on her own track. I don't think she realized she was co-opting my lunch with my guest. Watching the hands of my watch move, "Mirion, I am sorry. This is boring for you. We must stop." But Mirion, ever the language learner, said she was delighted to listen to a business conversation in English. That it was helpful to her, and entertaining. So we continued with details of food cost, staff expenses and travel.

I also watched my watch because at 130pm I had a date for joy and adventure. At 120, Paskal telephoned. "Jeri, where are you?" he asked in Turkish. "We are waiting for you." Oh my! I jumped up and ran out with hurried goodbyes. Hustled the 15 minutes it took to get to our meeting point. As I approached their car, Paskal, his wife Melike, and her mother, sister and niece all jumped out to greet me. We piled back in and headed for the hospital for Melike's appointment.

Melike is four months pregnant with their first child. And this was the day for the sonogram that might determine gender. Melike and Paskal are dear to us, and they had ridden with us to Antalya on Monday to see her family and for this appointment.

In Turkey a visit to the doctor often includes family and friends. My first medical appointment here was for a routine eye exam. Halil also needed to see an eye doctor so he made our appointments with a recommended doctor in Antalya and we went to the city, a three hour drive from Kaş, together. They called Halil in first. I was settling in with my book when the doctor said, "No, you come, too!" Much bemused, I sat through his exam and the bi-lingual doctor spoke as much to me as to him. As though I was his mother and he was much younger than 28 years old. Then he stayed in for my exam, though the doctor talked only to me for that. 

Then last May, four days into a journey with friends, I was evacuated off their sailboat with what appeared to be a stroke or an aneurysm. Gravely ill. Curt had phoned ahead to organize a car and driver to get us to the doctor in Kaş, and to have the doctor standing by. Halil was waiting when the car pulled up to help me up the stairs while Curt parked the car. He came right into the exam room with Curt while tests were run and an IV given. Then he jumped into the backseat for the rush trip to the hospital in Fethiye, an hour and a half away. And into the ER, and into the MRI, and into the hospital room where they expected to keep me for a few days for rest and observation. Never hesitating, as though the company of friends was to be expected. In the end the diagnosis was amnesia, wildly fluctuating blood pressure, and other severe side effects that, in rare cases, are brought on by seasickness. Who knew? But Halil's older brother Mehmet, who lives in Fethiye, was also headed over to lend support when we at last convinced the neurologist to let me recuperate at home.
In the waiting room. Melike is in purple.
So. With all that personal experience, I felt free to ask Paskal and Melike if I could join them for this special time. They were delighted. Melike checked in and we all waited together for a few minutes. Her turn came, and we all trooped into the exam room. The doctor said we were too many, so Melike's sister and child went out, and the rest of us eagerly watched the monitor. My first time to see a sonogram. Gray shadows bounced and wiggled, and in a very short time the doctor pronounced the wiggles to be a boy. Mustafa Metin will be his name, after the couple's fathers. Paskal grabbed me for a hug, his blue eyes piercing the future, his smile oozing satisfied, gratified pride. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom. We listened to a strong heartbeat, and praised. Melike's mother glowed. She has three grandchildren already, all girls. The whole family delights that a boy will join this generation. 
Father and son/Baba ve oğlu
Melike's sister also had an appointment, so Paskal and I sat outside the hospital drinking tea and rejoicing. And then talking politics, mostly in Turkish. Pascal and Melike are, of all our friends, the best at pushing me to speak more. When all were ready they dropped me back near where we stay. 

Homework. Some time with Curt when he returned from his class at 5pm. At 630 we headed out to meet the excited family for dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. Finding it was a trial. In the end, we realized it was because Paskal had given me directions in English and had mixed up "from" and "to" so that we were searching for the correct turn on the wrong side of the landmark he had given. I passed my phone to a taxi driver, and he helped to sort it out. An excellent mixed grill, much laughing effort to get Curt to speak Turkish now that he is studying, and joyous celebration later, we returned to the apartment for more homework and then bed.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Tuesday Report--extraordinarily ordinary days

Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Antalya, Turkey. Language students.

This time when the alarm played its tune we found ourselves in the bed of friends who are away for a season. We'd driven the three hours to Antalya Monday morning and this would be my first day to resume study in an intensive language course. I studied at the same school for four weeks last winter, and Curt had started his first level course the week before. At 9am I would join a year-long class that is just now up to my level. Showers, no time for food, coffee poured into travel cups, and we hoofed it out the door. We'd learned on Monday that it is a 35 minute walk from this apartment to the class. No ambling allowed. The weather continues warm and sunny, and even at 8am I felt no need for more than a light blouse and ankle length trousers. 

