I have massive insecurities. But above everything, there is the insecurity of chasing after something that never existed in the first place - or something that wasn’t worth the chase to begin with. Tonight, at the Kent Ridge track, between sets of pull ups and ring rows, I broke down and cried. Thank God for the darkness that surrounded me, and to the random who didn’t ask if I was okay.
CrossFit is fucking intense - but at the same time, it can be a walk in the park. If you want to go easy on yourself, it’s easy. You just score less or take a longer time to complete. So I guess what I’m saying is that, like life, CrossFit is a game of choices. You decide what you want out of it and you deal with the consequences that come with it. If you’re competitive and hate losing to other people, then you’re gonna have to beat your body up harder than the rest of the folks. It’s just how it works. If you’re okay with just getting some sweat in and you’re not pressed to get to somewhere new, then go ahead. Take ten minutes to do one squat. Nobody cares. It’s your body, and your life.
I’m competitive by nature, and that’s all great and shit on a resume because apparently it makes you more driven and everything that’s awesomesauce. But you know what’s wrong with being competitive? It becomes a huge problem when you’re competing for the sake of being competitive. When something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, or if your body just doesn’t function the same way as someone else’s, you start doubting yourself because that’s how you’ve learnt to measure your worth - through comparing yourself with the people around you…
This is so true to Crossfit. You look at all the progress you’ve made, you feel like you’ve conquered a mountain, but in retrospect it was only a mole hill. But you persevere anyways because you need that mountain air…
It’s been a long journey, but after spending my six weeks in Bursa and becoming semi-proficient in Turkish, I would like to go back and document my time, as well as start to talk about my future plans to continue my foreign language education, and stay in touch with my second home’s people, language, current events, and culture.
For starters, I’ve been sporadically listening to half hour Pimsleur Turkish lessons and finished the twentieth today. I don’t have time to do one a day, but am getting more accustomed to playing them when walking my dog, doing yoga, etc. The littlest phrases have a habit of triggering an avalanche of memories.
I’ve been writing to my host mom, Kamuran and sister, Seray as well. They’re doing lovely, and are actually planning my host brother, Sercan’s August wedding. They kindly invited my family, but with college right around the corner, it seems pretty much impossible for the time being. I can’t even fathom returning to Turkey within the next four years, as sad as that is, and as distraught as it makes me feel.
There is so much I have done and it’s a bit overwhelming, attempting to even talk about. I have a journal filled with my day-to-day experiences, though, and might be keen on sharing bits of that a little later on.
Until that point, expect random stories about the city life, a seldom news article or traditional dolma recipe. And my warmest wishes you’ll take advantage and be a part of another culture sometime in the near future. It changes you, it makes you, it stays with you. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
It was one of the best feelings ever, and the entire prospect still has yet to sink in. The fact that a little piece of my future just clicked into place, and now the whole entire puzzle is starting to make sense. I’m starting to see clearly for the first time- what exactly my priorities are, what I truly want. I’m ready to work as hard as possible for this. It feels like I did it and it feels like it’s just begun.
“Comparant l’avortement à un crime, le Premier ministre turc compte restreindre les conditions d’interruption volontaire de grossesse. Au grand dam des associations féministes et de l’opposition laïque, qui ont battu le pavé dimanche à Istanbul.” Gaëlle LE ROUX
Comparing abortion a crime, the Turkish Prime Minister has restricted the conditions of abortion. To the chagrin of feminist and secular opposition, who beat the pavement Sunday in Istanbul.
“AKP [Islamic-conservative party in power in Turkey], cast your hands of my body!”…
I received my host family information on Thursday this week and can just feel my excitement growing. The “liberal, easy-going, communicative” family has a 16 year old daughter that I’ll get to spend lots of time with, outside of the 120 hours of schooling. We seem like a really good fit for each other! School finals are nearly over (Wednesday is my last- French!) and I can’t wait to get to the DC Orientation already.
In the mean time, I have the Lonely Planet phrasebook- trying to learn as much as I can between now and the 24th besides ‘merhaba!’, and have to plan my culminating project (a series of interviews with locals on a chosen topic that leads to a presentation at the denouement of the trip.) For my summer French 5AP/IB course, I’m doing something similar, but in order to gain the backbone information on a topic, reading and listening to French news. I jumped the curb and started my french project on Les défis mondiaux (global challenges.) The Culminating Project in Turkey will have to have a narrower focus than that- I’m actually considering women’s issues. I ironically just read a french article about Turkish women here (in French)- hopefully by the end of the summer I;ll be on my way to reading about French women (in Turkish.)
For my Independent Study on Portfolio Development through a Cultural Lens, I wanted to make a website showcasing my artwork for my final project. It is nearly complete (the Turkish art photos are not uploaded yet- I need to get the painting back from an art show still!)
Since track season is almost over, I decided to take some time and watercolor copies of my acceptance letter and signed participant acceptance form. Having recently made contact with the group I’m travelling with to Turkey, anticipation has reached an all-time high. 26 Days!
Since a military uprising in 1980, and a Constitution fortified in 1982, Turkey has operated under a strictly secular, parliamentary democratic republic. The state has three branches of government, like the United States- executive, legislative and judicial. They elect a President and Prime Minister.
Branches of Government
President (chief of state: President elected by the National Assembly for a 7 year term. Duties include supervising the state departments, and the whole procedure of the Constitution, publishing and returning laws to parliament for revision, deciding the renewal of elections.)
Prime Minister (head of government: Prime Minister elected by people for every 5 years.)
Council of Ministers (cabinet- appointed by the president on the nomination of the prime minister).
(1876 voting in the Ottoman Parliament)
Grand National Assembly (550 members) chosen by national elections at least every 4 years.
Constitutional Court- judicial review of legislation
Court of Cassation- Supreme Court of Appeals
Council of State- high administrative and appeals court
Parliament Political Parties
In the Grand National Assembly, 4 main parties hold seats in Parliament with MPs or Members of Parliament for a total of 550 elected officials-
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the 25th Prime Minister of Turkey. After being emprisoned for reciting a poem during a public address under article 312/2 of the Turkish penal code (an offense and incitement to religious or racial hatred), he founded the AK Party (Justice and Development Party). The AK Party now has a majority in the Grand National Assembly.
Erdoğan’s government instituted several democratic reforms. He gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, reduced the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and abolished many restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.
Abdullah Gül is the eleventh President of Turkey, and the first openly devout Muslim President. Prime Minister Erdoğan, who elected Gül as the AK party’s candidate, faced much opposition from secularists who believed electing Gül would sacrifice the country’s separation of religion and state. However, after alterations to the Constitution so the people elected the president rather than a parliamentary vote, Gül ran and won.
Mustafa Bülent Ecevit was a four-time elected Prime Minister of the the Republican People’s Party. He ordered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 which led to a de fact state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyrpus. Shortly after, in a 1980 coup, he was banned from politics until 1987 where he got 7 seats in parliament. Ecevit’s government undertook a number of reforms aimed at stabilizing the Turkish economy in preparation for accession negotiations with the EU. However, the short-term economic pain brought on by the reforms caused rifts within his coalition and party, and eventually forced new elections in 2002. Ecevit, at this time visibly frail, was unsuccessful in leading his party back into the National Assembly. He retired from active politics in 2004 and passed away in 2006.
Selahattin Demirtaş is a pro-Kurdish politician and the chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party or BDP which he reformed from the Democratic Society Party. In 2010 he was sentenced to 10 months of prison for alleged links to the Kurdistan-Workers’ Party, a banned terrorist organization in Turkey Despite this, he emerged as a leader in BDP’s civil disobedience campaign during 2011 Kurdish protests, a wave from the Egyptian revolution.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is a member of the Republican People’s Party
Tansu Çiller is a member of the True Path Party (DYP) and served as Turkey’s only female Prime Minister. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leader globally for collective action on equal rights issues. In office, she signed the EU-Turkey Customs Union (1995), dealt with the Imia/Kardak crisis with Greece (threatened Greece if country tried to separate from Albania), and transformed the Turkish Amy into a modern fighting force. She convinced the US government and EU to enlist the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) as a terrorist organization. Çiller is retired from politics.
The Mevlevi Order was founded in Konya (present-day Turkey) by Balkhi-Rumi, a 13th century poet, jurist and theologian. It is believed that Rumiwas walking through the town marketplace one day when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the goldbeaters. Rumi heard the dhikr, remembrance of God, “la ilaha ilallah” or in English, “no god but Allah” and was so entranced in happiness that he stretched out both of his arms and started spinning in a circle (sufi whirling). With that the practice of Sema and thedervishesof theMevlevi orderwere born.
The practitioners of sufi whirling are from the sect, Sufi. They perform the whirling dervish ceremony, or Sama to try to reachreligious ecstasy(majdhb,fana). Thedhikr chant in the ceremonyinvolves recitation of devotional Islamic prayer. Thisdhikris coupled with physical exertions of movement, specifically dancing and whirling, in order to reach a state assumed by outsiders to be one of “ecstatic trances.”
Among the Mevlevi order, the practice ofdhikris performed in a traditional dress: atennure, a sleeveless white frock, thedestegul, a long sleeved jacket, a belt, and a black overcoat orkhirqato be removed before the whirling begins. As the ritual dance begins, the dervish dons a felt cap, asikke, in addition to a turban wrapped around the head, a trademark of the Mevlevi order.The sheikh leads the ritual with strict regulations.
The Sama represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives at perfection. He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation. Rumi has said in reference to Sama:
“For them it is the Sama’ of this world and the other. Even more for the circle of dancers within the Sama’ who turn and have in their midst, their own Ka’aba.”
(Ka’aba is the cuboid shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia the most sacred site in Islam.) Rumi’s poem relates Sama’ to the pilgrimage to Mecca, in that both are intended to bring all who are involved closer to God.
strict government control:
1925 all Sufi fraternities were ordered to stop practice
1954- Turkish government granted special permission to perform whirling practices for tourists 2 weeks each year
the Mevleviyah Order continued: it managed to transform itself into a nonpolitical organization- Rumi’s 20th great grandson, Faruk Hemdem Çelebi leads the dervishes.
presence on small islands:
the order has come to symbolize tourism and larger cities; a statue of a Whirling Dervish on the coast of Istanbul was controversial
I really want to witness a Sufi ceremony- for my Gifted & Talented Program Independent Study in Cultural Art, I started an ink-oil pastel piece featuring Turkish architecture and the whirling dervishes. The Sufi Order holds a similar fascination with me as Nazar and the Evil Eye. Although I just began uncovering the origins and social implications of the cultural dance, I feel like it’s something I absolutely have to know more about.
When I first came to my parents to plant the seed of spending my next summer travelling abroad with NSLI-Y, I was admittedly nervous. My politically-aware parents had left for work that morning with a New York Times newspaper open on the kitchen table with an article about sati, the Indian ritual where recent widows are expected to self-immolate on their late husbands’ funeral pyres. Driving home from Crossfit the day before, my mom and I had an invigorated discussion about Pakistani acid attacks from scorned men on defenseless women. In my family, we are liberals, we are feminists, we are weary of the restrictions other cultures impose on half of their population. (We may sound like a cult, but based on the information we hear, I find our beliefs somewhat justified.)
Needless to say, the first question my parents threw at me when I asked if they would be okay with me going abroad to an, in all probability Muslim, LCTL country was- “as an American woman, will you be safe?” (Well, at least it wasn’t “are you nuts?”- that was more-so the reaction of a few friends/teachers.) And I’d been pre-prepared an answer. I’d researched other NSLI-Y girls’ experiences abroad in Western Turkey and asked them many personal, pokey, proddy questions. Did they have to wear a head scarf, did they get any nasty looks, did perverts follow them, did they see any difference in treatment between Turkey and America? (all no.)
Still, I did some research on the history of women in Turkey. Being on the Eurasian border, yet with a predominantly Islamic influence, there was obvious conflict regarding women’s place in society. A conflict, that I learned, as in America, has deep roots.
Family structure saw a massive shift following the declaration of the Republic in 1923 under Ataturk’s social revolution. He announced emancipation of women, on the basis that Turkey was a secular state. (But according to Emre Kizilkaya, editor of Foreign News Service at Hürriyet, Turkey’s biggest newspaper, forgot to tell the men.)
The new code of Turkish civil law in 1926 abolished previous notions about the role of women. Men could no longer marry or live with as many women as they liked, could no longer kill women or bury newborn girls alive. Women now had the right to an education, to dress without a veil, to divorce and have child custody, and have equal value of testimony in court. The women’s movement that followed gradually inducted women into every field, including politics. In 1934 all had the right to vote. This civil right for women was granted before western countries such as France (1944), Italy (1945) and Belgium (1948).
Yet, throughout Turkey’s history of women’s rights, men have always fought for them. There seems to be this dichotomy that results from women not banding together to gain equality. Do traditional roles still hinder public activities?
Despite the new regulations, the position of women in the household was basically stagnant, following the patriarchal Turkish proverb “a husband should know how to bring the food, and the wife, make it suffice.” Today, much pressure has been put on Parliament to fully-conquer the divide based on sex. In 2000 World Women’s Conference, the State Minister undertook:
• To increase the ratio of literacy among women to 100 percent, • To decrease the maternal-child mortality by 50 percent, • To make the eight year primary education compulsory, and • To remove the reservations included in the Charter for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
According to tourists and citizens of Western Turkish cities in modern times where women are 9/21 million in the workforce, women have gained relative equality in urban areas and the safety of women is similar to that of American cities. Everywhere, women still need to be careful.
In one of the experiences I read about, a woman warns about the Istanbul shopping experience in the Grand Bazaar. Shop owners will do anything to get you in their store— give you tea, compliments, wooing, “special” treatment. Apparently you shouldn’t take offense, because hospitality is renowned in Turkish values, but should maintain boundaries and stand your ground. These kinds of men likely just want business.
Tourists, as long as they are not naive, seem to have been treated well, and have found Turks—both men and women—extremely welcoming, accommodating and helpful, and enjoy their trips immensely. A definite to-do in Turkey is finding out women and men’s opinions on the treatment of women in their country, and what, in Western regions, is being done to prevent domestic violence and inequality.
More places to explore:
The European Strategist’s article with solutions to domestic violence in Turkey.
NYT journalist Dan Bilensky’s article on Ala, an Istanbul-based, vogue and modest fashion magazine that combines high fashion with traditional Muslim values.
CNN journalist Jeremiah Bailey-Hoover’s article documents recent protests in Istanbul for better protection of women against domestic violence; 42% women claim abusive past relationships.
Simten Cosar’s article on woman’s identity in the writings of three prominent thinkers of the early-republican era (1923-1945); namely, Ahmet Agao’lu (liberal nationalist), Peyami Safa (conservative) and Zekeriya Sertel (leftist).
Yesim Arat’s article on women in Turkish politics.