(written September 2002)
The stories recorded in this blog began when this phase of our personal saga commenced in September 2002 with our arrival and settling into life in Selçuk, Turkey.
Ah, Selçuk, the modern descendant of the ancient city of Ephesus – the magnificant fourth city of the Roman Empire, home of one of the Wonders of the ancient world. The ruins, which are one of the most extensively excavated archaeological sites in Turkey, are a vast complex with streets, forums, homes, baths, theatre, gymnasiums, Odeon and brothels exposed, cleaned, persevered and now on public display. These outstanding ruins – the results of over 150 years of archaeological excavation, lie just outside of the modern locale known as Selçuk.
Our flight from the UK was too short for jet-lag, and yet for the first few days we were in a bit of a daze as we wandered the lanes and byways of Selçuk.
Our daze, was it caused by the unfamiliar sight of so much sun? Or maybe the heat which was so much hotter than we were used to in the United Kingdom? Maybe it was moving from a large town – and working in a very large city (London) – to a small Turkish town with a population of 23,000.
Oh, did I say “town”, maybe large village would be a more accurate description of Selçuk, for it had more of a village atmosphere and village pace than that of a town.
After more than twenty years since we first went overseas, we were back in Turkey.
August was a chaotic amalgamation of disparate activities and emotions. We were packing and preparing to go, still involved in the Sunday meeting and other activities as well as the annual Turkish Family Camp that we ran every August and at the same time breaking ties with a work and with people that have been so much of our lives for the previous eleven years.
On our first Sunday in Selçuk the weather was sunny and warm. We stepped out of the flat and as always, we were dazzled by the brilliance of the sunshine, our hands snapping up to cover our eyes. As we initially staggered about, I rapidly readjusted my hat to provide some relief from the shock caused by the intensity of the light. We turned left onto the street for the short walk to the Church.
“To the ‘Church’”, – my how things have changed in Turkey – while some twenty years prior there were so few Protestants and Protestant ‘churches’ in Turkey that if you had said “none”, no one would seriously argue – using the most generous of definitions, there were maybe five fellowships in the whole country. In fact, in 1981 there were about 44 million souls living in Turkey and only 40 believers from a Muslim background in the whole country.
Back to the our story (2002); we walked up the quiet cobbled streets past a few children happily playing with a ball and then past the little kiosk where the local Council sells freshly baked bread – very reasonably priced and exceedingly tasty. At this hour there were still people coming and getting their morning bread – it was nearly 11:00.
Sunday mornings start slowly here.
We came to the little mosque by the main road and as we crossed the road I looked ahead, the church building stands on a corner not more than a hundred metres from the main road, up a side road, and I noticed a black stain on one of the window frames.
“Strange”, I thought to myself “that is some bad mould on that window, I hadn’t noticed that before – there must be some water leakage”.
You see, in England it is not uncommon to see black mould, especially around windows. Rain, damp and humidity is the norm in the UK resulting in mould, moss and everything green or black adorning many if not most surfaces.
As we neared the front door it then became obvious. This was not black mould – actually highly unlikely given the heat and long dry summer that is common in this part of the world. The reality is that someone, on that lazy Sunday morning had risen earlier than most to throw tar at the two Church signs. They were fairly poor shots in fact, as attested by the tar on the window frame, missing most of the one sign. On the other sign, the logo was obliterated, but the name of the Church and the fact that it was a Church was virtually unscathed.
What was truly ironic was that this action was most likely intended, so I presume, to intimidate and frighten the believers. But on that Sunday there were two visiting groups, one, a group of Turkish Christians doing a tour of the places in Turkey where the Apostle Paul visited and the other, a group of believers from Moldavia.
The room was full, extra chairs being required, the visiting Turkish group took the meeting, leading the worship and with several sharing; and it was an exciting and encouraging time for all. We prayed for those who threw the tar as scripture says to pray for them and to forgive them.
It seems, our re-introduction to Turkey had commenced…
A few days later, I was sitting in a friend’s car in town. The car was stopped by the side of the road and we were chatting with someone when the car lurched side to side. It did this twice, two rather definitive, almost violent lurchings. The driver looked over his shoulder, did someone bump us? He didn’t see anything nor did I. I, at least, assumed that somebody must have bounced the car for a laugh.
On my return home T. reported that as she sat at the kitchen table the rather large, 19 litre water bottle began to move, as did the wall.
It didn’t last long and she didn’t know what to think of it.
Hmm, car bounces, no apparent cause, water bottle dances – the wall moves – not normal, usual occurrences for us, I wonder?
We checked the news and sure enough, there had been an earthquake with its epicentre in the Aegean sea just off the coast from where we were. It registered at 5.4 on the Richter scale. It seems that 5.4 on the Richter is sufficient to lurch cars, dance large water bottles and move walls…
Our re-introduction, included a reminder that Turkey is a very active earthquake zone.
As we begin the process of adapting to living once again in Turkey, and in a new town and in a new flat, I discovered, we have a pet!
Well, that may not be totally true.
Ever since we lived in Adana in the south of Turkey, we have been aware of these, uh, delightful creatures. Not harmful, so I am assured, and actually beneficial – or so it is said. Our flat is the proud residence of a wee lizard.
They reportedly eat insects (good) maybe even mosquitoes (great). So we co-exist. My only fear is his ‘defence mechanism’ seems to be to freeze and by not moving, it would appear to believe, become invisible to me, as if I am hunting it. However, if I get up in the middle of the night – which is not unlikely as I grow more mature in years – it is then that I truly can not see anything, whether he freezes or not, I can not see anything. So, freezing, staying in one place and not moving may not be the best defence in the world. The facts being I am not hunting him and I literally can not see him and at the end of the day, or the middle of the night for that matter, I really do not want to inadvertently stomp on him.
We have chosen to co-exist.
In typical Turkish fashion, the flat is finished to a high standard. It has ceramic tiles on all the floors. In winter, area rugs are laid out for warmth – in summer said rugs are put away allowing the bare tiles to help cool the flat.
And in all seasons, this provides an easy to clean surface. The tiles themselves are a light white grey pattern which is light and cheery.
The kitchen and bathroom have ceramic tiles on the walls, floor to ceiling. You have a reassuring feeling of cleanliness. This kind of surfaces helps ensure there is no mould or flaking paint.
Additionally the flat was basically outfitted with all the basics with the exception that there was no washing machine and no fridge. We have been able to borrow a little, pint-sized, fridge which meets all our needs. For our washing needs, we hand washed for the first months and then, in the new year, we purchased a proper washing machine.
And so our housing was established, but we weren’t there to simply live.
One of the things that we were involved in was the production of Turkish Christian videos. Our first video shoot was in Izmir – ancient Smyrna about an hours drive north of Selçuk. An hour’s drive and, oh, er, we don’t have a vehicle.
And so the solution, not only to convey us but all the kit needed to shot a video, we decided the only alternative was to rent a car. We found a small place which let cars and the price was surprisingly affordable.
It turns out that I’m a bit naïve when it comes to renting a vehicle, I haven’t done it much and in the UK, it is pretty much standard stuff. Well, here was a reminder that we weren’t in the UK any longer.
On driving the car to the flat to load it, it didn’t take long before we realised that this was not your typical UK quality rental car. The car did function and most of the basic features did work, even if on a somewhat sporadic basis.
My smile dimmed a wee bit.
So we loaded up the vehicle and headed off for the metropolis of Izmir.
The journey commenced by joining the autobahn/motorway/freeway – whatever word conveys these modern masterpieces of roadway engineering, straightening, flattening, spanning and otherwise taming the terrain.
My, how Turkey has changed!
We drove in relative… uh, relative, er, well, we drove to the outskirts of the city, then off at an nondescript exit, left, right, left and so on to a road that we followed towards the centre of town.
We had a Turk with us giving directions, this was in the days before in-car navigation via satellite – without our guide, I would still be in the car going in mindless circles in the Byzantine labyrinth of roads that make up the maze called Izmir.
“Thank you, Lord, for providing E. to guide us to the Church.”
A Christian band were doing a concert in the church and I was there to video tape the performance with a view of creating a lasting snapshot of the ministry of the concert.
The group was from Canada and hence a long way from home. They spoke English or was it French or both, I can’t remember, anyway, they shared their faith through verbal translation of comments and things said, they also projected the Turkish translation of the songs via an overhead projector and distributed paper copies of the lyrics to those who came. The people came to hear a foreign band and enjoy the music – and they were afforded an opportunity to understand the words as well.
The room was empty as the group went through their final sound check – everything was as ready as the kit and acoustics of the room would allow. I looked around the starkly empty room and quietly wondered to myself where the people were for the concert. With just a few minutes to go, the doors were thrown open and people streamed in – they must have been queuing outside.
Within a matter of minutes the room was full.
With all the technical stuff done, the band and supporting people all retired to pray – not a rushed, “Let’s start the concert”, but a real pause and waiting on God and committing each other, the evening and all aspects to God.
After prayer and returning to the main room, I slipped my shoes off and climbed up beside the main camera – this was to be my first time using the main camera in a real filming situation (it was an exDemo, professional, used camera – so the camera had far more experience than I).
I ran through a mental tick-list:
- tripod stable and balanced, tick,
- correct filter selected, tick,
- white balance done, tick,
- fresh battery loaded, tick,
- full tape loaded, tick,
- second tape ready, tick,
- mike turned on, tick,
- mike recording levels set, tick,
Everything going according to plan and almost done the tick-list and, what’s this, a member of the band asking if they can turn the house lights down?
I think to myself, “It is important that this concert is the best it can be for the people who have actually come and made the effort to be here….”
I say, “Turn the lights down…”
The number two camera is set on fully automatic, so it should adjust okay – but the main camera, the number one camera, well, this is the first time I’ve used it in an actual filming situation and it is all set to manual (as it should be).
Before we began, I had set the correct setting for the lighting… the lighting that was now dramatically changing… I hit the aperture button and it seemed to cope, but no new ‘white balance’, no adjusting for the colour temperature… just trying to adapt whilst things merrily carry on around me…
As the concert began, I started with framing a wide-angle shot… and now the myriad of questions flooded my mind: “How is the sound?”, “What is the light like?”, I was not liking the light and so I made an adjustment on the fly… good/bad thing to do, the video looks better, but now we have a dramatic change part way through the shot…..
…and for the next two hours, I remain, steadfast, standing beside the camera, trying to do my best, sore feet notwithstanding, trying not to move too much and doing my best not to bump the camera… and so the evening went.
Without question, this was a good experience with much being learned on preparation, camera technique, lighting and the co-ordination between the number one and number two cameras. I thought and hoped that there may even have been enough good video to actually produce something. The proof of this particular pudding is in the editing stage.
Unfortunately what became clear in the edit suite was that this was just a ‘good learning experience’ with no viable product resulting.
Our evening efforts in shooting the video were finished, but our evening was not yet over… we still had miles to go before we could rest.
And so after the concert, we broke down, lugged and loaded up all the kit and headed out to return to Selçuk.
We drove to first one motorway, which was leading to another, and then that motorway split three ways, two lanes going left, two going down into a tunnel and two peeling off to the right – by God’s grace I was on the right and was carried away by the departure of the two lanes. It so happens that this was the direction that we were supposed to go.
Yikes, this is not fun.
We then merge with and join another motorway. But we are separated from the main carriageway by a rather formidable metal crash barrier, four lanes thundering along, all going the same way, but yet, separate.
“What is going on here?” I frantically mutter to myself. A bit ahead, the two lanes to my left go up and over an overpass and we… and we go down, to the right towards, yes, yet another motorway.
We got home in the end.
My, how much Turkey has changed, but in the last twenty years, I must confess, so have we.
It seems the only constant is that nothing stays constant.
There is much to learn, much to adjust to, much to unlearn as things have most definitely changed and are continually changing.
Regardless of where we abide, of new locales or old, I’ve found that there is another constant constant: we need God’s Grace day by day to live, adjust, change, to learn, to unlearn, to be light and salt in this world.