This year has been the year of firsts. Here is what was new to me in 2012.
The first time I was left behind
Since 2003, I move. I change apartments, schools, cities, countries, and continents. I describe life as “perpetual movement.” For a long time, it hurt. Now, it just feels natural. However, for the fist time this year, I was the one left behind. A very close and dear friend of mine moved away, and I felt what my thoughtless ventures out of my “safe zones” meant to me dear friends left behind.
I met P. in Tucson in the middle of a health crisis. I had recently moved to a new apartment, went through a break-up, and had been continuously sick. I missed school for a whole week, cancelled all my sections, and stayed home for days and nights. Those lonely and dark and hazy days lead to some serious reflection about who I was, what I was doing, etc. In the middle of this, P. showed up out of the blue, and said: “Run with scissors! F*ck everything off!” We were like two kids who played a game, had so much fun, and shouted with joy: “We are best friends forever!” It was that simple.
The following months were dominated with my tumultuous love life, and his sincere attempt of making sense of American dating scene. We both failed. However, along the way, we became so close that he didn’t mind driving down to the city for 30 minutes in the middle of the night just because I called him and sounded awful. He let me spend a weekend on his couch, obsessively watching Sex and the City and reaching enlightened revelations about my life while he ran his experiments at his laboratory. But his time was limited in Tucson, and had to leave when everything was so perfect.
And he left. On a plane. Just like that. For weeks, in any discomforting situation, I said: “Oh I wish P. was here now.” For months, whenever I had the urge to instantly gossip about someone around me, I quasi-yelled at my friends: “Why don’t you speak French like P. does?” The fact that I was the one left behind, and I was the one immersed in a worse version of life without him hurt me more than I anticipated. I finally realized what I have been doing to my close friends for 10 years now. I am sorry y’all, but this is how life has been.
My First Vegas Trip
We were such good friends with P. that we decided to test it with a trip. Although we still don’t know whose idea it was at the first place, we went to Vegas. And wished we had never gone.
Las Vegas promises good time only to those who are not willing to think about the actual quintessence of things in Vegas or who are too drunk to do so. Vegas is a messy and flashy stage where a third-class play is performed with second-hand costumes and run-down make-up. Las Vegas is where people go to drink and be promiscuous, on the streets. The whole trip was dominated with an existential dissatisfaction and class-aware frustration. Vulgar use of space, abundance of tackiness, and too-many light bulbs made me constantly sick, and I wanted to get away.
We found ourselves in the Valley of Fire, and then at the Hoover Dam—a set for Cold War movies with a handsome Western agent trapped in a Soviet military facility. Who knew the best part of a Vegas trip was when we were the farthest from people?
When we were leaving Vegas, I remember mumbling about not going back ever again. I don’t know about P., but I still stand where I was back then.
My First Madonna Concert
Another first and last experience. I remember hearing about Madonna and her outrageous behavior when I was growing up. But it was not until Frozen exploded all over our teenage minds that I got to know her. Since then, I have been a Madonna fan. A loyal one. I even liked her “American Life” album.
When I moved to Paris in 2008, Madonna was on her “Sticky and Sweet Tour”, and she scheduled an extra show in Paris at the last minute, leaving a lot of tickets unsold. Until the very last day, I could get a ticket and see her with my own eyes, reaching to a level of completion in my “fandom.” I didn’t do it because I had no one to go there with, and regretted for years.
The moment I heard she was coming to Istanbul, I messaged my friend HC, and told him that I want a ticket to MDNA. I added: “You are the only one who is capable of doing so. I trust your skills. Let’s do it.” Years of organizing college events together blessed us with such a confidence for each other at moments like that. When I came to Istanbul months later this conversation, my ticket was ready. We went to the concert, and had a great time.
However, the whole Madonna experience was also a “once in a lifetime” thing for me. It was great, she was queen and all, but something about that concert told me that I could not do things over and over. Some experiences in life are meant to be done once. My first Madonna Concert was awesome, but also unique in my own story.
And other things…
This year I tried many new things, and had other firsts. There were bad moments such as when I experienced my first mobbing at work. Or there were great moments such as I went camping for the first time. There were milestones based on one little man, my nephew. Overall, I must say it was a good year. And it renewed me in many ways. I even tried those frames!
Have a good new year y’all!
#3, January 8, 2012
I am sitting on the benches of Istanbul Ataturk Airport, waiting for my partner in crime, Deniz, to arrive. I have thirty minutes before check-in starts, lots of alcohol in my blood, and some extra holiday pounds. They will leave me when time arrives.
I am sitting here with two major feelings: An ultimate satisfaction deriving from quality time spent with friends and family, and a major heartbreak created by two important people in my life.
I am sitting here with my coat on and with one song in my ears looping. The song summarizes the major heartbreak, the expected moment of my life. After two great nights spent with friends, who know how to love and deserve more love than I normally give them, I am waiting for my departure time to arrive with a bittersweet feeling, tending to darken due to those heartbreaks.
During this visit to Turkey, I did not have the time of my life, but luckily, last two days were amazing by all means. I reconnected with most of my dearest friends until next time—this June or another cold and rainy December. Throughout this stay, I have eaten more than enough Turkish food, many of them being delicacies I craved in the middle of warm Tucson nights. I have seen four amazing Turkish movies, took many positive steps for my academic and literary career, talked to many strangers about life in Turkey and grasped an overall sentiment about the latest developments. It was better than I expected in certain issues, and worse than in some others.
When I started this entry, I was expecting a catharsis on this heartbreak. My alcohol level, my sleepiness, the song in loop signaled this very-needed catharsis. However, as I realized and explained in these chronicles, I had changed a lot. I fire frustrations faster and easier than I used to, and this is totally new to me. I think as Istanbul becomes a more touristic, attractive, sign-board invaded city, my character complies with it: The loses are obvious, the human cost is huge, and the history is massively neglected, but to become more flexible as a person, to have a life with more lights, to welcome more people, I quit burdening friendships easier and quicker than usual. My friends at college used to mock my short temper towards people close to me. It was something funny, because although I claimed ending my relationship with many people, I never had succeeded, and my short temper was only a funny reaction of mine to human conditions.
This time, the heartbreak occurred so gradually and deep down, no one challenged me when I talked about my heart breaking. They all admitted that my relationship with those two former friends was over. It was easy, apparent, accepted by everyone around. The decadence was recognized with ease.
And just like that, after two amazing nights, I took a cab from Taksim to the Airport, and started waiting for my flight. It was that simple.
Filed under: music, the city | Tags: arizona, ezginin gunlugu, istanbul, leaving, music, proust, tucson
As you would remember from some previous entries, I take music as a conveyer of my personal past. Due to my shark-like nature, my past does not only consist of time periods but also different cities. A la recherche de mon temps perdu, music defines eras, therefore geographies. That’s why a song can take me to the museums of Paris, humid mornings of Augusta, beautiful campus of Middlebury College or a drunken festival night on the Bosporus.
In a day or two, I will publish three entries about my visit to Istanbul in December 2011. There, with awe, you will see how Istanbul and the meanings it encompasses in my life are in constant change with time. Although I no longer live in Istanbul, this city still holds such a potent and influential place in my life that, it can change meaning even if I only visit it now.
Due to my horrible experience back in December 2011, I had removed Istanbul from my life for the last four months. I barely thought about the city, had only a couple of Sykpe conversations with my dear friends still residing in that behemoth, and did not listen to a single song that is directly related to the imperial city in my personal universe of signifiers. It was tough, and full of remorse. I had spoken big when I talked about “never leaving Istanbul/Istanbul never leaving me”. My relation with the city came to a point where one side had to sacrifice a lot to reduce the pain resulting from this relationship. Of course, I was the one who had to sacrifice. And I had taken Istanbul out, maybe not completely out, but to an extent never explored before.
But on the day before my trip, on my way back from my first proper camping experience with the spiritual purification bestowed upon me by Mount Lemmon, I inadvertently played “Siyah Gozler” by Ezginin Gunlugu. A song from the very heart of Istanbul, dedicated to my quintessential pain felt for this city. Listen to the song; you will know what I mean.
