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Published: February 29th 2008
First of all, let me sort of apologize to Çağdaş Yavru. I say "sort of" because I did not mean to cause you any offense by saying that your name is funny to me, but at the same time, I still think it's funny. Translated into English, your name means "Modern Little Animal" - come on now, that's just plain funny. You are living with Sercan now, so I am sure that you can take a joke...
My three day weekend in İstanbul stretched from Friday night to Wednesday morning. More on that in a moment...
Two nights ago in the Kantin, as I was munching on some greazy student food, I watched some of the evening news. The screen was filled with images of brave soldiers firing their rifles from snow-covered mountain tops, while helicopters swooped down not far off in the distance. The camera angles were superb - footage worthy of an action movie - and the soundtrack might very well have been stolen from an action movie. Across the screen flashed the words "77 terörist öldürdü, 5 şehit" (77 terrorists killed, 5 martyrs). OK Turkish media, tell me how you really feel.
Actual death tolls
Jen & Sercan
I caught Sercan's reflection in the lens of Jen's fancy camera...
on both the side of the PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) and the Turkish military are widely disputed, since the Turkish government decided to move about 10,000 troops into northern Iraq last week. The Iraqi government claims the offense to be a violation of their sovereignty... probably because it clearly is. The Turkish government views their attacks as noble efforts to defend themselves from the evils of the PKK.
In my opinion, both sides are as guilty as they are stubborn, and a tense peace is better than creating new reasons to be angry at one another. Nothing good will come of this. The NY Times yesterday stated that the Bush administration is asking Turkey for a "timeline" in which they will swiftly remove their troops from northern Iraq, because they fear the situation could grow into a long, drawn-out, bloody mess. Indeed.
While drinking tea with some new friends earlier today I found myself clashing with them on this very topic - this has happened to me many times with both Turkish and Kurdish friends. People who I otherwise share similar political views with seem to think this fighting is for some reason necessary. There will never be
Inside the Yeni Camii
If you check out dude by the collumn, you can get a sense of the mosque's grand scale. It had been a while since I visited - I had forgotten just how incredibly decorated the interior is. Such a beautiful place...
a day when one side says to the other "oh, right, you guys were right all along..."
An independent Kurdistan just isn't going to ever happen - why keep fighting about it?! For that matter, why would you want to create a landlocked country bordering the following unstable lands: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Syria, and (an angry and smaller) Turkey?! The Kurds need to chill out.
On the other side, Turkey, you got some 'splainin' to do. The enormous sums of money being poured into this bloody campaign could be better used with some Kurd-oriented investments. Less than a hundred years ago the Kurds helped the Turks win the war of independence. Their efforts were rewarded with Orwellian efforts to erase parts of their history from new texts (this was easily accomplished since the alphabet was Romanized - most Turks nowadays couldn't read old Ottoman texts even if they wanted to), and during the 1980's the Kurdish language was even outlawed. I believe a big "Kusura bakma" ("I'm sorry") is in order - perhaps I know more Turkish than some people in the government do...
OK, 'nuff about that. I know that I sound like an naive peace-loving
Justin and Lance
hippy, at least to some of you. This is an idealistic approach to politics - peaceful, productive measures are costly and difficult. So, the mess will continue...
In terms of the actual conflict, I couldn't feel move removed from it were I back in Geneseo. Life here has been splendid lately. The past week:
Friday night I left a frigid, snow-covered Ankara for İstanbul. I arrived at Sercan's "Spirit of Woman" party after most of the guests had left, so we were 5 men and 1 woman. Hahahahahahahahaha... Two of those people made up a lovely Hungarian couple in the final hours of a 7-month-long honeymoon. Their trip took them through the Balkans, across Russia on the trans-Mongolian railway, into Nepal, India, Pakistan (around election time - they said they never once felt unsafe...), Iran, and Turkey. Considering their path, 7 months actually sounds a bit rushed...
Saturday morning, I met up with Lance and Justin for a long, slow breakfast, followed by a big wander around the Sultanahmet and Eminönü areas of İstanbul. The weather was spectacular and so was the company - cheers to Jaime Quackenbush for putting us in touch.
Later that afternoon, I
met up with Jen Casinelli, a fellow Geneseo student, in Eyüp - an İstanbul neighborhood I had never been to before. We also had a big wander which ended up in Beşiktaş, where we met up with Sercan and Jaki who took us to a birthday party for some İzmirli twins in Bebek.
Sunday got off to a groggy, slow start, but eventually we all made our way to Fenerbahçe Park, on the Asian side - another first for me. I skipped off to Kartal for an evening of talking about politics and Turkish pop stars in broken Turkish.
Monday. Class was canceled! Wooohooo! I hung out with Sercan's, Jaki's, and Çağdaş's cleaning women while they were all at work. More broken Turkish... In the evening, while preparing to return to Ankara, Doro and Jen convinced me to stay an extra night so that I could catch up with Allen and Brita before they buzz off to Indonesia and beyond. After all, it's only the basic basic Turkish class that I missed.
Tuesday. Allen and Brita showed up after months of Anatolian adventures! Hoorah! We caught up, ate lots, and had yet another big wander about the
Melis's jazz band
This was at the Black History Month celebration last night. The bass player laid it down and the drummer was one of the largest women I've ever seen.
city on a warm, beautiful afternoon. Nighttime came and I went, across the Bosphorus to the Hadarpaşa train station, for the night train back to Ankara.
Wednesday. I arrived early in the morning and made my way back to campus. Went to Turkish class.
Thursday. I have no classes Thursdays. In the evening I joined Zari and Aziz (her husband) for a show at the Türk-Amerikan Association Center celebrating Black History month in America. Some regrettably mediocre African-American talent had been imported from Kentucky for the occasion, for dancing, singing, and story-telling. There was a decent jazz band though, fronted by an African-Türk named Melis. Free food, wine, and a glimpse at the Yankee ambassador didn't hurt the evening either.
Friday. This morning started with Statistics class. Today my instructor taught about 50/50 (Turkish/English) for 3 hours. After that, I went with some friends to a dining hall that I didn't know existed. The food there is slightly better than orphanage-grade chow, but a huge meal is a set 2 YTL ($1.75ish - USD)! It beats Raman noodles - I think I'll be eating there regularly from now on. After that, it was on to my Balkan History class. We waited for 25 minutes, but the professor never showed up. Unfortunately it was warm and pleasant out, so we were forced to enjoy it and to sit around drinking tea instead of having class...
And that's really about it for now.
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