Proverbs and idioms are something that fascinate me to no end. The sayings of a language contain much more information than a cursory glance would suggest, and really provide a handle in which to explore the underlying culture and beliefs of a society. In English proverbs and idioms seem almost regulated to a back burner of as a novelty or cliche; in Turkish, however, idioms are a major part of every day conversation and carry significant weight and wisdom.
So, without further ado, here is a quick list of some great Turkish proverbs I have tried my best to remember over the last three months:
Memleketin doğduğun yer değil, doyduğun yerdir.
“Your home isn’t where you are born, but where you eat to satisfaction.” A coworkers wife told me this last night and said it should become my slogan (which could be easy enough judging by how much I eat in Turkey). Originally being from Ankara, she said, it has already become hers too. Continue reading Turkish Proverbs→
When you travel – even within the same country, for instance from the North East of America to the Deep South or the West of Turkey to the East – it is only natural to at times be self-consciously overwhelmed by feeling like a foreigner. Traveling to a different country, where the language and culture is different, only compounds this feeling. During my first stay in Turkey, a two month intensive language program in Ankara, I suffered a lot from culture shock. I think it was only to be expected.
Luckily, my stay so far in Malatya has really been free of any problems; however, I have noticed something about living abroad that I would never had thought of otherwise. Namely, the difference between being a foreigner and feeling like a foreigner.
For instance, I am a foreigner here in Turkey. The way I hold myself, dress, speak and react are all different enough from the locals for people to realize that I am not from around here and there is very little I can do about that – at least immediately. Turks, by and large though, absolutely love foreigners and try their best to be as hospitable and helpful as possible. I have had random men who I’ve asked for directions go out of their way to ensure that I arrive safely at my destination. Speaking a little bit of Turkish does help to grease the wheels, but people are generally overjoyed to help.
In this way, being a foreigner in Turkey really has very few problems associated with it; people truly strive and welcoming as possible. I am actively encouraged to think of this new country as my new home. Although I am a foreigner here, I am not made to feel like one – the country is incredibly inclusive, at least in my experience. For example, while on my way to Harput last week another passenger on the mini-bus realized I was a foreigner and insisted on sharing his snacks with me. He then went on to lecture me about how I had to visit Izmir, smiling the whole time.
Feeling like a foreigner, on the other hand, can happen anywhere – even if your own country or hometown. This feeling isn’t linked to you nearly as much as it is linked to your circumstances. For example, I am sure everyone has had that one experience of being at a party or a meeting in which you felt unwelcome and excluded; you did not belong, and you felt like a foreigner. Obviously being in a different country, where the language and culture is different, can easily lead to the feeling of being a foreigner.
For the three months that I have been in Turkey so far, I can think of maybe one or two examples at most of when I truly felt I did not belong. The first was in Istanbul, where at a restaurant I was charged five times the normal amount for a cup of tea – the foreigner price – that I begrudgingly had to pay. The second example was when I was having a conversation with a few Turks. When they asked me a question, and I stumbled to respond, they turned to each other and said “Oh, he doesn’t understand!” and then laughed about it.
Overall, though, these are two minor occurrences that I truly had to rack my head about to think of. I am truly lucky to be in a country where, although I an undoubtedly a foreigner, I am almost never made to feel that way. Turkey has, at least for the year that I am here, truly become my new home; as it is Thanksgiving in America as I post this, I can say that I am truly grateful for that.
A few days ago, a friend posted on my Facebook a link to a website full of amazing wallpapers that he said reminded him of me; the picture to the left is from that sight, and is currently my active wallpaper.
At first I was just drawn to the quote because it completely summed up my own world philosophy – it was not until a few minutes ago, when I was reading up on what the name of this philosophy might be so I could share it in this post, that I realized that this is a quote from a Alan Watts, a renowned Western philosopher who tried to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thinking. So, what drew me into this line of thinking was not Watts himself, but rather the ideas embodied in this quote.