Our walk lay through the busy city center just as it was waking. We traveled along the outer wall of the ancient Kale İçi with its massive stone work that dates back to before Paul walked this region. Simitçiler, men carrying great wooden trays the popular bread rings covered in sesame seeds still warm from the ovens, shouted their arrival so that folks could come down from apartments and out of office buildings to buy. Students headed to high school and university buildings, the tram and public buses. Restaurant and shop workers cleaned in front of their spaces and prepared for the day. 

As always, Fadime Hanım greeted me warmly. Just my age, she is a foot shorter and Turkish housewife-heavy, and wears dark traditional clothes and headscarf. We look like we come from different planets. But she is kind, and we both love our grown children, delight to hosts guests and love on young people. We laughing. She longs for a grandchild, so I share mine with her. 

Though barely on time, I was the first student to arrive. Gradually the others came in. Five students total, from five countries, with five different native languages. Tasha from Ukraine, Abla from Morocco, Husam from Syria, Tom from Germany, and me. And Seray, our language teacher, native to Turkey. To get my head back into classroom study, well.... I was glad the class was working on something I'd been exposed to before. By the second break I could see that the others aren't putting much into it. Flirting, some giggling, papers with nothing written. But they are young, and for all Turkish is their third or fourth language, so things stick in their heads so much better. And Tom seems one of those bright ones who gets everything right without trying.

I love this small school. And all that it reveals of family life and community. The director/owner Mehtap. At 30, she holds a master's degree in language teaching and also does translation as well as directing TESL courses and tuturing students via Skype. She is trim, professional, personable and efficient. Murat, who is 27, handles logistics and maintenance. Fadime Hanım greets people, makes tea, and gophers. She chatters away at every break, pushing us to use the language we are learning, pretending she speaks no English. All three host students in their homes, and the home-stay environment augments the community feel of the school for students who have come from other places. 

Mehtap is Fadime Hanım's daughter, and Murat's big sister. A family providing for themselves together, something that goes on a lot in Turkey. In Kaş we know a family with nine brothers. They've created two or three restaurants around town and another in Marmaris. Another family of three brothers operates two shops selling beautiful things crafted in Turkey. The folks from whom we rent our car occupy a row of shops in the old market square and all manner of extended family rent cars, lead tours, provide drivers, build and rent villas, cut hair, make and mend clothes, and repair shoes. Businesses created and grown to provide jobs for family.

At 1230 we finished class for the day and Curt met me out on the street so we could hunt up a quick lunch before his class at 1pm. I sat outside for some time, and then returned to the school to study until 4:30, when Curt's class ended.

We scouted the area around our friend's apartment for a place to eat, but there was nothing. Tall apartment buildings all around, so loads of people must inhabit the area, but there were few on the street, and no one greeted anyone else. No sidewalk cafes where friends and neighbors linger over coffee, backgammon and conversation either. All felt cold and sterile, and I was grateful for our small town where people take time, greet strangers, and chat with shopkeepers. In the end, we hopped in the car and drove to a mall for groceries and a meal. Feeling a tad lonely.

Community. The community of families that stay together and provide for one another, that share resources so that all can live comfortably. A dear one told us yesterday about his sister who lost both her husband and her son, and how he is sending money to help her. Another starts a new business and his friends loan him needed funds. Yet another loves to manage construction projects in part because it provides work for his father and brothers who are skilled craftsmen. 

Community. Friends who are away and allow us to use their apartment for our studies. Others who look out for our house, and pick up cargo if it comes while we are not here. Yet another who uses our apartment in Kaş for a season of intense work on his doctoral dissertation. Still others who will join us at the language school later in the week. 

Community. A small town where people have time and take time to be. To sit beside. To listen. To stop by. To drink tea, or share a meal. To know their neighbors, and to provide help when needed.

Community. This Tuesday's blessing.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Tuesday report--extraordinarily ordinary days

Once more the day dawned clear and still. At 7am I padded downstairs and savored the solitude of a house with only me in it. Curt is doing an intensive Turkish course in Antalya (a large city three hours drive from here) weekdays over the next four weeks. Though I hope to take a class at my level while he is there, this week I'm recovering from a cold, expecting a guest Wednesday through Friday, and hoping the painters show up. The exterior of our five story tower of a house needs some repair and a fresh seal against the weather. But so do a lot of other houses, and so we wait our turn.

