Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Week to Istanbul...

June 13, 2009

Merhaba, dear friends...

Thinking Out Loud
by Marianne

At the Firefly Jazz Club
in Ann Arbor
a miniature lights
smokeless bistro sort of place
that feels more like new age
than guttural, dusty jazz,
I met a couple from Turkey
And I wonder if everyone there
is as beautiful as they are...

Coffee skin, warm,
moist with years of Istanbul humidity
hair clumped in gray curls
dreadlocks almost
and eyes soft and intense, singing,
telling me of the jazz festival
in their home
in Istanbul
all of June and segueing into July...

A beautiful place
for visitors,
he tells me,
But a hard, difficult city
to live in.
You'll see what I mean
when you are there
in the streets
the traffic crowding you
into closeness...

And the woman
tells me of Cappadocia
and how I must see the stars
in this place with such a sky
so few lights
how you'll never believe
how many stars
are in our Turkish sky...

And I was thinking about last summer
and walking in the rain
in Guiyang, China
after karaoke and a shared beer,
knowing I long for another night
under a foreign sky.
I want to hear Turkey
whisper to me
over and over again
under a starry Cappadocia sky...

A week from today, I will arrive in Istanbul, Turkey. Traveling with 15 teachers via a Fulbright-Hays Program, I'll be immersed in Turkish culture for approximately 4 1/2weeks. Our schedule is rich, ambitious, and textured with visits to many mosques, amazing historical sites, and places that I know will remind me that I need to keep breathing...

All of us met at the University of Michigan a couple weeks ago for a weekend orientation workshop. The session began with an essay test: there are nine topics from which to choose, Gottfried told us, and we were to select six. My initial thought was, are they trying to discover my stupidity about Turkey? In my days on the student side of the classroom, I remember Turkey as "the place where East meets West," and beyond that, I had only a map of Turkey in my head. I have much to learn...

Between the guest professors sharing many aspects of Turkey with us, the trip to Ann Arbor's Turkish Ayse's Cafe, and a two night stint at The Firefly Jazz Club where we met a couple from Turkey, I am now thoroughly entranced with the many gifts Turkey has to offer.

I have been fortunate to work with two students from Turkey this past year at the middle school where I teach in East Lansing, Michigan: Babur and Seyda. Babur's quick wit and very natural sense of humor, along with an excellent sense of comedic timing, kept us amused and filled with his light spirit all year. Seyda, filled with passion for the power of language, drew us all in with her lyrical and starkly honest poetry. There is a small possibility that I may be able to visit Babur in Turkey, as his family goes on holiday to their summer place outside Istanbul.

This week I will commit to memory several Turkish phrases that will help communication. I also plan to travel lightly... and for those who know me, you know how difficult this is for me to do. I don't anticipate the need for my usual "comfort food" jar of peanut butter I usually take overseas, as I think my stomach will be more than satisfied with lamb kabobs, baklava, and hazelnuts. Already occupying their place in my suitcase are the bookmarks my students designed. The bookmarks will be gifts, celebrating and honoring new friendships in Turkey. A special thanks to my students who might be reading this blog...

A country's proverbs are often a very significant path to understanding, and, often, cross-cultural similarities. I've been reading many Turkish proverbs, and I would like to end this first entry with one of my favorites thus far:

"...Having two ears and one tongue, we should listen twice as much as we speak..."
-Turkish Proverb

And with those words of wisdom, I will say Iyi geceler, goodnight. I look forward to much listening and learning in Turkey...

P.S. As I was reading Turkish proverbs, I also came across this one...
"...An ass does not appreciate fruit compote."
-Turkish Proverb

And so it goes...

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing Turkey vicariously through your wonderful posts!