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peace out, Turkey (well, a week ago)

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I wrote my reflection last night for Denis’s class. Five single-spaced pages of meandering nonsensical babel reflecting. It got me thinking and stuff. Like maybe this blog needs some kind of closure– a nice big bow on the top.

It’s been weird being back in America. Being comfortable feels uncomfortable. I find myself speaking unnecessarily slowly to wait staff and wondering why the streets are so quiet. Mostly though I just feel bored. Like my life is boring. It’s not, of course. I have a fun summer job, I’m moving to a sweet new apartment in Central Square, my friends rule. It’s not even one of those fake Boston summers where it rains all the time. The weather’s perfect. But after such a heightened sense of purpose– after chasing people and having the most brilliant conversations and experiences and holing up in hotel rooms and internet cafes to write things that were itching to be written, everything else just pales in comparison. I guess I’ll just always have this demented, masochistic drive to guzzle coffee and run around like a borderline lunatic. It’s funny how a story can drive you absolutely nuts while you’re reporting it, but once it’s over you just want to do it all over again. Such is the curse of the journalist, I suppose.

Since I’ve been back, I keep saying the dumbest things. Mostly catch-phrases like “It was the experience of a lifetime.” I cringe every time I say it. Maybe I should be quoted in a press release or pictured on a Dialogue of Civilizations billboard. The thing is, it just keeps slipping out. Despite my efforts to describe my 33-day adventure in a more eloquent manner (I’m a writer for Christ’s sake!), this stupid cliché, reserved for post grad Eurotrips and family drives to the Grand Canyon,  just says it best. This almost-five week stint abroad has encapsulated a series of experiences that I know will never be paralleled. Reading back through my blog, I realize it more than ever. The things I did and felt and thought in Jordan and Turkey already seem so far away, like perhaps they never even happened at all. They are experiences so at odds with my reality that they could have easily been just a dream– some sort of Oz.

So I guess what I learned is this: writing and reporting and running around like a lunatic is something I need to do. And I can do it anywhere. I can do it without phones or Internet or showers or a common language or even normal-sized coffees. I learned that a place is just a place, but when you form bonds with people and learn their stories it becomes a true experience.

I think I’m entering a corn-induced coma.

Symptoms include:

  • sugary cravings
  • sluggishness
  • the most nagging desire to play this song on repeat

on that note…



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June 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

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I love buying vintage snapshots at antique stores and flea markets. Maybe it’s creepy– all these probably-dead people staring back at me. But I like the way the colors yellow and fade, and the imperfections that existed back when photography meant film.

I picked these up at a creaky-floored bookstore past the end of Taksim. Imagining their stories.

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June 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

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Yes, this exists.

Waffle with Nutella and strawberries, 8TL at Waffling in Taksim Square. [Heaven]

to eat: fold in half like a taco.

advice: grab a lot of extra napkins.

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June 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm

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Turkish Elections, 2011: The Intricacies of the Fixed Race

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 The days (or weeks, really) approaching the Turkish Parliamentary elections were like being at a never-ending carnival. At every city center there are droves of people milling about under red and blue flags. Trucks and card tables that look like they should sell hotdogs spout political rhetoric. What I can only imagine are slogans and platform promises shout from speakers in (slightly abrasive) Turkish. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erugon’s face is everywhere, that little yellow light bulb always in the corner– the sign of the ruling Justice and Development Party (the AKP) The carnival ended on Sunday. The nation rushed to the polls. The shop owners watched the election coverage on tiny tvs. Cars honked more than usual. 

It bugged me a little, I suppose it shouldn’t. But the election was already decided. The AKP would win. Erugon would enter his third term. It was said but not yet done. 

A disgusting bulk of fine print, (if you care)

Turkey’s government runs through a Parliamentary system, where 23 established political parties run for 550 seats. Each district is granted a specific number of seats based on their relative population. Currently, the AKP has a firm grasp on Parliament with a majority of roughly 46 percent, the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) has around 20 percent and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) around 15 percent. In this election, there is no question of who will win– the AKP and Erugon will stay right where they’ve been since 2002. The issue, here, is by what margin. If the AKP earns enough votes they will be the “super majority” with 330 seats in Parliament and the ability to rewrite the constitution at will. This ability could change the social and political identity of Turkey drastically.

After an era of conflict between secular and Islamist parties, the AKP formed in 2001 as a more moderate version of the Islamist Virtue Party. Its platform blurred party lines, offering an alternative that lay somewhere between the hard left and hard right. Though a rebirth of Islam in the government (clear in the social values of their platform) may have been their intent, their platform that included economic reform and the introduction of health care and affordable housing for all created a middle ground that appealed to secularists and Islamists alike. Elected to power in 2002, these promises were executed largely with great precision, stabilizing Turkey economically by lowering the national debt, decreasing unemployment and enforcing macroeconomic policies.

With his reelection, Erugon hopes to use these same policies to propel the country further forward. In what he calls “The 2023 Vision,” he explains his smattering of plans for Turkey: it will be among the top 10 economics in the world, there will be an unemployment rate of merely 5 percent, Turkey will join the European Union, there will be increased use of alternative energy, all citizens will have health insurance, there will be increased methods of transportation and tourism. Essentially, as with any political platform, he promises that everything will get better. However, with such a shining track record in terms of economic and standard of living improvements, you can’t blame the Turks for their support. Economically, it seems the AKP really knows what they’re doing.

The socially conservative nature of the AKP is what worries people. A nation birthed with a staunchly secular identity, Turks are conditioned to fear the majority– to fear people in the public sphere that look like Muslims (even though 99% of the population is registered as such). The intersection of religion and politics is the ultimate evil. And that is exactly what’s happening here. With the introduction of policies that restrict alcohol, censor the Internet and propose harsh punishments for adultery, it looks like the AKP, now a bit more sure of themselves, is imposing a sort of religious rule that many Turks oppose. If they get the super majority– the 330 seats– that will be every bit possible, because they can re-write the Constitution. Currently, Turkey’s Constitution lays out the strict secular nature of the nation– religion and politics should not intervene and religious parties are actually banned. However, in Turkey, when a party has enough support–the super majority– they are granted the liberty to rewrite the Constitution to their liking. Many fear that after garnering the support of the Turkish majority through a moderate, “conservative Democrat” platform they will gain the supermajority, rewrite the Constitution, and impose a sort of Shari’a law on the nation.

Perhaps taking notes from the AKP, the leading opposition party, the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) led by Kemal Kilicdarogly is also trying to modify their platform to the people’s taste. Previously known for their extreme secularism and anti-conservative stance, they are toning down their liberal tendencies, working to win a few conservative votes with the Family Insurance Plan and their proposition to waive mandatory military service.  Ultimately, their biggest platform point is simple: they’re not the AKP. Many say that while the CHP is not their party of choice, they will vote for them simply to prevent the AKP from gaining the supermajority.

Needless to say, the AKP won. But they didn’t get their 330 seats. I find myself exhaling a sigh of relief. Realizing, suddenly, that I do care. Ultimately, the AKP gaining the supermajority could have changed Turkish national identity altogether. I guess what seems off to me is that the significance of this election is all in the fine print. Elections, as I know them, are A versus B. B brings something that A couldn’t deliver and the nation (assumedly) changes. But in this case, it’s B trying with all its might to slow down A. The CHP knows they don’t have a shot at majority, yet their presence in this election determines the revision (of lack of) of the Constitution. In many ways, I support the AKP: their economic policy saved the nation, their general behavior is agreeable. But even a party I support in every way should never have the liberty to act on their every whim. I would not vote the Hannah Martin Party into supermajority. The ability to rewrite the Constitution should not be in the hands of anyone. Anyone, when given enough power, will corrupt a nation.

Turkey has regained its footing, now it must maintain a balance.

Written by hannah00martin

June 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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Turkey: The Teenage Years

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I’ve been planning a post about politics. Writing and re-writing it in my head and at the bottoms of haphazard word documents (today’s equivalent of gum wrappers or fast food napkins).

Elections. Religion. Modernity. Slavery of the press. Duel identities. Hypocritical rhetoric.

