On learning a new language, and gaining a family

On learning a new language, and gaining a family

As I broke the Ramadan fast with my Turkish teacher, I took a moment to reflect

For the second year in a row, my dear friend and Turkish teacher has invited my husband and me, along with our Turkish class, to break the Ramadan fast with her and her lovely family.

This year has been quite a year for Muhsine Aykac, our beautiful teacher. She received her master’s degree in education a couple of weeks after becoming a United States citizen. Her husband, Salih, is working on his dissertation to receive his Ph.D.

These are hard working people who are raising three beautiful children as good Muslims and good citizens in Albuquerque. We are so fortunate to know them. They have become family.

And because of Muhsine’s sincere heart, we have all grown under her tutelage in unexpected ways. The six of us who are studying with her have also become family.

Who would have thought that I would study Turkish? And at my age! At this point in time, we cannot even know if we will ever have the opportunity to go back to Turkey again and use it. But this fall, I will return to Turkish class at the Raindrop House because these people are even more important to me than the language.

I have always felt a kinship with Muslim culture. In my youth, I spent some time in Morocco when it was quite different than it is today. All the women were veiled and it was impossible for me to know any of them. I did not speak Arabic and they did not speak English or French. Their husbands had to translate for me. It was impossible for me to get to know any of these women. My Turkish relationships have been primarily with women and that has made it a completely different experience.

It is hard for me to understand why we cannot seem to all get along, and I am referring to all of humanity. If we try to respect and understand one another, and even if we make mistakes that we do not intend, we can acknowledge them and try to learn our differences and our similarities. If I have offended in some way, I want to know, and I will try to do better in the future. I wish to believe that most of us can do this.

Because I come from New England and lived for 21 years in New York City, I am outspoken and share my feelings and opinions easily outside of my psychoanalytic practice, which I am closing at the end of July. I’m pretty sure that I will become even more outspoken as I morph into a full-time writer. It goes with the territory. This will be an enormous change and challenge for me, one I am anticipating with both dread and relish. The outcome of saying (or writing) what one thinks can be devastating, as we are seeing now in Turkey.

One evening just before we left Istanbul in the fall of 2014, we stumbled upon a little restaurant near the apartment we were renting. We had not been down this little curved street before even though we’d been there for a month. We were the only folks actually dining, but there was a small group of young people who were engaged in discussion. The language of choice was English because one young woman was a German graduate student who did not speak Turkish well enough to express her opinions. We listened for a bit and then found ourselves joining in. Hours passed and soon the young woman serving us locked the front door. She brought us seconds and thirds, dessert and tea. We were not charged for any of this. We entered as complete strangers and left as friends. People were not afraid to express themselves in 2014, but how quickly it can all change. I think it is always important to remember this.

The author with her Turkish teacher

The author with her Turkish teacher

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