Religion for me is a difficult and intriguing question. I used to be a strident atheist – although never a very good one, I admit, as I was still always terrified of ghosts and other inexplicable phenomenon. In time, however, my positions softened and I ended up becoming a fairly strong believer in God; this in turn then softened to an exclusively personal ever-evolving inclusive spiritualism.
I suppose making mistakes anytime you start doing something new is natural. So, these teaching missteps aren’t so much horror stories – something that’ll make me terrified to ever go in front of a class again – but instead are semi-comic stories I can look back on and hopefully learn from… Or, even more hopefully, continue to laugh about as I have so far.
During my first week of teaching, I quickly realized I did not have enough content and my class was ending way earlier than acceptable – which is saying something, since teachers generally let their students leave an hour early; every class is four hours long. In a desperate bid to try to fill the time, I decided that some competitive rounds of hangman would be best – it would help the students get to know each other, review vocabulary we were working on, and also flesh out the class. After my first class assured me that hangman is also a game in Turkey, I announced to my second class that day that we’d be playing hangman.
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently – especially this weekend, as I’ve been recovering from food poisoning or stomach flu or something – trying to improve my Turkish. Along the way, I’ve noticed a few really cool things socio-linguistically that I’d like to share.
Turkey was created as a staunchly secular country, although slowly religion has been finding its way into the open more and more – either a good thing, or something terrible, depending on who you ask. This extreme separation of religion and society though has lead to a division in language, enabling someone to “speak like a Muslim.” Continue reading Musings On Turkish→
Here are just some quick reflections on the first week teaching, or, as I would call it, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Being Adored.”
At the start of each of my four classes, I told my students “You can address me as Jeremy, Jeremy Bey, or Jeremy Hoca.” This drew lots of laughter from all my students, since a Hoca is supposed to be an older learned scholar… something my students pointed out I wasn’t.
A little bit of Turkish goes a long way in class. Students may complain about how difficult English is, but throwing in just the smallest amount of Turkish – to show that you commiserate in the difficulties of learning another language, as well as showing language learning is possible – convinces them to work a lot harder… Especially when you pretend to not understand anything else they say, so they have to speak in English.
Being a teacher leads to the good life – I’ve never felt so respected and appreciated before. I’ve had students offering me snacks during break time, insisting I walk out a door first, offering to buy me lunch, or pleading to run out to the supermarket to buy me some water during class… Although, for that last one, they may have just wanted an excuse to get away.
Despite State Department officials constantly throwing around the fact that America has something like a 13% approval rating during Turkey, Turks love American things. Playing a free association word game with the prompt, “When I think of America, I think…” you get a lot of fun words I would have never thought Turks would say, such as: Miami Beach, Las Vegas, LA Laker’s, poker, and Michael Jackson are amongst my favorites.
I think that’s all I have time to share for now, but the first week is pretty sweet. Now, I’m off to host fellow Fulbrighters and hike Mount Nemrut tomorrow.
Yesterday evening, after a long day of orientation, my fellow Fulbrighters and myself were invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corp in Turkey at a diplomat’s house. Honestly, nothing really puts you in the mind set of feeling like a boss – at least from my own limited experience – like attending an official State Department garden party, complete with the press chief for the embassy, whiskey and wine on the rocks following freely, bountiful appetizers, and a podium that actually had the U.S. seal on the front of it.
I was watching a movie in a seminar about Rumilast Fall semester, struggling to stay awake as always when in a three hour long class at night with the lights off, when something caught my ear. The film was a documentary about the role of music in Sufi practice and a particular Turkish sheikh – whose name I unfortunately forgot – was being interviewed about the vibrations of music. Although I can’t remember exactly what he said, the general impression was something like:
[quote style=”1″]All things in this world vibrate. Drums vibrate when you beat on them just as your voice box vibrates as you sing. Even atoms vibrate and spin, creating inaudible music as they take part in creation.[/quote]
The general idea of this message really caught me off guard. It suddenly made all the music I loved seem like much more than music; instead they became gateways to my soul. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes, in the exact right conditions, certain songs have extreme power over us. For instance, when I saw mewithoutyou last Friday the opening band – Buried Beds – closed their set with every member of the band playing a simple beat on a drum. The rhythm became so strong it simple washed over me and I felt very open, in some way, as if the music was freeing me. Continue reading The Vibrations of Music→
Our live are all recorded online – essentially fully, to the smallest detail. Although a lot of this might be done against our will – or without our knowledge, such as the vast databases Google and Facebook have on us all – most of our online presence is just posted. It’s funny how my generation moans of our loss of privacy, and then turns around and Instagrams a picture or sends a Facebook update.
