Why on earth would you do that?

As the title discretely implies this post will be in the spirit of declaring my intentions with the 6 month long visit to Istanbul. For the past few months I have heard more variations of this question than I can remember.

- "Oh you are going to Turkey? That's cool. Why?"
- "Well I am going to study the language."
- "But why?"

To be honest my answer has often been short in a polite dismissing kind of way, ”Because I am part Turkish”. That is simply because in most situations there was no time to go in to details. At least not enough time for me to give what I feel would be the best and sufficient answer representing my thoughts and feelings on this trip. In other words, it is complicated.
I grew up in a middle class home with a Turkish mother and a Swedish father. Since my dad could not speak Turkish and had no ambitions to learn it, my mother chose to speak Swedish exclusively rather than making us (me and my older brother) bilingual. In effect this meant that throughout my childhood I could not communicate thoroughly with many of my relatives, not to mention my grandmother and grandfather. I can still remember how it was to hear mom and grandma speak Turkish without understanding a word. Many times I asked mom why they were fighting and she replied that they were not and told me that Turkish was simply spoken louder than the soft careful Swedish I knew. This really bothered me, I felt left out and socially handicapped when trying to speak to relatives. So Turkey was a strange country for me? In a way it was, in a way it was not. My mother and father bought an apartment in the tourist city of Alanya, located in southwestern Turkey, when they got married. We spent many summers there sunbathing in the ocean, enjoying the magnificent food and building up energy in order to once again go back and work another year. I have many pleasant memories from those summers but regardlessly they did not shape me in the constructive way an actual visit to our relatives, 100 miles away in the ”real” Turkey, would have done. It might sound like I am blaming my parents or holding them in contempt but it is quite the opposite, I love them for everything they have done for me. I am merely trying to make you understand the background of this huge change in my life I have decided to make.

What sometimes puzzles me is that while my mother chose not to teach us Turkish, she insisted on sending us to the mosque where we learned how to read Arabic (without understanding it), the history of the abrahamitic religions and also how to pray according to Islam. This period really shaped me. Sure, I believe in God and have my word with him every once in a while, but I am not a religious guy at all. Growing up a Muslim half Turkish Swedish guy in a Swedish neighborhood who could not speak Turkish, the language of those sharing the same faith as him, contributed to a feeling of ”out of place” constantly being present through out my childhood. Who was i? Combining this hollow equation with the regular identity crisis anyone suffers in their teens I REALLY did not know who I was.

The question of who I was made me interested in both the culture and language and at 13 I finally decided that I would try and learn it as much as I could. I started to constantly ask questions on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I started hanging out with kids my age who had a ethnic or linguistic ties to Turkey. Slowly but surely my Turkish got better and I used to dream of moving there after I finished school. When the time came for graduation I drifted without anything to do for a couple of months until I got lucky and found work within IT. I spent four years in that business working at three different companies, learning how practical adult life could be. Naturally I moved out and got my own place, earned my liberties and became a regular ”9-5er”. This is what put my dream on hold and kept it shackled but it could only do so for so long. The experience of four years out there working is without equivalence and I do not regret anything. However, the question remains – who am i? I think Istanbul knows the answer and she is dying to tell me. All I have to do is go, and I will. At this hour in 12 days I will be driving from the airport to Taksim to settle in my new home.

At my last day at the office my colleagues gave me a thank you gift - a "first class travelers guide to Istanbul".
They could not have come up with a better gift. Since my first week will be without school I can spend it exploring the city of which it is said Napoleon spoke with great admiration.

"If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital. ”

Travelers guide to Istanbul!


Postat av: Bagarn


2009-05-07 @ 00:00:06
Postat av: Alper Celik

Hej Benjamin,

It is nice to fallow your blog. I am sure you will love Istanbul and never wanna come back to Sweden :)))

Enjoy your time...

write lots of blog posts

2009-05-08 @ 09:01:07
URL: http://www.celikalper.blogspot.com

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