During my time in Malatya I’ve made friends with a few families living in my university neighborhood. For the most part they all have small children and work in the hospital on campus. In exchange for giving some free basic English lessons to their children, the families usually invite me over for dinner and provide some hands on Turkish practice.
It’s mostly the food that’s important, though.
Of course, the family that cooks the best food also has some of the most difficult children to deal with. Although they are definitely very gifted and learn quickly – as well as the little son being a seeming piano prodigy – they can definitely be little monsters sometimes. It’s not uncommon for me to come over and see the son, six years old, walking on top of the table or jumping up and down on the sofa. I used to bring over an iPad and let them play with it in English too, but quickly gave up on that idea after I saw him stick his hands down the back of his pants for minute long durations before smearing them all over the screen.
Dealing with the children has left it’s mark on the mother too. Danielle told me today that she is only 32, but she looks permanently exhausted and beaten – as if life has take as much from her as quickly as possible.
The first time I went over to the house – having never talked to her before – she spoke at length of how she would do anything for a vacation. “I need some rest,” she sighed. “I take these kids to school, then go to work in the lab, come back, take them to private lessons – swimming, gymnastics, piano lessons – bring them back, cook dinner, and then make sure they don’t kill each other. Every day.”
The last time I went over the mother was significantly more stressed looking than before, exhausted smile turning at the corners of her lips and eyes. I quickly saw why – her son ran over with the mother’s iPad and ran throughout the house without it chanting “Halloween song!” He had found an animated Halloween song, on his own, on YouTube and had been listening to it non-stop for the past few days.
As I was sat down for dinner, I remarked to the mother how great YouTube must be for learning.
“Great? Yeah, you can use it for great things. You can also use it for terrible horrible things,” she said glancing at her son. “You know, he’s really well behaved in school, but when he comes home he’s just a monster. The piano teacher is threatening to not come anymore since he refused to play last time.”
“Yes, really. Isn’t that right, son?” but he wasn’t listening. He was too absorbed in ‘Halloween Song.’
“He’s just a monster. He’s a küçük şeytan.”
“Oh, yeah…” I said laughing uncomfortably.
“Küçük şeytan” she repeated looking me square in the eyes. Then, for the first time ever, she spoke to me in English to make sure I fully understood – “little devil. He’s a little devil.”