I was excited to try a coffee creamer I'd made the day before. The internet recipe claimed it a fabulous substitute for Carnation's French Vanilla, which I love but can't get in Turkey. I also made the sweetened condensed milk, not available here either, from fresh cow's milk I bought from a neighbor. Disappointment and chagrin. The stuff tasted vile and left a worse aftertaste, so down the drain it went. Sigh.

I took coffee, ipad, Bible and journal to the top floor to try out the new easy chair we brought back from Antalya. Curt and I both enjoy times of prayer in the various nooks and crannies we've created for meditation and reading. Gives us awareness of the spaces and reminds us to pray for those who will use them. The new chair and ottoman replaces two smaller chairs on the landing at the top of the house. Positioned next to an east-facing window, the view is towards the rocky hillside behind the house, dusty green with olive trees and red-brown with clay-stained stone. Sunrise cast bright beams on the stairwell walls. Yes, I think the framed poster of names for Jesus in Turkish should go just there.

Ezekiel, the unknown writer of Hebrews, and David whisper truths about God that stand in tension. The God who judged Israel; the God who came in flesh to woo a remnant back to Himself. Magnificent, terrifying, gentle and loving pursuer of humanity. Prayers for our kids, this place, Curt's study, our nation, our dear one here who is losing his business, the guests who will sit in this space. 

By 9am the ironing was finished. 11 shirts. Household ironing, pants and Curt's t-shirts had been done the day before, and sheets a couple of days before that. One thing about hanging laundry outside on the line: more ironing. On the other hand, what a lovely smell of fresh air and sunshine. And this morning I celebrated a new Rowenta Pro Master that gives the best and fastest press. By far the best iron I've ever used. If you care about such things.

Ironing finished, dishes done, house tidied, and I was tidy, too. Dressed still in crop pants and a light cotton blouse for the mid-70's weather. Ayşe had arrived and was throwing energy into her weekly top-to-bottom clean, all the while chattering to me in fast village Turkish I mostly don't understand, and calling down questions about what to do with Curt's cardboard pieces and other bits left out on the rooftop terrace where he has been revarnishing window frames. The next hour or so was spent at my desk doing who-knows-what (you know, email, net searches, bill pays, filing) with one eye on the clock.
Ayşe last spring when Lia and Cait visited

From time to time there are meetings for foreigners. Once the village chief asked for input. A couple of times the mayor of Kaş did the same. We've never been around, but at 11am this morning the British Embassy would host a meeting concerning a newly created agency that will preside over immigration and visas. Because Curt drove to Antalya, I caught the 10:40 dolmuş for the five mile trip from our village. Dolmuş are brilliant little buses that provide public transit. The one I caught would take 14 passengers. One makes the run to Gökseki every half hour and costs 2TL (about $1). I love it.

The meeting venue was packed, mostly with Brits, who are the majority of the expat population. About 100 foreigners turned up from towns and villages up and down the coast within an hour or so drive from Kaş. No surprise that I knew very few. We spend most of our time in the Turkish community or with Spa guests. I had to refuse a dinner invitation from some "yachtee" friends because I don't like to walk home alone in the village night. No particular reason, but the potential for stray dogs or wild boar in my path...what can I say? I'm a wimp.

First order of business was to inform us all that the Turkish official we were there to hear from would not be coming. Then a run-down of the history and purposes of the new law. Then questions which all had the same answer: "We don't know yet." Thirty minutes in I left, grateful I sat near the door. Smile. Walked down to Halil's for a bite to eat by way of the ATM.

Halil and Gül face some challenges just now and his distress was heavy this lunchtime. He sat with me, quiet, face stern and eyes dark. This dear "son" just four months younger that Caitlin, with wife and five-year-old daughter to care for in this difficult economy. Prayers renewed for grace, endurance, and a soft and open heart; for prosperity and hope. 

I sat with them for more than an hour. Wanting to lend my presence and love, to come alongside them in their pain. Chatted about a trip several of us plan to take together to the east of Turkey, about his daughter, and the trip they took on Monday to the Greek island. Wanting to distract.

