June 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
Although there’s still technically one more day of classes left, most of the hazirlik students have stopped coming to lessons. Of course, today is the day I returned to say goodbye to them. Communication breakdown?
It felt great to return. A friend dropped me off outside the NKU hotel, where it all began, and where I sipped a glass of tea, ate some cheese, tomato, and hot pepper tost, and felt the cool breeze blow off the Marmara and through my hair. All the hazirlik teachers came to have tea/coffee/a smoke at the hotel after lunch, and I was back. Just like that.
After Suzan finished her Turkish coffee (without sugar, please), Ezgi turned her cup over, let the grounds dry, and read her fortune. There is an actual art to reading Turkish coffee grinds but we just make it up.
As Ezgi told Suzan wild things about what was to come, I couldn’t help remembering Pinar reading my fortune back in October (it might seem I’m just remembering this to create a cohesive narrative of my time here, but it’s true, I swear it). She looked at the patterns in the grinds, looked at me, and told me there were many things in life I was worried about but none of them were important and I really needed to stop worrying about them.
It was incredibly true. I spent the entire fall semester wavering between sanity and breakdown, the effect of a major life adjustment and sincere and unproductive navel-gazing. And, well, moving abroad is tough, not gonna lie. But I made it a lot worse for myself than it needed to be. All I wanted was nothing more than to leave this town and never come back, students be damned.
Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Though I certainly don’t want to stay in Tekirdag another year (I’m a city girl at heart, I’m convinced), it’s become a true home. My home. It took until February for it to become this way, but it’s my place, these are my students, this is my lojman, and to hell with Anatolia.
Each of the hazirlik classes took their turns this week having barbecues in the forest bordering the university (forest’s name? Ataturk. Of course.) While I couldn’t make it to most of the picnics, thanks to a Facebook group message I was able to hitch a ride in Gizem’s car and head to A-1’s end of the year celebration. A-1 is the top class in hazirlik, which means they generally understand what I’m saying. It’s amazing what that can do for teacher-student relationships! As the sun went down:
As fits with the traditional division of labor, the women prepared the salad while the men roasted chicken, kofte (meatballs), and sucuk (sausage). I swear I have never had better kofte, though when asked they admitted it was already mixed by the butcher, not homemade. Still, I love them.
The students played volleyball and yelled at each other in Turkish while I ate at the grown-ups table with Gizem, their main teacher, Gizem’s husband Cemal, Elif, a specialist, and Elif’s boyfriend Mehmet. Since I couldn’t get up and join the volleyball game, I did the next best thing. I spotted a tavla (backgammon) board across the way and challenged Gizem to a game.
I beat her, 2 game to 0. Beginner’s luck? The students thought they could take me for a ride. Serkan challenged me. He won by one roll. Burak challenged me. I killed him. Then Nurtekin, another teacher came along. He buried me.
Most of the students were surprised I knew how to play. I told them of my ill-fated relationship with Caner, a local guy who a friend set me up with. We got along just fine, but his limited English and my limited Turkish left us with little to discuss. After conversation stopped about 2 hours into our first date, I suggested he teach me to play tavla (most bars and cafes here have boards hanging around). Over the span of 2 dates, we played about 4 or 5 hours of tavla. I know how to play. I think only one of my students accurately understood this story because he burst out laughing.
During my game with Nurtekin, Cemal pulled out his guitar and a hefty Turkish songbook and he and the students started singing. One of the things I loved most about Turkey is a great willingness to enthusiastically sing and dance in public. As dusk settled, I felt a distinct end-of-summer-camp pang, the end of a wonderful shared experience with people you come to love after seeing them day in, day out, who have formed such a part of your being, but you may never see again. I almost cried. Yep. I held in in, Nurtekin destroyed my tavla high, and a pang in my knee reminded me it was time to go home.
I’ll miss you, A-1! From your hatred of the EU and your unwavering love of Ataturk, to hilarious desert island survival soap opera skits and unintentionally ridiculous Halloween stories, to your steadfast disapproval of America’s love of study drugs, constant interest in my personal relationships in great attempts to derail my lesson, and apparently extremely accurate imitations of my mannerisms, you’ve wormed your way into my heart. How could you not love a student who shows up to class beaming, with Ataturk’s signature tattooed on his arm? And who then wants extra Spanish lessons?
I hope we’ll meet again, A-1.