Incredible Okçular!

Children’s Day – A Little Turkish Delight

I don’t think J and I have missed a Children’s Day since we first became associated with our village primary school. Nisan yirmi üç (April twenty third) has been burned into our diary for a long time. We couldn’t forget anyway because there is always a phone call from the staff to keep us on track!

23 nisan ile ilgili resimler 3

Children’s Day here in Turkey was instigated by Atatürk in the early days of the Republic. Here in Okçular it’s a chance for the children to lay on a show for their parents and grandparents. It is also a day when even the tiniest tot will have a chance to bellow greeting or slogan into a microphone!

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Every class gets to dress up and dance, recite or perform a skit – this year it was all dancing.

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the youngest danced dressed in regional costumes as they assembled a map of the country

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Then it was the turn of other classes to turn on the style . .

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There’s a prize of a Mars bar to the first one to spot mum in the crowd!

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the top table is all very well . .

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. . if you can see through the wall-to-wall photo-ops

Part way through the proceedings there was a pause for presentations to parents and a local business couple who have helped the school through the year. We’ve been caught on the hop by these surprise presentations ourselves previously so we were enjoying cheering on the latest group of recipients as they smiled awkwardly and shuffled from foot to foot in front of everyone.  And that was when they caught us again!

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Then it was back to the festivities . .

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‘Turkey is my life’ – may reality never intrude

Followed by photo credits to a great staff . .

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. . and finally, that all-important endorsement from Yeliz

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Just a taster of what was a delightful morning for us. J and I love these people, this village and this country. May these kids grow up in a world free of conflict and may humanity learn that we have more in common than we often think and any difference is only skin-deep.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Summoned

Yesterday, from outside I heard the phone ring. J answered, ‘Günaydın Bayram. Nasılsınız?’ (Good morning Bayram (our muhtar). How are you?). I turned back to the job in hand at my temporary workbench of making a chopping board that would fit over the kitchen sink.

wooden chopping board

stow the silly remarks, that includes the assembly jig for clamping and glueing

Conversation over J wandered to the cabin window, took a couple of photos of the only worker around, and said ‘Bayram is asking us to be at the school tomorrow. Something about a white flag and some people who want to meet us. I told him we were away but would try to be there.’ He had, apparently, sounded disappointed that we were unable to commit.

Now, the reason for our prevarication was simple enough – ‘the workers were revolting!’ Well, not exactly ‘revolting’ – not even remotely. Let me explain; the electrician had missed out fitting a socket in what will be our ‘cozy’ corner. When the fridge was delivered there was no electricity and so service were waiting to complete the installation/guarantee process. Finally the carpenters, with just a few hours of work to finish off, had bogged off to a thermal spa for a few days! All of these guys were scheduled for Tuesday.

Tuesday was the closest we could get to a ‘definite maybe’ time with any of them and as we have learned from experience, there are 24 hours in any given day give or take a few more either way! Having seen the electrician who was carping that he was busy and would ‘do his best’ to make it at some point, we put him off until our next visit. We then spent an anxious day fretting as the hours slipped by. Just as it was getting dark the carpenters arrived and set about blasting saw dust all over the place!cabin doors

bedroom and bathroom surrounds nearly finished – just the main door to go

In the middle of it all the service arrived, took a few interior photos to show their friends on Facebook, and sorted the fridge.

So, with everything that could be sorted sorted, we were up at the crack of dawn this morning and ready to hit the road back to Okçular.

crack of dawn

sunrise over the lake

We had no idea what was planned at school. What we found was a playground full of children and their parents and friends. Tables and chairs were laid out by classes with tables already laden with food that each of the families had provided.

Okcular school white flag

J and I were met and escorted to the ‘protokol’ table populated with the mayor and a multitude of managers and other ‘suits’!

view from the top table

view from behind the roses at the top table

Speeches and explanations of the White Flag followed: it seems that our village school has been thoroughly inspected and has qualified to fly a special flag that denotes that it has passed all the health, hygiene and clean environment criteria. It was a great compliment to the regular staff and to Yeliz who takes care of the gardens and general cleaning.

Okcular school presentation

Okçular school staff together with Education Manager, Mayor and Muhtar

It was also an honour for J and me to be included and for the contributions to the school that money from the Okçular Book Project has made over the years to be recognised by the senior education manager.

Ortaca education manager

special flags

flags a-flying

Now we are back home we have a week to prepare before we return back down the rabbit hole together with a lot more tools and my trusty ‘Work Mate’. Having failed to find anything we like very much to furnish our lakeside cabin in the mountains I’ve decided to do most of it myself starting with the divans for the ‘cozy corner’. Tomorrow it’s back to the pile of logs lying outside the gate!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

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.

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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

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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!

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. . in the national colours of Turkey, too!

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

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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.

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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

 

Incredible Okçular!

Doing A Bit Of Touching-Up

Sistine Chapel ceiling (Wikipedia)

. . now we know how Michelangelo felt after skylights were fitted to the Sistine Chapel! Eighteen months after our crew had completed the nearest thing to perfection since Banksy did a tin of TESCO’s soup; eighteen months after adding the last dob of paint to the wonderful murals at Okçular Village Primary School, the powers-that-be came along and fitted fine new double-glazed windows throughout!

Now, we are not against new windows which meant that the kids didn’t have to squeegee the water out of the classrooms every time it rained. Nor do we think that the workmen were careless of the murals as they carried out the replacements. Inevitably there was going to be some damage and repairs would be needed. There was no point starting if there was a chance of rain so we hung-fire through the winter months, which was just as well because not many weeks ago back came the workmen to re-roof the entire school, fit guttering and down-pipes, repair the toilet blocks and do a bit of re-plastering here and there. All very nice, but a bit of touching-up had turned into a make-over!

Our team consisted of two artists – Gülay and Fiona; a semi-artist – J and one dog’s body – me! Funding for the original project and several other things around the village comes from the Okçular Book Project, we welcome your support – you can learn more here. Meanwhile here are a few before and after photos and an invitation to drop by the school any time you are in the area – you will be made very welcome.

 

half a clown is better than none – salvaging what we can

Gülay – nearly done

damage around windows and the ‘down pipe problem’

done and dusted – brilliant Fiona!

J mending bee hives

scene with ‘extras’

‘Bubble, Bubble . .’ the coven gathers!

If you need a bit of touching-up you know where to come!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü