Yesterday I had the opportunity to volunteer as a native speaker for an English conversation class at the Turkish American Association in Ankara. It was more of an informal gathering of Turkish women who simply want to practice their English skills.
I enjoyed the class. I am told that sometimes they discuss current issues and politics. At other times they read a book and review it. But this time was different.
These women spoke of recent vacations to islands over Bayram. Many spoke of Christmas and how they will buy and decorate a tree. One woman throroughly detailed her visit to India – the jewels and silks she bought, the meditation and yoga she saw, and how poor the people are. She highly recommended a trip to India.
What I most enjoyed was how they welcomed me into their intimate group. While many of them spoke absolutely perfect English, had lived in English-speaking countries and many other countries, they seemed sincerely happy to have me there. And I didn’t do anything other than what they were doing – telling stories, gossiping a little, and enjoying each other’s company.
I look forward to going back next week. These women were “genuine”. They were not full of stories about how “Turkish” life is. Rather, they were full of dreams of what they want Turkey to be – dreams that were built upon international experiences – drawing on all of the good they saw in the world, and recognizing what was not always good in Turkey. They were a breath of fresh air.