Incredible Okçular!

Ambushed!

Okçular-Village-Guide_1This coming year will see the gradual winding down of the Okçular Book Project. It was started by way of giving something back to our village for all the love and support we have been given since we were fortunate enough to land in the lap of this farming community.

Originally conceived as a small booklet that would tell a few stories, that could be sold to raise a few lira that could be used for the benefit of the community, the project mushroomed into two guides that over the years has raised thousands upon thousands of lira. To say that our expectations were exceeded would be a gross understatement!

With the exception of two items, a playground in the village centre and a village photo archive, all other projects funded from the books have centred around the school. The creation of the beautiful murals and gardens with Gülay Çolak and Fiona MacRae that so transformed the formerly drab, utilitarian seat of learning came first.

gulay fiona

Fiona and Gülay

the old geezer

the Old Geezer bending his back . . again!

mural crewthe murals crew

This was followed by wi-fi for the whole school; bicycle racks; a library in every classroom; the restoration of a beautiful old wooden outdoor chess set and making a tiled board; the funding of a complete science cupboard.

chess

Ok school watering sys

Okcular school10

Recently the book money provided an agricultural-grade watering system that will keep the garden plants and young trees alive throughout the long, hot summer holidays. This was followed by steel railings to protect the the system and the plants from over exuberant ball games. And there is still plenty of cash in the kitty to do more as needs arise!

So, you may well ask why we feel it is time to wind the Book Project down – it’s a good question. The answer has everything to do with need for complete rewrites and re-vamping of both guides which would entail a huge amount of time and work and the fact that neither of us is getting any younger and there are many other things/projects we want and need to find time for.

Anyway, moving on – 23rd of April is National Sovereignty and Children’s Day here in Turkey and each year we go down to our village school to show our support for the efforts of the children and teachers in their celebration. Here are a few photos to give you a taste:

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the pre-school class getting their ducks in a row – sort of!

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Part way through the proceedings J and I were startled to hear our names and a summoning over the audio system. Mystified and a tadge embarrassed in front of all the children and parents, we gathered at the rostrum where there followed a fulsome thank you from the head teacher for the support given by us through the Book Project over the years. As I shuffled my feet, J was presented with a wonderful armful of flowers and promptly burst into tears!

Okcular school1

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. . in the national colours of Turkey, too!

Alan Fenn, ‘Ambushed’ but very happy to be part of Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Happy Ever After

About three years ago a delightful young lady by the name of Anna learned about our village primary school. Anna, who was also at primary school in the UK, was shocked when she realised that, compared with the facilities that she and her fellow pupils enjoyed, our children had to get by with very basic equipment.

cake bakeKnowing that one of our school’s dreams was to have a science cupboard she set about the business of turning dreams into reality. With a bit of help and support Anna baked cakes and biscuits that she then sold at a ‘Cake Bake’ stall. In all she raised the princely sum of £100 which was handed over to the school on her behalf when her nanny came out to Turkey on holiday.

Anyway, as often happens here in Turkey, suddenly everything changed. First it was announced that the state was going to supply science equipment to primary schools and so our staff waited to see what would materialise before spending Anna’s gift. They waited, and then they waited some more! Nothing! Then came the great reorganisation with primary, secondary and high school divided into a 4:4:4 system. Before anyone realised, three years had gone by and poor Anna had no idea how her money had been spent (or in this case, not).

It was with some relief that J and I had a call from the school staff to say that they had learned that the state wasn’t going to come up with anything so could we please get back on course with the science cupboard. We met with them and together with Anna’s £100 we guaranteed a further 700 lira from the Okçular Book Project funds and ‘Voila!’ our school now has some really good quality equipment for the children to use.

Most of the stuff, as you would expect, is made up of boring things like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, slides and the like. Pride of place goes to a beautiful, top quality microscope and two figures for anatomy lessons. So, on behalf of Anna whose initiative really got this ball rolling, let me introduce you to ‘Osman’, a really old Turk, Mike O’Scope and some of the Cupboard Crew.

Okcular village school science cupboard

l-r head teacher Erdal, ‘Osman’, teacher Mahmud

Okcular village school science cupboard

gruesome twosome – Osman and Brainiac

Okcular village school science cupboard

So, a really big ‘thanks to you Anna’ from the present and future pupils of Okçular İlkokul (Primary School).

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

A Bit Of A Shower

J and I got back from Iran to a couple of things (apart from a mound of emails) that are not every day matters, especially at this time of year. First, there was a lot of unseasonal but very welcome rain – cloudbursts even. Second, there was a group of walkers from Manchester that we’d committed to take on a hike through our mountain paradise.

