Friday, August 12, 2005

Sonunda

Well, this is it. I leave tomorrow morning. It has been seven weeks of dorm life, studying until my eyes glaze over, shady cab drivers, buses that slow down but don't stop, good food, bad food, bomb scares, about 300 different views of the Bosphorous (all beautiful), stifling heat, gentle breezes, creepy nationalism and militarism, unreasonable security guards, 5am prayer calls, feral cats, cheap cigarettes, Kurds, Israelis, Gypsies, half-Turkish LA finishing school cases, no TV, no radio, unpredictable electrical outages, nıce people, mean people, sleep deprivation, rules that are made to be broken (we close in five minutes) and rules that are absolutely unbreakable (this bus only takes electronic fares).

How do I feel about it? Ask me again when I am thousands of miles away.

I will be in Philly From Sunday night to Tuesday afternoon. Hit me on my hip y'all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Insh'allah

Yikes! It has been over a week. Hopefully I can catch up today with a proper entry, because soon we will be putting this whole thing to bed.

That's right. My final is this morning, and I fly on Saturday.

The past week has been really, truly crazy, mainly because I had a visitor and the policies regarding these things by the dorm are seriously irrational and resulted in me having to commute from Sultanahmet to Etiler for several days.

Ok, more TK.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bavarians Abroad

Budapest was great of course. And Lake Balaton was very interesting. Partly because you can still see glimpses of it's previous existence, when it was an affordable and pleasant (if a bit morose) Soviet vacation spot, and partly because the German tourists that have the flooded the place every summer since 1991 are SO FAT AND DRUNK AND GROSS! Yow! I have read about and heard firsthand accounts of the excesses of German package tourists, particularly in places like Spain and Greece, but this is the first time I've ever seen it with my own eyes.

On the whole, I love Eastern Europe. If I could convince someone to give me some sort of editorıal job at an Enlish-language newspaper, or anything reasonable really, I think I'd do it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

KAL-ASH-NA-KOV!

I saw Goran Bregovich play last night in an open-air ampitheater and it was amazing. People in Turkey love him and react to him and his orchestra in a really raw, unselfconscıous way, just like they do all over the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It's definitely a thing, albeit a difficult to define one, and it's a pleasure to witness firsthand.

Speaking of Eastern Europe, I am going to Budapest today to see some friends, and plan to spend the next three days drinking palinka, looking at giant statues of Lenin and vegetating on Lake Balaton.

Will write again on Monday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

(e)VANGELICAL

As I promised awhile ago, I am going to try to detail the backgrounds of some of the more interesting peopl I have met in this program. Today it will be B2 (not to be confused with B, the previously mentioned Greek guy), a 30 year old native of Zimbabwe of British origin. His mother and father were from Ireland and northeastern England respectively. In his words, 'probably saw the same commercial on TV' in the 1960s and both headed to Zambia, still part of the British empire, looking for adventure of various sorts and better financial prospects and material comforts than they were liable to receive at home. Mom was a nurse by profession; Dad a mining engineer (read: skilled miner). They met and quickly married. A honeymoon spent in the comparatively metropolitan Zimbabwe convinced them to move to Harare, where mom left the workforce and Dad switched from copper mining to asbestos. (Noting my visibly horrified response to this, B2 informed that there are two types of asbestos, and one of them 'is quite safe.' Is this true? Anyone?) They had two children, B2 the youngest, who despite the parents' devout Catholicism were educated at fancy Anglican schools. 'Our exams were marked in Cambridge,' B2 noted with pride.

These were boarding schools, and apparently not much fun. It was here that the brothers discovered weekend retreats run by a Charismatic Pentecostal congregation.. Compared to their normal environment, these were apparently a blast, and both brothers were succesfully evangelized to in short order.

After high school, B2 read psychology in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. Like most educated Africans, he graduated with little or no job prospects. While waiting tables at a waterfront Italian restaurant and praying for divine guidance, he decided to move to Singapore and work as an English teacher.

