Friendships made in just a few short hours. Life stories shared, professional commonalities discovered, mothering suggestions offered, all while eating some of the best Turkish food I’ve had in Turkey. The women I met from the Bursa International Women’s Association were French, Italian, German, Russian, American, and more. How were we able to relate to each other with different cultural viewpoints? Different occupations, different ages? I went to speak about creativity and left marveling at the ability for community to form abroad. Enlightened conversation. Multi-national viewpoints.
Bursa, known for being the last stop on the silk road, has a vibrant international women’s community. I met a Turkish woman who runs her own coffee shop after first studying finance in Turkey, designing textiles in New York, and returning to start afresh with coffee and pastries she decorates herself. I met an American opening the first quilting shop in Turkey that will be selling fabric online (yea for me!). I met a German graphic designer who breezed through my drawing exercises. I met homemakers juggling multiple kids and learning new languages. I met a woman with her 2-month old baby who apologized for her English while elegantly articulating that the only thing she wants to do is be a mother right now.
Riding a bus to Bursa that left at 7:30 a.m., I sat next to a university student wearing hand-knit leg warmers and gloves who offered me her saltine crackers. 11 hours later, we coincidentally rode the same bus back to Izmit, laughing when we boarded the small service bus that took us home to nearby neighborhoods. She studied economics. Had taken her final exam that day. She was a photographer. We made a date for coffee.
I believe that the things most difficult to overcome, public speaking being way out of my comfort zone, are emboldened by passion. By the support of a community that honors unique, individual voices that examine larger cultural patterns. I am passionate about art and life being merged, even if it is messy. I am grateful for breaking out of routines. And the kismet relationships that can form just by hopping a bus.