National Geographic : 1964 Sep
Outstretched arm signals a question in Mrs. Borton's English class at Antakya. Volunteers ease Turkey's teacher shortage. donkeys, water buffaloes, sheep, goats, and cows wander everywhere. Iron- and copper smiths and wheelwrights have their tiny open-fronted shops on the narrow street lead ing to the produce bazaar. The sound of their steady hammering turns the drudgery of daily shopping trips into a triumphal parade. Visiting is Turkey's national pastime, and it follows a rigid pattern, from the exchange of greetings through the number of glasses of tea consumed. Candy and fruits are offered, and refusal is an insult. Twice a year, during the religious festivals, or bayrams, visiting becomes frenzied. The Turks welcomed our joining these four-day long bayrams. We killed a lamb on Kurban Bayrami, the Festival of Sacrifices, and dis tributed the meat among our neighbors and the poor, as the Turks did. They all gave us the stomach, considered the choicest piece. 332 Single people do not often join in these visits and dinners. Moslem custom frowns on dating, and so the young men stroll incessant ly while the girls generally remain at home. One of our students surreptitiously pointed out his girl to us as she was going to the foun tain-they had spoken only a few times, and their courtship had consisted entirely of ex changed glances. We have also come to know something of village life. The villages of Turkey account for about 70 percent of the population. But while major cities are rapidly becoming West ernized and industrialized, many villages re main at an economic standstill. Last summer we lived in Yassihuyuk, near Ankara, helping 20 architecture students from Middle East Technical University build a library. We also spent hours in discussion, trying to show these students that the library should be not simply an exercise in construc tion but a piece of long-range community planning-a center desired by the villagers themselves, one they would help design to meet local needs. We said it should be not merely a building of brick and stone, but a building of ideas and ideals. That summer we recognized the difficulties of our work in Turkey. If people judge the success of the Peace Corps in terms of new libraries and schools, they may be misled. The brand-new library was a project initiated outside the village. It came not from within, but from above: It was decreed rather than desired, and so it is likely to have little effect on the people who built it or the people for whom it was built. Still, if a few of our Turkish friends learned that there are other and more rewarding ways to help the villages, we were successful. Small Successes Hold Great Reward As to our teaching, our successes were small, but they may well make for lasting changes. Turks have noticed that a class can be controlled without hitting the students. Probably they also noticed that students are more inspired by textbook material, plus enjoyable games, than they are by the more traditional rote learning alone. We had failures, too. There are students whom we never reached, and more who will soon forget. But seven students from Bolu High School took entrance exams for English teacher training. Only one had planned to do so when we started. This may look small on an international scale. But to us it is a tremendous reward.