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An Ape Loose in the Marina
Learning Designs volunteers Hasan and Çeyda, with Nick
My delicious Turkish coffee, pre-fortune reading
Cesme scenery
Slowest Windsurfer Alive
Sema, Hasan´s mother shows us some of the beautiful 3D art she makes
The inviting back patio of Hasan´s family´s home in Alaçati
Pelin, Hasan´s sister, prepares to read me my Turkish coffee fortune
Walking through the streets of Cesme
A lovely church in Cesme
This man walked around with a lion as a pet…really
Statue of Ismet Inönü, Turkey’s second president, and his wife
The lovely home of Hasan’s family
Ancient and the modern meet in Cesme
Random restaurant in Cesme
The shops and walkthroughs of Cesme

Izmir, Alaçati, and Çesme Scenes

After yesterday’s arrival and hustle fun to the Ministry of Youth and Sport and the Pi Youth Association, followed by a dinner of kumpir (delicious baked potato-type thing) and hanging out with volunteers at a cafe by the Aegean, I was hosted by Learning Designs volunteer Hasan (former windsurfing instructor, currently a graduate student on the brink of receiving his Masters Degree in Business Administration, and educational trainer as well) at his apartment on the other side of Izmir. It was a nice night’s sleep, laying on a comfortable bed right next to the open door of his lovely balcony, feeling the sea breeze blow across my stomach as I quickly went to snoozeland.

We woke early to visit Hasan’s family at their home in Alaçati (a neighborhood in Çeşme, where Hasan grew up), and then to check out the shops and beach sights of Çeşme. After meeting up with another Learning Designs volunteer (Çeyda) we hopped a bus for the 45-ish minute ride to Çeşme. Upon arriving to Hasan’s home, we met his father (Nedim) and grandmother (Sultan), who welcomed us and quickly went to work preparing a delicious breakfast of omelets, sausage, bread, freshly chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, krem penynir (kind of like cream cheese), salami, and çay (tea). Not being able to speak Turkish was definitely a hindrance here, as I had so many questions I wanted to ask Nedim and Sultan, which Çeyda may have sensed, as she very kindly offered to translate for me.

I learned Sultan grew up in a small Turkish village, then moved to Izmir with her husband where they found work, started and raised their family. When I asked what makes her happy, she said her family, that she thanks God for her good life, and for being able to be near her the ones she loves.

I asked Nedim, who is retired, what his day-to-day life is like. He mentioned that he usually wakes at 8am, takes Pelin to work, then gets and reads the paper. He also likes to meet with a group of men from the area at a cafe, where they play games and joke around. In the evening he and his wife (Sema) like to drink coffee on their porch near the flowers. “Everyday is nice,” he said. I asked what patterns he noticed from the porch, watching life from that vantage point on a daily basis, and he mentioned enjoying seeing people go and come home from work, waving hello as they pass. They have a number of friends in the neighborhood, a tight-knit group, and often neighbors will come by to share time over tea.

Not long after, Sema and Pelin returned home. Sema showed us her 3D artwork (which is apparently based on an Ottoman style), we all drank Turkish coffee, and for the first time in my life, I received a Turkish coffee reading, which is basically a fortune reading based on the cup symbols that are created after swishing the grounds at the bottom of one’s Turkish coffee around three times, and then quickly flipping the cup over and placing it on the saucer (so as not to spill). In these precious modern times, one can simply take a picture of the resulting cup symbols once they’re ready (you feel the upside-turned bottom of the cup for when it has cooled, which indicates readiness for removal), and send it via an app to receive your reading in a few minutes. Naturally.

If you´d like to learn what my future holds, you can listen to Çeyda kindly translate my fortune below:

The Wonder of (Weak) Windsurfing

As I mentioned, Hasan used to be a windsurfing instructor, with 10 years under his belt to go along with multiple certifications. I have no certifications, zero years of windsurfing experience, and pretty weak water skills, but I have an eagerness and interest in learning (especially physical things) that is average to slightly above average at best, so he kindly gave me my first windsurfing lesson.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, here are some clips of me “windsurfing,” it felt like I was going about as slow as it appears on the video, especially with the amount of wind you can hear whipping past, but it was an insane amount of fun, and really great learning the motions, mechanics, and basic principles of working with the wind and water. Please note, if you take the time to watch this, I can not offer you those precious moments of your life back.

It was incredible. Hasan was very thorough, patient, and clear in his instructions, even while I fell off the board a few times going less than 0 m.p.h. It was interesting getting used to handling the sail, but such a neat experience, and even going at a lethargic snail’s pace was thrilling. It was pretty funny to watch what other people were able to do with the same wind I was offered, flying around, zipping in between the assorted expertise levels, turning the sail in milliseconds (something which took me about 45 tiny steps and around 3 minutes to complete). I have no idea the kinds of people that do this regularly, or with excellence, and for some reason (and no informative background) I imagine wealthy people from South Africa. Really. No clue where that comes from.

I felt a sense of connection I had not experienced before, with everyone having their own watercrafts (*definitely not what they are called*) but all sharing the same sea, the same wind, it being up to each of us to make with it what we could…I’ll stay away from the heavy-handed life parallels here (perhaps it’s too late), but it was a great feeling on many levels.

Thank you, Hasan! This is something I will absolutely remember far beyond this stretch of time.