This blog needs some substance, one side of my consciousness declares, gnawing the eraser of his pencil. But substance, what is substance? Isn’t meaningless banter still substance nonetheless? Declares the other, more contemplative side– the side that smokes his cigarette while drawing meaningless things with crayons.

Thus was rendered, the following rendition– part banter, part (semi)informed political speak. Read at your own risk.

Here’s what I’ve determined: Turkey is the country equivalent of an awkward, pimply, bracefaced, and flat out confused 13-year-old girl.

No, listen.

In 1923, Turkey comes into her own. She’s obsessed with the older kids in the West and she vows to be just like them– she wears their clothes,  she hides her religion, she separates herself from her parents, her heritage. She’s the middle schooler that all the high schoolers want to hang with.

Translation: For most of Turkey’s history, it’s taken a radical interpretation of secularism. In fact, they seem to outwardly fear their Muslim majority, dictating that any symbol of one’s Islamic faith be hidden– women cannot wear hijab, any dress that is outwardly “Muslim” is prohibited. They tailored themselves to western ideals, and were, in effect, seen as a model Islamic nation. (essentially, for their lack of Muslim-ness)

But when she starts to go through some really tough issues, Turkey doesn’t find support from her friends in the West. To make matters worse, the big kids freeze up at Turkey’s request to join their clique (the EU). Feeling it’s her only option, she starts hanging out with the weird kids– moderate Islamists– they’re not the popular kids at school but, arguably, they allow her to be closer to who she really is, and their friendship gets her through a rough time.

Translation: As Turkey’s economy began to largely fail in 1980, the political parties that had once existed began to blur and then converge ideologically. The inability for the center right to deal with the nation’s economic problems led to a rise in a more radical right that was ultra-nationalist and pro-Islamic, a more eastern/less western form of rule. The absence of socially democratic rhetoric, thus, allowed critiques of the system to take on a staunchly Islamic posture. The emerging party: The Justice and Development Party, or the AKP, a more moderate version of the Islamist Welfare Party that had emerged in immediate opposition to the military coup in 1980. What the AKP realized, was if they acted in a moderate fashion, they could gain the support of the left and the right as the most desirable alternative. Deeming themselves “conservative democrats,” they defended traditional values, opposed secularism and the idea that westernization equals modernization (this included Turkey’s attempt to join the EU). The AKP has been in power for the last 8 years and was reelected in Sunday’s elections.

Turkey still has a confused identity– she appreciates the way these new friends got her through a rough time, but she fears what they’ll expect from her in the end– they’re like the misunderstood punk kids that initially stand as friends and allow her to “be herself,” but ultimately end up presenting a whole new list of social standards to abide by.

Translation: Turkey fears that the AKP will contort the nation into an Islamic state run by Shari’a law. They advocate things like gender segregated parks, high tax on alcohol and harsh punishment for adultery– religiously motivated governing of social activities. A new Internet filter will go into effect in the coming months. Turkey fears these new regulations will be just as restricting as the secularism of its past. They fear they will become another regional domino.

Turkey is left confused, disgruntled and altogether misunderstood. Who are her friends? More importantly, who is she? In the coming years she’s sure to strike a balance.

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June 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

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There are so many birds here. Seagulls. I suppose it’s because of the water. Sometimes it makes me think of being maybe 8 years old and going to Bojangles with my dad. (apologies, south reference) We would go through the drive through and get chicken and some “fixins” and always the cajun fries but we wouldn’t eat inside. Instead, we’d drive to the parking lot just below where there were always a ton of seagulls and we’d throw the fries out the window. I think this was actually my favorite pastime for several years. The seats of my dad’s truck collected a lot of fried chicken bits.

The other day they were swarming like mosquitos. I wonder how they don’t bump into each other up there in the sky. It was less like the Bojangles parking lot and a lot more like the Alfred Hitchcock film. I kept looking for old ladies with ketchup on their face. Or the strings that they were hanging from and I just kept dreaming of Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2010. Sigh. Oh those shoes and clip-on collars.

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June 13, 2011 at 1:08 am

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Banker Han

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June 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

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