Author Ann Marie Aershon Guest Blog
Today we’re welcoming Guest Blogger Ann Marie Mershon, author of “You must only to love them, Lessons Learned in Turkey”. In her new book, Ann Marie recounts her trials and joys as she adapted to life in Istanbul. Still smarting from a recent divorce, she decided to focus on a new life overseas, but…
“Who would have thought I’d live in Turkey? It evoked an image of mustachioed Bedouins galumphing out of the desert on camels—and I could barely find it on a map. No, thank you. I yearned for adventure, an escape from a world that was imploding on me. A painful divorce had left me on the perimeter of social gatherings, keenly aware of my image as a divorcee. Not really a pariah, I felt like one.“ (from the book’s preface)
Enter our Rafflecopter (at the bottom of this post) for a chance to win a free copy of Ann Marie’s book “You must only to love them, Lessons Learned in Turkey”
Q: What made you decide to write “You must only to love them”?
After spending nine semesters teaching in Turkey, I was deeply moved by the kindness of the Turks, who are often vilified because they’re Muslim. I wanted the world to see just how incredible these people are and how gentle the Muslim faith is. I felt that sharing my own experiences would be the best way to accomplish that. I think, too, that writing this memoir was a way of finding closure for myself. I was still torn about where I wanted to be.
Q: How did you come up with the title?
After I accepted a position in Istanbul, word got around my small community. A young Turkish man heard about it and called to invite me for coffee. Uygar was excited that I was moving to his country and eager to help prepare me. I’d been told that Turkish students could be difficult to control and was worried about that, as discipline has never been my forte.
When I asked for his advice, Uygar answered, “Turkish students can be very loud sometimes and happy—also very sad if things are going wrongly. You must only to love them. Then they will respect to you. It is mistake to being harsh.” I found his ungrammatical advice endearing; Turks use the infinitive form more often than we do, so his mistake is common. Uygar and I continue to be good friends, and now that he has a master’s degree in language, his English is excellent.
Q: How did you decide what to use for the cover?
I went through many of my favorite photos from Turkey and started with some artful ones of mosques and flowers. After thinking about it I decided that the cover should reflect the warmth of the people, so I chose a few to consider. I decided on this one because of its color and energy. Also, it’s my husband’s favorite photo of me.
Q: Which part of this memoir do you like the most?
Boy, that’s a tough one. There are a number of stories that still amuse me—navigating my way home alone from Sultanahmet, our debacle at an exclusive night club, and the night the bed fell (oh, so Thurber-esque). What I really like the most, though, are the countless kindnesses of the Turks. Time after time they came to my aid, and I’m forever grateful.
Q: What most surprised you about the people or culture in Istanbul – what misconception was shattered first?
The first thing that amazed me was that Istanbul was so modern. I must have thought they were still in the dark ages. Next I was amazed that so many people were kind and helpful. I had this impression that they might be cold Arabs—where did THAT come from? I have never met kinder people.
Q: What were some of the first lessons you learnt about life in Turkey?
I learned that if you make an effort to speak Turkish, people will bend over backwards to help you.
I learned that we were not viewed as the Ugly Americans. That was a huge relief.
I learned that people would help me with directions even if they had no idea what the right directions were.
Q: How difficult was it to integrate into your new life in Istanbul?
I had the advantage of living in English-speaking school communities, though that was also a disadvantage, because you learn the language by mingling with people who don’t speak English. When I lived off campus in Arnavutköy it was much harder for me—more of a challenge to connect and communicate, but I loved it. I learned more Turkish in those last three semesters than I had in all the time I’d been there (a total of 9 semesters)
Q: Were there any places you wanted to visit but didn’t get around too?
I’ve never been to Ankara, and I’d LOVE to visit the ruins in Göbekli Tepe—especially if I could visit with FARIT, which runs fabulous tours. I also always wanted to see Safranbolu. It just sounds lovely. SO much to see in Turkey, but I got all over the country.
Q: What’s your favourite Istanbul sight that you visited again and again?
I have two favorites. One is Termal, a spa village across the Marmara. I have been there many times. I also love Cappadocia, particularly Göreme. I stay at the Kelebek hotel there and have always enjoyed my stay. It’s an enchanting place.
Q: Did you have much interaction with the local expat community?
I made a number of friends, mostly through school, but there were some others as well. I’ve stayed in touch with Jolee and Mark Zola, who I adore. I have also kept in touch with a few of the teachers I taught with, many of whom have married Turks and settled in Turkey. In my last few years I joined the American Women in Istanbul group and over the years I stayed connected with F.A.R.I.T. Their tours were amazing.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I didn’t consider myself a writer until I’d been published in a few magazines and was writing a regular column for a local newspaper–a health, fitness and travel column.
Q: People say you should write about what you can’t talk about. Did you do that?
I sure did. I had one of the most humiliating experiences of my life in Petra. Let it suffice to say that one should never drink camel milk. Never.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Attend writing classes, workshops, and seminars. My other advice is that if you want to be published, don’t give up. You have to be persistent to get your story or message out there.
Ann Marie is an award-winning author, speaker, and freelance writer. She has written articles, blogs, and books as well as internet content. She has a concise, easy style that sells, entertains, and explains.