Friday, April 07, 2006

Languages ... a side road that leads to something else

I finally found the courage to begin a new course of antibiotics ... the first was a disaster and took a few days to recover from. These should only make me tired, unless of course, they disagree with me.

I find a certain comfort in not being able to read the contra-indications list inside the packet of tablets ... here in Belgium everything is written in the three official langauges: Dutch, French and German.

Being the linguistic criminal I am, I do sometimes find comfort in not being fluent in the langauge of my new home. I was like this in Turkey too, it was different though ... I enjoyed the way that conversations washed round me ... I remember.

I was once invited to the home of a friend's mother-in-law over in Kadikoy, Istanbul. During the day we did all the official stuff, I was slipped into a military recreation area for afternoon tea, visited the neighbours, watched as the mothers harassed the eldest daughter, an architect I think, by reading her coffee grounds and seeing a bad man in them ... everyone knew of her relationship with a man they considered unworthy, and they giggled like naughty children after she left.

We ate a sumptuous home-cooked dinner and about 10pm the call went out. Four retired officers wives arrived and out came the cards ... they delighted me, this group of smoking, gorgeously dressed woman were stunning.

They outlasted me and I remember falling asleep to sound of their voices ... they were as soothing as the ocean. I do love the sound of Turkish.

The Turks have a delicious culture ... they are open-hearted and generous, easily offended but forgiving after the sometimes storm of their anger. They mock ... my goodness I was teased sometimes, that group of women were very keen on finding me a husband ... no wonder the daughter had fled.

But perhaps the thing that most moved me was the way that they welcome the old enemy back to their shores, they honour our war dead alongside theirs and Ataturk, the leader of Turkey after the war, wrote a beautiful message to the mothers of the ANZAC soldiers who died fighting their soldiers.

Perhaps you can get a sense the generosity of the Turkish people in his words:
"To those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference to us between the Johnnies and the Mehmets [referring to both Allied and Turkish soldiers], where they lie side by side, here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far-away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."

No comments: