Archive for the ‘Foreignness’ Category

Turkey Turns 85

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Eighty five years ago today, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed from the capital in Ankara. From the corner of my balcony on the Asian side of Istanbul I awoke to scores of red flags  hanging from apartment windows, poles, shops and even draped across the backs of people walking down the street…the air is simply swirling with national pride.

Tonight Bagdat Caddesi will be closed to vehicular traffic from 7pm and an energy packed celebration will take place up and down the Asian sides most trendy boulevard. If you want to see Turk nationalism at its best…this is the place to be.

Turkey Groans…Again

Sorry to bring you bad news today…but it is, what it is. Details are still sketchy so things can change on us here, but as of posting time here is an update on today’s attack.

Around 11am this morning the US Consulate in Istanbul was attacked by gunmen, 3 Police are dead and 3 attackers are dead. Turkish news outlets report that the terrorists  never got past the checkpoint guarding the driveway leading up to the Consulate.

Hurriyet and CNNTurk are  also reporting that 3 German tourists were abducted from their 13 member climbing party sometime in the last few hours from the slopes of Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey.

Both events have been labeled as “terrorists attacks” by the governors of their respective regions.

No Joy In Mudville Tonight

The Curtain Falls on Turkey’s Amazing Run

All great things must come to an end…and so Turkey bows out of the Euro 2008 gracefully and proudly. I decided last night that I would stay above the fray and wouldn’t mention, or even hint at the disgraceful conduct of the officiating team in their refusal to call fouls against Germany. So if you are looking for someone to agree with you and say that there was an obvious bias against Turkey, you won’t find me giving it any airtime…even though your thoughts are well developed, perfectly justified and deserve to be heard. I simply won’t lower myself to the level of the officiating team. Now, if you were to press the point and force me to express my thoughts on this, of course I would agree with you, in fact, I couldn’t agree with you more than I already  do. However,  I am determined to stay far above that type of base Monday-morning “quarterbacking” and simply accept this for what it is…a great run to the semi-finals by the finest team in Europe or Asia.
As one of my dear Turk brothers said….S’tan, it is enough that we made it to the semi-finals…let’s thank Allah for that. What a graceful answer to a disappointing event.
I will bow to Ernest Thayer and his great words to bring closure to this years amazing, but disappointing run.

Casey at the Bat

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

“Phin” Ernest Thayer

The Fat Lady Sings for Turkiye!

Turks Celebrate in Kadikoy

Turks Celebrate in Kadikoy

Over the last few weeks Turkey has ridden a roller coaster of emotions as they have fought their way into the quarter finals and then tonight the semi-finals of the Euro 2008. Beating Croatia back from victory in the last minute of overtime to tie it up, Turkey outscored Croatia 4 -2 to win their seat in the semi-finals against Germany.
In the last two matches Turkey had not scored until the last few minutes of each game, somewhere in Istanbul tonight the Fat Lady Sang for the people she loves!

Nightmen of Istanbul I

For years I have tried to pass myself off as a morning person. For whatever reason, people take great pride in being early-risers. Those of us who aren’t, are made to feel as if we are less than prudent…after-all, the early bird gets the prize, right? You never hear anyone fudging the facts about getting up too early…in fact it is quite the opposite. But for those whose clocks are not set to “senile”, we avoid the topic of being late risers.
When someone calls and wakes me up at 10am I have to fight the urge to act like I have been up for hours, lots of hours…in fact, maybe I have been up for so long that it is almost time for me to go back to bed. I don’t know who started the trend of “early is better than later”…but I have finally capitulated and freely admit that I am a night person. I like staying up late, I like to walk through the City when all is dark and quiet, there is something magical to me about being able to walk down the wide boulevards and avenues without the masses of traffic that sit in gridlock during the daylight hours.
Nightmen of Istanbul
When I was a kid in San Diego I used to lay awake waiting to hear the sound of the street-sweeping truck as it wound its way through the balmy streets of Southern California. The driver would stop about 3am next to our house and use a fire hydrant to refill his tanker. I would peer out my parents bedroom window and watch him in his big rubber boots and short sleeves and dream about having that job when I grew up.
Those sentiments are still strong, in fact I have a hidden motive that this column will result in an invitation to hang with Kadıköy’s Belediyesi as they troll the streets in the middle of the night, (any takers)?
When streets that see millions upon millions pass by during the day are vacant and still ,  traffic lights are flashing yellow and red, and the only places that are open are a few scattered Tekel shops, gas stations and bakeries…there is an enchantment to this city that is hard to describe. This may sound overly nostalgic, but to be out and about when the City of the World’s Desire sleeps is a chance to  catch a glimpse of what it might have been like to walk the streets of Byzantium…without the apartments, traffic lights and asphalt–Yes, I realize that’s a stretch, but it appeals to my sense of history nonetheless.
Last night while trying to fall asleep at 3am I heard the Belediyesi’s water truck slowly creeping down Minibus Yolu in Kadıköy. A lone city employee sat on the back of the tanker and watered down the parkway with a fire-hose while the driver idled at a snail’s pace down the middle of the road.
An hour later a crew of walking street sweepers finished cleaning up the detritus from our Thursday pazar and loaded into a truck to go home. The shift changed at the gas station and the lights of the early-risers started flickering on in the kitchens of apartments across the street. Once the call to prayer rang out I shut the panjurs and headed to bed…an early-riser might ring me before noon and I certainly wouldn’t want to put a dent in their day by being wide awake.