A few groceries and then the 1:25pm dolmuş back to Gökseki, overfull this time with women and children and one old man who could barely walk with the use of two sticks. The small daughter in the arms of my seatmate fell asleep with the rumble of the bus. "She has a cold," her mother told me. Women helping one another one and off, managing small ones and shopping bags. The whole bus emptying at the stop in the village square and the uphill walk to Spa for the Soul. It was a bad day to wear flip-flops. New tar and crushed rock covered half my uphill distance, ending, oddly enough, just after the home of the village chief. Smile again.

Ayşe was down to the main floor (only the art studio is lower) as I hauled in the groceries. She'd even washed down the 40 stone stairs from the road to the front door and sprayed the fallen leaves from the lower terrace. I put the food away, chatted a bit, and walked up the two flights of stairs to our space. Time to dig into Turkish.

After several months of not studying the language I sit in confusion, not knowing where to start. I review, but without enthusiasm. I stammer through conversations and friends comment that my Turkish is less good than in the spring. Last Tuesday Ankara friend Josh mentioned that two years of 30 hours a week language study brought able students to a level of converse that still fell short of discussion of ideas, philosophy and spiritual matters. Downright depression sat in. Which I noticed as I sat again with no idea how to go at it. 

Hebrews reminds me that Today is the Day, which is true on so many levels. Somewhere in the muddle I found backbone. I called up materials for self-directed language learning. I'd glanced at them before but felt overwhelmed. I found an article about using a language helper. Read again the scary stuff about how I would not only need to study, but would need to direct my own study, to plan and create exercises and venues for practice, to make up questions I want to ask and answer with native speakers, to hunt out audio reading materials, to write stories and dialogues. I heard Çiğdem call me from her balcony and leaned out the window for a chat. Deep breath to gather courage. Invited her for tea Wednesday morning and said I had something I wanted to talk to her about. I shoved the big rock of fear off the mountain and it gathered momentum, becoming unstoppable. I returned to my desk to outline a plan for 90 minutes of work with a language helper, narrowing my confusion to a few practical pieces of reading, review, vocabulary, and conversation. We would walk through the kitchen and name everything, and I would jot new vocabulary on the whiteboard. We would review the new vocabulary. We would each read aloud for five minutes from the Turkish The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I would listen to her pronunciation and inflection, and she would listen and correct mine. I would ask her where she was from and what her life was like before she came to this place; and I would have her ask me the same so that I would have practice listening and speaking.
Çiğdem and her husband and son. We made the tallest jenga tower I had ever seen!

I made plans and thought through the Turkish to explain to Çiğdem the role of language helper: not a teacher or planner, but someone with good use of the language who is willing to spend time doing exercises and repetitive practice, and to help me learn through conversation, by correcting my pronunciation, grammar and word use, and to push me to speak beyond what comes easily and faster than I want to. I would ask her to give me 90 minutes three times a week as a job for pay. And emphasize that this is an experiment. We will try for one month, and then the "job" may end...or not, as seems best to both of us.

And I signed up for a 10 week internet course on self-directed language learning and emailed a possible coach.

It took hours. Ayşe finished her work and came up to say goodbye. I paid her regular fee and gave her an extra 50 TL because I neglected to let her know of our trip to Ankara and she showed up last Tuesday to find the house locked and empty. She balked a bit, but I insisted. I want her to know that I take her seriously and that when I make a mistake I take responsibility. And I enjoyed giving her the pretty throw I'd brought for her from Ankara because she lit up with ear-to-ear delight when she saw it. She left. Lost in my plans and exploration, I worked on. Night fell. Popcorn for dinner as I watched half of The Fellowship of the Ring in Turkish with Turkish subtitles. Because one tip I'd turned up was to watch and/or listen to something I enjoy several times, as many as I can stand, gleaning new words, grammar and expressions with each pass.

Some reading--finished The Secret Rescue, an interesting new book about American nurses and medics trapped behind German lines in Albania during WWII. And to sleep.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Tuesday report--and how we got there and what happened next....

Already it is Saturday and this has been rattling round my head. I stood earlier to pray as the mosque singer called. And marveled that we get to live in this place in this season of life. Late fall means perfect days with all windows flung open, the lightest of breezes, and a flat-calm sea below. As I savored the quiet this morning something moved in the corner of my vision and I turned to meet the eyes of a stray cat passing through the living room with wary eyes fixed on me. Deservedly wary as I hissed him out. Olives ripen, though this is their off year in the two year cycle. For which I am daily grateful. The bumper harvest lasted for months last year and my back bore long witness to the daily bending and reaching to gather from our 14 trees. Sure enjoyed sharing the oil we made though.

