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

 

Another Drop In The Ocean

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

Doing A Bit Of Touching-Up

‘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

‘Thank You!’ – ‘No, I Thank You!’

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

Kings and Şahs; Pawns and Piyons

Some People Have No Shame!

OK! OK! I admit it – this is vanity; shameless self-promotion; call it whatever you like. I’m still going to do it anyway!

Here’s the deal; I’m offering two autographed copies (for what that’s worth!) of my book ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’ posted to any address anywhere on the planet. The book is written in English and Turkish so it’s a great companion for those learning either language; it covers some history of the area, stories from our old folks, flora/fauna, walks with accurate, hand-drawn maps and instructions and lots of photos. Printed on high quality paper and stitched for security, the book is (so I’ve been told many times) a delightful read and a great keepsake. There have been no less than three reviews in Today’s Zaman newspaper.

Because the book, along with its companion ‘Backways & Trackways’, is produced and ‘sold’ with the sole aim of raising funds for environmental and community projects in our village I will pay for the books and postage from my own pocket. What I hope is that whoever wins this prize will promote the book to everyone they know and encourage them to go to our village website http://okcular.net where they can use PayPal to order their own copy whilst supporting our Book Project. In fact, whether you win or not, I hope you will support us. You can learn more by clicking on the tab at the top of this page.

All you have to do to qualify (and here comes the shameless self-promotion bit) is become a ‘Follower’ of ‘Archers of Okçular’ on Networked Blogs, or ‘Like’ ‘Archers of Okçular’ on Facebook. Go to the side panel to the right and find the ‘Networked Blogs’ or ‘Facebook’ box and add yourself to the total. You can click one or both – when each one reaches the magic 100 mark I will put the names in a hat and have J draw a winner. I’ll contact you via your Facebook id and invite you to email me an address where you want me to send your prize. I will not divulge your information to any third party. You can speed the fun along by encouraging your family and friends to join in and keep tabs on the progress of the ‘Prize Draw’ by checking the respective boxes from time to time.

So, with just a few seconds of your time you have two 1% chances to win my super little book about my village – if you don’t think that this is the best book about Okçular ever written, you can return it for a full refund! I can’t be fairer than that, can I?

Some People Have No Shame!

Amazing Murals at Okçular Primary School

Here is another story from the ‘Tardis’ files; this time of a project that we completed just over a year ago. It’s topical because a few weeks ago the education authorities sent in a work team to fit spanking new, double glazed windows and new doors. This is pretty wonderful for the staff and children because now, when it rains, they won’t have waterfalls cascading down the walls and across the floors. For us it means that there are some ‘repairs’ to be done touching up the murals that the story that follows is all about . . .

Amazing Murals

The looks of delight and wonder on the faces of  the primary school kids of our village have been priceless as, day-by-day (weather permitting), the drab, utilitarian cream and pink walls of the school’s buildings have been transformed. With the benefit of hindsight this has been a wonderful project to be a part of, but, there were times when the sheer scale of it was pretty daunting.

It all began with the creation of the ‘Okçular Book Project’ just over two and a bit years ago; regular readers of ‘Land of Lights’ and ‘Today’s Zaman’ may recall the publication of ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’ and our commitment to use all of the money raised from  sales to fund environmental and community projects in our village. The popularity of the book was such that we were able to provide a play park for the children within a few months; our second project was to brighten the village school by planting gardens and painting lively murals on the outside walls of the classrooms. Our hope was that this would create a pleasant learning and teaching environment for students and staff.

Our team consisted of Fiona MacRae, a retired head teacher from Scotland and a talented self-taught artist; Gülay Çolak, a remarkable lady, confined to a wheelchair for the past 10 years, also a talented self-taught artist; Yeliz Bozkur, school assistant and enthusiastic gardener and tea-lady; Janet Surman, sometime artist, mediator and paint mixer; and me, Alan Fenn, dogsbody, ‘gopher’ and general labourer. We began work on 17th November 2009.

The kids were involved from the start; it was their ideas that fueled the themes for each part of the walls and it was their paintbrushes that helped to create the wonderful pictures that have evolved from those ideas. Whenever we ‘wrinklies’ wilted the enthusiasm from the children revived us; as did the numerous lunchtime meals provided by parents and neighbours who were as delighted by the transformation as the kids.

Donations from individuals and local businesses have filled the new gardens with flowers, shrubs and trees. Logs have provided sitting and play areas; charming fences, made and painted by teachers and children, now enhance and protect the gardens. There is a new sun dial and a ‘bird garden’ complete with a beautiful bird table. There has been attention from the local press and having the odd tourist bus stop for a photo opportunity doesn’t  surprise us any more.

We applied our last daubs of paint and planted our last shrub on 23rd February 2010 – 3 very satisfying months. Yeliz will carry on looking after the gardens (along with much else), our artists are talking about starting an Art Club with the children and funds from Okçular Book Project can be used to provide materials and equipment. All-in-all this has been a lot of fun; it has fired us up for our next project – an outdoor chess set and playing ‘board’ for the enthusiastic members of the school’s chess club.

So, how does this ‘Okçular Book Project’ work? Well, there are two books; the first is called ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’. Printed in Turkish and English, the book covers some of the history of the village, many of the old folks stories in their own words, detailed maps and walks and lists of flora and fauna. There are lots of photographs, all printed on high quality paper and stitched for security; even if you never plan to visit our area it is a wonderful insight into a different world. It also makes a terrific gift and is priced at just TL15! The second book is called ‘Backways & Trackways’ and is a dedicated walking and cycling guide with accurate hand-drawn maps and very clear instructions to keep you on course. Covering the areas around Dalyan, Çandır, Okçular and Kösten and Ölemez Mountains ıt will give you the confidence to venture into places you never knew existed. Published just a short time ago and priced at only TL20 it has outstripped our wildest expectations. Copies can be obtained locally in Dalyan and Okçular or mailed to you here in Turkey or anywhere on the planet; payment can be made via PayPal from http://okcular.net Every bit of the cover price goes towards environmental and community projects in our village; no profit or commission are taken. The books are a wonderful read, great value for your donation and you’d be supporting a really good cause. Contact me by email at the address below if you want more information. Meanwhile, here’s a few more photographs of the ‘all-new’ Okçular Village Primary School.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Village  (surmanfenn@gmail.com)

the 'Team' pose for their Polisan Paints photo - the kids are in class!

 

Amazing Murals at Okçular Primary School