Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ilhara Valley: The Outdoor Club

I have been growingly involved as of late as one of the supervisors of The Outdoor Club at school. Those who are in the outdoor club are mostly international students. One of the sadder truths of our school is that the 10% of the students who are foreigners tend to stick together and not mix with the Turkish kids; they also tend to flock towards the international teachers, and I generally feel closer to my international students. As I have mentioned before, when I do go climbing or hiking, I meet other foreigners doing it. There is little to no outdoor culture in Turkey, so it is no surprise that the club consists mostly of international students and teachers.

My colleagues, Pierre and Phil, started the club this year after pulling some strings, and as they are leaving at the end of this year, I am transitioning in so I can take it over next year. I am also interested in helping create a higher profile for the club to generate interest with the Turkish students. I enjoy being a female teacher, hopefully acting as inspiration to the girls involved.

We've taken the kids to the local climbing gym a couple of times and they love it. Today, we took them on a hike down the Ilhara Valley of Cappadoccia, and explored some of the connected caverns of homes and churches carved into the cliffsides.

Some of the churches had painted ceilings- I am still amazed in this country how something so old and fragile is not barred off from the public. We could crawl around in the churches, taking flash pictures and destroying the place if we so pleased. Of course the students don't even think of defacing the art, and maybe that's because it isn't off limits?? It would be interesting to research countries' differing preservation efforts and subsequent successes.

Many of the religious figures had no eyeballs, and we were discussing the anti-iconoclastic time period, where deities were not allowed to be depicted as human beings, and so many of their human features were altered in later years.

We came across this cool gang symbol. I cannot quite tell if it belongs to the Sharks or the Jets.

The students' favorite part of the day was finding a three story cave dwelling, and exploring the connected rooms with flashlights.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as it is to see kids enjoying the outdoors in ways they never have before, I was reminded today of the accompanying risk involved.

As we came to the end of the Ilhara Valley, we had some time to spare, so teachers and students crossed to a rock above a small waterfall. I was standing across the way taking pictures, when I noticed through my viewfinder one of the girls starting to slip. It was an awful feeling to watch her slide down this waterfall in her clothes with her backpack on and not be able to do anything about it.

You can see from the pictures that it wasn't a huge drop-off, maybe just 6 feet or so, and she luckily fell feet first. But it was a cold day and the water was freezing, and when we all rushed to the edge to find her, we couldn't see her. All we could see was turning whitewater at the base of the waterfall, and of course my mind went racing that she was caught underneath in an eddy, and I instantly thought I would throw up at the implications of this. Then one of the students leaned over far enough to spot her clinging onto a rock, and was able to talk to her and find out that she was okay.

At this point, some local men who had been fishing nearby, had run over, jumped in the water, and got her to grab onto their fishing net so we could pull her up the bank. We were able to strip her down and dress her in dry warm layers. She was not at all hurt, and warmed up after a 1/2 hour.

She was only in the water for 2 minutes, but of course every second felt like an eternity, thinking of the worst possible ending to the situation. But it was such an awful feeling to think someone I am responsible for could have died; my life would be changed forever if I had to carry that around with me. Nobody said this aloud, but we were all thinking it and so thankful that she was okay. Phil, Pierre, and I retraced our actions, and I don't think any of us would have not crossed the river if we were to take the trip again; it wasn't an incredibly risky place to step. It was just an unlucky moment of imbalance. Water is such a scary thing to me, especially cold water. Forceful and paralyzing all at the same time. Even though the actual hike ended on a traumatic note, everyone was still able to smile and laugh on the busride home.

No comments: