Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Forgotten Word: Adventures in Turkey

Far, far away--or at least, far from where I type this--

From a hill near Urfa, Turkey, the picture looks off into the misty distance of thre Syrian border.

--there is a small Turkish city called Sanliurfa. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey
The old city center was especially gorgeous. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey

The fish pool in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

A brilliantly blue fish pool in Urfa, Turkey, bordered by white columns.
Urfa was the farthest east we went during my trip to Turkey.  Most people there spoke very little English, and it felt more like stepping into another world than any place we visited. 
Despite this, in the bazaar there, my friends and I found, of all things....
Wait for it. 
Wait for it. 
An English major.  We found an English major in the Urfa bazaar. 
A white sheep looks quizzically at the camera from where it stands on the green lawn.
We ended up talking to him because--well, first, we glanced at the soap he was selling--but then he greeted us in perfect English, complete with a crisp British accent.  In a place where we really had to use the rudimentary Turkish we had been scrambling together over the past week, that was rather startling. 
The poor man was desperate to practice his English--especially since there was no one in Urfa to speak with him--so we talked for a while as we sniffed our way through the soaps. 
As it turns out, he was a Syrian refugee (Urfa is rather close to the border.) who had been studying English literature and teaching English at a university in Syria.  The unrest in his country forced him to flee to Turkey, however, and made his future plans impossible:  He had been planning to move in with his uncle in England and attend a British university as a PhD candidate. 
I usually think about the grisly cost exacted by war.  The death, the violence, the disruption of families.  This encounter made me realize that that isn't all.  These people have plans and hopes and dreams just like the rest of us, and war ruins those, too. 
None of this had diminished the man's love for literature, however.  We asked him what his favorite books were, and he immediately listed Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Atonement.  He said he loved these books because they had been a comfort to him during the crisis in his country. 
And then--to finally circle around to the title of this blog post--he used a word...a glorious, luminous, perfect word, to describe those novels....  It was a word I never would have used, something only a non-native speaker would have selected.  And it was perfect. 
And we can't for the life of us remember what it was. 
I think it started with a "b."  Katie the Roommate wasn't so sure about that.  We spent probably an hour in our hotel room trying to think of it that night, once we realized it had slipped our minds. 
I don't know what it was.  I don't think we'll ever remember.  But I hope that somehow, someday, Adam the Syrian refugee will get his PhD in English literature and have a chance to use that word again. 


  1. I love your confused sheep a lot. That's exactly how they look all the time, you know.

  2. Your ending had me tearing up over here. I hope he gets his PhD too, and that he gets to use lots of beautiful words in his future... Thanks for sharing this story.

  3. Might the elusive word be resurgam (Latin: I shall rise again)? It is the epitaph on Helen *B*urns tombstone in Jane Eyre.
    I wish you two ladies all the best this year as you continue your studies!
    ~Kelly (your mom's friend!)

    1. Awww, I don't think that was it. Too bad! Thanks for the idea, though, we'd be thrilled if someone came up with it! :D And thank you, nice to hear from you! :)