When you live overseas, it’s easy to fall into the habit of criticizing everything you find different or challenging in your host culture. In Turkey, foreigners complain about bureaucracy, disorganized traffic, lack of planning, people arriving late, people arriving early, or people not showing up at all. It’s easy to see the negative side of everything. I should know. I just spent one and a half hours waiting in two lines in order to apply for a new cell phone account. It was my third trip to the cell phone shop in one week.
Cultivating Wonder and Thankfulness
Instead of grumbling about my host country, I want to cultivate a sense of wonder and thankfulness for God’s allowing me to be here. Recently I wrote about life changing lessons I've learned from Turks. Last month I had several “Where else but Turkey?” experiences that reminded me again to appreciate the kindness and generosity of Turks.
- At the bakery one day I was caught with no wallet and needed to buy a box of cookies. The counter person said, “Don’t worry. Take the cookies and just bring the money the next time you come.”
- In front of our neighborhood police station, I asked the officer on duty if he knew where there was a photocopier. He said, “Oh, I can make these for you right here. How many do you need?” And he gave me free copies on the police station!
Last month I sat in the crowded waiting room of our neighborhood public health clinic, just 40 minutes before closing time. I had a hacking cough. Would the doctor even see me? It seemed like a long shot. I didn’t have a health card, and there were about 6 patients before me. Would this doctor be willing to wait on a foreigner who wasn’t even registered with the health system? I waited until the door opened and peeked in. I saw a pretty blonde doctor in a white coat.
“I don’t have a health card,” I said, “but I live in this neighborhood. Can you see me?”
“I have too many patients,” she answered. “Come back tomorrow morning.”
“But tomorrow is Saturday,” I protested. “The clinic is closed.”
“Well, wait outside, and I’ll see if I have time.”
The minutes crept by. Patient after patient went in and out. Finally the doctor called me in.
“Can I have your Turkish id number?” she asked.
“I don’t have one,” I answered. “I’m not a Turkish citizen. I have a residence permit, but our numbers are different.”
The Doctor spent 10 minutes trying to type my information into her computer, but my residence permit number didn’t fit into the system. She called another doctor. For a minute I thought that even after the hour wait, all was lost since I didn’t fit into the computer system.
She finally gave up and said, “What is it you need?”
“I’ve been coughing for two weeks, and I just want to see if I need an antibiotic.”
So she examined me, wrote a prescription and handed it to me with a smile.
As I left, I thought about how I could either be frustrated over the hour wait and the confusion generated by my residence permit number, or I could be grateful for this doctor who was willing to go the extra mile at closing time to serve a total stranger. She was someone I could learn from.
If you have travelled or live overseas what have you grumbled about? What have you learned?