2012 m. rugsėjo 9 d., sekmadienis

Antalya – heaven for the Russians

3 days in Antalya with a Turkish family. For you it may sound like a challenge, for me it was yet another experiment. When my friend Mısra invited me to come to Antalya, I decided that I really should do this. As always I was afraid of facing the traditions, but as far as I am familiar with it, I thought that my behaviour wouldn‘t be strayed too far from the Turkish path.

7 hours trip and I am enclosed in totally differnt surroundings than in Eskisehir – Mediterranean sea, palms and the mountains on the other side which finally looks so close.

Before you start to live in Turkey you should learn golden rule of this country – there are no rules, only traditions which lead every step in the daily life.

While entering the house you have always be careful where to leave shoes – outside or inside
the door. If you stumble, they may say nothing, but will start counting your negatives.
My trip started with huge Turkish breakfast which is always a challenge for me. I am used to grab yogurt or sereal and here it is like a long procession which lasts from 1 or 2 hours and sometimes becomes similar to lunch.
It was around 40 degrees in Antalya, so real life began only around 5 o‘clock. We ran thorugh Hadrian's Gate, Hıdırlık Tower, Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque, Konyaaltı Beach, The Atatürk Monument at Cumhuriyet Meydanı (Republic Square), Kaleiç, Atatürk parkı, Konyaaltı Avenue and other touristic spots.

Everywhere on the way you could meet Russian tourists, it’s like small Russian island in Turkey. Turks said that they didn’t like (I analyzed Natasha’s phenomenon before) them, because they behave really rude, don’t care for the others and may keep taking pictures of one touristic object for hours, but on the other hand they adore them, because these tourists spend a lot of money and are free to try everything.

This is the reason why Antalya is not cheap. “Turkey is cheap, but in Eskisehir it is enough to have a job for one person, in Antalya, both parents should work”, economy situation here explains Mısra’s mother Saliha.

Beach park – one of the most popular party streets left vague image. These days, on September only on the weekends the streets get crowded. Anyway, at night Turkish musicians are playing for audience of two or five listeners. Intimate enough, yeah?

Comparing to Lithuania we don’t have any mountains, so what I really love about Turkey is this amazing part of nature.
Geyik bayiri was great experience of trekking, springwater and smalls cafes down in the hill. Traditional food here is Gözleme pancakes. It is a fresh pastry rolled out, filled and sealed with spinaches, of course feta cheese, then cooked over a griddle.

But to be honest, my focal attention was dedicated to this family. They were really strict about orderliness at the home and keep regular daily hours. There are no rigorous distribution in family who is a householder but everybody has their own duties. Father pays the fees, goes to Pazar, but never cooks. “Teach me how to cook potatoes”, he asks his wife Saliha.
She gently looks at him and tells him with iron-bound facial expression: “This is my space where I can feel free, I won’t let you take a step in it.”

He looks with smile to her and changes the topic. “Antalyaspor is my favourite football team. What about yours?“ I got used to repeat here that in Lithuania second religion is basketball, while in football there is bigger mess and corruption than real competition.

I always thought that my family is sometimes too emotional and at some point we are out of Lithuanian context but visiting this family I realized that we are far more crazy people. “Don’t write that we’re crazy”, laughs all the family members. Their strength is that they know and live with this fact. But at some moments you don’t know how to behave because emotions change every half an hour.

Mısra is translating parents questions and observations, but at the same time she may begin argue with her mother or start crying. When you just want to run into the corner and wait until it ends and question “What he/she is saying?” just sticks in your throat.

“It’s a pitty that nobody was recording you”, laughs my yoga teacher Taner Tarım as I was telling him all abot my holiday adventures.

Actually you just need to wait and enjoy great view from balcony of Antalya or observe daily neighbours life – somebody is sleeping in the teracce, boys are crushing car in the street, teenagers are playing Okey and drinking Efes. Sounds idealistic?

But it‘s not the reality. One day while we‘re having another large lunch my dear friend announced that her friend from childhood was getting married. You should see how happy she was. But not her mother. I could see question in her eyes: “Why is it not my daughter? She is 24 years-old and just got bachelor degree in Economics.”

So, while Mısra was thinking what to wear for the celebration, her mother started nagging that it was time to go on a diet and complain that she didn’t no knows how to sit straight anymore. “Woman always has to be elegant and look pretty”, she adds.
However, soon all the fuzz settled and we engaged in fortune-telling. What we did was an attempt to get a sneak peek into our futures by using coffee grounds that would fall into mysterious shapes. For me it was a game but for them it looked like morsel of hope. Then Saliha saw in her daughter’s coffee cup shape similar to a man, she rapidly ran in the kitchen. I was sitting clueless. “After future-telling it is important to wash it up as fast as possible, when it may come true in a near future.”

“Yes, of course sitting and eating in the balcony, you will really meet the right guy”, my ironical voice started talking in my minds, but I was trying as hard as possible to shut it up. “Just be open, Agne”, I was telling to myself.

This family has a saying for everything that may happen not in a proper way: “Allah will help us”. They are not praying 5 times in a day and do not visit mosque often, but when the daughter started playing piano, mother told: “Wait, now Father is praying.”
My last hours in Antalya were mystique enough. I had an opportunity to visit ceremony held before weddings. Bride and groom rented a place where they invited only close relatives and friends. First of all they dance, then they go around with candles in the hands and paint hands with kna. No tables loaded with food as it is usual in my home town.
I already knew some basic phrases and I have learnt dances from the previous Turkish weddings I’ve been to, so everybody where asking whether I was a Turk. “You really assimilated”, happily whispered my friend. Actually, that’s true I don’t feel like a stranger or a tourist anymore.

While sitting in the bus back to Eskisehir I felt tired. First of all, in the bus station Mısra and Saliha started crying again, so it affected me really in a strange way. Even my family while saying goodbye never does that. Moreover, their lifestyle dropped me with fatigue. It was nice, but too slow motion. Of course, I understand that it is hot, but anyway, you can’t stay at home so much. Instead of planning and trying to know your future from the coffee grounds, you should go out and take it the way it is.

2012 m. rugsėjo 3 d., pirmadienis

Ankara vs. Istanbul

Take a high speed train from Eskisehir and you will be in Ankara just in an hour and a half. I have spent 24 hours here and actually many Turkish people would say that it is enough because there is not much to see and the part about Ankara is returning to Istanbul.

Several foreigners have asked me what was the capital of Turkey – Ankara or Istanbul. Firstly, I wondered how someone can even ask such question, but after some time I have realised that it makes sense. Ankara is a political centre, Istanbul has everything else, this is why it‘s called a second capital.

People tend to calculate and measure everything, starting with the number of mosques and finishing with the number of citizens. Numbers speak for themselves. 5 milion citizens in Ankara and 14 milion (oficially) in Istanbul.

A lot of foreigners or Turkish people are sure that the best place for making a career is Istanbul, also, it‘s full of historical and religious places. The only disadvantages they name – traffic and long distances.

Visiting museums and other touristy places will not let you get the real sense of the city. Anyway, you must visit Attaturk Mauzoliem, Atakule Tower, The Türkocağı Building and one the biggest streets – Aşgabat.

Ataturk Mauzoliem was built for Mustafa Kemal, he was given the surname Ataturk which means ‘Father of the Turks’ after becoming Turkey’s first president. He was a father of a lot of reforms and positive changes in Turkey. Well, he united Turkey after First World War when Turkey barely existed because the British, French, Russians and etc. who claimed much of the land after the Ottoman Empire collapsed. But Atatürk wasn't having any of that and took over these places to form the Turkey known today. In addition, Ataturk made the country more European – like and forced everything to be secular. So, all of the Turkish citizens feel respect for this politician and believe that if he wasn't alive, Turkey wouldn't exist today. As we were discussing with Lithuanians, who live here, he was idealist, and it was his strength. 

These days Ataturk is a mystical figure. His pictures are everywhere – shops, cafes, corners of the streets, of course in the universities or schools, too. Also, it‘s really fashionable to have a tatoo with his signature on the wrist (mostly boys, but yesterday saw one girl who had it too), or tracing on the car. I was trying to figure out maybe there is kind of authority in Lithuania, but there is really no single person throughout our history that I could compare to Ataturk.

Especially I am sure about this after seeing his tomb. He is buried about 25 feet below and in a mausoleum you can see video broadcast from this place.

Unfortunately, he died of the liver cirrhosis from drinking too much of rakı. It is really strong and sweet Turkish drink which should be mixed with water, otherwise it will be unbearable. All my Turkish friends highlight that this drink makes them sad and they start talking about and ringing to their ex boyfriends/girlfriends, crying or doing other crazy, immature stuff. 

