No.38- April 2004

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On Spring Being in the Air and Other Things

Do you know, spring is in the air?  Now, under circumstances other than those in Istanbul, that sentence could sound trite, but here . . . here is a different story.  Here in Istanbul that difference is so deep as to be almost palpable.  Yup.  Spring is most definitely in the air. 

Every year I plant flowers in the garden around this time.  Usually I choose pansies (menekþa).  I will still use them in one bed, but there is another space which gets sun and so I am thinking of trying out geraniums (sardunya).  I don’t know how they will do, but this year I feel like trying.  You know, some day I hope to have a large house with a big, big garden, but for now, I must make do with the little one that I have.  Although my manicurist has told me over and over not to garden without gloves, I can never seem to follow her advice.  I love the feel of soil on my hands.  I love putting a new plant into the small hole I’ve dug and then using my hands to cover up the roots with earth and press down on it.  It’s strange, really.  I was born and bred in a city and the only contact I had with the Earth was from the few potted plants my mother had and our summers which were spent in a small cottage in the mountains.  I guess the connection began in my hippy days, when I spent a good part of one summer living amidst the redwoods in a northern California forest and in the wooded hills above the Pacific Ocean near Big Sur.  One night, I actually slept wrapped up in my sleeping bag inside the hollowed out trunk of an enormous redwood.  That connection developed during the three years I spent on a sheep station in Australia and later, during my time living in the French countryside in a guest house on the grounds of the same chateau where Stendahl wrote The Red and the Black.  The connection with the Earth, with Kara Toprak, has certainly deepened here in Turkey.  There is something positively holy about being out in Nature.  It is not for nothing that they call the Mother Goddess Ekmek Annesý, Bread Mother, in Anatolia.  As I grow older I understand all this more and more.  I imagine this is why I cannot get excited about the “new” Maslak nor can I contemplate spending half a million dollars or so for the dubious privilege of owning a luxury apartment atop Metro.  There is something dehumanizing about skyscrapers.  They function to cut us off from the earth.

For some time now (and I am sure that some of my more astute readers have already picked up on this) I have been going through some devastatingly painful things in my personal life.  Last weekend found me full of energy and I got through quite a lot of work.  But for some reason when I got up on Monday morning, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day.  Maybe it had to do with the rain.  Anyway, I had to go to my bank in Bebek and on the way back in the taxi I heard an old Zeki Moran song playing very softly.  Somehow it seemed just right what with the rain and my feelings and all so I told the driver to turn it up.  We drove on to my house with the song playing, the rain, and a greyed Bosphorus alongside.  Went right through a red light.  It wasn’t that my driver was reckless or anything.  It’s just he was an old style driver and had no use for red lights that had no function.  He was right, you know.  The red lights he ignored had no function at all and so there really was no reason whatsoever to pay attention to them.  It was strange, but for a few moments what I experienced was the sensation that the taxi driver and I were fighting our way through life, doing what had to be done, and somehow supporting each other as we did it.  Interesting, that.  It is a quality I have never experienced anywhere else but here.  And this wasn’t the first time.  The fact that it managed to penetrate my suffering attests to its strength.

While parts of me would definitely like to loll around in the increasingly warm air, there is no rest for the wicked, as they say.  I find myself using the energy which the season generates in my efforts to help organize a very important congress at Fatih University where I teach, Perspectives in Higher Education in the 21st Century,” which is going to be held 27-29 May.  We have just about finished dotting every ‘i,’ crossing every ‘t,’ and putting the right mark on every soft ‘ð’ on the program.  It is an exciting prospect, this congress.  Around 160 people are on the program and they come from something like 18 different countries.  I have high hopes that it will actually make a difference to the future direction of education in Turkey.  For those of you who are interested, you can go and visit our website: www.edu2004.fatih.edu.tr.  The conference is open to the public, there is no registration fee, and if you attend you will have the chance to hear some cutting edge thoughts about education.  We have sessions on transdisciplinarity, justice and the university, multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, the academic study of religion and world views, and more.  “This,” as a friend of mine says, “is going to be good.”

I am sitting here finishing up this column in the midst of what can only be termed chaos, surrounded by piles of books on the floor in the living room, which is relatively organized compared with the rest of the place.  It seems that my upstairs neighbor’s bathroom pipes have been leaking for years, slowly, and the result was that a couple of weeks ago, I heard a loud crash which turned out to have been caused by a large portion of the ceiling in my dining space.  falling down.  Üstas were found and today (Saturday) they came and began repairing the damage.  Turns out that the entire ceiling has to be worked on and they spent the day using hammers and spatulas to clean off much of the old plaster and replastering.  At five o’ clock they told me they would come tomorrow morning at 8:30.  Even assuming they do come on time (and they just might, ‘cause these seem to be pretty good guys—they didn’t eat the leftover döner sandwich, but gave it to me ýnstead) I have a terrible feeling they won’t be able to finish tomorrow and will have to come back again on Monday.  I also know that I am going to have to have a difficult conversation with my neighbor because frankly, I would rather not bear the entire cost of this repair myself.  Given that his leaking pipes created this problem, it seems fair that he should pay half at least.  He is a very nice man but paying half means money, and money has a way of turning someone who is nice into someone who is not.  Wish me luck.

Ah, well, there you have it.  Life along the Bosphorus goes on.   For newcomers to Turkey, reading this might give you pause.  “Hey,” you might say to yourself, “This all sounds like life back ‘home,” wherever “home” is.  Well, yes, it probably does.  There are interesting conclusions to be drawn from this, but I will leave you to ponder them until next month.

Take care.  Talk to you soon. 
No.1- April 2000 No.11 April 2001 No. 20 July 2002 No 29 April 2003
No.2 June 2000 No.12 May 2001 No. 22 September 2002 NO 30 MAY 2003
No.3 July/August 2000 No. 13 June 2001 No. 23   October 2002  NO 31 JUNE 2003
No.5 October 2000 No.14 July 2001 No 24 November 2002 NO 32 JULY 2003
No.7 December 2000 No.15 August 2001 No 25 DECEMBER  2002 NO 33 August 
No.8 January 2001
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkçe tercume
NO 16 September 2001 No 26 January 2003 No 34 September 
No.9 February 2001 No. 17 April 2002 No 27 February 2003 No 35 October 
No.10 March 2001 NO 19 JUNE 2002 No 28 March 2003 No 36 January 2004

No 37 February - March 2004 No 38 April 2004

 

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