Teacher Exploration - Ross Campbell Family, Ankara, Turkey

January 01, 2006 | Harvesters
By Ross Campbell


In early June, just before the school year had ended and summer break had begun, Sara and I were strolling through Toys R Us one night (yes, there is a Toys R Us store here in Ankara!). Sara suddenly spotted a large kiddie pool, fully inflated and prominently displayed near the front entrance. She suggested that this would make a great summer addition to the terrace of our new apartment. “But we’ve already got a kiddie pool,” I protested (like any dutiful father). “Yes, but not a pool like this!” she responded. I looked at it again. True enough, this was no ordinary baby pool or kiddie pool or wading pool. The label on the box read: Family Swim Center. And the name suited it. It was bigger than any other inflatable pool in the store (and probably in all of Turkey). It was a monster-sized 10 ft. x 6 ft. x 2 ft. of heavy-duty vinyl that promised hours and hours of family fun and enjoyment. The box depicted a family of 5 (father, mother, and 3 children) happily submerged in it. It honestly looked like I could float a kayak in it. So (like any dutiful father) I yielded over my practical, analytical side and gave in to a spontaneous purchase of about US $30. After all, this was summer break, and we wanted to have some quality family time.

Immediately after placing the pool into our cart, we proceeded to the display of motorized air pumps. One of these would make the perfect accessory for our new Family Swim Center. But before purchasing one, I (like any dutiful expatriate father) checked inside the box to ensure that the motorized pump was designed for 220 volts of electricity. I assumed that it was since it was being sold in Turkey, but it pays to double-check in advance. And I’m glad I did. As it turned out, the pump’s electric plug was not designed for either 110- or 220-voltage, but was rather designed to be plugged into a 9-volt cigarette lighter of an automobile. Yet the terrace on our apartment was 4 stories high. Hmmm…. We opted not to purchase the pump. We already had a bicycle air pump powered by a foot pedal at home; and if all else failed, there was always the old fashioned method of using one’s lungs.

The Family Swim Center remained in its box until school was out and we had moved into our new apartment. At that time the kids grew restless and Sara was ready for them to have some way of expending their energy in ways other than teasing and pestering one another. So she asked me if I would inflate the Family Swim Center. I said sure, no problem; I’d take care of that during my lunch hour. I strolled home from the school office and was greeted by 3 eager young girls dressed in their swimsuits and one tired but grateful wife, all ready for their Papa to provide them with an afternoon of summer fun. After a leisurely half-hour lunch, I went out to the terrace to make quick work of the Family Swim Center before heading back to the office.

Upon removing the (very heavy) Family Swim Center from its box, I noticed that it contained 3 separate air chambers (bottom, middle, and top). Each air chamber contained two separate air intake holes – one designed for an electric air pump, the other designed for a mouth. I plugged up the hole for the electric air pump, sat down on the tiled terrace floor, and began blowing. Not short, quick blows in rapid succession, but long and slow blows of about 10-15 seconds in duration each. After about 10 of these blows, I paused to check on my progress. It seemed that our Family Swim Center must have had a leak, because it showed absolutely no signs of having received any air. Nevertheless, I continued on, and after about 20 blows I paused to get a stool to sit on for comfort, realizing that this was going to take a bit longer than I originally projected. At this time I began to count and record my puffs of air.

At 30 blows, the girls excitedly ask me when the Family Swim Center will be ready, and they begin to play and frolic around me while I work.

At 50 blows, my lips are growing sore from pursing so tightly, my fingers are growing sore from pinching the air stem, and I am beginning to see stars, feel breathless, and feel generally light-headed.

At 70 blows, the kids approach me once again to ask me why the Family Swim Center (although they are erroneously referring to it as a “kiddie pool”) is not getting any bigger. They advise me that I should use the bicycle “pumper-upper” because it is “more better.” I bark irritably at them in response, causing them to cry and leave the terrace.

At 90 blows, I am beginning to lose control of my embouchure, and I am blowing nearly as much spit into the air chamber as I am air. The first air chamber is showing signs of nearing the halfway point of becoming full. Beginning to feel hot and sweaty, I take off my shirt and roll up my pant legs.

At about 110 blows, I resort to my daughter’s suggestion and attempt to use the bicycle foot pump. It doesn’t work. Because there is not a tight connection, as much air leaves the chamber as enters it using the foot pump. I quickly abort that counterproductive strategy and resume the old fashioned method.

At about 130 blows, Sara approaches me on the terrace. I told her I was long overdue at the office. She spoke to me about the welfare of the kids, the purpose of summer break, quality family time, etc. Harsh words were spoken. Tears were shed. Sara left the terrace. I had now successfully destroyed fellowship with each member of my family. I had truly blown it (no pun intended). Yet I was now more determined than ever to inflate this Family Swim Center with my very own carbon dioxide, even if it was the last thing I did. And at this point I did something that I have never before done in my two years of living in Ankara, Turkey – I put on a pair of shorts outdoors, on the terrace.

