Nesfe Jahan, pt 41

26 October 2010

Reporting live from Guclukonak The next day I wake up after a long comatose sleep. It’s Sunday, and I’m happy I don’t have to face the kids yet. I still need some time to get used to the direct environment, before I become the tourist attraction for a hundred 10 year olds. A local teacher takes us for a small tour of the village. We stop for a moment at what he calls the “old village”. It’s a bunch of caves in an inaccessible valley, and it’s tiny. He shows us the cave where he used to wash himself when he was a child. My stomach turn, as I know this guy is about 30 years old. I really hope he’s kidding, but nobody is laughing. He throws an empty water bottle as far as he can into the valley. I’m not sure what it means. Either he doesn’t see the problem with trash, as so many people in the Balkans and Turkey, or he must really hate this place. I amuse myself with my host, Sumeyye, making up names for the places here. Taksim is the crossroads where the minibus stops. There are no sewer, so the side street with water is Galata. Shit lake. I think I really hate this place. Not the people, but everything else. Maybe Ilusu wouldn’t be such a bad idea, just wipe it all off the map and be done with it.

Today, that faithful day came. My first day as a teacher, in the next village. Population: a couple of hundred. Vroenhoven, if you know that place. I’m nervous for my first class. I have not idea what to teach these kids. I try to explain what hitchhiking is, some places in Europe. I show them that the Ottomans where in Budapest. And it’s pretty useless. They seem to know the Western European countries, but my hunch is that it’s mainly from family, not school. I spend just as much time explaining my time in Turkey. One kid has been to Bursa, close to Istanbul. For most others it’s a place far, far away. Most of them haven’t left the province, even Hasankeyf they only know from pictures. I take special care to point out Tarlebashi in Istanbul, where Kurdish people live. I also point out that Urfa holds a sizable minority. Not for any political reason, I just really hope they remember this. I feel pretty useless, I’m teaching in Turkish even though they have 4 hours of English a week. The first two years, they don’t even know Turkish, they learn by having any other class in Turkish. Even from local teachers. But no Turkish class. All children are in uniform, the younger kids in a delightful blue dress, the older girls in uniform, the older boys in a suit. I wonder how much effort it is for the parents to keep those shirts white. The student body is cripple. I embarrass one girl by repeatedly asking for her name, until the girl next to her points out that she is a mute. Another boy cannot understand that I’m asking for my name. “little intelligence”. Most kids are half sleeping, half playing around. About a quarter is enthusiastic and interacting with me, about two can actually follow. Most of them come home to chores, cleaning, looking out for younger brothers or sisters, working in the garden, or taking over the animals from mother so she can cook. Today, I confused them with pretty pictures and badly pronounced Tarzan. Teaching them how to hitchhike and ask total strangers if you can put your tent in their garden. I think about 12 kids can now count from 999 to in the millions in English. And I’m exhausted.