My Dirty Little Secret and What I Plan to Do about It

in Turkey and Turkish culture, Working Abroad

preparing for a summer cultural immersion in Turkey

These crocs were made for walking.

Fasten your seat belts because I have an announcement to make.

I’m going to Turkey this summer.

Yes, I’ve been there before, on my own and with my family, but this year is going to be different. I won’t be lolling around a resort like I did on our last fun family beach vacation on the Aegean Sea. And I’m not going there to run a cross-cultural workshop either.

The reason I’m going is because of my kids.

You see, they don’t really speak Turkish.

Sure, they know some basic vocabulary for life’s most pressing needs. Vocabulary and phrases like: I’m hungry. Thank you. Who farted? Hey, they’re boys, remember? :-)

But they are far from bilingual. And that really pains me. Because, without Turkish, they’re missing out on half their cultural heritage.

To be honest, I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit this. After all, I’ve taught English to immigrants (that’s how I met my husband) and to adults and kids in Spain. I’ve even coached foreign language teachers. So you’d think I could pull off raising bilingual kids.

I had the best of intentions.

Believe me, before our kids were born, I thought I have it all figured out — I’d speak English and my husband would speak Turkish and my kids would become bilingual.

So much for fantasies. For some reason, the whole “one language, one person” deal where each parent speaks his or her mother tongue just never took hold in our house.

So I’m going to Turkey and taking my kids with me. The plan is for them to spend most of the time with their grandparents, Dede and Babanne, aunts and cousins in my husband’s hometown on the Black Sea while I keep myself busy worrying about how they’re adjusting enjoying Istanbul.

So how long will we be there? Well, I’m learning toward three months. Or six weeks. Or somewhere in between. It changes, depending on my mood and anxiety level on any given day.

Some days I feel really excited about the whole idea. I mean, what a great gift for my kids – time spent with their Turkish relatives! A chance to experience rural Turkey and a way of life that’s totally different from our life in the U.S. Plus, they’ll get to eat all that great home-made Turkish food.

As for me, well, I haven’t spent an extended period of time immersed in another culture in years. And I’ve never spent more than one week on my own in Turkey. So, this is sure to be a real growth experience for me too. You know, the kind that you file under “character-building” :-)

Seriously, though, I know the longer we’re there, the better for my kids in terms of language learning and getting to know Turkish culture.

So, yes, we’re going to Turkey this summer.

There, I said it. Can’t exactly back out now, can I?

So, what do you think? Am I crazy? Have you done something like this in your life?