Greetings, my peeps! I am back in the Mosh, safe and sound, and extremely well-rested. Most of you wouldn't even recognize me these days as a spell away with good friends was exactly what the doctor ordered, and I am overflowing with good cheer. In fact, I just fielded a phone call from my Moshi bestie who literally demanded, "Who are you, and what have you done with my Sarah??!!" Indeed. I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next phase of the Project.
But before we get to that, a quick word about Istanbul and my friends there. Never fear, this is not a random tangent, but does indeed relate to Toa Nafasi. Somehow.
You see, when I first returned to the States from my original volunteer stint in Tanzania, I studied TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Teachers College, Columbia University (my alma mater and, therefore, already a very special place to me) over the summer of 2008. While there, I met Jennifer and Trevor and the three of us became fast friends. Each of us brings something different yet complementary to the table and that summer was one of the best of my adult life, both in the classroom, on the streets of New York and, if we're really being honest, bellied up to the bar. We laughed, we cried, we got to know each other, we exchanged ideas, we learned to teach. Each in his or her own way.
And three more different people, I would challenge you to find. Trevor is originally from Utah and was an NYC newbie at the time, but about to spend a couple years getting his Master's at TC. Jennifer grew up upstate so was familiar with the city, but ready to leave the U.S. for love: she had met a wonderful Turkish man just before TC and wanted to follow her heart abroad. And me, I think you know....
The course was small in size (maybe 100 students) and short (just one summer), but we took courses in everything from Second Language Acquisition and Intercultural Communication to Pedagogical Grammar and Assessment. We also team-taught real adult language learners enrolled at TC's Community English Program and were observed and given feedback from TC advisers. Truth be told, it was a very thorough course and I learned a lot about teaching English as a second language....BUT....the friends I made have turned out to be far more significant than the certificate I earned! Especially given the fact that not a single day since the course ended have I taught in English; all my teaching experience in TZ has been in Swahili!!
Anyhoo, Trevor, Jennifer, and I have remained close friends for the past six years despite being physically very far-flung. Jennifer married her Turkish boyfriend, Betal, and they now have a beautiful baby boy. She taught ESL at the international school in Istanbul for several years but left when she went on maternity leave. When she is ready to work again, she plans to open her own kindergarten in her artsy neighborhood of Cihangir and teach the way she wants, in the Montessori style. She'll probably remain in Istanbul for the duration, but she gets to the States when she can.
Trevor completed his Master's at TC and taught ESL to high school students in the rough-and-tumble South Bronx for a couple years before heading to Bethlehem in 2013 to teach English at the university level. On the side, he supports a group of women who formed a cooperative whereby they cook food for people in order to raise money to care for their special needs children. Plastic bullets and tear gas while crossing the security wall between Israel and Palestine are a regular part of his current life, but I can happily (and selfishly) report that he'll be back in New York by the time I get there this Fall as a new job opportunity has come his way. And, again, me, I think you know....!
We've re-grouped a couple times since the summer of '08, often two of the three of us in New York or DC but only as a troika twice: in Istanbul in 2010 and now in 2014. I like to joke that we are the Istabullu version of the Olympics, a rare and magnificent event that occurs every four years! It's funny, I never had any strong desire to visit Istanbul before, but it has since become one of my favorite foreign destinations. Not only because Jennifer lives there, knows all the great places to go, and speaks the language, but also because it is a beautiful, cosmopolitan, and multicultural city. Since this is not a travel blog, I won't gush at length but should anyone want any scoop on the Big Bul, do let me know! It is a must-see!!
I guess my final point is this: I find myself very lucky to have made two such good friends with whom I share common interests (travel, education, red wine) and great conversation (books, politics, the finer points of several premium cable television shows). That we can come and go in and out of each other's lives physically yet still remain as comfortable and intimate as ever is a testament not only to *our* bond but to the notion of friendship in general. And the fact that we all met while in the pursuit of our life's work tops off the whole shebang.
Since this entry is already pretty long and more than a little mushy, I will save the tale of today's re-entry into Msaranga for next week. Photos of the troika (in non-troika format since somebody had to hold the camera) below!