Not that I’m any better, or my friends are any different. I just opened my Instagram app on my phone to find out that my friend, whose moving to LA, has now successfully made it to the Texan desert. I barely use Instagram, and even though I don’t participate in the “Instagram my life!” school of thought, someone could tell a lot about me from the pictures I’ve taken.
This idea of documenting your entire life online is a little creepy (if not also beautiful); however, it also enabled Lucas Otero to make that stunning movie of an entire life cycle as documented through Instagram – overuse of color filters obviously included. Now I’m just a little offended he didn’t source any of the photos I took of my time in Turkey.
If you so desire, you can follow me on Instagram @dooster. I promise none of my photos are particularly worthwhile, and all the color filters are over done.
[quote style=”3″]“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain[/quote]
There is only so much time we all have in this world. Depending upon your mindset, the human capability to know our own death is either the cruelest joke ever played or the greatest blessing. Being an optimist, and a procrastinator, I instead view our final deadline as an incentive to take all we want from life. So, without further ado, is a list of 100+ things everyone should try to complete.
If you think I missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments below!
Mount Nemrut is an amazing series of burial tombs located in South East Turkey, from the 1st century BC. The tombs are best known for the giant stone heads littering the mountainside that once belonged to statues flanking the tombs.
2. Become Published
Being published is becoming easier and easier, thanks to a surge in self publishing and electronic publishing options, such as through Amazon. For the slightly less ambitious, there are multitudes of newspapers and websites looking for contributors. Time’s a wastin, let loose the writer within!
3. Live in Another Country
Embrace a challenge and move to a country you have always dreamed of going to. The experience of living somewhere radically different will both open your horizons, as well as helping you to appreciate the small things about your home country you may not have originally realized. Who knows, you may not ever want to leave your adopted home.
The Aurora Borealis is a natural light show that takes place at far northern latitudes, caused by the collision of charged particles in the atmosphere – far out, dude! Depending upon how far north or south you go, the Aurora takes on different hues – greens and yellows further north, pinks and purples further south.
5. Camp Out at a Music Festival
This past June, I attended my first music festival at Bonnaroo. The experience was amazing! Never had I been around so many people, all expressing themselves so differently, yet so welcoming and friendly. Festivals actively encourage bringing out the best in everyone, and it shows! Besides, how could you not have a good time while seeing so much amazing music and art?
6. Take a Ferry Ride around the Bosphorous
The Bosphorous is the body of water that divides Istanbul – the only city on the planet to be located on two continents – in half. By riding the ferry, you can easily take in the beauty of an amazing skyline that has been developing for over two thousand years. Not to mention, the water itself is a constant beautiful turquoise.
7. Climb the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is known as being great for a reason – all branches included, it is over 13,000 miles long! How’s that for a feat of human engineering? The best segments of the wall for climbing are located around Beijing, and they meander along beautiful mountain views.
It was pouring rain outside, as should be expected. May through June were the monsoon months in Nanjing, and the days alternated between being hot and sticky or torrentially down-pouring. Outside, beyond these monsoon winds and rain, a family friend of my brothers was waiting to treat us all to dinner (again!). The plan was for my mother, sister-in-law, Meng, baby nephew, Adam, and myself to meet at the restaurant at seven, while my brother would join us after he finished work at 7:30.