Atakule Tower is 125 metres tall and over looks all of Ankara. If you want there is a possibility of taking food up here. But you should be prepared for some security condition (as always in Turkey), one side of the tower overlooks a military base and the president’s house so you’re not allowed to take pictures.

Definitely try to find friends on Couchsurfing.com, because most of citizens live in flats with huge terraces which are perfect to relax after all day walking and to view panorama of the city.

What really makes this town uncomfortable is that you have to call a taxi or use a tram if you want to go from one point of the city to the other. 

2012 m. rugsėjo 2 d., sekmadienis

Media Religion Culture

I had a possibility to attend the conference Media Religion Culture 2012 which was held in faculty of Communication Sciences, in Anadolu University on 8–12th of Julys. I will share some ideas presented in the conference.

Conference is initiated by the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture which serves as the global secretariat for the biennial international conferences on Media, Religion, and Culture. These series of meetings were initiated by an invitational meeting held in Uppsala, Sweden in 1994 and an international public meeting in 1996 in Boulder, Colorado, launched it as a regular series.

First of all I was surprised how strict with time Turks were in the conference. It was the first and actually the last time when Turkish people forced others to be faster, sometimes even interrupted the speakers because of not enough time left. I should have recorded those moments.

On the other hand, I was really disappointed by what I heard in one of the American professor‘s presentation. No matter what, I will always consider the USA open and steadily rising country in all the fields which have made impact on huge number of countries.
Anyway, presentation was called What is Islamophobia? and out of the blue (I don’t remember an exact question) a discussion started questioning where the education was better – in the East or the West. And the lecturer told us to look around, everybody is going to the USA, sometimes to the United Kingdom, it’s obvious that everybody wants to study here because it’s the best place for this. Woman who asked a question of course said that she disapproves of this and discussion was over: “I think we value education differently”.  It shows how sometimes even highly educated people are so narrow – minded and there is a need of these platforms for discussion.

Paradoxical, the presentation was catching enough. Islamophobia – indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotion directed to Islam or Muslims. This negative influence was formed by influence of the Hollywood. Formed situation is similar to ghettoiration – the limited representation of minorities in the Media.

To be sure that these stereotypes are alive you can watch films called Hope and a Little Sugar (2006), Kuda Kay Liye (2007), New York (2009), My name is Khan (2010), Five Minarets in New York (2010). The films offer an alternative view to the one that is repeatedly shown by Hollywood on Muslims, Islamophobia and 9/11 attacks. It is really hard to change point of view of a lot of people because they are sure that every Arab is a terrorist or Osama bin Laden relative. The protagonist of the  movie “My name is Khan” asserts “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist”.

Some insights from presentations:

·       You could feel impact of Facebook in a lot of presentations. Yes, at this moment we advertise ourselves on Social Media, but what will happen when we die? Our profile will still be open for visitors? It‘s like dream machine or line for the heaven?

·       Talking about computer games a lot them like Flower (2009), Journey (2012) are based on killing somebody in the church. So how it will affect children‘s unconsciousness who play it?

·        Presentation about the moustache and the beard from one young professor who made her presentation for the first time was kind of successful. They are symbols signifying masculinity and power of patriarchal men and traditional Turkish and Islamic society. This cultural sign has been taking different forms according to socio-political conditions of the time in every situation and circumstance and has been transformed into a political accessory reflecting various ideologies. For instance, during the period named the 1968 generation known as the student riots, the moustache became a sign to show political party people coming from different ranks of society support. Another important point is that every moustache style has been transformed into a political accessory reflecting various ideologies.

·       One most of the important discussions were about creating a link between advertising and religion. Advertising and religion have problematical dimensions. There are aspects which are anathema to religious ethics. One is whether God and religious symbols in general constitute effective means for selling and marketing mammon or products in the secular marketplace. Another is whether God should sell in other words how theology perceives the act of selling, marketing and advertising. Contemporary religions promote themselves through modern advertising and if so how they do it. Yet another question is whether religions relate positively or not to the advertisement and the act of advertising.

As the conference finished all those bits of insights and thoughts suddenly fell into one picture. It seems that the main source of discord is ignorance and political interests rather than religious or cultural differences.

If you are interested, you can find information and names of speakers on this website.