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:

Okcular school3

Okcular school4

Okcular school5

 

Okcular school6

Okcular school7

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

Okcular school8

okcular school9

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

Okcular school2

. . 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.

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

 

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

Incredible Okçular!

‘Thank You!’ – ‘No, I Thank You!’

Okçular Book Project Promo

The Okçular Book Project is not something I go on about a lot – especially on this blog! The reason is simple; the project is very localised and unless you live within a reasonable distance or are planning a holiday in the area and enjoy walking/cycling then it is of very limited interest. The fact that my books have been sent around the world to the likes of the US; Europe (of course); South Africa; Australia; New Zealand and even China is a source of utter amazement to me.

J and I started the project as a way of putting something back into this ordinary little farming village that adopted us as family and gave us a feeling of belonging that neither of us had ever had before. Our aim was to encourage people to visit and enjoy the natural wonders that are taken for granted by those of us who live here. The books part people from a little bit of their money and then we use that money to fund worthwhile projects for the community and environment in Okçular – it is working a treat!

Your money has given the kids a play park; funded the fantastic murals at the village school; provided the funds to restore an ‘antique’ wooden, garden chess set  and provide an outdoor playing board for the school chess club; helped fund a village photo archive.

 

not much to look at but it gives the whole school access to the web

A couple of weeks ago we agreed to fund a few extras at the school that will make a difference on a daily basis: a rack for 20 bikes; wi-fi that covers the whole school; two toner packs for the photocopier used for worksheets; six complete sets of reading books – enough for every student to have a book to take home during the holiday, separate from their class books.

J and I were chuffed no end to be able to do these small things for our village. It is thanks to you guys out there who buy and promote the ‘Okçular Books’ and you deserve credit too. In fact, if you drop by you’ll be able to share in the school’s ‘teşekkur’. How is that? you ask. Well, yesterday we were summoned to school where J was presented with a beautiful, traditional coffee set by way of a thank you from the teachers and kids. Her delight when she carefully unwrapped the box and realised what the gift was, was written all over her face.  ‘Thank you! Teşekkur ederim!’ she exclaimed. ‘Hayır! Ben teşekkur ederim!’ cried the teachers in unison (No! I thank you!). So, if you drop by (book in hand) we’ll be happy to serve you Turkish coffee in our delightful new cups so that you too can enjoy one of  the pleasures of being part of this wonderful project.

J getting her just desserts!
Oi! You lot - get on with your lesson!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Kings and Şahs; Pawns and Piyons

A couple of posts back I was going on about the ‘Okçular Book Project’ – there is even a tab at the top of this page where you can learn more of what we are trying to achieve with it. It boils down to this; we have two books about the village that we ‘sell’ to raise funds for environmental and community projects in our village.

This is a story about one of those projects – the ‘Okçular School ‘Antique’ Outdoor Chess Set’.

The idea of an outdoor chess set came to us last year when the school chess club entered a local tournament and came away with a whole bunch of medals and citations (I suspect everyone gets something to encourage them). They were so pleased with themselves that a ‘show piece’ outdoor set for the school seemed a very good idea.

Anyway, try as I might to find a plastic garden set online I couldn’t get a better price than $20 a set . . . as long as I bought 200 sets! So, I asked a computer-savvy Turkish friend to help. ‘What do you want it for?’ ‘The school chess club’ said I. ‘Well, I have the very thing in my garden shed’ said he; ‘It’s old, wooden and a bit battered, but you can have it if you want.’ ‘Nuff said!’ said I, ‘I’ll bring it tomorrow’ said he; and he did.

What he delivered could have better been described as a pile of logs!!

The quality of the pieces was obvious, but their condition was grim. Many were broken into bits as a result of his kids getting bored and using them as clubs for fighting with; there were parts missing and splits all over the place. I smiled manfully and thanked him!

What followed was three weeks of 8-10 hour days on a restoration project that, whilst unexpected, was actually rather enjoyable. With help from Will, a chum from the other end of the village, and a true master of the art of shaping bits of wood using slivers of broken glass, and J’s undoubted skills with a pot of paint and a brush, we ended up with a uniquely beautiful chess set for the kids. Osman, one of the fathers and a builder by trade made and tiled the playing area, and the whole was handed over to the children. Their faces were a treat and worth every cut and curse of effort to bring this little project to completion.

The Okçular Book Project is all about community and giving something back for all the kindness shown to J and me since we first moved here 14 years ago. There is an ongoing Free Prize Draw for two autographed copies of my Okçular Village Guide Book – to check it out, click here.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures; there are more at: Archers on Facebook

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü