Day 13 Selcuk
(Pool in the Mountains, Selcuk)
At breakfast the family I’m staying with and I got into a conversation about the difference between seeds and pits, in Turkish there is one word to represent both things. I got a piece of paper and listed the seeds on our breakfast table: watermelon, cucumber, pepper and the pits: olives, peach, date.
They didn’t know the word date in English, so I found a photo which led to a discussion on the different uses for the word date: 1, the fruit. 2, a day on the calendar. 3, a romantic outing.
The mother asked what “pet” meant; I wrote out a flight of words, pat, pet, pit, pot, put. I drew pictures next to each word and they demonstrated the difference between petting and patting on the daughter’s head.
“Why are you touch me now when the word is pot?” the daughter asked.
I didn’t tell them the different meanings of the word pot because we moved the English lesson to the floor and taught the mother and the father how to sing and do the hand movements to, “Miss Mary Mack.” that the daughter and I have been working on. I know that this song doesn’t have a practical application to carry them forward in their mastery of English. When will they ever need to use the phrase, “With silver buttons, buttons, buttons all down her back, back, back?”
The daughter chose for her English lesson to be at the piano where she practiced “If the Stars Were Mine.” She can play the piano part beautifully and is just memorizing the words and getting that off-beat start to the song. She hasn’t complained once that I’m not teaching her a Katy Perry song on the piano.
I couldn’t resist teaching her the instrumental song, “Heart and Soul” a few days ago, the only song my mother banned from her house for the boring melody line that plays over and over like a skip on an old record. With so many children in the house I grew up in, we could get another kid to take over a part without stopping the song and could keep it going for hours. The daughter’s mastered the basics and if she teaches the song to one friend, it’s possible that this song, too, can annoy more mothers of the world.
“You want to try it again?” I ask.
“Yes.” she whispers and starts from the beginning.
It’s time for me to move on to my next part of Turkey, and that makes me sad. I’ve found people who feel like family and a big part of me wants to stay. It’s tough to leave when things are so good. I wanted to help the father with some writing in one of his museums, but maybe I can do that from the road. I wanted to help the mother set up her classroom for the fall, but the municipality is still renovating her building. I wanted to help the daughter get the “v” sound out of her “w” words, as in “Vye you vant vater so much?”
Later when we were out, the mother, the father and I had a discussion on whether a stray kitten was cute, as in “Cute cat” or lovely, as in “Lovely cat.” I suggested that the cat was cute, but the mother was lovely. The father repeated that phrase quietly, “Lovely mother. Lovely mother.” He was quiet a few minutes then said again, “Lovely mother.”
The word they have trouble remembering is “mosquito.” Every time the father is bit by one, he asks how to saw that bad word again.
“mosquito.” I tell him that those insects are helping him learn English.
The father repeats, “mosquito” then looks up a word in the translate program. “abundance of mosquitoes.” That phrase is so cute I don’t correct him or suggest a change. Rather I walk around saying, “An abundance of mosquitoes.” and nodding as if in agreement.
In the afternoon we headed to a pool in the mountains where the air is cooler. There are no other buildings around; we are surrounded by wilderness. The daughter invited a few friends and they splashed around while the mother and the father read a book translated from English on raising a gifted child. I sat under the shade and did nothing for hours. I didn’t ask any questions or document anything. My camera never left my bag. I didn’t read or write. I watched the children playing the way all children play at the pool.
They splashed each other. They dunked each other. The swam to collect things from the bottom. They jumped off the edge into the deep end over and over and over again. They stopped for computer breaks to make videos of themselves laughing and drinking water, then left the computer to jump back into the water, shrieking at the cold temperature. A boy threw the goggles over the edge that was a five foot drop to the ground below. He asked me what he should do.
I pointed to the office and typed into the translate program, “Tell them in the office.” The children love the computer voice of the translate program and love to repeat the words so they sound as robotic as they can. “Tell them in the office.” he said flatly.
We left the pool and drove deeper into the mountains. We arrived at a center with a restaurant and campgrounds. We found a spot, unloaded the food and set up the table. The center hands out table cloths; they didn’t fit the table all the way but were close enough. The owner carried a small black grill filled with smoking hot charcoal and puts it next to the table. And just like that we are ready to grill.
A few bees find us, yellow jackets. We ignore them and set the table. Within minutes more bees have found us and are crawling all over the meat. Seriously? I think this might be the most bees I have ever seen at one time, but they must have cell phones tucked under their wings and call every bee in the area; more arrive. Then more. And more still.
The children are upset and leave the table to play with a zipline that’s just off the ground. The mother and I try to cover the meat, but the bees find ways in. The father grills and we shoo them away to no avail.
It’s a bee apocalypse. We make plates for the children and go to the center’s covered deck area next to the lake. We enjoy ten minutes of peace before the bees find us. I help cover the plates with flat bread, but the bees won’t leave. The children leave the area and I do my best to throw their uneaten food into the garbage so we might get some peace.
I returned to the grill, the father has a number of stings on his hand and his neck. They’re swelling. Mother and I look from his neck to each other. We pack the car and shoo the bees out of the trunk then walk father to the center and sit him down. The mother holds ice on his neck and we notice the back of his hand is now swollen, too.
We leave and the children complain they are hungry, but don’t want to eat anything when we get home. They want to go out for ice-cream, but not tonight. The father relaxes with ice cubes and the mother and I sit on the balcony with cups of herbal tea.
We use one phone and translate thoughts back and forth at a fast pace, only stalling when the program accidentally changes languages or misrepresents what we wanted to say. We go deeper into our stories. She talks about her low blood pressure and how she has too many interests and doesn’t want to rest, which the doctor wants her to do. I tell her that I have low blood pressure, too, but that my doctor told me to stay active and eat more salt. We decide that perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle for both of us.
I tell her I am sad to leave her family; they are now my family. She agrees, we are family. Then she thinks for a moment and types into the phone, “But I know you and have watched you. You are the most happy when you can see something new and write about it.”
I nod in agreement.
We picked up our phones and plotted my journey around Turkey for the next month. She’s come up with a plan where I have mostly 3 hour bus rides then stop for the night in a new area. According to our schedule, I’ll have one more full day with the family.
When we are too exhausted to continue, I use simple words that she can understand without help: “A good day.”
She corrects my English. “Many good days.”