I am planning to visit Turkey next June, so I’m brushing up on my Turkish. It’s been more than five years since I lived there and, although I pick up a textbook or stack of flashcards now and then, I soon get busy with other things. Clearly, I need help.
In September I posted a message on the TAAM (Turkish American Association of Minnesota) Facebook page seeking a Turkish speaker for conversation practice. I got several replies. One woman lived an hour north of the Twin Cites. Another was starting a Ph.D. program in political science. The third was a young woman named Delal, who lives in Minneapolis. We agreed to meet.
Delal has been in Minnesota for about a year. She and her husband, Kerem Yucel, a photographer, moved from Turkey because he received an EB-1 visa, one of only ten granted each year to “extra-talented artists.” Delal is also extra-talented. She has published two fantasy/adventure children’s book series that tell of lost islands, ancient societies, and mysteries of the sea.
Delal and Kerem chose Minnesota because her sister and brother in law are Mayo Clinic doctors. Getting used to a new country has been challenging, but Delal’s diverse childhood experiences spent “aboard ships with a monkey and parrot who joined me in Nigeria” have helped.
“We can all get along together,” she told me the first day we met. She was speaking of Turkey, where there is a deep religious divide. I had never heard a Turk express this sentiment, and it made me feel I could and should say this about my own country.
My talented new friend, Delal, is inspiring my Turkish. We recently read this adorable picture book (just about right for my Turkish comprehension), called What Color are Kisses?
Delal is also helping reawaken my curiosity about Turkey. Just the other day, she told me of a “fairy tale village” in eastern Turkey near Elazig, that in the 1920s sheltered Armenian families fleeing the Ottomans. In this village, she said, there is a lake so overgrown with moss that you can walk on its surface. Ancient stairs underneath lead to water, and a snake with horns resides in a nearby well. Thanks to my talented new friend, I’m thinking about a quest to seek out this enchantment!
For more on Delal Arya:
For Beginning Turkish lessons: