Monday/Tuesday, 7/8 January
After a month of Couchsurfing, I started to settle into a routine: Walk three days into a city, take a day off, walk three days out of the city, move on to the next city, and then repeat the pattern. “Turn off your brain and just keep repeating the pattern until it’s done,” I told myself.
One of the friends I made in Osmaniye, İlgi Çelik, taught at a middle school in Tüysüz (translates to “hairless”), a small village just outside Osmaniye. She knew I had a day off coming up, and invited me to come visit her students.
I got up early, walked to the main road, and hopped on the the service bus İlgi and the other teachers rode to the school. The kids all seemed to arrive at school at once, and while the teachers held their morning meeting in the schoolmaster’s office, the kids waited and played unattended outside in the hallway. I didn’t know humans were capable of creating as much noise as those kids did! I looked around at the other teachers in the room, expecting one of the teachers to open the door and shush the kids, but none of them seemed in the least bit bothered. I was already feeling out of place. There I was, a middle-aged man who walked alone on country roads with only the whooshing of cars, the roaring of semis, and the chirping of birds for my white noise. I will never last a day in this place, I thought. Those kids will eat me alive.
The teachers’ meeting over, llgi took me to her classroom. Mid-sentence in her introduction of me the students began cheering wildly. They exploded with energy, pulling one of the kids down on the floor and piling on top him in a wriggling, screaming mosh pit. I laughed to myself and realized I wasn’t going to need to entertain them, they were perfectly able to do that for themselves. All they needed was a thin excuse, and I was that day’s thin excuse.
When they finally settled down I told them some stories about my walk and invited questions. Ilgi asked them to ask their questions in English for language practice, but they were too shy, so they asked their questions in Turkish and I answered in Turkish. When I needed to speak English, İlgi translated my words into Turkish.
There were three boys named Yusuf in the class, and during a break from the Q&A they came to me and asked me to take a photo of them standing together. The largest Yusuf was a gentle giant who almost never spoke, and the smallest Yusuf, probably half the largest Yusuf’s weight, had the biggest personality in class, never shy about anything including asking countless questions in English and coming out from behind his desk to stand at the front of the room when he did it.
After a couple of times having to walk from his desk to the front, he planted himself right in front of me asking his barrage of questions, one after another. Some of these questions I knew were asked only to control the platform from which he worked the room. Any platform would do. I knew the type. We were kindred spirits in that regard! As much as I wanted to think these kids would remember me because I had a story to tell, I knew they would probably remember Yusuf’s performance more. I was just Yusuf’s prop.
At lunchtime Ilgi steered me into the teachers’ lounge where I met and chatted with the other teachers and staff members. Then when I’d finished my cup of tea a staff member from the kitchen, Meryem Abla (meaning big sister), read the tea leaves for me.
Back in class after lunch, I didn’t realize how tired I was until I took a turn at the blackboard to solve a simple fractions addition problem. I had no brain power left. At Tarsus American School I was thinking it would be fun to be a teacher and it was too bad I hadn’t become one. Now, even though I’d really enjoyed interacting with the kids, I thought, “It’s a good thing I’m not a teacher!” I was more tired than I was after most days walking.
On Tuesday evening, my next day off, I visited a local radio station with Alperşan, one of the university students I was Couchsurfing with in Osmaniye. Alperşan was a DJ with a night show on a local radio station. He asked me if I would come along and record some jingles for his show. Ever the ham, I said, “Of course!”.
So I sat with a microphone near Alperşan while he did his show, which was called “On the Air With Alperşan.” All I had to do was drawl in the deepest of voices several times on cue, “On the air with Alperşan.”
While we were getting the studio equipment ready for the recordings, one of the other DJs launched into a graphic story about a woman he had been “with.”
Later we realized one of the microphones had been left on.