October 14: Ayse, Konya

After our bus ride from Goreme to Konya (very flat, wheat fields, and potatoes) on Tuesday, about 3 and a half hours, we were eager to get out and walk a bit.  So, we set out to find Silvia’s shop – thinking I would meet with her the next day.  (See my earlier post to learn about Silvia.)  As we entered the shop, a young woman clearly recognized us as non-Turks and quickly learned that we had come to meet Silvia.  She began to explain to us – in Turkish – that Silvia was out.  Another young woman, we assumed perhaps another employee, stepped into the conversation and explained in English that it would be an hour before Silvia would return.  As we walked out of the shop she continued to talk with us and said wouldn’t we please have tea with her while we were waiting for Silvia.  A friend of hers had a small restaurant nearby, she told us, and that is how we met Ayse!

And what a delight!  She was eager to visit with us and we loved talking with her!!!  She grew up near Goreme, studied business in college and went to Istanbul to work in a bank.  She didn’t like that work and Istanbul so much, however, so after some time decided to come to Konya and work in her father’s pharmacy.  I believe she has a Master’s degree in business – in any event, she has done postgraduate work and now is studying pharmacy.

There are other professional women here, but I had a sense that, as most things revolve around the family, it may be hard to create your own social network.  She said as a divorced woman it was very difficult in Istanbul, because if you had money (a good job) many men wanted to be with you just for that.  It is not so hard here in Konya she said.

Her friend, in whose shop we had tea had been a chemistry teacher, loved food and decided to open her own restaurant.  Now her husband works at the restaurant as well.  BPW is present in Turkey – this is a women’s business and professional organization to which many U. S. women belong.

One of the interesting parts of our conversation was prompted by her question about our plans for the next day.  When we told her that we were meeting with a student of Cemalnur Sargut and would be visiting the Mevlana museum with him – eyes lighted up!  She honors the work of this Sufi teacher, listens to her when she is on television and perhaps has attended or reads about some of her conferences.  While the expat women with whom we have met are unfamiliar with the work of Cemalnur Sargut, she is well known and deeply respected and appreciated among many Turkish people.

Several interesting bits of information fell into place during our conversation.  For example we learned that the Turkish government requires that all children attend school through 8th grade.  Good jobs require English.  Companies prefer men – because women can take take off 6 months when they have a child, and the company would rather not bother with that.  On the other hand, she said, if you say here – “I can’t come in today.  I’m having my period and don’t feel well.”  That is OK.  In Istanbul she explained, that would be totally unacceptable.

When I asked her what leadership meant to her – she said women begin leading in the family.  And they may run a business or an organization such as mothers who organize and raise funds for orphans.  And, I would add, that young women like Ayse, are also leaders simply by the way they and intentionally living their own lives in the midst of very changing and challenging times!

Ayse has been to the U.S. several times.   Her brother and his wife live in Georgia.  The wife is a professor at Georgia Tech.  She is quite clear that she doesn’t want their lifestyle – they are busy all the time – – working, working, working.  And, in a way that sums up the dilemma for many women in the more industrialized countries – busy, busy, busy – do we have time for the most important parts of our lives?

Connecting with Ayse was a delightful surprise! ! !   I’m so grateful for the many serendipitous happenings on this trip – this is certainly one of them.

Hugs to all of you,