FG: First Person
9 January l993
In New England we'd say we were having Weather , with a capital W . But
New England wasn't even close. In fact, we were a good hour's ride outside
of Istanbul, on the isolated campus of an elite English-speaking Turkish
boarding school--somewhere midway between the villages of Tepeoren and
Kurtkoy, if you have a map. Translation: absolutely nowhere.
If location is key, this was no exception. Tepeoren's prefix, in Turkish,
means "hill," this being crucial to the matter. Was it enough of a
hill--were we high enough, far enough above sea level--for the slush in
Istanbul to convert to heavy snow out here: a snow that would blanket
these dangerously trenched village roads, thereby forcing a school closure.
On that first Wednesday night in January such supposition was serious
In Turkey you can't dial the Weather Bureau. In Turkey you wait for the
media to tell you what they want you to hear: usually on the late-evening
news. Beyond this there is no public access to meteorology., Well, not
quite: we had Bora. Bora, for whom I developed a curious fondness, was a
Lise student whose weather prediction record was perfect.
We must have been a real sight out there that night--the bitter wind and
snow beating at us: a dozen-or-so high school boys without jackets and me,
their teacher, weighted down by a heavy suede coat. I was thinking about
how much I had in common with this oddball group of boys, an outlaw brand
of eccentricity having brought us together way out here in the muffled
silence of the accumulating snow. We were near the new track and playing
field, and there was definitely something atavistic in our circled
congregation of collective appreciation.
Wednesday night was my compulsory duty night. Bad boy duty, I called it.
All that day Weather had happened; you name it, we had it. That night,
on my way to the bad boys, three of my favorite Lise boys greeted me with
their customary affection. I am ever-elevated at the sight of these
cheerful faces, who clearly appreciate who I am.
"What's the weather forecast," I grinned, hoping they'd heard a report--or
that one of them had a special hot line to a Turkish meteorological maven.
They did. And his name was Bora.
"Bora says, school tomorrow, M'am."
"Bora?" I didn't understand.
"Bora, M'am. Don't you know Bora? He's a Lise III. Fat Bora,"Murat
bent his knees slightly and hunched to drop to my level.
"I don't think Ms. Golden has this Bora," Erol, taller than Murat, offered
an explanation for my ignorance.
"Wait a minute! Wait just a minute!" I held up my right hand,
interrupting Erol, "I don't care who he is. And I don't care who his
teacher is. What did he say?"
"He said, no school cancellation. No day off," Murat repeated Bora's sage
He curled closer, "Bora, M'am. Don't you know? Two weeks ago, when it
snowed on Wednesday night ( Did I remember! You must be kidding! The
following morning I made my way to the village road and hitch-hiked a ride
on a tractor. It was a forty-five minute pilgrimage into Kurtkoy, and I
nearly froze to death.) M'am, that Wednesday night," Murat continued,
"Bora went up to his room and packed his travel bag. What are you doing,
Bora? we all asked. Where do you think you're going, we implored. I'm
going home. There's no school tomorrow. I've just called my parents to
come and pick me up. He was very certain, M'am. He knew, and we understood
that he knew." (Solemn respect for this Bora Character was evident.)
"So tonight, M'am," Metin's baritone interrupted, "Before dinner, we
grabbed Bora and dragged him outside. Tell us, oh Bora, we inquired, will
there be school tomorrow?"
I was greatly amused, yet open to the possibility that this Bora Character
might be clairvoyant. "So? Don't keep me in suspense, boys, "I joked,
"What did Bora say?"
"Well, M'am, we were all out there before dinner, in the freezing cold.
Bora lifted his finger high in the air and we waited for his prediction.
The snow is coming from England, he advised us, and therefore, we'd have
"Did you see what's happening out there? I shrieked, "I think we ought to
have a second opinion. Listen, after study hall tonight, I want to meet
this Bora Character. Ask him if he'll take another reading. Please?
Later that night Murat rushed to my study hall. "M'am! M'am! Bora's got a
note on his door."
"A note?" I chuckled at Murat's seriousness. "Well, m' love? Don't keep
me in suspense.
What does the note say?"
"M'am, it says there will be school tomorrow. Period. And to leave him
alone. That he has two exams tomorrow."
I locked the double doors behind me and stepped out into the blizzard,
toeing my way down the marble steps. Before reaching the bottom, however,
I pivoted and retraced tracks to the door.
"Find Bora!" I shook the snow from my body, ordering the first Lise boy I
encountered. "Now !" I demanded, my teeth chattering.
"Which Bora, M'am?"
"Bora, the meteorologist," I snapped.
"Bora, the whaaaat, M'am?"
" Fat Bora, man! Fat Bora! I want to see him. Now!"
Seconds later a towering collection of Lise boys trampled down the
dormitory stairs. From among the herd a large, non-assuming (he certainly
wasn't "fat," boys!) young man made his way to the fore.
"M'am, this is Bora," I heard Erol's voice from the rear guard. Bora was
clearly embarrassed and preoccupied--no doubt with tomorrow's exams!
I smiled and extended my hand,"It's nice to meet you, Bora." As I said, he
certainly wasn't fat. He was a youth, in the midst of a growth spurt, who
might have been fat last year. But now his girth had begun to give way to
lengthening bones. (His crew neck sweater was a bit skimpy--an oxford
shirt poking through the gap at his belly.) So Bora shook my hand, relaxed
and pushed his steel rimmed glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
"Listen, Bora, do you think the wind might have shifted since dinner time.
It's awfully nasty out there. Would you mind, terribly, taking another
reading?" I pleaded, "Just for good luck?"
"Oh, no, M'am. Not at all," he bowed slightly in venerated reverence.
One by one we filed silently through the double glass doors. Bora, of
course, led the entourage. The boys insisted I follow, which I did,
listening to the steady line behind me traipsing its way out to the new
The elements were fierce and I gathered the suede around me, noticing none
of the boys wore a jacket, and I worried that they'd all catch pneumonia
because of me. I wanted to tell Bora to hurry up, to get on with it, but
the suspense was obviously part of an accepted ritual. Bora extricated his
right hand from the depth of his trouser pocket and lifted it high in the
air, at which point he began a deliberate, dramatic 360 degree revolution.
All the while his nose twitched, and I'd have sworn I saw his ears wiggle.
"Oh, yes, M'am,"Bora's voice broke the tension, "The wind has shifted.
You can pack your bags. We're going home. For two days"
What followed was a wild howling and cheering and jumping up and down and
hugging and kissing ole' Bora.
"Bora?" I tugged at his shoulder, " two days?"
"Oh, yes, M'am," he lifted his nose to twitch the air again, checking
himself,"Yes, two days, M'am," he looked down at me.
"Bora?" I grabbed his elbow.
"Bora? You haven't got any other esoteric information you want to share
with us, do you? The stock market? Lottery numbers? Anything else?"
"Oh no, M'am. Just the weather."