Today was a perfect example of why I have wanted to live and work abroad (again).
I experienced minimal amounts of culture shock, and instead made human connections, practiced a new language, and ate ice cream after dinner. What more could a girl ask for?
One of the highlights of today was practicing my Turkish with a group of female teachers at lunch. After investing the time and effort to learn something back in İzmir, it was rewarding to be able to make my way through a basic conversation and even make some jokes with my colleagues. Those girls (it seems like the best word, even though I’m sure some people think it is derogatory) are really fun and so patient with me. I continually express my interest in learning Turkish, and they oblige me by slowing down, sticking to relatively easy topics, and repeating repeating repeating.
Another colleague helped me build confidence in Turkish by creating a role play situation in which I was the study abroad director and he was a student wanting to study in the US. My role was to ask all the basic questions that one might be asked on and application. I think I exceeded his expectations a few times and his generous praise made me feel much more confident to keep practicing. Tekrar edebilir misiniz? (could you repeat that?)
Yet another colleague took us on a personalized tour of Kayseri, including the Tuesday market close to our apartment and a home improvement store in downtown Kayseri. She graciously helped us select several items that we’ve been doing without for the past several weeks:
A toaster. Skillet toast is neither fun nor tasty.
A wall clock. Our apartment has no clocks or decorations on the walls. We are changing that!
Bed lamps. Bright overhead light when husband is reading and I’m trying to sleep is no good. You should have seen the crazy way Alan had to rig up the extension chorded surge protector to get them both plugged into the same outlet. On a side note, there are regulations in the US about how frequently outlets must be placed in rooms. In Turkey, apparently one per room is pretty much good enough, and if you have the need for more, you better get used to stepping over extension chords.
A big, awesome tropical plant. We bought it in the name of decoration but I think its function is more like a pet-substitute for now. We are thinking of names for it.
A hairdryer. One, wet hair is so not professional. Two, after rinising one’s hair with a vinegar solution as I have been, the odor of vinegar remains under the hair is dry. Two birds, one proverbial stone.
In my field of teaching, we often talk about students’ motivation to learn the language as being either functional (e.g., a Turk learning English to study in an English-medium graduate program) or integrative (e.g., a Turk learning English to live in Lincoln, Nebraska and try to meet an American wife). While my absolute need to learn basic Turkish is merely functional, days like today bring up my integrative motivation because I do want to be a part of this community in Kayseri. Not forever, Grandma, but for now. I would like work on my Turkish proficiency so that I can enjoy speaking Turkish with my colleagues as part of our friendship—and ultimately as part of our human-to-human exchange. This is the purpose of travel.