pottery intentions and backgammon surprises


Application time. This is time intended to be used going into the community, practicing language, interacting with local people, and exploring. For application I journeyed to the pottery studio located in a nearby village. Well that was my intent. 
For those of you who know me, you know I tend to be a little independent. This is something I really enjoy about myself. However, it has been brought to my attention lovingly via the people leading our school that I need to be careful about what my “normal” actions are communicating to the culture. 
Questions such as:
  • What is it communicating to the village community when I go to the pottery studio by myself? 
  • Is this impacting my reputation (which is HIGHLY valued and impacting not just you but the entire COMMUNITY in which you live as this is culture whose importance and identity is based on the community you are in and not on the individual)? 
  • And if I am putting myself in a high risk situation by going alone?

Having wrestled through these questions more I set out for the village with my friend Elysa (not alone) and a cell phone (way to get help if needed). I was ready!
We hopped on the dolmus (public transport—like a van), and made it to the otogar (bus station). We were waiting for the next dolmus going to the village when the store people began interacting with us.
Elysa began playing backgammon with the owner, and I was asking Kevin (employee going to school for tourism) how to ask the dolmus driver, “What time is the last bus?” The tourist season is over the routs are less frequent and I didn’t want us to get stuck! The owner showed us two videos of his 17 year old daughter singing at her school recitals.
You guys, this was awesome! I am reminded that as I spend time with Turks how SIMILAR we are. We are all just people doing the best we can do. This dad had recordings taken on his phone of his daughter singing at school, which he had uploaded on facebook. And just like the proud papa? He is telling EVERYONE who will listen how amazing his little girl is—not only does she dance but she is a runner in track– #1 in the city and #2 in the province.  After the bus came we bid Kevin and the owner whose name I cannot recall farewell.
An older woman dropped her wallet on the bus ride and was surprised when I sprang up to help her scoop up her coins, photos, money, and trinkets.
Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the village. I lead the way excitedly to the studio! Unfortunately? When I rounded the corner? There stood the studio with all its doors boarded up and tightly shut. No potter in sight. Darn.
No pottery.
So? Elysa and I decided to make the most of our adventure and have a cup of Turkish tea at the restaurant near the studio. There happened to be a backgammon board out on the table and we decided to play. The only problem? Elysa didn’t know how to play very well, and I had never played before! 
Our new friend Mutlu (moot-loo)—whose name means happy began teaching us.  It was fun learning with him! Mutlu played on my behalf as I watched and coached Elysa through her turn. As each round progressed? He gave more and more responsibility to us until the final game when we were playing independent of him. Mutlu’s English was really good. He is the cook at the restaurant, in his mid-thirties probably, and has a Turkish crescent moon-star tattoo on his hand. After finishing our Turkish tea, we stopped mid game to thank Mutlu for his help, and walk to the main road to catch our ride back. 
I have to confess that there have been a lot of times in my life when things didn’t turn out the way I anticipated they should look I would reject the experience. My attitude would be sour and nothing about the surprise scenario could be salvaged. Now? EVERY part of this adventure today was incredible and it was great that it didn’t look the way I thought it might. There is freedom to be surprised by the singing daughter video on youtube, the no pottery-pottery adventure, backgammon lessons with someone named Happy, and the smile from the ice cream attendant when I asked how they were doing in Turkish. What a beautiful day full of surprises!

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