It was a long and rough winter for us in Ankara. For a moment there, I thought all of the stars in the sky had a bad case of dandruff – it snowed that much! In fact, we had flurries again yesterday. But now the sun is shining and flowers are poking their little heads through the dark earth. March is a time of rejuvenation. For me, it always inspires something new – a new haircut, new course of studies, or a new life lesson.
March also has sentimental value to me. Two weeks ago was my 2nd anniversary of making Ankara my home. It’s been two years of ups and downs. All in all, I am enjoying living here.
The thing I like most about Turkey is that it offers so many new opportunities for learning. Its doors are open to everyone; Russians, Koreans, Ethiopians, you name it! Whether taking language lessons, acting in a play, visiting an art exhibit, or supporting a noble cause, there are lots of things to do, lots to see, and lots of people to meet! In Ankara, there is always an opportunity to meet someone new. It is the people that make my life here so invigorating.
Living in a large city back in the States, I also had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. But now, I really take full advantage of it. I could easily fall into an expat groove of hanging out with American compadres, eating burgers and pizza, and watching CNBCE. Instead, learning about Turkey and its people through the eyes of Turks and non-American expats has become a hobby.
If I had to offer one piece of advice to a newbie in Turkey it would be this, “Keep an open mind.” Let’s face it, most Americans know very little about Turkish culture. Making friends with a variety of Turks, rich and poor, from the cities and from the villages, can be a real eye opener.
I volunteer as a native speaker for an English conversation group. The Turkish women in the group have taught me so much about the culture and they have become very good friends. But, I have also learned not to take what they say at face value. Turks, like everyone else, have different bases for making their evaluations. They have different backgrounds and different experiences. This is an obvious factor that we guests sometimes forget. People are people. They can’t be categorized. Luckily, I learned this lesson early on. Just because one Turk says it is so, doesn’t mean it is so. It’s just easier for expats to believe it is so, in order to move on to learning something new.
Of course, it’s not just our Turkish hosts that teach us lessons. Other expats will often chime in too. Upon arrival, I was told that I should do this, and I shouldn’t do that. There was even one expat who has lived here many years who insisted that I should never serve onions to important Turkish guests! I now make it a regular habit; putting onions on the table. Cooking is one of my greatest loves. I have not yet disappointed a guest with my creamed onions and thyme recipe!
So there it is. Two years of learning something new almost every day. My, how I have grown! Here’s to many more good years to come, years of learning, years of experiencing, and years of making new friends in my new homeland. Many thanks to my Turkish hosts!
Come on April!!!