Sometimes the most inconsequential things happen to make something special. Life is made up of a recipe of moments. Sometimes if the ingredients are right, you end up with something spectacular. Moments by the pools with my daughter and my wife. We ate beautiful food in a bustling town, Hisoronu, which was covered in tea towels from all over England, gifts from past visitors. When we returned to our apartment, and I was relaxing on our porch, one of the caretakers, Volkan , asked if I would join him for coffee and smoke. Here it is common to smoke hashish. It is not seen as a bad drug. I sat and we spoke. His English is very good and we talked about the little things, about family, getting married, and we were soon joined by another gentleman. Mustafa. He was going to make “special Coffee” which according to his google translate was made out of a special sand. He cooked it on a gas bottle. It was late at night, and nighttime and caffeine are not the best mix for me. My host, Mustafa was also holidaying, his last night, he told me about his job as electrical engineer, and he later introduced me to his daughter, 12 and his 8 year old son. He was a very proud father who loved his job. It is sometimes the little conversations, little meeting through broken English, google translate and a form of makaton that makes the experience so much richer.
When I meet a client for the first time, there is an amount of finding out about each other, tentative talking, the use of metaphor. My experiences here are teaching me how much we communicate is so much more than words. It is nuanced and intricate and requires careful thought of the process and attentiveness. Here in Turkey, speaking to Mustafa and his family, I have to be attentive and attend as I try to understand and make myself understood. Like the awkwardness with the client at the beginning of therapy, there is awkwardness in this interaction, and then as we drop our formalities we forget our limitations and work with what we have, a mutual desire to connect, understand and be understood.
The coffee is special, strong and earthy like mud, and the act of cooking it in the open on the fire is part of a shared experience.
I enjoy the shared experience of counselling, the gradual build up of a relationship, the trust and rapport becomes the foundation upon which change is made. In my little interactions here, they are part of the whole experience of being this stranger in a strange land.
People want to connect and it seems the more different you are, the more they want to find out about you. Mustafa’s daughter asked me questions about England as a way of practicing her English, highlighting my lack of Turkish, yet this was swept aside as what I had to say was more interesting to them.
As the hour grew late, I returned to my apartment, and thanked them for inviting me, we swapped Facebook details, planning on keeping in touch. I think I need to download Google translate.
The following morning I bade farewell to Mustafa and his family. He took my hand and we touched temples on either side. Another new learning and a different and more intimate way of saying goodbye.
A morning trip to Fethiye provided an interesting diversion as I went to an English speaking meeting. Touching base with recovering alcoholics living in Turkey. Fethiye is scarily huge and busy with cars and mopeds apparently making up the rules as they go along. I was met by an Irishman who welcomed me. Our shared experience, we soon bonded and he talked about moving to the Mediterranean and how much his life had improved as a result. “I feel safe!” Is how he could best describe it. I found Fethiye too big, too busy for me, a long way from Thirsk I could feel so lost very easily.
Addictions are present everywhere, another member of the group told me when I mentioned how I imagined it would be difficult to work here as a therapist, the lack of language and who would want to go to a counsellor here? “Ah there’s always trouble in paradise” she told me. Of course I realise this, although right now, it is difficult to see the problems and difficulties the further I am away from clients and from any of mine own stressors.
It’s also difficult to feel stress when my evening ended with an excursion. Horse riding in the evening. Me and my daughters first time riding. My magnificent horse ‘Shah’ walked confidently with me astride. Our trail went through a forest and then onto a sandy beach, as the sun set behind one of the many beautiful mountains. This was a most remarkable experience, another connection with a foreign beast. Again I had to build rapport with Shah and make a connection, and I had to trust him.
Life is built on moments and experiences, as I said goodbye this morning to Ozzie, my tattooist friend, I realised this again. All our meetings and inconsequential experiences are ingredients that make our life a richer meal if we choose to eat.
A Thirsk Counsellor Abroad