It would be terrible to take the baby out in this rain, we all decided; however, it was already too late to cancel dinner and my mother and myself could not find the restaurant ourselves. Meng asked the grandmother of one of my brother’s students – who was waiting in the apartment living room until her grandson’s class ended – if she could guide us to the restaurant. Not knowing a word of English, she happily agreed to take my mother and myself – who in turn knew no Chinese – out in the rain. Why wouldn’t she? She had spent the last hour sitting with my mom, laughing and gesturing, not understanding a word the other said.
Two days later, my brother’s upstairs neighbor and her granddaughter – Spring – came to the apartment for a quick visit. Although Spring was only four, and again knew no English except “hello” and “bye bye!” we managed to have a wonderful time coloring on my brother’s white board.
Three days later, we all went out to dinner with Meng’s parents. Again, they knew no English; however, the mother-in-law could not have been happier to see my mom. The two hugged, smiled, laughed, and held hands throughout the meal. They would try to speak to each other, failing, and would then in turn laugh and gesture,
They say upwards of 70% of communication is non-verbal. At first I always shrugged off these claims – not realizing that that motion, itself, lent credence to the statistic – not truly believing them, or imagining that the percentage must be highly inflated. After all, 81.5% of statistics are made up on the spot.These experiences in China highlighted everything for me. Suddenly it all clicked, and I really understood a smile’s value. No matter where you go, at least in my experience, smiling is a universal feature. It’s just always warm, and happy, and above all communicable. I suppose that is a major reason why – on those days you feel storm clouds rolling in – a smile, even if just from a stranger in passing, can be so strong.
A smile’s value is infinitely more than I gave it credit for, because, after all, it is more than just a facial expression; it seems to say to everyone around you – consciously or not – “things are good, and you are part of it.”
That is, unless the person stops smiling when they see you…
Our drive down to Bonnaroo was divided into multiple stops, the first of which was Pittsburg, PA. Each part of the drive was punctuated by listening to new music, epic sax man on loop, or various types of scintillating conversation. For this leg of the journey in particular, I ended up talking about morality and the possible existence of a moralistic gold standard with my friends Tim and Mike – Mike, by the way, also has a wonderful blog worth checking out.
Morality is always a difficult concept to discuss, since everyone automatically has a different reference point. Tim, for example, pointed to the fact that he believed strongly in a Nietzschean style of morality – essentially, there are no such universal truths such as good or bad. What really only exists is the overall pursuit of a personal happiness and meaning. Of course a vast number of people would take issue with this, and I am not entirely sure if even Tim would stick to this moralistic standard for the rest of his life; this realization lead the three of us to an interesting conversation.
People’s morality change over time, as they are exposed to new ideas and new experiences. I doubt anyone reading this views morality in the same way now than they did even a year ago. The mind constantly adapts to new experiences – to compensate for this, so too must our way of dealing with the world. This constant change and flux can lead to stressful
situations for individuals. For example, if someone has a strict moral code and is unable to live up to it they may experience some painful cognitive dissonance – a feeling of psychological discomfort which occurs when someone’s actions don’t live up to their world view.
It is for this reason that I believe it would be best if people, instead of dealing in absolutes, chose to live their lives according to a moralistic gold standard. No matter what your moral code may be, you will always be put in situations that make it near impossible to live in complete compliance with your own standards. To compensate for this, people should instead realize that the world does not work in absolutes but in degrees.
Essentially, instead of having an uncompromising ethical standard for yourself set yourself a gold standard to shoot for, knowing full well that you may fail to live up to these goals. That’s fine! It is the aiming for perfection is what truly matters, not the actual achievement.
Morality should never be uncompromising – no matter which code of ethics you subscribe to. At the same time as having a moralistic gold standard, allow yourself to live with an open mind. You should be confident that your morality is correct and best fits you, but you should never shut yourself off from debate and new ideas.
Through discussion, who knows what new things you may learn? Not all ideas are inherently inimical to various belief systems, and with an open mind you may be able to combine various disparate standards into a more all-encompassing whole.