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.

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