Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stoney encounter at Breakfast World

I was picking up a few items today at my local Mis Kahvalti Dunyasi (Super Breakfast World), a store that claims to have everything you could ever want for breakfast, and was quite pleased with the selection, especially of the cheeses.

I brought my purchases to the counter, where a young woman wearing the hijab stood at the cash register. She didn't say a word to me as she was scanning my items, which I, at first, didn't think as strange. But when she bagged the items and I took them and thanked her, again there was only silence. I looked at her and saw a face of stone, with eyes refusing to meet mine. I decided to try again and wished her an "iyi gunler" (good day), which most shopkeepers will usually be the first to offer the customer on their way out. Again I received only silence.

I have to note, though I am on the receiving end of plenty of rudeness in my neighborhood because I am different (non-Muslim, non-Turkish, non-hijab or carsaf-wearing), it usually doesn't come from people working at the local shops. In fact, the pharmacists and bakers have been some of the friendliest people I've encountered in the neighborhood. So this behavior was unexpected and I was again taken aback, just as in the elevator encounter. I'm tempted to return to this store and try talking to the woman until I get some form of response. The build-up of these experiences is making me feel like I need to be some type of diversity crusader. I need to believe that things can change and that I can be apart of that change.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend at Abant Lake

Evren surprised me with a weekend at Abant Lake in Bolu Province -- halfway between Istanbul and Ankara. Abant is a lovely freshwater lake tucked away up in the mountains among dense stands of pine. There is a trail that wraps all the way around the lake and several trails that can take you up to the surrounding peaks. If you don't feel like hiking you can also take a horse carriage or rent a horse to take you around the lake.

Evren on the walkway over the bog.

A rickety bridge spanning a creek near Abant.

Water wheel on the edge of town.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's start with sharing an elevator

This morning I was heading to the first floor in my building's elevator when it came to a stop at the 3rd floor. The door opened and a woman in a çarşaf (the outfıt pictured below, literally translates as sheet) glanced in, shot me a look of disdain and quickly shut the door again while mumbling something uuntelligible.

Photo: Charles Fred

Well neighbor, though I may not fit into the mould of what you think someone in our apartment, our neighborhood, or even the entire country of Turkey should look like, would it kill you to ride three floors in an elevator with me? Do you really despise my very existence that much?

I received your very clear answer with a look and the slamming of an elevator door. I don't think we all need to just get along, let's start with being able to ride in one elevator together.

The following excerpt comes from an article by Burak Kiliç:

The research was done under the supervision of Dr. Yılmaz Esmer from Bahçeşehir University, who is responsible for the Turkish branch of the World Values Survey. The survey shows that the Turkish public holds positive views about the headscarf. Only nine percent of the respondents indicated that they did not want to have a covered neighbor. However, 88 percent said they did not want gays, atheists or unmarried couples as neighbors and 33 percent said they do not want neighbors from a different religion. Esmer notes that Turks appreciate diversity as an abstraction but that they do not want to have neighbors with different identities. Turks are the most opposed to having neighbors of different religions among the 15 other countries surveyed.

Turks can no longer afford to merely "appreciate diversity as an abstraction." Diversity is here my friends, a tangible reality. Not coming to a neighborhood near you, but already living there and waiting to be treated as human.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why I won't be celebrating tomorrow

Tomorrow, April 23, is National Sovereignty and Children's Day here in Turkey. The front of my workplace has already been draped with a massive Turkish flag and a gigantic picture of Atatürk, but I'm afraid this gesture hasn't exactly gotten me into a celebratory mood. While this is a national holiday, the newspaper of course doesn't give us the day, or even half a day, off.

Nonetheless our bus service, which normally offers morning and evening transport, will have the day off so we will be left to find our own way here and home, definitely something to celebrate, don't you agree. And yes, children are being shipped here from all ends of the earth to perform and join in the festivities, but really, don't we have enough here already? I just can't seem to escape them on the buses, ferries or metros, but let me get in the spirit and celebrate their presence anyhow. No need to send hate mail, I don't hate children. And no need to file an Article 301 case against me, either, I think Ataturk and this nation are great on the whole. I just question all the hype over this day; perhaps we also need a National Overpopulation Day to balance things out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My first futbol match

This evening I escaped work a bit early to head to my first futbol match with Evren, Hakan and Cuneyt. The game was at the Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadyum between my team, Galatasaray, and Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor. First off, traffic was mad on the freeway and looking around at the other cars, I realized that I was surrounded by other G.saray fans and that we were all headed to the same place. When we finally got there we had to pass through 3 levels of security, including 2 pat downs, for which I was swiftly directed to the one police woman standing in each line.

I found out that though seat numbers are printed on each ticket, no one really pays attention to that and unless you get there super early you're left to really crap seats or standing in the aisles. But then I looked around and realized that no one uses their seats anyways, at least not the G.Saray side, so it doesn't really matter. The fans seemed so caught up in chants and singing that many seemed to be missing the game altogether, which is ashame cause G.Saray played really well and scored in the third minute, this despite the fact that their head coach deserted them a few weeks ago.

A security officer came by during the first half to clear the aisles, but ended up being swooped up by several fans, including Evren, and chanting right along with them. Instead of hot dogs at the concession stands, there are what I deemed kofte dogs -- buns with pointy ends filled with little log-like koftes, onions, lettuce and tomatoes. The meat was a bit suspect but they were tasty nonetheless and part of my first Turkish futbol experience.
We cut out a early to avoid being caught in a second wave of traffic (and because we were triple parked). Final score G.Saray 3, I.B.B. zippo. oooooh aaaaay oh ay oh ay oh ooooh

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exploring opportunities

My last boss in the States, who I considered a mentor, once advised me to secure and go to job interviews every now and then to keep my interview skills primed. I followed her advice and ended up being offered almost every job I interviewed for, and subsequently turning down the offers since I was happy with my position at the time.

Recently I was informed about a position at a news agency by one of my co-workers and decided to apply since the 6-day work week is getting kind of old. I was called up for an interview this morning and set up a time for this weekend. The job is only part-time and is not far from my current workplace so transport would be easy. So we'll see what happens. . .

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Public transport enlightenment

I've taken to pondering parts of the Tao during my morning bus commute, especially when I've forgotten to charge my mp3 player. Here is a brief passage that I was struck by this morn:

Give birth to it and nourish it.

Produce it but don't possess it.

Act without expectation.

Excel, but don't take charge.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

First wedding of spring '08

Photo: M. Jakirlic

Congratulations to J and R who tied the knot last weekend here in the Bul!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Back in the Bul, reluctantly

It's a bittersweet feeling to be back in the Bul after two and a half weeks spending time with friends and family in the States. Got back late Thursday and was immediately thrown back into the grind, working a 14-hour day on Friday. Actually, it's not as if I was ever free of the grind, as I was working the entire time in the States -- which meant getting up at 2 am while I was in Idaho and 1 am in CA (then 12 am when the time changed in Turkey).

To say my bodily clock is completely warped is an understatement. I am pleased, however, that I managed not to get sick.

I arrived in Istanbul to an empty flat as Evren had left Tuesday for a business trip to Switzerland and Italy. Then there was the water heater, which refused to work when the only thing I craved that night was a hot shower and to fall into bed.

The sky is a morose shade of gray and instead of being able to sleep in today (after a night of waking up at multiple odd hours) like most people, I had to throw my resistant body out of bed and make my way to work. I miss my niece, little rocketgirl, and feel like I could use several more weeks of Cali sunshine.