By Jim Buie
My last day of teaching 5th (rising sixth) graders at Akansu summer school was quite emotional. First lesson I go in and announce that this is my last day, that I'm returning to my home in the USA, then going to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Nearly all the students (about 15 of them) burst out crying. "Don't go! Don't go!" But America is my home, I say. "No, Kayseri is your home!" they insist. They circle around me and start to hug me, crying. "You have been here two years. Kayseri is your home now." This I find amazingly touching, so I start balling, too. Then they hug me and say, "Don't cry!"
They start writing me letters (in English!) and posting notes on the active board and on the regular bulletin board, in big letters, like "We love you, Jim Buie!!!"
The letters are very touching, too. I'll post some of them to Facebook.
Kids are so unfiltered. One of the kids wrote, "Jim Buie, I love you. But I wish you would change your religion and become a Muslim!"
Another remembered my promise to provide ice cream on the last day, at my flat -- cancelled because it's Ramadan so they can only eat after sundown at 7:40 at night, and after their big Iftar meal, that is too late for them to be out. He wrote, "I still want ice cream -- vanilla." I told him I would try to meet him tomorrow and provide the ice cream.
This emotional response went on for all four classes. Kids asked me to autograph their books, asked me for my email and Facebook address, and wanted to pose for lots and lots of pictures.
Then, the teachers in the English Department gave me a china set, and the principal gave me a plaque for my service over the last two years, saying they didn't feel like I was a foreigner, "but like a brother."
As I was leaving school -- the teachers were taking me to the airport to meet Lucia, to see her off for her flight to Abu Dhabi -- a bunch of kids came running out of the school to give me another group hug. There were kids hanging out of the fourth floor windows screaming my name. Another group of kids came and stood in front of the car and as we gently began to drive off, they held out their hands to touch me and say goodbye.
I will never forget the wonderful kids of Akansu and the wonderful people of Kayseri, and in Turkey!!!!
I've been invited to teach in summer school next year. We'll have to consider it!