It started as an “innocent” move to expose my friend some Turkish music. As I was imposing my patch-worked taste in music, I stumbled upon Ezginin Gunlugu and said, “Oh, you will love them. They are quite interesting.” I hit the play button unconsciously, and it took only five seconds to hit me back. All of a sudden, due to the amazing clarinet solo, as we were driving down the mountain, and the fauna was changing from pine trees to cacti, I was surrounded by Istanbul, the city I had removed from my life. I, there, realized I had been successful in exiling Istanbul away, and it was emotionally safe to recall it on such a moment.
Elif Shafak always compares and insistently contrasts Istanbul and Arizona, she calls them “two places on earth that could not be more different.” One time, she however noted, Arizona and Istanbul resemble each other in terms of “huzun”, the concept that is at the same time possible and impossible be translated to “la tristesse” in French, or “melancholia” in English, according to Orhan Pamuk. I agree, in both geographies, a sense of melancholia is omnipresent. Istanbul’s huzun is more consecrated to human interaction and its imperial past, while Arizona’s melancholia is more limited to contrasts, such as sun and shade, different definitions of border, and city’s eclectic architecture juxtaposing a skyscraper and a Mexican cathedral together.
Huzun is both similar and different in Arizona and Istanbul. The Oaks on Ciragan Caddesi and theSaguaro cacti on UA Campus share a common feeling not only in the habitants of Tucson form Istanbul but in a larger sense: just like paradise and hell, they share human.
As I am typing this entry on my way to Istanbul, not back, I am thinking how long will I have to individually struggle to tell people the commonalities of different geographies are much more than their differences. Since the beginning of humankind, some people may not be changing where they live from cradle to grave. But their fixed residual habits are miniscule, especially once compared to the traveling human element in every city’s content. The words we use can be forgotten, or ignored; but the eyes we see cannot be forgotten, or ignored. Especially when their universal humanity is considered.
For me, Ezginin Gunlugu also belongs to Arizona now. And Istanbul does not seem so vicious any more. Especially out of the plane’s window, when the Bosporus’ waters are shining like gold.
The country I grew up has neither a clean record nor a bright present towards the minorities it is home to. Putting some exceptions aside, our governments have never liked minorities, and not only the ones it officially recognized, like Greeks or Jews, but also the ones that you could call, in my native language, “aykırı sesler”, which can be translated into “incongruous voices”. The ones, who know exactly how governments treated those voices because they were once underrepresented, are in power now, and they ironically have adopted a similar discourse to their oppressors’. And including the last one, every government acts as if they treat the minorities fairly. This is what I call “grand hypocrisy”. If you wander in Turkish academia, you will find quality research on the history, but this “grand hypocrisy” is not my topic today. I want to talk about something similar but different in level and size. I want to talk about “minor hypocrisy”.
My academic interest to minorities does not rise from an awkward personal affection, as some fellow students ridiculously put it with funny statements like “You know, I love Islam. So I study Turkish society.” I believe how institutions and people treat minorities reveals a lot about their set of minds. In a responsible academic environment, an accurate study should distance the people from the institutions to a possible extend. What strikes me in my own life is how, sometimes, those people we dissociate from their governments actually behave the same way. The hypocrisy I call “minor” emerges when those people proclaim themselves strictly distinct from their vicious past and present governments, but they treat their friends and loved ones just like their governments did, does, but hopefully will not in the future.
No theory is good without an example. Here, take O.N.L. He is an educated, so-called humanist friend of mine. He likes to distinct himself from the society he lives in with his artistic expression, clothing, personal attitude, and his total adoption of and adaptation to the “humanist” discourse which welcomes “everyone as they are”. If you ask his friends or family, or even to those who watch him and his plays on the stage, he is a very nice person with a big heart. He detests the current government not because of political differences but also because the government does not treat the differences in an embracing way. He, himself, is an incongruous voice; and he mourns for the catastrophes that the minorities of our country went through. He even shared a video on Facebook condemning the past. Maybe not a good citizen for the current mentality, but such a good friend, and even a good intellectual, right?
