Turkey 2008: Kısmet

Jul 20, 2008
Bookmark and Share

A girl is wrapped in the Kurdish flag in Bismil, Turkey.
Above: A girl is wrapped in the Kurdish flag in Bismil, Turkey.

Kısmet is the Turkish word for fate or destiny.

First off, I dont remember where I left you in the last update, but from Istanbul, Chris and I took the Eastern path through Turkey - going through Trabzone, Doğubayazıt, and Van. Trabzone was a little lack luster - although for anyone interested in going, I would definitely recommend renting a car a driving the Black Sea Coast - amazing views. Doğubeyazit is know for Mt. Ararat where the mythical Noah's Arc is said to have met it's final resting place. And, having seen it and read some of the evidence for myself (albeit briefly), it does seem somewhat plausible complete with extremely accurate Biblical descriptions correlating to the existing remains...

Van is where the first random incident of kısmet comes into play. Chris and I were walking back from the citadel and ended up hitching a ride from a guy driving by. After a few minutes of broken Turkish conversation I discover that he is a photojournalist in Van for one of the largest agencies in Turkey! Upon telling him that I am also a photojournalist trying to work in the region, he proceeds to give me contact info for his friends in Ankara, Istanbul, and Iraq! Kısmet.

Next we headed to Diyarbakir. Ah good old Diyarbakir... Although wait, maybe Diyarbakir isn't so old... My Turkish teacher Tezcan, who Sara and I went on the tour with, set me up with a friend of his in the city. Upon hearing about the project we will be working on in Iraq, his friend proceeded to provide us VIP treatment in Diyarbakir taking us to schools, the Minister of Education, and is potentially going to get us an article in the Zaman - one of the biggest papers in Turkey! Kısmet.

Our new friend, Mehmet, also showed me a side of Diyarbakir that I had never really experienced. The modern side. We always knew about the one Burger King - which has helped us through many of rough mornings on our days off - but I had no idea about the shopping malls, two McDonald's, or even the other two Burger Kings hidden throughout the city. Diyarbakir is expanding rapidly but is a unique and wonderful mix of old and new. With schools containing technology that rivals High Schools in the US to 5,000 year old city walls spanning five kilometers.

In Diyarbakir, I also met up with a young photojournalist, Andrew, that had emailed me months ago about information on the region. We have spent the last couple days together visiting Mehmet's family's summer home at Lake Hazzar and wandering around the city streets of Diyarbakir. Andrew ended up introducing us to a fixer he used in Iraq who is now going to help Chris and I out for a few days once we cross the border. This will make logistics, safety, and a couple of my story ideas musch easier as we head to Sulimaniyah. Kısmet.

And finally, just today Andrew and I visited Bismil together so that I could say goodbye to a few of my friends. After having çay with my friend Bariş, an archaeologist from Kenan Tepe, we headed over to my old professor's babysitter's house to drop off a gift of Backlava. No sooner than we got there did we realize that there was a huge party going on... Going through the gate I found out that the elder babysitter had gotten engaged and this was her engagement party! We became instant celebrities, being invited in with not just open arms, but the arms of friends that were both surprised and thrilled to see me at one of their most special occasions. We stayed for hours taking photos before being invited back to a village of just twelve families for dinner. After which we proceeded to get a ride home to Diyarbakir in the back of a cargo van listening as a family of new friends sang traditional Kurdish folk music. Kısmet.

Some descriptions of Turkey as experienced by Sara and Chris:

Sara's thoughts on the Blue Mosque: Upon entering, I simultaneously felt amazed, ignorant, slightly unsettled, and comforted. The emotional and spiritual moment is only broken by the unbelievable smell of feet.

Sara's experience bartering in Turkey with our Turkish cameraman, Marco: I accidentally mentioned to Marco that I was interested in a souvenir, again I must stress, when around Turks be careful what you wish for. Marco went up to defenseless elderly village women and proceeded to 'barter' on my behalf. Now I have bartered in many countries, it is expected and can be kind of fun, and generally goes as follows; they name a price, you name a lower price, and they meet you in the middle. Bartering with Marco consists of him giving an old lady 5 lira (about $4) and taking whatever he wants. This method was new not only to me, but also to the angry women. Unfortunately, I did not see how things ended because he threw the souvenirs in my hands and said "run Sara run!" And when Marco says run, you run.

Chris on his first experience in a dolmesh: A Dolmesh is basically like a mini van that runs on no time schedule, no price average, no regard for safety, and unexpected surprises.

Sara on Turkey in general: Jonathan has been telling me for years how giving and hospitable these people are, but there is no way to express the degree to which they go to welcome not only into their country, but into their hearts; this love and generosity is something I hope each of you will experience.

And in Steve Jobs fashion, there is one more thing:

by Jane Varley

We floated in the sea, bodies up in the salty lift.
We ate on terraces of green rivers, picking fishbones
like little bad wishes.
We drank cay with the Turks and spoke of hearts
and hearts and ideas,
and when they offered more, we said yes
and thank you like saying
to sugar a dream.

There was following the man with the camera,
who summoned with small words we would know,
no problem, let's go,
up and down the stones of centuries,
and we counted broken arms.

We eat, ride, pray, laugh, and rest,
speak aloud and whisper.
Alone, we close our eyes, and count the stars
of our minds.

A girl is wrapped in the Kurdish flag in Bismil, Turkey.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a comment