At 150 blows, progress is moving much slower than at first. I am taking longer and more frequent breaks (breathers!) to enjoy the view from the terrace. But I am very careful to cling tightly to the railing as I do so, as I am feeling quite dizzy at this point.

At about 170 blows I stop counting, and I also realize that I am getting sunburned. I pause to look again at the family pictured on the box of the Family Swim Center. They all seem so happy and carefree. It is obvious that that father used a motorized pump on his Center.

At what must have been around 200 blows or so, and after well over an hour of work, I have filled the first air chamber as full as I can get it. I begin to think that the Family Swim Center would actually be safer if only the first air chamber were inflated. It would be more shallow and would therefore pose less of a drowning threat. But then I project Sara’s response to that idea and abandon it.

I put my clothes back on to return to the school office, exhausted (no pun intended). That evening, after dinner, I doggedly inflated both chambers 2 and 3 of the Family Swim Center, as the sun set and the stars came out. I went to sleep that evening with a deep sense of satisfaction that I had accomplished a great good for my family, and indeed, for mankind in general.

Two weeks have now passed since that notorious day of inflation. Sara has been watching the weather forecasts and has noticed that the Ankara temperatures are predicted to drop into the 70s Fahrenheit in the next few days. And she made the comment to me that our girls would probably not be able to enjoy the Family Swim Center very much longer this summer. After a long pause with pursed lips, I ventured to respond with a steady voice that I did not think that was true at all; I think the girls will be able to enjoy the Center for many more days, weeks, and perhaps even months. I foresee smiles and laughter radiating from my daughters as they romp and frolic in the Family Swim Center as their primary means of recreation from now until, well, next summer. In fact, I am now thinking that after this summer is finished, the Family Swim Center would make a nice Family Sand Box for the fall. And even a handy Family Ice Rink in the winter. I have no plans for deflating it at any time in the foreseeable future. The kids can call it “Forced Family Fun From Fierce Father.” Or they can call it by its acronym, “FFFFFF” – although that’s the very last sound I ever want to hear being emitted from the Family Swim Center!

The Plywood, the Hatch, and the Wardrobe

Part of my summer job duties as school principal includes securing apartments for our incoming new teachers and equipping them with basic home furnishings. Recently I was transporting a disassembled wardrobe in our van. It consisted of 12 pieces in all. Eleven of the pieces were shoved into the back of the van and were just barely long enough to prevent the rear hatch from fully closing. The 12 th piece was a large sheet of plywood that served as the backing on the wardrobe, and it was strapped securely onto the luggage rack on the roof of the van. It was the first time I had had the occasion of using this new luggage rack, which I had specially ordered, and I was glad to have had the foresight to install such a practical custom accessory. Serdar, our school’s custodian, was sitting in the back of the van, with his legs hanging out of the opening for the sliding door, which was not closed. He was securely holding onto several of the wardrobe pieces to ensure that they would remain stationary. So loaded, I carefully began to drive. I was not traveling far – only a distance of perhaps a quarter-mile within the small neighborhood where our school is located. I would go slowly, not taking the van out of 2 nd gear. Everything would be just fine.
About halfway to my destination, I turned up a steep hill. Suddenly I heard a very loud noise. Actually, it was several loud noises. It was the repeated sound of big wooden slats slamming against the ground and against one another. A quick glance to my rear view mirror showed that the steep incline had caused six of the wardrobe pieces to slide backward, hitting the rear hatch door, which had not been properly shut. The hatch had flown open, allowing 6 of the 11 pieces to continue their downward slide out of the van and onto the asphalt, where they hit and continued their slide several more feet before coming to a rest. I immediately put on the emergency brake and jumped out of the van to retrieve the lost wardrobe pieces. But in my rush I failed to notice that my van was parked in the middle of the road, blocking traffic in both directions. Cars began honking impatiently at me to move my vehicle. Meanwhile, I frantically scurried to collect the lost pieces lying in the middle of the road and somehow shove them, working against gravity, back up inside the van (for it was at this time parked on a steep incline with the back end angled downward). Meanwhile Serdar shouted words of encouragement to me as he sat motionless inside the van, holding the other five pieces of the wardrobe which would surely have slid out as well, had he moved from his position. After hastily re-loading the wardrobe pieces into the van, I forced the rear hatch to fully close and lock. Then I jumped back into the driver’s seat, shared a brief laugh with Serdar at the humor of the situation, and began to drive again – very slowly. With this little mishap and the steep hill behind us, it was all “downhill” from here. The load was now well secured and locked inside the van. What else could possibly go wrong in the mere 200 yards remaining?

As our van crept ever so slowly along an open stretch of level road, a sudden gust of wind from nowhere burst upon us in full force. It was then that I heard another sound. It was the same sound that I recalled making in elementary school by waving a large piece of poster board so that it rippled in the air to make a sound like that of thunder. In reality, it was the large piece of plywood strapped to the roof of the van. The wind had come up beneath it and had billowed it up like a sail in a tempest. Serdar called out to me from the back seat: “Yavas! Yavas! (Slow! Slow!)” Yet I was already moving at a snail’s pace, and I was confident that my straps were taut and my knots tight. My Dad was an Eagle Scout and had taught me well. That plywood wasn’t going anywhere. It was then that I heard yet another sound. It sounded as if someone had begun beating the roof of my van with a baseball bat. A moment later I watched out the side window as the large piece of plywood blew like a kite away from my vehicle, and – to my horror – one side of my luggage rack came tumbling down onto the street with the rope still tied securely to it. I again parked the van in the middle of the street while I hurriedly retrieved the luggage rack and Serdar set the plywood neatly beside the road for us to pick up later.

