Welcome to Bill and Carol's Senior Years Abroad, Month 5. At breakfast this morning, we had a stocktaking chat about how to characterize this past month. We agreed that it was SEEKING BALANCE or "terazi aramak."
Here's one recent balancing effort: after spending one very hot season here, we decided to find a refuge for hottest part of next summer. The Alps of Slovenia seemed like a good prospect--cool, gorgeous, not overly expensive--so we went there to check it out. For those whose geography of eastern Europe is as sketchy as mine, I'll mention that Slovenia shares a border with Italy to the west and Austria to the north, and this northeast corner was our first target: the Julian Alps. Slovenia is famous for two of Bill's passions, bicycling and trout fishing, so we knew he would be happy there. And I just couldn't get enough of those towering mountains. Even in the fall mist, they were dazzling.
At first, I'll admit, I was seduced by having access in Slovenia to some accommodations we lack in Turkey: "Look at this, Bill, there's potable water coming out of the tap--and it's even hot!" or "Hey, Bill, there's roast PORK on
The Julian Alps
Misty but breathtaking
this menu!" (Pork does not exist in Turkey, so we ate a lot of it there.) It was a joy to be in a place where there is widespread recycling and where bicycling is both common and respected--not a suicidal sport as it is in the brutal streets of Turkey.
We learned to admire Slovenia for more than its European-style tidiness, efficiency, and convenience. The population is diligent and well educated. Virtually everyone under 40 can speak English (and several other languages) quite well. And like the Turks, the people are genuinely cheerful--despite serious political and economic hardship even in recent decades. Also, even away from those magnetic Alps, the scenery is really memorable: I was charmed by handsome old churches everywhere and, yes, medieval castles. We loved the neatly divided green, green fields, and the colorful Alpine houses, their window boxes overflowing with flowers.
Ljubljana, the capital, is a sweet, lively city, full of history and sophistication: fine museums, galleries, parks, and lots of street life with cafe tables on the sidewalk. It has its own hilltop castle and a handsome green river flows through the oldest part of town. And it's almost offensively clean!
Fly Fishing on the Sava
Browns and Rainbows abound
as you can tell, we were smitten with Slovenia. By the time we left, we had rented a little A-frame studio in the Julian Alps for the last two weeks in August 2011, and a small apartment in Ljubljana for the first two weeks in September 2011. We'll spend mid-July to mid-August on the Black Sea coast of Turkey and perhaps in Budapest or in the Republic of Georgia.
On the flight back to Turkey, I felt a little disloyal about enjoying Slovenia so much. After all, we've made a commitment to Turkey. But when we walked into our quirky but comfortable flat and reconnected with our Turkish friends and Turkish life, we were delighted to be back. It was, as they say, "just a fling--it didn't mean a thing."
As the weeks roll on here, we are finding ourselves quite committed and connected. When I joined the International Women of Antalya Association, we began to have opportunities for several activities a month--most with men included. We all went to a picnic brunch in a nearby village last week, and we plan to do an organic vegetarian cooking class with the group next week. We especially enjoy a
Roast Pork in Slovenia
Not available in Turkey
New Zealand couple we met that way, and they invited us to a weekly gathering of English teachers at an outdoor bistro with live music. At that gathering, we met some folks who want to start an English book club--and the first meeting is at our flat.
In the meantime, we've been waiting for the Turkish government to approve our credentials (CVs, letters of recommendation, and transcripts) so that we can be volunteer teachers' assistants in public school English classes.We have to prove that we are neither spies nor missionaries. While we're waiting, we've begun volunteering on Saturdays at a "dershane" (a program that provides extra enrichment classes) for public school students in a working class neighborhood. They all study English at school, but most don't actually learn how to speak or understand the language there. So our job (so far) is to interact with the children in English and to support the work of the English teachers in the dershane. The teachers are first rate, and the children (ages 8 -12) are fun. I think that as we prove ourselves reliable, our work will expand.
Speaking of having work expand, I just received a call from the
We will be staying here in late August 2011
head of the Foreign Language Department at the large public university here, Akdeniz University. I had met him last summer, and he remembered me. An English professor had just vacated a fulltime teaching position, and he wanted me to consider being the replacement. I have an appointment to talk to him tomorrow. I'll admit that I'm hungry to be back in the classroom--but I'm very wary about taking a fulltime job. I've become addicted to 9 hours of sleep and a life of travel and serendipity! Besides, we love having visitors, and I really want to be free to enjoy them. Yikes!
So, at last, you see the source of the "seeking balance" theme. In our breakfast discussion this morning, Bill and I were musing that it seems to be the American way to fill up our lives with commitments. As good Americans, we are doing it! Even in Turkey, our calendar is filling up--mostly with people and activities we truly enjoy. But perhaps there are already too many pencil markings on that calendar. They proliferate like hamsters!
Most of the photos this month are all of Slovenia. But if I could send you a virtual photo of
Turkey in October, it would be of a luminous blue sky with fluffy clouds making crinkly reflections in the Sea. It would show colorful crowds of Turks flocking to the park beside us and gathering here and there in little groups around musicians. And they would all be wearing jackets because, yes, it is actually in the 70's now. That feels pretty chilly to our Turkish friends--but glorious to us!
We're so happy to have all of you following the ebb and flow of this journey with us. Your comments mean more than you can imagine. And when Thanksgiving comes in a few weeks, we will think of YOU!
Carol Roach--with Bill at my side
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