I am back, this Halloween day, with a few special moments of sharing about my experience at my second posting in the Foreign Service, Izmir, Turkey, where I worked for two years from January of 1987, in a small Consulate (Ankara houses the Embassy) in which I served as the only “cleared” secretary and did double duty as back up communicator. This was a challenge for which I had to have six weeks of training in Washington, D.C. for, as well as an additional six weeks of Language training, each of which practically caused me to have a nervous breakdown (I jest here, as I lived through each training and was able to do my added responsibility of backup communicator as well as have enough “street smart” Turkish language under my belt to function in Izmir with the local Turkish culture). I worked with a very small American staff, consisting of the Consul General, three American officers, and a communication technician, and we supported by a small staff of the local Turkish employees. The Consulate was closed after I departed post, so I was fortunate to have been the last secretary (we were known as OMSers, Office Management Specialists, but both titles, OMS and Secretary were interchangeable in the scope of my duties at posts).
The Consulate and my apartment were each located on the first street by the bay/water, and my apartment (about a 30-minute walk to and from work each day) overlooked from its several stories up location, the Aegean Bay, which was so pretty at night, with the lights of an on the water restaurant shining brightly as well as, of course, the moon in the sky. The sunrises and sunsets were glorious and the weather in Izmir was perfect most of the year, although winters were very cold and windy.
I had visitors in Turkey: my longtime friend, Ileta, for three weeks (we went to Istanbul for a long weekend, traveling on the ferry there and returning by air, and bused to Bursa (which means “green” city) a second three day weekend, which was lovely and where we visited many mosques and other interesting cultural sites). My Swedish friend, Anita, who I had met and become friends with in Geneva, also came to visit for a week and we spent a weekend at a lovely spa resort a short bus ride away on the sea (I will never forget, Anita, a tall, strong Swedish woman who always chose to swim “in the sea” while I used the indoor pool but mostly the “hot tub!”). Another good friend came from her post in Brussels, twice, and we took the local bus all up and down the coast exploring and seeing the various sites, including Antalya, Cappadocia, and Ephesus, which was a half hour car/bus ride from Izmir, which is famously known for the city who was “dug up,” so to speak, and available to many tourists who explored the area. I remember a very memorable evening when I went with a military tour group to the Coliseum and sat outside on a beautiful warm evening as the Russian Symphony, led by a woman conductor, performed Tchaikovsky’s Concerto #1. The performance was the best I had ever experienced, in every respect, of classical music, and when a selection was completed right down to the last note on a piano or violin one could literally “hear a pin drop,” which just amazed this happy listener. (I MUST add that this evening had a special meaning to me as my wonderful father, then long deceased, had loved music and one of his favorites I remember from a child growing up was “Tonight We Love” which was sung and performed and taken directly from this composition and so, on this memorable evening, I felt like “my dad was sitting right beside me” experiencing this wondrous moment in time).
However, the highlight of my trip was when my favorite cousin, Shirley, who was three and a half years my senior, and who I had been very close to my entire life in California, came and spent a week with me in Izmir. She would relax and sight see locally during M-F when I was at work and I would come home with a “gjevrek” (this is an Albanian name: “Albanian–Turkish relations have traditionally been friendly due to pragmatic, geographical, historical and religious factors and the existence of a large Albanian Diaspora in Turkey) , wonderful “Turkish” pretzels which were sold warm on the street from a tiny little stand which I passed when I walked to work each day, and each evening we would reheat them and enjoy this treat before bed with cream cheese and jam (oh how I would like to have one of those this very moment to savor!!). We took a local bus over a three day weekend, down the coast, staying in Mamaris and Boldrum, one night each, experiencing the local culture, wonderful food, and music (I remember one warm evening, strolling along the beach after dinner, hearing music and we walked into an open air restaurant on the beach where Turkish citizens were doing their traditional dance Gaziantep (Yarim Kaba) and Shirley and I just hopped right in there and joyously joined the crowd!! Such FUN!!! Smiling faces, music and dance! One day, out of Mamaris, we took a boat out on the sea and my cousin encouraged me and, with a promise of “I gotcha!,” and I trusted her explicitly (not being a confident swimmer in any sense of the word) I did climb over the side, descended the ladder, with her by my side, and experienced the joy of the sea without fear.
Yes, my two years in Izmir were very rewarding and memorable, in many respects, and I must leave you now so goodbye, until November and South Africa!! Joan