After another 100 yards or so we had arrived at the wardrobe’s final destination. I quickly got out to survey the roof damage more closely, fearing the worst. I expected to see twisted and torn sheet metal from where the luggage rack had wrenched free of the bolts and nuts which held it in place. But to my surprise, I didn’t see any damage at all. There were no holes or scratches of any kind on the roof. For a brief moment I was relieved to make this discovery. But then immediately came the next question to my mind: Well if there are no bolt-holes, then how did the guys at the van customizing shop mount my luggage rack atop the roof? It was then that I slowly realized they had mounted my brand new luggage rack with nothing more than a little bit of glue. Glue??? That’s right – black, tar-like glue! I was aghast. I later discovered from the owner of the customizing shop that my roof rack was only designed to be an “aksesuar” (accessory). Basically, it was a visual decoration to look at but not to use! He claimed he’d had no idea that I would actually attempt to USE my luggage rack by strapping something (e.g., luggage) to it. He said if he had known that, then he would have used the “heavy-duty” glue and not just the regular stuff. Hmmm, okay. Suffice it to say, my new (and different) luggage rack is now well bolted to the roof of my van. And by the way, the wardrobe – now fully assembled – doesn’t look half-bad, for a piece of furniture that got dragged along the streets!

Other Noteworthy News Items:

Claustrophobic Sara and her mother were recently stranded on an elevator that malfunctioned in our new apartment building on the day before Sara’s due date, during a time when she had been having periodic contractions. Faithful Serdar came to the rescue within 5 minutes, using our school’s elevator key to somehow unlock the door and free them.

Ross “Handyman” Campbell, during a recent bathroom fixture mounting session, drilled through the wall and directly into a water pipe, which instantly unloaded 5 gallons onto his chest in less than 15 seconds and sent him yelling for Sara to find and activate the water cut-off valve. Amazingly, the local plumber had fixed the pipe within an hour for about US $15.00.

Eva Kathleen Campbell

And finally, our happiest news of the summer…. Ross and I proudly announce the birth of our fourth daughter, Eva Kathleen Campbell. The womb seemed to suit her just fine, so a week past her due date, my doctor induced labor. Eva was born at 2:55pm on Friday, July 15, weighing 7 lbs, 9 ounces and measuring 20 inches (we had to flip her upside down and stretch her out to measure her ourselves because they don’t do that here!). She was named “Eva” for my 89-year-old maternal grandmother and “Kathleen” for Ross’s sister (who was also named for his paternal grandmother). Not yet 2 minutes old, she was pulling out the tubes the pediatrician was using to suction out her nose! She is healthy and strong!

I don’t think any of the 5 of us has stopped smiling since Friday! It has been so nice to have a baby around our home again. Ross said to me the other night, “Hey, thanks for taking such good care of our girls,” and my deeply sincere response was, “It is my pleasure.” It’s not just a catch phrase; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else doing anything else than raising his girls.

We Thank God:

•  For a healthy, new baby girl!
•  For Sara’s parents’ recent visit.
•  That teacher recruiting is finally over for 2005-06 (I hired my last teacher on July 25th)!

Please Pray:

•  For the new teachers to adapt well to Turkey and to one another.
•  For an enrollment of at least 100 students.

Safety Zone

Ross chooses an excerpt from a well-known author to illustrate his understanding of safety issues that he, Sara, and the rest of the staff deal with in Turkey:

Susan asks, “Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver,
“if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.
“Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe?
‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
-C.S. Lewis
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Ross and Sara have come to realize that God is not always “safe” in the ways that some might measure safety; however, if God never required His children to step out of their safety zones, there would be little need to exercise faith in Him. Recent threats by religious radicals to the church they attend make Ross and Sara ever aware that they are in God’s hands. (Take a look at Joe’s article “Is it Safe?” in Edition 2)

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow

The Lord blessed the Campbell family this year with the presence of Dr. Bob and Sondra Stanley. Dr. Stanley came to fill in and teach Science in Ankara, but he and Mrs. Sondra’s stay offered so much more than that. The Stanleys were able to be the Granddaddy and Nana to the some of the students who could not be with their own Grandparents very often. Dr. Bob, when not busy hiding pieces of chocolate or performing magic tricks for the kids, has provided the humor and support that the Turkey staff has needed so very much in such a stressful place. Mrs. Sondra has taken special care of the Campbell’s children and has been a great example of servanthood during her stay.

The Campbell family will miss the Stanleys, but God has proved His faithfulness yet again by sending the Bob and Sondra as a real gift to Ankara. PTL!

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