Reviewed by Carlton Rolle
A retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a woodland lake with her husband Jerry and their two dogs. She grew up in a wooded suburb of Minneapolis, and in her mid-twenties she and her husband moved north to the wilderness they’d always loved. After 30 years of teaching English in Minnesota, she moved overseas to complete her teaching career in Istanbul, writing weekly e-mail missives and posting blogs about her experiences there.
Ann Marie discovered her passion to write in the late 1990’s. She penned a weekly newspaper column for five years, wrote numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, and published two books. Ann Marie writes every day but always finds time for hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, or snowshoeing with her friends in the wilderness she calls home.
This is book follows the life experiences of Ann Marie Mershon. As an experienced teacher in Minnesota, Ann Marie decides she is ready for a change in her life. She packs her things and moves to Turkey to teach to children. The book follows some of the intricacies of her life such as travels, teaching, and relationships (including romantic, family, and friends).
Ann Marie brings readers along on her experiences. Ann pushes to constantly search for a way to connect with people to make new friends. She is often lost or struggling, but through “Turkish hospitality” she arrives to the place she was headed.
An aspect I find really interesting is the language barrier. Ann Marie didn’t know how to speak Turkish, and what she did know was very limited. It takes a lot of courage to able to explore in the manner she did without knowing the language. I feel it would have made some occasions and generally the experience as a whole, even more gratifying if she had attempted to learn more Turkish earlier.
Ann Marie gave the most description about where she was visiting and what she ate. In many ways the book serves as a rough tour through the country. It was wonderfully descriptive and at some points, I felt like I was even there. This point hit even further when she mentions external places to be able to visually see what she was talking about. I thought that was a really great way to enhance the experience for readers.
While I thought the book was well written, it didn’t quite reach the depth as I would’ve liked. I wanted to have a greater understanding of the differences in culture between America and Turkey. Ann Marie approaches the culture from an affluent outsider perspective, mostly remarking on their “Turkish hospitality”. While it’s an important factor with the culture, I wonder how those acts of kindness would’ve been if locals didn’t know Ann Marie’s status.
Something else that I found interesting was the amount of time Ann Marie spent in the country. She covered the first 2-3 years extensively. It seemed that that is what was planned for. It wasn’t until the end that she mentions it was a total of seven years in Turkey! That gives greater insight to her experience.
I would like to know what messages Ann Marie got out of her experience in Turkey. What stuck with her the most? How did the country change her? Was there anything she regretted or would do over? I’d also like to know what advice she has for people who are interested in either visiting or moving to Turkey.
I would definitely tip my hat to her. Ann Marie did something that few people are able to do. She left a comfort zone and placed herself in a completely different environment. While she struggled at first, she gained a footing and thrived. This is an inspiration for those who dream of overseas!
More about Anne Marie Mershon can be found here
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