poor-quality iPhone PhotoYesterday the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdoğan visited my school. Security was incredibly heavy, split between leather coat wearing, pointy shoed secret police guys and storm-trooper style riot police. There was a large demonstration on the quad against his party, the AKP which they chanted "Tayip Amerikaya, Fethullah'ya yanına git!" or "Tayip, goto America by Fetuhllah's side," a reference to a
belief that the Turkish government is highly influenced by the controversial Turkish preacher of sorts, Fethullah Gülen (who happens to live in Pennsylvania of all places). Eventually the PM left, and some the protesters formed a line directly in front of the riot police's formation, causing them to retreat in a rather anticlimactic fashion.
Today I took a small walk to Çukucuma to take photos, something that I often do on weekends. The area is a center for "antiques," although not the typical kind that you'd find in tourist bazaars. It's more the salvaged random-junk variety of antique, which I suppose I much prefer over ridiculous overpriced and completely fake "Ottoman artifacts." As I was walking around, I saw a man through a door, and I approached him asking if I could take his photo, something that in this case led to a two hour long conversation and better photos than the one I had originally hoped to take. Due to really poor lighting, very few of my photos came out well enough to share, but there is one that I'm proud of that I will include in the next post with other new, worthwhile photographic additions.
I entered the warehouse to find a large, damp room full of assorted domestic and industrial detritus. The centerpiece of the room were two large completely wooden objects that looked a lot like horse carts, but turned out to be some kind of wool carding machine (I think). Around the machines were various chairs, the man's very own paintings (some of which from when I was 15), mismatched chairs and couches, blacksmithing tools, and salvaged wooden beams and doors. While at first I could figure out how this was a viable business, I later figured out that all the shops on the street serve different functions, and while this warehouse serves as a clearing house of sorts for newly acquired stuff (for lack of a better word), other nearby shops serve to fix, refurbish, finish or sell the items.
The man I met, spoke with a thick Erzurum accent and was eager to talk to me and patient to speak slowly with me. Our conversation began when he stated enthusiastically, upon learning that I'm from America, "OH! I hate America!" Somehow he seemed to make an exception for me, and we got along quite well. He gave a Turkish geography lesson by reciting all the cities in Turkey, interspersed with occasional praise for Edger Allan Poe and Salvador Dalí. In the middle of our Turkish chats, he would sometimes break into English and say "Islam... GOOD!" and give a hearty thumbs-up sign. "America... BAD!" (A frown and a generous thumbs-down). The conversation then went somewhere rather unpredictable and even more enthusiastic than the last two proclamations. "Marlin Brando... GOOD!!" he said. "Better than Al Pacino, better than De Niro, better than Michael Jackson." At this point the man stood up and limped to a pile of salvaged wood, from which he retrieved a number of soggy Marlin Brando posters and proudly showed them to me.
I really enjoyed talking to this man, and look forward to seeing him again. Finally, if you have made it to the end of this post, check out the collage I made in my art class... (I think it may have scared the substitute professor slightly)