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A chai more

December 21, 2009

Ye, they call it chai here as well…but that is the only thing in common with Istanbul. Where the City is sweet and passionate but may be sad sometimes, here is lively and colourful, but something leads everybody to introversion. Both of them are fascinating, but while Istanbul strikes you with its beauty and then let that moment go, leaving you puzzled, here nothing looks very attractive until you give it some time..and then you are in love and still you feel you are being played. Maybe you have met women like that.

But let’s recap: here is Tamil Nadu, the south east coast of India, and so far I have spent much of my time in 4 very different places: Chennai with its dirt and its adventures, Pondycherry with its mess and its locals, Auroville with its nature and its thoughtfulness, and the Tamil villages with their humble living and their easy smiles.

Only a month so far, but so many things have happened. I have met and lost a friend, and met a new other. I started reading a wonderful book and driving 2 wheelers, I have laughed a lot being lost in dozens of adventures and I have found ideas and people to bring back to reality, but i do not know if they will make it. I won a prize and lost many opportunities. I got used to alien habits, souls and food, and expelled some beliefs, traits and tons of shit (literally)!

And it’s ok, I keep up and really like it, because it’s a mess. I read that Indians are Asia’s Italians and I fully agree! I hope I can write something more about it, I really hope to put down some lines about this one and every story I have mentioned, because now that’s my life.

That’s India.

Self interview: funny habits

August 21, 2009

Q: Hi, let’s go on with our interviews. Which are the most striking things you could tell us?

A: Turkish names and surnames. Let me recap shortly: good old Ataturk “introduced” reforms, choosing the West as benchmark. One of the major (but unknown) changes was about names and surnames!

Q: What do you mean, are there many Johnny, Klaus, Antonio or François in Turkey?

A: No! But before the change, Mustafa Kemal was a name: for example generals, to distinguish themselves from others, added the Pascià title to their names..Mehmet Pascià meaning simply “General Mehmet”. Kemal chose for himself (actually the Parliament voted a special law for him) Ataturk (Father of the Turks). But also poor people with no education were forced to choose a surname. And they chose Cotton, Daylight, Seetomorrow..and of course many jobs and places. Ataturk’s second in command chose Inonu, the name of a city where he had won a battle.

Q: What about names?Aren’t there Mustafa, Mehmet, Hakan, Aisha… A: Most names are not related to Islam or arabic culture, actually. Lot of them have meanings: Openheart, Light, Sweetheart, Sea (for both genders)..and most people do not understand a person’s gender by the name. In the end result is funny, fantasy style: I know Hope Blacksea and Hawk Bridge for example! Q: Tell us something else funny..

A: The mess about mass! 2 odd rules still work here: men have to let women pass by, the other rule being no rule in any other case! So if you are getting out the metro, you have to let an old woman behind you pass by you before getting out, while people try to get in the train before passengers willing to get out can do their move. It’s a one-to-one challenge depending on gender, reflexes, strenghts and easyness to really “get in touch” with people.

Q: Looks weird and a little bit…simple, no urban at all.

A: Yes, indeed. I may add that in any given situation, their sense of proximity is a quite rough one. In elevators, on a narrow walkside or even having a conversation…be sure your counterpart is a nice girl. Because in a different case you may feel what you would never feel. But on the other hand formality is important here. There are no words for “fuck” or “shit”, in their rude connotation. If they have to express disappointment, they don’t say “Cazzo!” but “It’s so a pain”.

Stop, Good intentions

August 3, 2009

As experience should bring knowledge, it’s time to put down some ways to have a better behaviour in the future:

1)Start saying “yes” or “evet”, but first of all stop replying “yeah”

2)Stop smiling at colleagues because they are pretty – first of all, they are human beings.

3)Stop singing old italian songs, like “Lasciatemi cantare, con la chitarra in mano..”

4)Stop playing fool while practicing Turkish, for exampe saying “çokesa” instead of a proper “bless you”

5)Stop yelling bad words in italian, someone could understand one day or another.

6)Stop looking at girls’ legs while plugging the pc under the desk

7)Linked to point 6: stop hoping to see more than legs.

8)Stop greeting girls with “Hi chicks” and “ciao belle”. Turkish are quite formal.

9)Stop harrassing that poor girl from CRM, she is just trying to be kind and you are playing you are interested in the software she uses. Shame on you.

10)Stop..do something!

Self interview: Politics

August 3, 2009

Q: Do you understand better Turkish culture now?

A: Well I think I have a good grasp now. I mean at least I overcame some of my prejudices, the most typical ones. Take for example the way they interact with Western culture..to put it simply, I thought they were mimicking most of elements on their “quest for Europe”:  capitalism, religion, woman emancipation, minorities rights..actually, they have their own way to handle these issues. Did you know that women had voting rights before they were granted it in most EU countries? Of course nothing is perfect..but they are working on it.

Q: So what’s your idea about Turkey joining EU? Please be clear, as our governors, most of times, are not..

A: I am pro Turkey. Definitely. I had this opinion before, I thought that EU had to take some challenges to foster its values;and that Turkey looks better on this side that on the other one.. I mean all those “associates” around the Mediterranean: with them, it”s only about business and immigration issues. But look, more than this: Turkey deserves its place among its peers, as it’s a big nation with an impressive culture and an innovative approach to problems. We have a lot to learn from them.

Q: So do not you think there are some issues? Poverty,religion, for example; or the Kurds..

A:For poverty, go to southern italy, take a look and please come back.Such a brilliant question, indeed..for the rest, you mean the “we are christians and they are muslims” discussion and the “civil war in the southern provinces”, i may imagine..