The Value of Men

Hanging with the Crew

There’s an old Moorish proverb that says “He who does not travel does not know the value of men”…I can relate to that sentiment. I love this city of Istanbul, its history, its food and beauty…but most of all I love its people. As you have heard me say over the past few years—we have never felt more welcome than living among Turks. While I still butcher the language and stretch the seemingly endless patience of our Çevre, we have fallen into a corner of Asia where I feel content to just sit and live…with some exceptions.
We have crisscrossed Turkey more than a dozen times the last few years and no matter what town, village or nomadic encampment we have visited and imposed upon, we find a thread of Turkish complexion that runs clear through from border to border…Turks are simply people of quality. They love to talk, laugh, eat and visit; they just like hanging out and getting into the details of each other’s lives.

The Master and her protege
Our doorbell rings all day long with neighbors and friends dropping in to chat and the food never seems to stop. Whenever one of the older women in our neighborhood cook special Turkish dishes they call Ann to come and learn…every week plates of food flow back and forth from their kitchens to ours and vice versa…tough life, I know.
While I am pretty well set with my balcony view of Minibus Yolu and the comings and goings of our friends, neighbors and food, I simply long to wander…which leads me, finally, to the point of today’s thoughts.
The expedition season is upon us and my gypsy juices started flowing this week as we began our plans for our summer wanderings across Asia Minor. In a few weeks we will head to Taurus Range to weave our way into the mountain villages and see if we can catch up with the locals. Next, Konya will be our base as we explore the ancient seat of the Great Seljuk Turkish Empire. The area is home to scores of ancient caravansaries, Mosques and Churches and some of the world’s oldest settlements.
All of which brings me back to the words of a forgotten Moor—whether in Istanbul or the rugged outback of Turkey, we have learned the value of the people of Turkey…they are simply Priceless.

For a great insight into nomadic hospitality check this from Today’s Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=142870

Snuffing Out a Bit of Culture

May 19th is a big deal in Turkey commemorating the start of the War for Independence. I find that ironic, because today is another “May 19th” that is going to be remembered for a long time…this one for restricting a freedom that many Turks have enjoyed without restraint.  That of lighting up a smoke whenever and wherever the mood hit.

Starting today public smoking is being frowned upon in this great nation of nicotine loving Turks.  Already banned in airports and large offices today the ban sweeps into its purview the small shops, parks, entertainment venues and extends even to the ferries and taxis that troll throughout the metropolis. An estimated 15 million packs of cigarettes (300 million smokes) are  inhaled each day in Turkey.

Being a non-smoker it took some time to get used to the second hand smoke I was inhaling when we first landed here a few years ago.  Now when returning to Istanbul from abroad there is nothing that makes me feel more  “at home”  than the smell of cigarettes as soon as we step out of the airport.

I know…its bad for me, bad for you,  bad for all of us. I get it. I am not advocating smoking. However, when I see things that have been culturally endeared to me pass away there is an element of grief I experience. I cannot count the times that a Fiat-wielding taxi driver has held out a pack of smokes to me as he weaved and dodged through Istanbul”s infamous traffic, before lighting up himself. The scent of tobacco has become synonymous with the Turkish hospitality that has courted and overwhelmed us during our time in Asia Minor.

No doubt we will all be much healthier and able to worry about whatever great health risk becomes popular in the future. For now though I am not too worried, once I see the ashtrays on the treadmills at the local sports salon go…I will know that the restrictions are here to stay.

Simple Diplomacy

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It’s the small things in life that bridge cultures and continents. A quiet sunlit afternoon at the square adjacent to the Galata Tower turned into a rowdy futbol match as local kids challenged a visiting group of Asian tourists to a pick up game.
Balls whizzing, people ducking and old men yelling advice flushed spectators out from their shops and homes and a community came together for an hour…all due to a beat up ball getting whacked from boy to man and back again. Talk about grass roots diplomacy…we should bring home the suits and send these kids on the road.
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Winter Flirt

The locals will tell you this is one of the weirdest winters in recent memories. Up until a few days ago it was almost beach weather…blue skies and balmy, now we are flirting with snow. It is still not cold enough to stick around, but maybe we will finally see a little of the famous Istanbul winters we have heard about. Figures…just yesterday I saw beachwear out on the shelves. Thanks to my buddy “Pete” for the photo of previous years snow from the same sitesi.
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kosuyolu%20snow.jpg Pete’s Pic

Sad Case

We are a sad case. Three weeks away in the UK for the holidays and we ended up spending our time listing all the things we missed about Istanbul; The food, the people, the smells, the traffic, the taxis, the people, the smiles, the khave, the vapur, and again – the people. Its good to be home. Iyi Bayramlar!

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