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FALLING IN LOVE WITH WORDS

Our mission at KONE is to improve the flow of urban life. To capture the essence of urbanization, we bring you stories of people from 17 cities. Hamide Kaplan learned to read and it changed her life. Read on to see how Izmir plays a role in this transformation.

“I was a newly-wed 21-year-old, when I came to Izmir in 1980. It was the first time I saw the sea; it was amazingly blue. We came here for work. My husband was a cook and I worked as a cleaner. I didn’t speak Turkish then, since my native language is Arabic. I grew up with Arabic and Kurdish people, with Muslims and Christians in a small town in Southeastern Turkey.

Here, in Izmir, I was surprised to see the women I worked for, they were strong, educated women. I never went to school; women wouldn’t go to school in my home town. One day, after work, I was about to get on a bus to go home and I asked the driver about the destination. He didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he asked, “can’t you read the sign?” I was embarrassed, I couldn’t say I was illiterate. I had to do something about it. I started taking free Turkish courses and learned how to read and write.

My whole world changed after that. I had no idea there were so many things in written form. It was as if I was half blind. Usually, I clean windows with damp newspapers because they clean well. Suddenly the newspapers meant something else to me. They were full of stories. I started reading them before using them for cleaning. There were even stories from my home town.

I love the freedom in this city, I love walking alone on the streets. I can see Izmir is growing. We’re surrounded by high-rises, they built two highways next to our neighborhood and it gets harder to breathe because of the exhaust gas. My husband wants to go back to our hometown and sometimes I miss the fresh and clean air there, but then I think, if I go back, will I get to stroll around by myself again?”

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