For Love of Ankara (page 4)
For Love of Ankara
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5
The training routine
Mornings we practiced teaching English at a local high school. The high point was the midmorning break when we crossed the busy road in front of the school to visit a tiny bakery. In my memory the baker was an old man. In retrospect I estimate he was in his fifties at most, and merely seemed old because I was in my mid-twenties and Turks tend to age prematurely. All his wares were warm and fresh from the oven. My favorite was the soft white rolls with jelly inside and a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Together with the crispy Turkish sour-dough bread which we consumed in prodigious quantities at all meals, it was hard not to put on weight.
     The rest of the day was ours as the Turkish language component of the training program largely fell apart once we were “in country.” I don’t think anyone much missed it as we had to speak Turkish whenever we ventured outside our group anyway. Evenings we enjoyed strolling around the narrow back streets, lined with acacia trees, which in autumn teemed with tiny sparrows that were constantly chirruping and depositing their droppings on the pavement.
      One such evening, to supplement our staple Turkish breakfast of bread, tiny shriveled black olives and feta cheese, we decided to practice both our Turkish and our bargaining skills by purchasing some peaches from one of the many vegetable stalls that stayed open until well after dark. The poor greengrocer must have been astounded when a small contingent of young Americans descended on his shop to haggle over the price of a couple of gorgeous looking peaches. We were sure he was trying to cheat us and only reluctantly paid the price finally agreed upon. As it turned out, the peaches were delicious.

An unforgetable adventure
One of our first assignments as fresh Volunteers was to be sent outside of Ankara to fend for ourselves in small groups of two or three. There were several destinations to choose from and we all drew straws. John and I got Çankiri, a provincial town of around 8,000 some 90 kilometers from Ankara. Since we were already a couple, we went on our own. To get there, we first had to make our way down to Ulus to catch a minibus. We crowded onto the dilapidated vehicle with a number of other passengers heading for Çankiri and villages along the way.
     As young Americans on a route rarely traveled by foreigners of any nationality, we attracted a good deal of attention. The driver and his assistant were particularly protective of us. When we made a rest stop at a roadside teahouse, they insisted on buying each of us a bottle of ayran, a cold drink made by mixing yoghurt with water. Not wishing to appear ungrateful, I drank mine quickly, only to discover, when I got to the bottom, a long, coarse, black hair clinging to the inside of the clear glass bottle. It looked like a goat hair and has remained unforgettable.

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