This year was my fifth Thanksgiving away from home. While it breaks my heart to away from the established traditions, lively discussions, delicious food and my wonderful friends and family, I am delighted by the wonderful new and established traditions that shape my own celebration!
My friend and I befriended a Turkish man with a New York accent on the bus, while we were returning from the Sabanci Museum yesterday. He was a Business professor at the esteemed Bogazaci University and lived in the United States for many years, while teaching at Temple University. We started by talking about Seattle and the Bosphorus, but after leaving the bus, our interaction continued with one final conversation. He reemerged from the crowd to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. In fact, he was off to celebrate with his Turkish American friends!
He inspired us. His enthusiasm for American life and Thanksgiving was surprising, but also endearing. Originally, I was saving all of my energy for our established weekend extravaganza with friends (we always reschedule Thanksgiving festivities to ensure we get the whole weekend to celebrate and prepare), but we decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner of our own last night as well. Now, keep in mind we came to this decision at 6 PM last night…so we did not have much time.
How do you prepare for Thanksgiving dinner in 2 hours? Read the rest of this entry
While Istanbul is my home and my life is full of wonder and richness. There are some things I miss from my life in the states.
In no particular order, here they are:
1.) Seeing the stars at night
2.) Seattle’s coffee obsession and the numerous funky cafes devoted to this coffee culture (and addiction;)
3.) The numerous and overwhelming options at a grocery store
4.) Living somewhere where you can run, walk and bicycle freely with good company
5.) House parties, potlucks and other inexpensive and easy ways to surround yourself with good friends in an intimate setting Read the rest of this entry
It has been three years since I first moved to Istanbul, and during this time Istanbul has become my home. In the most surprising and silly of ways I have adopted numerous Turkish traits, here are some of them:
1.) I will not enter a house with my shoes on
2.) I have no restraint when my phone rings during a meal… I must answer it.
3.) Everything can be improved with more olive oil, salt, paprika flakes or thyme.
4.) Plans can change en route, and I am ok with that.
5.) I have accepted that work schedules are unpredictable beasts. This includes late evenings and weekends. Read the rest of this entry
Photo Credit: Turkish Daily News
Coming from the states, I know what a divisive and overly politicized issue, abortion can become. Until recently, I was impressed by the lack of politics that surrounded abortion in Turkey. All of this has changed in the past week. Abortion (and the nation’s over reliance on c-sections) has become Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent target. Obviously this comes as no surprise. He is a social conservative who loves to assert his power and opinions in the public and private sphere. His power is virtually unchecked and the AKP party can pass almost any piece of legislation they desire. Calling abortion ‘murder’, Erdogan wants to severely limit women’s access to abortion. In his current proposal, he attempts to ban abortion after 4 weeks, and implement a series of restrictions on doctors that perform the procedure.
Turkey prides itself on being a secular state. How can the government implement a law justified by religious beliefs? Erdogan celebrates the false claim that Turkey strives to be a democracy. No country can claim to embrace democratic ideals, while also limiting the freedom of its citizens. Nor can a democracy thrive with the oppression of 50 percent of the population. A woman’s body should not be controlled or regulated by anyone, especially the government. Any attempt to do so is oppression. It is not easy for any woman, couple or family to choose to have an abortion. It is a decision that nobody wants to make, but a freedom that men and women must value and protect. How can we penalize women for unwanted pregnancy in a country that lacks sex education programs in their schools? How can we penalize women who are taught to be fearful of using the birth control pill, and are encouraged to rely on their partner for ‘withdrawal’? Also, what expertise does the government have to control and regulate medical procedures?
The medical community has spoken. In a report presented by the Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to the Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, the following was written: fertility health and access to an abortion must be guaranteed to ensure the health and vitality of the country. The report also emphasized that the mortality rate of mothers where abortion is illegal is high. The right to an abortion does not necessarily prevent abortions, it limits access to safe abortions. We must reevaluate the underlying issues that cause a woman to seek an abortion, before we can even consider limiting this procedure.
Hundreds of people attended the protest today in Kadikoy. I hope their voices are heard.
The friendly American in me struggled with this seemingly bizarre fact: Turks do not smile. Growing up in a small town, I was trained to make eye-contact and smile at everyone I pass. However, when I moved to Istanbul, I quickly learned that this only brought unwanted attention from men, and skeptical looks from women. It boggled my mind, how could a country with such an emphasis on hospitality, with such deep bonds between friends and family, be so closed-off to the people they encounter on the streets? Well, a recent op-ed piece in the Turkish Daily News attempts to explain this mystery. He asserts the following:
1.) “Turkey is a ‘transitional society’, one that is in the critical middle of a long transformation from a traditional (rural, agrarian and communal) to a modern (urban) nation. So, traditional mores are eroding, whereas new ones are not fully matured”
2.) The political climate is incredibly divisive and promotes significant levels of distrust between parties, people and government as a whole. This distrust spreads to the unfamiliar. Problems within the country are blamed on “enemies within and without”. In the absence of a true democracy, there is a lack of openness.
2.) Despite the rapid urbanization of Turkey, Turks still identify their hometown as their father’s place of birth. Very few people are from Istanbul, however this growing metropolis has become home to a diverse group of people from all over the country. In a ‘colossal city’ like Istanbul, there are too much that is unknown and unfamiliar. You no longer know or trust your neighbor. These neighborhood and local bonds are no longer relevant or possible in large urban environments.
While this is not necessarily unique to Turkey, it is interesting to contemplate how the political climate impacts social bonds and interactions in a place I call ‘home’.