Coming to terms
A travel diary from Turkey
By Mona Shomali
August 15, 2003
riding in crowded dolmus mini busses
listening to the new turkish pop through the barren dry olive fields,
attempting to avoid
old women from giving us the evil eye in the village because we feel like we
are infidels; visiting the the remains of a greek village where the greeks
were made to abandon their houses so that turks could move in, meeting a clan
of kurds who sell carpets and eating and drinking with them for two days >>> See
clad sensual youthful girls pushing up against completely covered
up women, we can only see their eyes, in the street while the eveining
reminder is being sung by the man inside the minarette at the
top of the town mosque,
realizing that the almond seller we have met may always be an almond seller
and his son will also be an almond seller on a small island where they
drink tea in hour glass shaped glasses and play backgammon every
night, and not
knowing whether to feel happy or sad for all the changes that
we see taking place everywhere
somewhere in between the east and western world.
this has been turkey so
far. here are some of the funnier stories:
our first night arriving in istanbul, we arrived in
the sultanament where there is the famous blue mosque and aya sofya
which is a church that
was turned into a mosque. we started looking around for a pension or hostel
are so many carpet sellers everywhere, miss, can you please come here? can
i show you a carpet?
2 men sitting outside see us circling the block and
us that they have a room that is usually for very important guest, but
perhaps tonite they will make us an exception, we go inside and
the flat with the
room is still under construction and there is sheep wool hanging
out to dry in the
windows, flying around the room a bit. they say dont mind the sheep wool,
we politely decline.
the next morning we buy a shawl for me to
up so we
can visit the blue mosque. the man who sells the shawl tells me that
god wants me
to cover up and that it is my duty.
we go inside the mosque prepared
to not be the infidel, even [my boyfriend] ian is all covered
up to show solidarity with me,
only to be
surprised by all the bling bling gucci italians who have thrown off
their head scarves once inside, the police dont care, and there
a dividing screen
where us, tourist/infidels are and the completely covered up women
older men pray
on the other side trying to concentrate amidst the noisy italians posing
and snapping photos. we go back outside, more carpet sellers...
plesae miss, you
look very nice today, can i show you just one carpet?
now you think you know how to say this word, but
it is actually said BOZ.JAH.DAH, i cant figure out the pronounciation
at all, but
there are many words that are like farsi like... please, slow and
watermelon are the same words.
i wish i had paid more attention
to my grandma
when she spoke
turkish but we are doing ok. we took a bus, train, taxi and then
finally a ferry to arrive at the island. however, when we reached
were no more tickets, after a very emotional display by me, this
man named mehmet -- everyone here is named mehmet -- said if
we *waited* there *might*
be a ticket.
we waited, and then we watched the ferry go without us an hour
later, no mehmet. our friend came and told us if we waitied 2
would be ticket.
this time we waited again, but then we saw the ferry getting ready
to leave again.
this time we went and found someone else and
made a big
told him that
mehmet said he would get us a ticket, that guy went outside and
yelled at mehmet and then he got us a ticket secretly while
yelling behind us, when we finally got on the ferry, mehmet acted
all surprised that we got on.
Ian and i have been doing a
turkey is ready to join the EU and at this time we say they
are NOT ready. ha ha.
too much third world haggling.
anyways, this island was beautiful,
very dry and shallow
hills and barren rocks, pine trees, very nice beach and we
had such good lamb kabob and great baklava with honey oozing
is always time for more tea.
SELCUK AND EFES
selcuk is the village outside of the great
ruins of efes. our bus driver dropped us off in front of
pension in the
here knows everyone. we went out to eat some dinner and we
saw a good
carpet shop. the owner was half iranian and half kurd. he
had been to iran many
times and he was the son of a kurdish mayor in the east of
turkey. he wsa a part
of a big clan or kurds, 3 other members of the clan worked
in the same carpet shop. we really got on with them well,
we were so interested in their being kurds since they were
the first we had met. they
that many of
in a political mess because of their being kurds.
tea with him and i told him htat i knew a bit about carpets.
him that my parents were carpet dealers too. as a part of
getting a beter deal on carpets, haggling, you know, anyways,
carpets and we
bought 3 carpets
at a very good price. we really liked them so we had dinner
with them and talked to them till really late in the morning.
to efes. they
say that the remans of the roman buildings, greek city of
efes is beter preserved than ruins in greece. it was amazing.
all of the while
the stadium, it was a whole city and took a while to walk
through. being there, in the remains of a greek city in turkey,
how the turks
land, we have seen everything greek so far on the southern
coast, nothing is ottoman.
it just makes me feel like these borders are so arbitrary.
we went back to the carpet shop because our new friends said
take us to
sirince, an old
greek town. it had been evacuated of greeks during a war
although eveything was built by greek people and now the town
in olive oil
oil soap. we saw olive jam!
there are photos of ataturk everywyere,
hero of turkey that made the country secular.
our kurdish friend got very upset when we suggested he seemed
to be everyones
hero. he reminded
of the suffering the kurdish people went through under
kurdish people do not have their own hospitals, school,
and they have been
forbidden to speak
kurdish in their own universities. it is very sad. our
friend told us you cannot buy kurdish music in the store.
and ian could
say some words to them too since he is learning farsi.
spoke good english too. we learned so much from them.
they knew so much
which was their original religion, as well as the original
religion of persians....
at this time, as a part of our assesment, ian and i
think turkey should not be
let into the EU untill the kurds are recognized people
of turkey. their situation is very sad and deserves more
after this, we walked around selcuk again to buy some ceramics.
we met this couple who owned a store. they were very
educated, the man
political history. we talked about our experience
of turkey so far. we talked about the tension we felt between
us that it
would be fine if turkey could have the economy and
technology of the west, and the
culture of the east. however, it seems to be happening
in reverse. he says the
economy and technology is still 18th century ha ha,
and that he sociological structure is becoming more western
manufacturing of desire in these peoples lives,
the kind of desire that comes with
vigourous and glamourous advertisining typical
culture and capitalism.
nestle and nescafe has definitely got their hooks
in the local bars, and they provide
free nescafe memorabilia everrywhere... even
in the most simple villages with stone houses and kitchens outside,
brand ice tea
instead of the
local tea. ian does not know why i am so surprised.
that is the compromise of modernity i have not
come to terms with >>> See photos
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