However, when how he treats his friends who had to leave the country unfolds, we see a different story. This “nice person with a big heart” tends to consciously forget some of his friends live abroad. In addition, the departure of his friends, who were close enough to confront him with truths about his life, enabled this person to passively expel them. Their choice of living outside the country, or their obligation to do so, gave him the opportunity to gentrify his environment. He cut the communication with them, he deliberately lost touch, and it was something he could not do before, not to hurt the humanist image he is counting on in his personal relations. This virtual supporter of minorities failed to distance his behaviors from his country’s past and present towards his friends of a different type of minority.
So, when I saw the video he shared on Facebook, I immediately recognized a minor version of the grand hypocrisy I always condemn. He is the bearer of the pieces of a grand hypocrisy, and I am sure he sleeps well with his minor belongings. On the other hand, I feel the need to address any hypocrisy I detect, and minor or grand, it doesn’t matter.
How do I overcome homesickness?
One day, a close friend’s mom, Güniz Teyze, read my fortune from coffee grounds in my cup. She said: “You will always be on road. When you are here, you will have a bag ready to depart anytime. When you are there, you will always miss here. You don’t belong here, or there. You belong to both.”
She had known me since I was 14. I was 23 years old when she told me this. I believed in her with the whole of my heart.
In one month, I will be celebrating my 26th birthday in Arizona, and not on an island for the first time in 7 years. This year has been the year of change, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy it. I am leaving some habits behind, just like some expressions, or a couple of favorite dishes and fortunately many obsessions. I am building up a new life in America in general, and in Tucson in particular. I have a bag ready to depart here, too. But for a long time, I plan to stay on this part of the world.
However, this does not mean that I don’t miss my life back in Turkey in general, and in Istanbul in particular. Looking at a crowded street from the second floor of a building, and feeling the noise rather than hearing it is at the top of my list. I miss people filling streets up and me looking at them from Oyuncular Kahvesi or somewhere in Nevizade. Or I miss sitting under the pergola in a quiet summer afternoon, drinking tea and looking at Galata Tower. I miss the chilly spring mornings of Gülhane Parkı or taking a taxi from Taksim to Kuzguncuk, my last neighborhood in Istanbul, and not realizing how we crossed the Bosphorus bridge as I am already sleeping because of that last drink. I miss live clarinet, buying a simit and running to a bus with it, or getting soaked under the rain on my way to Ortaköy and cursing myself for not taking the bus. I miss things unique to Istanbul, unique to life there, and mostly individual moments rather than collective ones.
Why individual rather than collective? Why personal rather than communal? The answer is hidden in “Virtual Rakı Sofrası”.
I don’t miss collective moments because my friends are creative enough to organize a virtual gathering on Skype, around a Raki table, with all rituals completed. They turn on their Skype, raise their Raki glasses with me, and stay up until 4am just to talk with me around the table, something very different than any gathering including alcohol. They have time for keeping my spirit up with such an event on particularly May, the best month of Istanbul, full of festivals around the city. They are so sweet that they read me passages from my yearbook, which recently came out and is so heavy and emotionally valuable to be shipped. They keep me updated, they keep me happy, they keep me belonging to two without sacrificing one or other. Their kindness, and valuable friendship, and considerable efforts leave me with my yearning to only individual moments.
I can’t thank them enough, so I just raise my glass.
Filed under: music, the city, Uncategorized | Tags: asmalimescit, istanbul, leaving, music, oi va voi, urban life, video
This year I am again away from Istanbul. This time, I am in USA, on a desert, at a university campus, unlike my Paris experience when I was soaked up with an imperial, cosmopolitan, and artistic city. This is Tucson, AZ, and it has definitely a different story.
However, you never know what you will face in an American university. I was aware of the fact that I was going to “do Turkish studies” but I did not expect such revelation. This semester, I am taking a course on Istanbul and its cosmopolitan characteristic, and I am doing its readings while I am listening to Oi Va Voi, a British group who is making “simply put” Jewish music. I have first heard of them out of Babylon’s posters. Then I had the chance to listen to them, and to adore them, and to never quit listening.
