Who says every post has to be a long-winded rant? Here’s a few pictures I took on top of a mountain when we were in Turkey!
We had one of our best single days in Diyarbakır, thanks to the generosity and eagerness of one man to share his city and culture with two total strangers. We met Muzaffer while walking down the street, in what seemed at first like just another friendly “where are you from?”
It’s a common enough thing for strangers to stop us on the street and ask. It’s also a part of most of our commercial transactions, as normal as making change or leaving a Lira or two as a tip. “Where are you from?”
“Canada,” we’ll say, and usually it ends there. Sometimes someone might go out on a limb, testing their knowledge of geography. “Toronto?” they might ask, hesitantly. “Vancouver?” Almost no one has ever heard of Calgary.
So when Muzaffer stopped us, we assumed the exchange would be along those lines. Instead we found ourselves deep in conversation, talking religion, politics, learning some Kurdish words, and with an invitation to join Muzaffer on a visit to the local community centre.
As the unofficial capital of Kurdistan, Diyarbakır is a conflicted place in many ways. The population is almost entirely Kurdish, and there are strong feelings of discontent with the way Turkey has treated this region and its people. Kurdish nationalist sentiment is extremely strong and widespread, in a way that only suppressed nationalist movements tend to be. Traveling in Western Turkey, we saw newscasts in virtually every city depicting Diyarbakır and other cities in the east as places constantly on the brink of riots, with dramatic stock footage of clashes between police and protesters backed up with a musical score that would make Hollywood proud. These newscasts superimpose these images with flashing banner text that decries the “Terrorism” of the Kurds and often cut to shots of soldiers’ funerals. Based on talking to people in the western part of the country, these sensationalist news reports are very good at doing what they’re designed to do: generate fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of the Kurds, fear of the breakup of Turkey. Over 30 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the fighting in recent months.
I won’t claim to be an expert on this situation, or all of the historical causes, or who’s right and who’s wrong on any given issue, but I do know that the Kurds have as legitimate a claim to autonomy as any other ethnic group, and that Turkey’s efforts at assimilation and suppression of Kurdish nationalism and Kurdish culture have often been brutal. The Twentieth Century saw a longstanding guerilla war between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish military. Executions and atrocities were carried out on both sides, and a guerilla war is still being waged in southeastern Turkey. Collective punishments have been commonplace, including withholding much needed funding for economic and community development. For years the Turkish government banned Kurdish language and even forbade naming children with Kurdish names. Even the name of the city is contested: officially it is Diyarbakır, but to every Kurd within it, is known by its Kurdish name, Amed.
So perhaps Muzaffer’s hospitality is one way for him to defend the heritage he and all Kurds hold so dear. Aside from just being a good guy (which he certainly is), showing foreigners around his city is a way to show off its Kurdish roots. It is an explicit acknowledgment that Kurdish culture is unique and distinct; Kurdish hospitality sincere and genuine. For us it was both fascinating and enjoyable, to see Amed through local eyes. We saw live music in both newer and older traditions, toured some of the city’s 6km of old walls, and enjoyed dinner, tea and plenty of conversation before capping the night with a few riddles. Thanks again Muzaffer!
For the first time in my life I have had people ask me where I’m from and when I say Canada they shrug their shoulders and say, “Where’s that?” After 5.5 months I am officially homesick.
Although some of my homesickness might be brought on by the fact that my entire body is aching, my eyeballs hurt and my head is pounding. To say the least, I’m glad I brought Imodium. To make the situation even worse, Chris is also feeling like this. I hope we get on our feet soon because we should jump on a bus and head into Iran. Right now we’re in a city called Van which is very close to the border. To get here we took a 7-hour bus ride from Diyarbakir where we spent two nights and had a wonderful adventure.
We’ve had people ask us throughout our trip if we are homesick, but honestly until recently I wasn’t. Lately, all of my dreams have been about home. I didn’t think I would feel homesick for Canada, especially in Muslim countries because I spent 10-years of my life in Saudi Arabia. For 10-years I heard prayer call, and felt the sweltering heat that makes you sweat just from standing in it. I loved it. It was home from age 8–18.
When my dad retired from the company in Saudi we of course moved back to Canada. I didn’t feel Canadian. I felt like a visitor. I didn’t own a winter coat, or even more than a couple pairs of socks. Everything was strange, quiet and cold. I use to walk down 17th Ave looking at all the people having a good time inside the warm bars. One of them even had a palm tree painted on the window. (Everyone is always wishing or thinking they’d be happier somewhere else.) I was homesick for Saudi and lonely. Of course I eventually made friends in Canada. I found a family of them in University and even a husband! I learnt the ways of being Canadian. I got use to putting on a sweater, a hoody and then my winter jacket before going outside. Although it took me about six years to finally admit I shouldn’t be wearing a skirt in January.
So here I am, in weather where I don’t need a winter coat or even a sweater and for some damn reason I’m homesick for Canada’s seasons and many of its other attributes. I’m homesick for how green and lush trees look in the summer time. I’m homesick for the freshness and crispness of our air. And for bathtubs, and toilet paper in public restrooms. I’m homesick for a big, thick Alberta beef steaks. I’m homesick for Taber corn and perogies. I’m homesick for pork roast. I’m homesick for different varieties of food like Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, etc. I’m homesick for a washer and dryer. I’m homesick for a kitchen. I’m homesick for having more than 5 shirts and 2 bottoms as a wardrobe. I’m homesick because I don’t have a home.
I’m guilty of wanting to be somewhere else on –30 degree days in Canada, but now that I have been away for 5.5 months I know that it takes seeing and experiencing other places to remind me that my home is Canada. That it is a fantastic place to live. I guess it turns out I’m more Canadian and feel more Canadian than I ever thought I was. I look forward to coming home. In fact, I might just kiss the ground when we get back and take three week vacations to hot destinations.
(I apologize for the quality of the photos. They were all taken with our small point-shoot.)
Currently Chris and I are in a hotel room in Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey. I thought I could post a bunch of random photos for you guys to enjoy. They cover all sorts of different things and times during our trip, including our Sahara trek, Italy, Morocco and Turkey.
We plan on heading into Iran in three days and apparently Internet is very hard to come by, so I’ll try to get a few posts ready to be published automatically throughout the next week. I promise we will try our best to let you know how it’s going and our where abouts in Iran. I know how nervous some of you are about us going there, and how jealous the rest of you are. Ha, ha.
Anyways, for now, enjoy these photos. Ciao! –Laura–
Sorry for the lack of updates lately. We’ve been working our butts off on a video for the Second Home Hostel here in Istanbul. If the dang thing ever uploads properly, you’ll see it soon enough.
In about three hours, we’ll be leaving on a 26-hour train to a city in Eastern Turkey called Malatya. From there we plan to visit a famous mountain called Nemrut Dagi (“Nem-rut Dog-kuh”) before crossing the border into Iran. It’s raining here in Istanbul (for the fourth day straight) so we’re excited to move on.
The train ride should be great since we have our own sleeper cabin. So we’ll be kicking our feet up, taking in the scenery and maybe enjoying a bottle of wine. We have some catching up to do around the blog, so expect both Laura and I to upload some photo-roundups within the next few days, or as soon as we have decent Internet again. Hope everyone is well, wherever you are.