Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shell shocked

1. Suffering from shell shock.
2. Stunned, distressed, or exhausted from a prolonged trauma or an unexpected difficulty.
--The American Heritage Dictionary

While I realize this is a term derived from combat, I think it is entirely fitting to describe how I, and much of Turkey, feel about the events of this past month. Let me first recap what events I'm referring to, in case you've been hiding from the chaos of the world, avoid the news altogether, or have some other legitimate excuse for not knowing:

July 9, Wednesday: Shooting attack outside of US Consulate General, Istanbul
Death toll: 6 (3 policemen, 3 perpetrators)

July 14, Monday: Ergenekon indictment made public
Brief: 2,455-page document charging the Ergenekon crime network of attempting to overthrow the current and former governments through various illegal activities, including assassinations of high-level officials, grenade attacks and social engineering

July 27, Sunday: Dual bombings on shopping street, Istanbul
Death toll: 17, including 5 children
Injuries: 150

July 30, Wednesday: Constitutional Court gives verdict in closure case on ruling party
Brief: The case was filed against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) back in March by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals on charges that the party had become a focal point of anti-secular activities, leaving the political and economic arenas in limbo. While the court agreed that the party had engaged in anti-secular activities, it decided that the actions were not serious enough to justify closure, instead ruling that half of the party's Treasury funding be cut.

I don't feel as if I'm absorbing these events anymore, processing them. I have this sense of detachment in which everything has taken on a surreal tinge. The conspiracy theories and counter-conspiracy theories, the scapegoating. . . It exhausts the mind. In seeking to understand the inner workings of this country, I find myself more and more confused, not knowing what or who to believe.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Running inspiration

So I'm in the fourth week of my training program for the Eurasia Marathon. And thus far, it's been going fairly well. I've been caught in one rainstorm, which actually felt quite good since the temps were still pretty warm and had one morning in which I was heading straight into driving winds, but, of course, on the return trip I had the wind blowing me all the way home, almost felt like flying. The days I do my longer runs can leave me quite tired at work, but I think my co-workers have adjusted to my yawning every 5 seconds.

There are some mornings, though, that I really need that extra bit of inspiration to get me out of bed at 5:30 and to keep my legs moving up the all-to-frequent hills of my neighborhood. And this is what does it:

*Rise (actually, every song from Into the Wild)

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow

Gonna rise up
Burning back holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
And suddenly swallowed by signs
Lo and behold

Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

*The Middle, by Jimmy Eat World
*Everything is Everything, by Lauryn Hill
*Try Again, by Aliyah (was also our warm up song for jazz dance class)
*Make You Feel That Way, by Blackalicious
*Real Wild Child, by Christopher Otcasek

. . .And a whole lot more. Some people, who consider themselves purists, run without music all the time, saying that you should enjoy the experience for what it is and tune into the things around you. I've gone with and without. Without music, it's just you, the road, and your mind (and the annoying minibus drivers that slow next to you and honk, the policemen who yell "Why are you running?" the men at the bus station who gawk, etc.). Lately, I haven't been able to shut off my mind and the sometimes self-defeating messages it sends. When I can "zen it" and tune into things around me and the calm of the morning, those are my best runs. However, music gives me another medium to focus on, and beyond that, to provide motivation when it is lacking or waning.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mini-trail at the ranch and pets in Turkey

On Saturday, a friend and I headed to Göçmen's Ranch in Zekeriyaköy in Sariyer, the northernmost district of Istanbul, to do some horseback riding. The drive to get there took us through some lush forest and I was surprised at how little traffic there was. Though neither of us was sure how to get there, we asked a gas station worker for some directions and for once they were actually accurate!

We brought along my friend's dog, Haydut (Bandit), since he had never seen horses before. Upon his first look at these creatures multiple times his size, he just gawked but didn't bark at all. The ranch had a little cafe, where they claimed to make great breakfasts and said we had to come back earlier next time to partake. The horses were very healthy looking, shiny manes and all. We hopped on and headed down the trail with our guide, Boris. Disappointingly, the trail was pretty short and as we had come in the heat of the day, the horses were rather sluggish. After circling a small pond we doubled back toward the stables. Boris then let us do some rounds in the arena.

Hanging out with Haydut reminded me of how much I want a dog. But I'm really not comfortable with keeping a mid-size dog in our small flat, or really any sized flat for that matter. My friend seems to do fine with Haydut in a flat, but some of her neighbors are really not cool with her having a dog. I think a lot of Turks are just coming around to the idea of keeping cats and dogs as pets, but enough still find the idea distasteful.

I want my future dog to have a yard to run around in. Perhaps this is just an American idea of space and freedom that's been ingrained in me. But is it really fair to a dog to keep it boxed up in a flat for the majority of the day? So this means I will likely never own a pet while in Turkey, at least not one that lives outside of an aquarium.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Morphing back into a morning person

The early morning runs in order to beat the heat began last week. And of course dragging my ass out of bed at 5:20 a.m. wasn't the easiest thing the first few days. My body and mind were just screaming, "Noooooooooooooooooo." However, once I made it outside, the comfortable cool of the morn, the blessed quiet and the sunrise made it feel much better. I'm rediscovering the neighborhood in these early hours and finding streets/areas that I'd never seen before. After getting back and taking an icy cold shower I have an extra few hours before leaving for work. This means I can return e-mails, do laundry, have time for breakfast . . . I'm remembering what it is like to be a morning person and I like the perks.

On Sunday, the day I do my long training runs, I picked up an impromptu running partner on the last third of my 13K run. I heard someone running behind me and this small, stocky guy passed me. I headed down another street and for awhile thought I had lost him, but then when passing by the police station I heard someone coming up behind me again. When I hit the lower road the guy came up beside me and started asking questions. I thought I could easily get rid of him by announcing first that I am married, but that proved not to be a deterrent. The guy wouldn't shut up and if I had had the energy to sprint away at that point I would have. Anyways, he eventually asked where I lived and I told him in no uncertain terms that I don't give out that information. I turned into a block of apartments that wasn't mine and said this was where I lived and he thankfully continued up the hill. I don't know what the best approach is in situations like this. Perhaps just a "go the f**** away." But I really dislike rudeness and unless someone poses a real threat I don't think I would say that. There's also the consideration that I'm bigger than a lot of men here so I feel like if I were ever attacked I could hold my own. I've also taken self defense classes, but it's still hard to gauge how I would react in the actual situation.