According to him, most of his students were women from Korea, Thailand or Indonesia with some sort of guestworker or refugee visas. Most, according to him, were primarıly interested in locating a husband from either a comparatively wealthy Asian country, or somewhere in rıch white people land. B2 fell into the latter category, and was apparently innundated with offers of varying degrees of seediness. All of them, being apparently sincere in the belief system he ascribes to, he declined. Instead he married a Filipina woman he met through his church. They moved for awhile to the Phillipines (where, like in Latin America, the Pentecostals are taking over lock, stock and barrel from the Catholics), where he learned Tagolog and she learned to drive and, judging from his pictures, they played a lot of water sports.

But I guess their life there wasn't sustainable for a variety of reasons, because they followed some Sıngaporean contacts to Istanbul, where they are now settling in, looking for work, and enrolled in the same program as I. I suspect they will end up teaching English, but who knows.

The parents, if you were wondering, left Zimbabwe a few years ago (big surprise) and are now living in Ireland, somewhere rural that I can't remember.

Now, here's what I find interesting about this guy. Pentecostals are obligated to prosthelytize, right? But to do so in Turkey is illegal. I asked him about this as gently as I could, and his answer seemed to indicate that he was middling at best on the witnessing issue, and considered it rude to be otherwise. What is going on here? Are quasi-European evangelicals much more laid back than their American counterparts? Are some evangelicals a lot less evangelical than others? Most importantly, ıf so, am I a dick for not figuring that out on my own?

Friday, July 22, 2005

STOs pt 2

Ok, where was I?
Probably the weirdest part about the Kurd...oops I mean Mountain Turks exhibit was the area in the corner devoted to 'proving' that the Greek military and government actively supported the insurgency. Two items were on display: a poster printed in Greek with something about the PKK on it (please note this was the only place in the entire exhibit where it said PKK or anything like it) and a photograph of some burly dude with a moustache in a leather jacket and aviators (because, you know, that's a really distinct look in this part of the world) shaking hands with some guerilla-looking dudes.

But enough about the hate-on-the-Kurds room. There was so much more. Like the flag made by students at Galatasaray High School to send to Turkish troops at the front during the Korean War...with the students' own blood. Yes, you read that correctly. A bunch of Galatasaray students pricked their fingers and let the blood drip onto a flag and sent it to an infantry unit stationed somewhere below the 38th parallel. And now it's in the military museum.

Oh, and then there was the room devoted to the great Cyprus Peace Invasion of 1974.

And then of course the WWI stuff that sent the Armenian woman from my class running out of the room in tears. It was the scimitars that actually set her off.

Classy, huh?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

'Separatist Terrorist Organizations'

A word or two about my class trip today to the Turkish Military Museum.

F'd up! Let's start with the section devoted to the 1980s and 1990s, particularly the exhibit devoted to photgraphs of and captured equipment from Kurd...oops...I mean the separatist terrorist organization. That's right, you can't even call them Kurdish because that would imply that Kurdish people exist. Lots of captured communications equipment , kalishnakovs and RPGs (the volkswagon of guerrilla warfare). And LOTS of photos of burned down buildings, slaughtered sheep and cattle, old ladies and kids with half their faces blown off. All of these atrocities, the museum-goer is informed, were commıtted by the (apparently nameless, agenda-less) separatist terrorist organization.

First of all, international monitoring organizations place the death toll in southeastern Turkey at around 30,000 since the 1980s. To suggest that the PKK killed those people is ludicrous. It's their own constituency. Second, however one feels about Kurdish sovereıgnty, these kind of crude Stalinist propaganda ploys are nauseating. Oh yeah, but Turkey is a democracy. No propaganda here! Man, you have to have a serious set on you to take pictures of civilians that in all probability were collateral damage created by YOUR armed forces, and them hang them in your military museum and blame it on the PKK.

Damn, I'm being kicked out of the computer lab (not for criticizing Turkey, ıt's just 10pm, that's all).

Plenty more for tomorrow -- the World War I exhibit made the Armenian girl in my class cry! Again, F'd up!