It very soon became apparent that the two were linked – the ‘Shower’ from Manchester had brought their notorious weather with them! They also turned out to be a bunch of  (mostly) experienced ‘yompers’ who were delightfully interesting company to boot! I’ve never been one to believe that ‘interesting hikers’ was, like ‘military intelligence’, an oxymoron – although there are some X-Box players who do!

some intermittent drizzle

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followed by a right old shower

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Anyway, we had a great time together as they showed me up by being totally unaffected by the heat and inclines whilst this old ‘Boffer’ had leg cramps for the first time in his life. Such was the pity that they felt that at the end of the walk they made a very generous donation to the Okçular Book Project as well as buying a good number of books. What can I say? Our children and village thank you – a deluge of generosity from the Manchester Shower. May your walks be life-long, filled with gentle sunshine and may Lancashire win the County Championship (Not much chance of the last two, eh! You could always try Premium Bonds!)

Alan Fenn, recovering in Okçular Köyü

ps I will get around to Iran Life stories

Stuff

Lucky Dip

A couple of weeks back Jay Artale of ‘Roving Jay‘ blog fame and author of the ‘Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide‘ website and book dropped a non-to-subtle hint by posting a link from my blog to Facebook. In a posting about two years back I’d promised to put the names of the first hundred FB and Google+ followers in a hat and draw a couple of winners. With the passage of time combined with sticking synapses the whole idea had vanished into the misty, cobwebbed compartments that is now my mind.

Okcular Book ProjectThe prizes, if you can call them that, were copies of ‘Okçular Village a Guide’ which is part of the Okçular Book Project, you can read more here. That said, the book has had three separate reviews by Today’s Zaman newspaper and Cornucopia, a most prestigious magazine, did a great write-up and has included it in their book lists. As for it being a suitable prize for a blog following that is spread throughout a number of counties, I can only respond by pointing out the this very modest guide to our very small village and its less than modest natural wonders, has been sold via the internet from China to the US, to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all over Europe as well as here in Turkey.

Anyway, spurred on by Jay’s nudge in the ribs, two lists were drawn up and my J drew one winner from each. There was a small delay whilst I sought permission from each to publish their names, which are: Fatos Mert and Natalie Sayın!

Fatos is a teacher working over in the east of Turkey and I hope the book will ‘warm the cockles of her heart’ as she huddles by the soba on the dark evenings ahead. Natalie does a lot of things but is probably best known for her wonderfully successful ‘Turkish Travel Blog‘. I’m particularly delighted for Natalie because when I first considered starting this blogging lark she, along with fellow bloggers Jack Scott and Karyn Phillips were mines of information and sound advice. She is also the reason that an expedition will be mounted next year to the darkest valleys of the Kaçkar Mountains to hunt out a blue slug that shouldn’t be there – but that’s a story for another day!

I hope you enjoy the read guys! It would also be nice if you check out the Book Project and, if you feel so inclined, do a bit of promotion in any way you can – the children of our village benefit from every ‘sale’ that is made.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Another Drop In The Ocean

Turkey is in turmoil, entering a third week of protests against a backdrop of tear gas, rubber bullets and excessive police repression – this is not a happy country right now! It’s hard to know what to do, especially as a foreign resident without a vote. We have a voice via the internet but if we are too strident we risk censure – foreign criticism is a sensitive issue in this intensely proud nation.

I often pontificate that we should ‘put our money where our mouth is’ rather than grumble or mutter over a beer in some bar. Move the mountain one stone at a time – put our own drops in the bucket and all that sort of stuff. Easy to say, less easy to do.

That said, J and I are luckier than most. Thanks to the Okçular Book Project and all of our supporters at home and around the world we have funds available that may not cure all that ails this beautiful country but can, at least, brighten the day for some of our fellow villagers. This is the story, with pictures, about our village primary school’s end of year outing . .

DEKAMERFollowing a chat with the teachers, who had to overcome a load of bureaucratic crap for permission, we decided to take the whole school for a visit to the DEKAMER Marine Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at İztuzu Beach near Dalyan. Although only 10 kms away we had been amazed to learn that most of the children knew nothing about the place and what it tries to achieve. We arranged for all the children and staff to be fed an early lunch of pide (Turkish pizza) and ayran, a deliciously healthy yogurt drink. Then it was on to the buses and off to the beach . .

ayran and pide

ducks in a row

There our group was met by one of the volunteers who did a terrific job of explaining everything and introducing the children to some of the deeply traumatised ‘patients’. Perhaps the most poignant was a 65 year old Caretta that had suffered severe head and back injuries from an unguarded boat propeller. Another had lost a front limb after becoming entangled in fishing line.

65 years old and in care

Our volunteer ‘teacher’ did an amazing job and it was a delight to see how much the children were engaged with her and the subject at hand.

engrossed

After some excellent educational films a series of questions and the enthusiastically correct responses from the children and our teachers convinced J and I that this had been a really worthwhile effort.

bonding

The volunteers were thanked and the Book Project gave the children a 100 lira note to donate to the centre. A perfect ending to a perfect day – another little drop in the ocean so to speak!

donation from Okçular school and Book Project

Alan Fenn, for the Okçular Book Project