This Tuesday found us far to the northwest of Kaş in Turkey's capital Ankara. We were there to visit Özer's family before their move this week to Kayseri. Özer is the man who oversaw the renovation of Spa for the Soul and became a dear friend in the process. 
Özer and Özlem

We rose early, dressed and packed, and said our goodbyes before climbing into our packed-with-city-shopping car. Rich with afterglow of days of sharing life together. The evening before extended family had gathered to watch our just-purchased Turkish language Lord of the Rings. Four of the flats in their building are occupied by family--Mom and Dad, and the families of three brothers. From six to seventy-five years old. The men all worked on our project and we have been lovingly taken in by the whole group. Monday evening we gathered on the covered terrace. Some sat in chairs. Others, including Curt and me, sat on cushions and leaned against the wall. Plates of roasted chestnuts hot from the woodstove, fruit, and sweet glasses of Turkish tea. As much chat and gentle laughter as movie watching. Some teasing over my efforts in Turkish. We hadn't been with these dear ones for almost two years. The everyday community of three generations who have made their way living separate-but-together. There we were tucked in the corner savoring the beauty of it, warmed by our inclusion. 

We were across the city to Josh and Sarah's home before 8am to share breakfast with their family. Though American, Josh grew up in Turkey and Sarah came to live here in her early 20's. Both are fluent in Turkish and a wealth of help and information. Since we first met them, Sarah has born two delightful children who played and chattered through our visit as we adults talked politics, shared about our lives and good books and people we care about and things we are working on. So rich. Josh's mind for detail, Sarah's wise and gentle mothering, and the loving hospitality and servant hearts that ooze from both of them. A prayer together and by 10:30 we were off for a quick stop at IKEA and then the nine hour drive home.
Curt and Alı Ulaş play chess in a shopping mall

I'm not sure what happens when we who live in a village get into big shopping places in cities, but the quick stop for a few candles turned into a four hour wander that included an electronics store and coffee at Starbucks and more bags to load into our already packed car. We finally were on the road a bit before 3pm. 

The route home was through high dry hills golden in the late afternoon sun. We plugged in a thumb drive of music by Turkish believers that Josh had loaded for us. The deep peace of a road trip. Non-stop beyond necessary toilet breaks and a fast-food meal. At 9:30 we stopped at a solitary gas station out of Elmalı. Not far from home in distance, but two hours of torturous downhill winding on an empty back-road still lay ahead. Five minutes and we were back in the car. Which did absolutely nothing when Curt turned the key. Hmmm...long day, late night, loaded with purchases, middle of nowhere. Time to roll with the punches.

We don't own a car in Turkey. Since we are not here peak season, we are able to rent from local friends who are happy to see income from a few of their hundred or so cars during the quieter months. For less that it would cost us to own we drive late model cars, and we don't have to worry about maintenance and insurance and registration and emissions testing and what to do if the car breaks down. So. We called Fahti. 

Meantime the guys at the station had gathered. Pushed the car a good ways to try to pop the clutch and get it running. Without success. Even as Fahti worked to arrange a mechanic. Pushed the car back up the hill into the station lot. Then they jumped the car. Which, to our surprise, worked. We drove off amid exhortations not to stop until we were home. No kidding! By midnight we had unloaded and backed the thing into its stone niche. Where it would remain until 4pm Wednesday when the Renault mechanic required by the warranty made the hour and a half drive from Fethiye and fixed it in ten minutes. 

Home. Wednesday morning a tad before 8am our neighbor phoned. We'd neglected to tell Çığdem we were going to Ankara, and she wanted to know where we'd been and when we got back. Sensing she was hurt to be left out of the loop, I visited her for coffee. Later. After I was awake. Don't speak much Turkish when the phone drags me out of deep sleep. I'd brought her a gift, a pretty throw from IKEA, and greetings from Özer's family, which was the needed balm. We laughed over her eight new baby chicks and chatted about our adventures. 

I've had my own little hurts of neglect over the past couple of days, from people I know don't mean to leave me feeling unnecessary. Reminders again that I don't always even know what is rude and what is normal in this place--whether on the giving or the receiving end. And so I lean once more into equanimity, that grace that can carry us sweetly through late night breakdowns, the vagaries of life in community, the dark unknowing of opening homes and lives to those of another language and culture, and pain of unintended slights. 
The area around Ankara's ancient citadel is the best "junk" shopping ever. Fascinating sellers, bargains and surprises.