Q:Indeed. As far as I know, a conservative party has the power now; but, luckily enough, the Army prevent them to steer the country toward integralism..Iran in the end. On the other hand, the importance of the army is reflected by the endless war against Kurds.

A:Look, if you were a professional, I would…but let’s lend a hand to newbies. Well, let me tell you that the way they manage religion is a good point, as, for example, they prohibited chador from public school and istitutions (banks included). Could you imagine Western countries banning crosses from schools? And this happens in a country where 90% of population is muslim, of which nearly 80% are Sunni. Islam has just a high market share. And this has a kind of impact, as you mentioned Iran and there is a notable difference..

Q:But it’s still an Arabic country: I mean they could be on the path of change, but their progress has to be closely monitored. And the massacre of Kurds draws its attention to Westerner governors, especially French and German ones..

A:Look about Kurds, what would happen if some armed men would cross European borders and kill both soldiers and civilians? The situation is complex and both the republic and Kurds have their own responsabilities, but there is no a civil war. Turkish seek and kill armed people who detain weapon to attack their country: when PKK kills civilians, kills Kurds..we could discuss about the reasons that brought to this situation, but this is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor is Lebanon. And about Arabs, they have never been here: as Turks came from Asia, they conquered one by one both Arabic and christian kingdoms and ruled them. And it’s an important difference, as the ethnic issue. Ethnically they’re not Arabs.

Q:Ok but they speak the same language..like other Arabs: I mean you see Palestinians and Lybians are brothers as they share a common religion and the very same language..

A:My dear,I could you tell how sweet other Arabs have been with Palestinians but it is out of scope. About Turkish, the language is deeply different from Arab, namely Arab and Romance ones have more in common than you imagine. Anyway Tukish  borrowed some words, of course; but they got many more from French, and they did not borrow the “naranja”, while Europeans took it as “orange”..it’s just an example but look: tell a German he’s an Italian and viceversa..and face consequences!

Q:That’s all for today, I need a toilet indeed. Would you add something?

A:I look forward to experience the Ramadan, it’s starting at the end of this month. To your simple mind, it’s like our Christmas, but it’s a little bit more focused on food than on other purchases, as you could imagine if your head was only just an inch bigger…

Q:Thanks, see you soon then.

A:I thought you said it was all!

Q:For tonight. You signed a lifelasting contract with these self interviews.

A:WTF.

The Masterplan

August 1, 2009

Yeas, I have one. It’s about a trip around Turkey: Ankara, Pamukkale and the Kapadokya, plus some resorts like Cesme.  It is based on a total wandering base, meaning I’ll go around with no costraints. I am looking forward to take so many pictures!!! And to enjoy turkish trains..I do not expect TGV but they look special “in some way”.

By now, lesser objective: first of all, go back to EU as my visa is expiring..you know, we are immigrants here! But it’s a good excuse to go to Thessaloniki.

Ordinary World

July 25, 2009

Next week I’m gonna meet friends of friends who are coming to istanbul. It seems this city is so mysterious – most people coming here need local guides. I’m not the best one of course, but I’ll try to be a useful resource and to enjoy the company of 3 girls…

In the end my tourist helpdesk job is an habit now, so I’ll keep on promoting Turkey and replying kindly to those who plan to come to Istanbul and need so many informations.

I have not been asked, but I reply to the question most people should address to me (I mean, instead of “Are Turkish people polite?Are they clean?”): how is living there? what can one do during the weekend?

Well, it’s cool, for my standards. I don’t go out at friday night – it has never been satisying, everyone is too tired but too willing to have fun (remember: manage expectations). But most of all it has rarely happened here. So i prefer to do my stuff.

At saturday morning, like most people, i have great plans – but in the end I spend all morning in a Starbucks (most of times a metoo) wasting my time on internet, chainsmoking and drinking litres of Americano: I feel so cool to sit on those tables outside, look at people passing by and at the screen! It’s simple fun but it’ unavailable or uncommon in my beloved, conservative, bitchy Italy.

Then in the afternoon I am forced to do “extraordinary maintenance” of my apartment; I wonder why I spend hours every week cleaning and doing all the rest..but it looks it’s not enough! Old parquet tends to get dirty so quickly, just a little bit less than moquette! Think about it when you rent an apartment..

Saturday night and sunday are random: it depends on who I meet…local people, tourists or expats. But in the end I have never gone to disco or concerts. There have been such opportunities but I missed them; I do not regret it as my last 18 months have been too much fun-oriented; anyway I should, just for the sake of experience.

But my addiction is going “downtown”, to Istiklal Caddesi or Sultanhamet, to see the wild crowd of tourists and Turkish mixing up and wandering everywhere – thousands of people!

Leveraging on experience / starting from the scratch

July 5, 2009

…a day passed in Sultanhamet, where you find Topkapi, Aya Sofya, Blue Mosquee and Gran Bazar.  I see tourists are different from me and this is a good feeling – they are able to get lost anywhere, they dress weird stuff, they do sillly things. But it’s a pleasure to help them, as they are so happy when you show them the way back to the hotel.

By the way one of those was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. I’m proud to tell you she is italian. The only disappointment about her is the fact she is clearly Roman, so her accent is quite horrible: “SEE, CE SEMO PERZI, MA ANDO’ STAAA ‘AA CARTINAAA?” (=si ci siamo persi, ma dove è la cartina?=yes we got lost, but where is the map?).

I look forward to go back to Sultanhamet as next time I’ll be powered by an EOS1000d. I know it’s the entry level, but it’s a big step for me.  Taking pictures is one of those things I’ve always let others  do, I do not know the reason, but probably it has been so because I’m not  good at it and I hate not being among the best ones.

But I’m gonna try this time. So I’m telling a couple of people out there: I challenge you!!!;)