There’s Always Another Corner of Ankara

You know that feeling – when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the airport, half doze through successive flights, fall asleep for ten hours immediately upon arrival, and then wake up still feeling like you’re in that night.  Like somehow the travel didn’t happen, you didn’t actually make the conscious transition from one place to another, and you must still be at home trying to remember what you forgot to pack, giving the cat to a friend and the plants to a neighbor.  You were there, and now suddenly you’re here – in another place, so long expected, and yet unchanged since your last visit.

Well, that’s what happens when you rush around for a week packing and finishing up the last loose ends of a project, preparing for a wedding, setting everything aside, sleep two hours, wait through the crushing anxious herd at the airport that ensues the crashing of the entire computerized registration system, and board two successive uncomfortable Pegasus flights to emerge in an Ankara that appears very much like how you left it and then sleep in fits of three hours until you succumb to the night.

Besides familiarity, my first feeling after arriving was relief. Bishkek is a stressful city – in [almost] every interaction I feel like people want something else, like there are always other intentions – that almost every situation is approached with a business-oriented profit-loss frame of mind. In every interaction I feel like there’s such a divide between the expectations I and others are bringing to the table, that their presumptions are often completely ill-fitting for who I am and what I perceive as my role and duties (i.e. always being mistaken for a 16-year-old Russian and thus expected to always cede my way, or earlier at the university – the local shock when I stood by the wages and working conditions I was initially promised).

Here in Turkey, especially among E’s family, everything feels far calmer and solid, straighforward. I feel like once again I’m around people who I can directly understand, like we’re all on the same platform and carrying, if not the same, then mutually compatible, expectations to each situation.

Turkey does have it’s problems, it’s social divides (especially between the urban liberal and rural-origined religious conservatives), as does every country.  But still I feel like there’s so much more concord here, like there’s something of a community culture.  On Sunday, for example, we spent the late afternoon in an outdoor cafe on 7th street in the popular and lively district of Bahçelievler watching a Besiktas futbol match.  As soon as you step into the cafe it feels like everyone is part of the same body, that there’s an energy coursing through the place.  We may be sitting at our own tables, but there’s an openness, a sense of solidarity among strangers – especially every time Besiktas scored (or missed) a goal and the entire restaurant would let out a cry of glee – or muted disappointment.

 

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