by Fred MOORE - July 2011
This will be my most difficult article, as we have to say goodbye to our beloved Turkey. Our government has asked that I be returned to the United States; foreign duty has time limits unfortunately. We knew this departure date would come and we accepted it as inevitable but still take it most reluctantly. We will be moving to Augusta, GA to Ft Gordon; I know nothing of my new job but am told I will be trained. We thank God that He has given us this place as it will be very much the same climate and we will be close to our son for the first time in 30 years; less than 100 miles.
Leaving Turkey is leaving a rich and warm family; we’ve done this twice before but it gets far more difficult each time. When we return, our friends here welcome us back with tears of joy all around and we engage in conversation as if we had only just popped out for a doner sandwich and returned. The first time our absence was five years; the second time it was ten years but still our friends were steadfast in their memories, their friendship and their gracious warm hospitality. We also never wavered in our memories; going back to visit our old shopkeepers and dear friends, each and everyone, always the same. As we meet each of us beams with delight to see the other. I fear this time will be a departure without a return (only Allah/God can tell); my career travels are nearing their end and we will not likely find new job opportunities as senior citizens who wish to live and work in Turkey. We will continue our personal ambassadorial efforts to highlight Turkey’s positive attributes; there are multitudes of them!
My childhood was in rural America; I grew up working on farms around my home and Turkey reminds me often of those humble beginnings. As a child, I took care of goats, chickens, even a sheep or two and other animals. We had outdoor plumbing until I was in my early teens; so Turkey offered me many memories of my childhood days (not all pleasant ones I grant you, but some). Turkish people and communities offer warm hospitality very much like that offered in rural America at the time I was growing up in the 1950s. People here care about their neighbors; they show great concern for the people who lived around them; everyone looks after everyone. America has lost a lot of that concern but Turkey still clings to it even in the cities to some extent. I’ll never forget the time when we were visited by our landlord in Ankara and we weren’t home. Every building in the city has a man responsible for maintenance that lives with his family in the building, he’s called a kapici (literally translated: doorman). This guy knew full well where Carol and I were; at first that troubled me, but later I decided that’s because neighbors looked out for neighbors. We were summoned and took care of the landlord’s visit and then returned to our friends down the street. We felt far safer in our little neighborhood after that experience.
Over the years living here (some 14 in all now) we’ve seen what late 20th and early 21st century technology can do to degrade that sense of community that we’d become so used to, but we also see how the strong older generation still holds tight to its roots and we’ve been and continue to be the beneficiary of that very warm generation. I fail in mere words as I try to convey this incredible family oriented society that we’ve come to know and cherish; friendship here is deep, honest and lifelong. We have friends here who are family every bit as close as any true family we have in America; dare I say more so in some cases. This is not at all an indictment of our families, I’m simply saying we’ve come to look on friends here as family.
As I try to encapsulate our years in Turkey, I can’t help but remember that first night in Ankara. Here’s a major city in a foreign land so very far from our roots; everything seemed frightening but fascinating simultaneously. When morning arrived with a rooster crowing outside our building far below our fifth floor windows, I think, “Hey, I’m home!” We arrived in Turkey in 1982 at Ataturk Airport (not today’s Ataturk Airport); it was under heavy construction and we were literally herded into a warehouse to go through customs. Turkey was under martial law and things were not ‘our’ normal; the military was in control of every governmental department.
I remember getting acclimated and learning all the ways of the culture, finding an apartment and learning that it is not fully equipped. You simply rent an empty shell flat; you get no light fixtures, no closets (to speak of, if any at all), no appliances and no drapes. When you finally settle on a flat you might even have to paint it as well as install those other amenities.
We found a nice flat and moved in; we painted it and put up drapes but after a year we were asked to move. Turkey has this law, you see, that you must move if a family member needs the flat. As it turned out, our second flat was larger and didn’t need painting although it did need everything else. We adjusted and we acclimated well to our new environment; our routines were established and we felt very much at home. We established a verbal contract with a cab company and got a ride to work (we had no car) every morning for a couple dollars. We used public transportation a lot and moved seamlessly into the local society. We immersed ourselves in the culture and became just one of the inhabitants!
We enjoyed gallery openings, museum visits, symphony nights, ancient ruin tours and eating out (eating became a cherished pastime) at multiple cafes throughout the week. Eating, where does one begin when discussing the local food? Suffice it to say, the freshness and taste of Turkish cuisine (in my judgment) is unsurpassed; this is ONE of many areas that we will seriously miss. We’ve been on the move all our lives and I don’t recall a more satisfying cuisine anywhere (yes, we miss TexMex, but little else really). Six or eight times a year we would get invitations to a gallery opening and we’ve purchased a number of Turkish paintings over the years here (more than we have walls for, I swear). The weekly symphony was a wonderful way to wrap up the week and start our weekend. Spending time in the world of ancient Turkey was educational and awe inspiring (our nation’s history seems so insignificant in comparison). The museums of the early republic and the archaeology discoveries of the country are exciting and enlightening. Each of our tours illuminated the ancient past in ways I can’t begin to highlight for you in this short writing; this country IS a major part of the cradle of civilization! I find it more than fascinating on tours of ancient sites; in the States we talk of OLD being 2 & 3 hundred years but here we talk thousands of years! One site we’ve visited goes back in time 10,000 years. All of these wonderful things changed our world view and enhanced our understanding of the “global community in which we live”.
We lived for four years in Ankara our first stay in Turkey and then returned for another tour of duty; we stayed only 22 months that time (we closed the Ankara Air Station) and had to return to the States. Ten years and a major life style change later we were back in Turkey, but this time in Adana. Over the years, Turkey has changed a lot and of course Adana is a whole new location to get used to; we live on a Turkish Air Base in the American Community this time. There are no apartments to locate, no fixtures to buy and the house is ready almost on our arrival. We were assigned for two years but had the great fortune to extend that stay to 8 years; we feel extremely privileged to have spent this time in this warm culture and extraordinary community of people.
The friends we’ve collected, we will never forget, the ancient sights we’ve visited will forever be embossed in our memories and the experiences collected will continue to flavor our “World View” for many years! You can’t live and work in this kind of environment without somehow becoming a part of it as it becomes a part of YOU.
We’ll continue to keep tabs on our second home through news media and friends as long as we live because we ARE a part of Turkey and always will be. I often dream of the day when the resources become available to the cultural ministry to excavate and restore the ancient beauty of this vast and wondrous land. I feel a serious deflation as I sign off for the last time from Turkey. Should you have the resources and health necessary to travel, DO NOT MISS TURKEY!
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