Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watermelons breed friendship

I finish class early on Tuesdays. Thus, I decided to explore the sleepy little town of Konuralp where our English campus is located. With Tas and Nick still teaching, I wondered around looking for a place to buy fruit and have some lunch. I said hello to some gentlemen sitting at a cafe- just a good afternoon- and got frowns in return. Not indifference, not smiles, frowns. Big, fat frowns. I am paranoid that people think I am a prostitute because I smile and am blonde and friendly. Apparently, there was a problem with blonde Eastern European women coming over to Turkey via the Black Sea for those reasons. I sincerely hope that word of me being an English teacher spreads fast, and I can ease on the paranoia. Despite my embarrassment, I wandered into a little store to buy some water and lo and behold, I find an old man SO excited to see me. Me? At this point, I am racking my memory for any past meetings...have I met him? Oh no, what's his name? After two awkward minutes, I realized that no, I really do not know this man and he is not assuming that I am a prostitute. (SUCCESS!) He owns the little dakkan(store) and wants to know all about my life. Oh, did I mention he doesn't speak English? He asks me questions in Turkish and I respond with "I am an English teacher at Duzce University and live in the guest house." He is delighted that I just spoke Turkish and insists that I sit on the only chair in the store, so that we may chat. He gestures to me to sit and disappears. Two minutes later, he comes back with a tray of freshly sliced watermelon, grown right here in Konuralp. We continue chatting and I understand him, but am pretty sure he thinks that I do not because my Turkish is mostly understanding based. When it comes to producing, I falter. He asks me all about my family, if I am a Doctor, if I am married and then proceeds to tell me about his two sons, who are 19 and 20, and his wife. I am officially invited to hear a surgeon (who speaks English) speak about heart surgery at 5pm today. I am hoping that I can go a bit later. Twenty minutes into our semi-intelligible conversation, I decide to whip out my dictionary to better communicate. He asks me if I like beer and I say it is okay but I don't drink beer because I am allergic to bread. He then asks me what food I like. Kofte, I say. He literally galloped out of the store and apparently ordered me a beautiful lunch. A cafe waiter brings it into this tiny little shop and I am the only one eating while he continues to ask me questions I think I understand, and struggle to reply to.  The meal was so tasty. Juicy kofte (grilled meat) with rice pilaf, grilled tomatoes and peppers and fresh onions. Eventually he starts using his computer to translate and asks what religion I am. I explain that I am a Protestant and he immediately exclaims in Turkish- "Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, we are all brothers! All religions are the same." Can I just tell you how happy that made me? After talking for a good forty minutes, he says "thank you so much for meeting me, and I hope you come to the speech tonight by the Doctor." I respond with, "Inshallah(god willing)," and ask him how much lunch is. I don't even know where it came from...but he says no and refuses to let me pay for anything. I began walking back to Duzce University and the beauty of this mountain town hit me. Hills flow seamlessly together in this lush place. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and I could not be happier, or luckier to be where I am.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sarah, that is such a cool feeling. When I was in Taiwan, I could not tell you how many free lunches and dinners I received (I too tried to pay). They were generally interested in me, America, and they would love to practice their English (as they got a hoot of me attempting to speak Chinese). In those moments it seems to put life into the perspective that life is good, there are good people, and that it is the simple things that we see and come across are the most meaningful


Search My Blog