Saturday, January 30, 2010

Man... If I wasn't Turkish, I would think I was weird.

I want to start out by giving a little bit information about myself. I was born and raised in Istanbul, right on the Bosphorus. It would take less than 5 minutes to cross continents (Europe is on the left and Asia is on the right). I came to the US in the summer of 1998, right before I turned 12, which means that I spent almost half of my life in the US.

Now, I can't really identify myself as American or Turkish because I am not quite one way or the other. Actually I would be considered an "other" in each country. I have a little bit of both cultures in me. It was absolutely shocking to me when I moved here. The people, the scenery, the food, the roads, even the trees were all foreign to me. My family and I moved to a medium size town called Lyndhurst in New Jersey, as Prof. Nichols knows, it's about 5 minutes from Belleville. I thought, "Man, we are out in the middle of nowhere!" At the time, Lyndhurst had a population of 25 thousand, but of course for a person who is from a city of nearly 16 million people, it sure felt like a secluded area. After a while, I gave up on looking and being amazed at the differences of both cultures and tried to find similarities instead. To be honest, there aren't many. So, I grew up to be a mutant.

The first advice that I would give to this hypothetical exchange student about my culture is to take a step back and breathe for a second without giving a response or a quick judgment about anything. Turkey is like me. It is the offspring of Western culture and Islam. We are thought as liberals, Islam "killers," to the Middle East yet the Westerners, especially Europeans think of us as conservatives or extremists.

Here is a little video I found on youtube about my beautiful country:

There is a strong connection between people; relatives, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, etc. It is so string and important in fact that we have an old saying that goes: "Don't buy a house, buy a neighbor." The bond between neighbors are so strong that it is more important to pick your neighbors that fit your taste than a house. I remember when I was growing up, whenever I stayed at my grandmother's house, there was "tea time." One of the women who lived in her apartment complex would make tea and cookies and all of them would get together and have a "break" from housework. I mostly enjoyed these gatherings, because that meant that I got to eat cookies and coffee grinds. I know that sounds so weird.... I don't know how many of you know about Turkish coffee but it is kind of like espresso. The ground coffee accumulates on the bottom of the cup, and after drinking the coffee, the women turn the cup upside down on the little plate and wait for their fortunes to appear. Then a fortune teller "reads" the coffee grinds. My favorite part was after the reading. I would lick the left over coffee grinds. As I said before, if I wasn't Turkish, I would think this very weird.

I think that we express our culture mostly through mythos and techne.

I couldn't tell you exactly when I heard the story of the Maiden's Tower, but it is a story that probably all people who live in Istanbul know.

"According to the most popular Turkish legend, a sultan had a much beloved daughter. One day, an oracle prophesied that she would be stung to death by a venomous snake's bite on her 18th birthday. The sultan, in an effort to thwart his daughter's early demise by placing her away from land so as to keep her away from any snakes, had the tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus to protect his daughter until her 18th birthday. The princess was placed in the tower, where she was frequently visited only by her father.

On the 18th birthday of the princess, the sultan brought her a basket of exotic sumptuous fruits as a birthday gift, delighted that he was able to prevent the prophecy. Upon reaching into the basket, however, an asp that had been hiding amongst the fruits bites the young princess and she dies in her father's arms, just as the oracle had predicted. Hence the name Maiden's Tower."

This is just many of the many stories of my country and culture. Religious stories also play a big role in our society.

The second way that we express our culture is through techne. Man.... I would need to write an encyclopaedia if I want to get into our cultural expression through the production of arts. I'm going to leave it to Victoria, aka Turkish Delight, to explore more into the Turkish culture. As I was just writing about the mythos, I thought, "Hey, I could let Victoria know if she needs any help with her project, I would be available," so I think I need to stop right about here because she has a lot of exploring to do. So, here's one site that would be really helpful:

P.S. Guys, I feel like I write a lot... I started writing this blog at 11 and now it's 4... Meaning, I made lots and lots of cuts. I don't want to be boring. Like Prof. Nichols said, he has to read these. So, please let me know if you enjoyed my blogs so far or if you have any suggestions for me to make it better.

P.S.S. How many of you think the coffee eating is weird? I know if I was in your shoes, I would think it weird.


  1. Let me be brief: Tremendous job - both in content and creative composition!