Tonight, I have to finish a book on Renaissance Humanists’ view of the Ottomans, but I had to write this entry despite my schedule. Firstly, let’s listen to this moving piece:
OK, what do we see and/or hear here? Like those experiences where you mix your sight with your sense of smell, or where you see a touch, I have heard a view, a view from Istanbul, especially from Beyoglu, more specifically from Asmalimescit. This posh feeling of that particular quartier, this promoted lifestyle, this eclectically pictured image of Asmalimescit are very well imbued in Oi Va Voi’s music. When you listen to them, you travel to Istanbul, hang out with your best friends, have the most fun at the best clubs at town, get drunk, dance, kiss, don’t mind, shout “whatever”, walk clumsily, and have your soup at the end of the night before your taxi picks you up. This song is where I grew up to be a human, this song is what almost all my friends have left for some years abroad, it is our past, it is the subject of our daydreams, it is the soul of our yearn to Istanbul.
On this very day, September 13, 2010, I feel like a Greek Humanist émigré in Italy, holding an ancient text saved from the fall of Constantinople while I am listening to this song. I don’t belong here but people want to learn from me, I am surrounded by stuff constantly reminding me my fallen city, I am reading my own city at a very distant location.
This is sad, I noted, therefore I continued, cried Ilker at the end “Oi Va Voi”.
It occurred to me only today what it means to be leaving from one’s home city. It’s not that I became sad and blue. I just realized that I will be very distant, even disconnected, from what happens in this huge city where I grew up and spent almost one-third of my life (optimistic estimation). The decision to leave was easy; for the past few years, this city that I’ve spent best moments of my life started to become a very hard to place to live in. The traffic, pollution and ugly architecture were always there and they were not the source of my hatred. Although unpleasant, they were bearable and almost characteristic. Then, I realized that it was the newspapers which made the life troubling. What I read in the newspapers made me furious each and every day. In the past few years, it felt like I was living in a completely unfamiliar place with a whole bunch of people completely alien to me and my thinking. Maybe, the country was always like that and the people always had the same mindset. Maybe it’s just me growing up, discovering myself and changing. This is me starting to react to what is not right around me.
I will not go into detail of what I don’t like in the newspapers, in the politics or in the daily life in Istanbul. If you grew in Istanbul, you know how beautiful and addictive it is; if you moved here recently, you know how charming and enticing every aspect of the city can be; if you have made friends here, you know how they are weird, fun and interesting at the same time (in a good way); if you visited Istanbul for a few days, you know how the city is full of things to discover and experience. To me, none of those above is significant anymore. My goal is not to write an eulogy, nor to dramatize my leaving. I know it seems like I’m leaving for good. I’m only leaving for a year now, and I probably will come back earlier. If I would come back after a year, I know Istanbul won’t be the same place I left. It’s just like when you get together with your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend after a while, you know that you can do without him and he’s the person that you have left because of your reasons. Although you feel you love him, you know he’s not the same person anymore.
I want to say that when I say “leaving”, I like to think that it means leaving the city, leaving the roads I drove, the house I grew, my school, the market in the corner, my cellphone number, the Bosphorus and the boats, things I see when I open the fridge, the radio stations, Istiklal street, bars, clubs and finally the newspapers. I’m not sad that I’m leaving all this. I’m leaving my friends and my family. Most everyone I have connected within years, I will not take them with me. I haven’t said “Goodbye” to many persons yet. Maybe this is because I don’t see any point in it. In the end, everything that will stay with me, is everything that I need and everything that I want. There are things I will miss and that is for sure, but “leaving” things is not such a bad thing. It makes me happy to think that, I will always get together somehow with the people I love. It’s not sad to be distant from them for a while since I’m not really leaving them. I’m only leaving things which are mostly garbage and useless heavy things which are not significant.
So, this was my farewell message. It was rough and a bit disorganized. I hope I did not make it sound so poetic since I believe it’s very natural at some point for someone to discharge itself of a lot things. In a few days, I will leave Istanbul, for Barcelona. It’s going to be an ugly troublesome year with a lot of frustration and disappointment. But that’s only the bad stuff; good stuff will be a lot more. In anyway, I expect to change a lot.
P.S: The blog, nevertheless, won’t be one of the many things I leave (though I hope to write more) and want to express how happy I am to share it with my dear co-blogger all the way from the U.S.