He isn’t famous – other than in a very small part of a very small town. She doesn’t speak much English, but she has a wonderful smile. Just another couple. Just another country. Just a different culture. A different set of laws. A different religion. A place to spend two weeks downtime. A place to have a holiday. The place we met them. Us being just another couple. Neither of us famous. Neither of us speaking more than a few words of Turkish. With our different culture. Our different country. Different laws and a different religion.
Our country is officially Church of England. Their country is officially Muslim. Their country borders Syria and IS. Their country is outside the European Union. Our country isn’t and doesn’t. They have lots of sun. We don’t. And that is why we go there. They work in the sun. We laze in the sun. They keep out of the sun. We laze in the sun. They hope for rain. We hope for sun. We bring all our personal prejudices and views on money with us. They keep smiling whether or not we tip them. They love children. We get a little suspicious they have ulterior motives. They think every foreign lady is fair game. A lot of foreign ladies are fair game. They know their Turkish ladies are not fair game. We get confused over their double standards.
We think we are connecting. They see a conveyor belt of moneyed summer people passing through their places of work.
There is so much to misunderstand. So many differences to trip over. And we have. And we will. Enough to make us consider and reconsider whether to leave all that behind us and holiday in different parts of the world. To be that “conveyor belt of summer people”. To keep moving. Avoid the hassle of all that goes with connecting. Having to compromise our freedom a little. Having to include their way of doing things in our precious holiday time. Forgetting that they are compromising more than us. That they are seeing us as more than summer people. That they too are “connecting” with all the hassle we give them.
This couple offer us their winter home each summer. We accept with thanks. We connect. And that brings the rest. That brings compromise. That brings hassle. Enough to offset the connection. The fun. The affection. They regard us as special friends. We do too. And that amplifies the differences. The exacerbates the “obligations”. That carries responsibilities.
We went to Turkey this year thinking it might be out last visit as “friends” rather than tourists. The Turkish culture of hospitality too demanding and restricting. Too imposing on our two weeks of recharging time. And we were not alone. Others who have “connected” know that feeling. The culture of never saying no. Of offence at being turned down. At the loss of face. All their “ways of doing things” stuff so different from our own.
And then this year we all seemed to find a balance. An acceptance of the differences. An appreciation – again – of the similarities. An acknowledgment that connecting was worth more than the hassle. And with that comes freedom. Freedom to connect. Freedom to be who each is and always will be. Freedom to enjoy each other for who we each are. Similarities and differences. Enough to bind with affection. To unite in something approaching love.
And the hassle factor evaporates. The grind of obligation disappears. The doublespeak no longer necessary. Honesty once again gentle and embracing. No more counting who has compromised the most and least. No more keeping score.
Yet, without either couple compromising who they are and what they – affection and connection overcame those doubts. And with that comes freedom.
Freedom to celebrate being different. Freedom to be different. And with that comes freedom to enjoy the similarities. To enjoy each other. To have fun. Enough for us to seriously consider being “winter people” again.
To accept their invitation to spend a week with this family in their home out of season. Sharing their time and their preferences in their way. Just us in their time. Without the conveyor belt of summer people. And that is an honour and a privilege. If …
If the similarities and differences are truly bound in affection. If the differences are celebrated. If the similarities are the connection of trust. That is freedom.
What changed this year?
(thank you Susan Irene Fox for prompting this story)