Next week will be ten months since I made Turkey my home. Time passes quickly, and at the same time, moves at the same slow pace of that snail I think is living in my Christmas tree.
This morning, I have taken some time to reflect on my friendships, both old and new. As we age, our childhood friendships often wither away, but somehow remain clear in our hearts and minds. Our school friendships were long ago lost, but are rekindled through new technologies like Facebook. Some of our adult friends turned out to be acquaintances, while others metamorphosized into brothers and sisters.
In Ankara, I had to start anew. Through my blog, I made several new friends, mostly foreignors living here in Turkey. In the neighborhood, I met a few other Turkish friends with whom I hold very light and minimal conversations. My husband introduced me to co-workers and we enjoy a dinner every now and again. However, I had no solid and meaningful contacts with Turks, that is, until a couple of months ago when I joined an English conversation class.
That’s right, I still can’t hold a conversation in Turkish, much less buy plant food at a local store. (I tried – it’s not “plant food” but rather, “plant vitamins”. It took a good 20 minutes to communicate what I wanted before I successfully came home with a bottle of Turkey’s MiracleGro.) And yet, I attend a weekly class held at the TAA (Turkish American Association) – an English conversation group.
Yesterday, we gathered at the group leader’s home for our holiday party.
When I first joined the group, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Was this a group of women who were serious about learning a langauage? Or did they simply like to get together and gossip in English?
After a few meetings, I learned more about who the women are, their backgrounds, careers, and interests. I quickly learned that these are a phenomanal group of women! They had lots to offer and held meaningful conversations. As different as they were from each other, I found I had much in common with each of them.
Many have traveled far and wide. Some even lived as expats. For example, one of the women was raised in Germany and then lived in the States for many years before returning to Ankara.
Some of the women are married and some are not. One is a doctor, another an architect. Some have children and some of their children have married foreignors. Some are very political. Well, probably all of them are. Some work for Parliament and government offices. Others volunteer for political parties. At least one is a daughter of a former diplomat. Some are retired. Others work at home.
One woman is an artist.
Many of these women have been meeting for as long as ten years. Their love for each other, even when they don’t always get along, clearly shows.
The party was a lot of fun. They surprised me by telling jokes in Turkish, and then proceeded to translate them as a group into English for me. Afterall, it was English class!
I thank these women for accepting me into their group. They have taken me under their wing. They look to me for guidance on the English language, but in return, they give me so much more. They have introduced me to their friends, showed me where to shop, answered questions I have about Turkey and Turkishness, and generally, treat me like a sister. (Yes, Fulya, you are like an Abla to me!)
A couple of weeks ago, I took my sister to meet the class. We were late and only attended for a few minutes. A group of the women decided to go out for lunch to introduce Abla to traditional Turkish cuisine.
It’s unclear at this point who will remain as lifelong friends. If it’s one thing I have learned through the years, it’s that friends are often just acquaintances that we enjoy for a while and then they move on. But surely some will remain! And right now, I hope it’s all of them!