She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)

14 thoughts on “Fierce…

    • Doing a bit more ‘light and fluffy’ over there – so many people always ask me if I’m worried about The Girl living in Turkey. FB is allowing me an opportunity to show just how modern her city is, how welcoming the people are, etc. Sort of like slipping vegetables to the kids by hiding them in the lasagne, I am trying to do some education alongside the entertainment…

    • Yes! That’s how we’re learning Turkish! It’s wonderful! When we went to Cuba last year, we had started learning some Spanish – given the amount of time we spend diving, and our planned trip to Mexico later that year, it made sense. Once we got things going for an extended stay in Turkey, we switched to Turkish — it’s good!

      We’re planning to spend about 6 weeks in Spain later this year, so as soon as this trip is over, we’ll switch back and finish the Spanish course. But i’ll likely finish up the Turkish course, too. We plan to come back every year for an extended stay. Given the response we had already with my son-in-laws family (they were impressed!), we’ve got to show steady progress!

      • Yay for you! It’s great to get positive feedback from someone who is a native speaker, isn’t it? There is an older lady, Maria, (probably my age or a little younger) who works at our local McDonald’s who is from Mexico and speaks very little English. We’ve known her for years since the grandkids were little. I don’t always understand what she says in Spanish since she has a soft voice and I don’t hear well (even English.) But recently I was telling her about my granddaughter’s trip for an archery tournament and Maria smiled and told me my Spanish was very good. I don’t get to use it as often as I would like. I had a friend in my Zumba class who was from Spain originally and she helped me practice but she moved away.

        On Duolingo they have labs now (only for Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese for now) where they have dialogue from a story on the screen along with audio. You are asked to answer questions based on what you’re reading. The stories get progressively more difficult and the audio more along the lines of what actual conversation sounds like—speeded up and words elided together like they would sound from a native speaker. I really enjoy it.

        • When we’re back to doing Spanish, will look into the labs. i’ve got a friend who is from Mexico and she’s offered to do some conversational work with us. i am generally able to ‘transmit’ basic information, but ‘receive’ is much harder. In most languages, i have learned to say “more slowly, please” to let them know that i want to use the local language, i just need it delivered with more manageable bandwidth!

          even more fun? last year i supported a kickstarter that was launching translating ear buds! and because i’m a bonehead, they are currently sitting on my desk at home! requires WiFi, or internet access, to work through an app on my phone, but we will play with that as well… i still would rather learn the language, but that might work in a crisis!

    • i agree! Something wonderful about this trip is that we are visiting family for an extended period of time – giving us the chance to connect more effectively than we would if we were just passing through!

  1. What an extraordinary woman. We are surrounded by the extraordinary if we look carefully. I hope she sees off or staves off whatever the illness is.

    Ps – that baby juggler statue just looks all kinds of wrong from all kinds of angles!

    • Sevda said that her mother used to be even more amazing, but lost some of her spark after her father died. She seemed pretty “sparky” to me! i hope she is able to get effective treatment…

      Was surprised when i did the ol’ google image search on “baby juggler” and there he was! Makes me want to go to Oslo, Norway and see him in person!

    • It is a mental workout! Unlike Spanish and French, and even German, i’ve had virtually no cultural exposure to Turkish. It’s not based in Latin, and there are very few root words that have found their way into English. We are working hard – but as we learned today on our solo venture to the big market, we have a very long way to go! But we bought provisions, vendors were very appreciative that we were trying to use Turkish… but we’re finding ourselves a bit exhausted after such ventures…

  2. How well does your daughter speak Turkish? This would need a high degree of intelligence, it would seem to me. Learning German or French or Spanish or ANY of the Latin-based languages would be hard enough. But Turkish? Gives me a headache to think about it.

    Sad about her illness. I hope I can be as brave when my time comes but I’ve had a soft existence and can be a bit of a whiner. I’ll keep this in mind.

    • She is now able to translate for us when we are visiting with her husband’s family. She’s been here since July, 2011, but said that things just started clicking within the past year. It’s a beautiful language when you just sit and listen – but it’s really tough to learn. We have the vocabulary of 2 year old children right now… constantly pointing at cats (“Kedi!”), yelling out colors (“Mavi!”) and counting out loud (Bir, iki, uc, dort, bes…). We’re home this afternoon, and their housekeeper complimented me on my pronunciation – every single effort we make is met with encouragement and smiles.

      We had a solo run to the local market, with a shopping list (olives, greens, cheese, sarma), and did ok for a bit – but it was SO frustrating trying to buy a specific type of white cheese, when there are 800 types of white cheese, and we were unable to communicate something as simple as “No, not this one, but the one we tried a minute ago…”). i feel like a horrible person, not being able to speak the language of the country i’m staying in… but not one person has made us feel bad for it.

      If you’re still blogging, and you whine about something, i promise to call you out for it (gently).

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