Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Pigeon Next to Ashtray

Okay, you got me. Pigeon Appreciation Day was June 13th, two days ago. I celebrated by feeding pigeons at a duck park, the only place where it’s socially acceptable to feed pigeons ’round these parts. My plan was to take beautiful pictures of the pigeons, but the pictures didn’t turn out great. Instead, I’m sharing these (more beautiful) photos I’d taken while I was visiting Istanbul in March.

Expectant Pigeons

My mom and I had come for our usual coffee at the terrace of Bebek Otel, which faces the Bebek Cove within the Bosphorus. It wasn’t too warm outside, so it was just her, me, the pigeons, and a seagull.

Layers of Birds

The pigeons weren’t afraid to come up close and personal. I was delighted when they flew onto our table and shamelessly paced toward our faces as soon as we sat down. So friendly!

Handsome Pigeon Pose

This white splotchy guy was my absolute favorite.
Blobby Pigeon

How did you celebrate Pigeon Appreciation Day? If by some strange reason you missed it, you should add it to your calendar for next year. Shame on you.

Thoughts On Being Bicultural

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The two of us laughed at her when my cousin asked if Americans have a different sense of humor than Turks. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized the appropriateness of her question. I was staying with her and her husband for the night, and we were watching funny YouTube videos; things that had gone viral that I hadn’t heard of before, like the Serkan is my Girl video, made by two cousins to annoy their Uncle Serkan, that took Turkey by storm. [It’s been 3 days since I saw the video, and it’s still stuck in my head.] When I tried to think of funny American videos I could show them in return, I was at a loss; it wasn’t the right mood for that type of humor.

It was then that I remembered how I felt during my first few years in the United States, around the age of 10, when I didn’t always quite “get” what was so funny about some of my classmates’ jokes, and when my awkward humor that was well-received by my friends in Turkey was often received in the new world with a disapproving quirk of an eyebrow. With time, it clicked, and it helped that I’m often easily amused. Fast forward to a few months ago: while I’d been laughing with tears for over an hour at funny Turkish Vines while I should have been doing homework, I suddenly realized that most of my American friends would look at me funny if I shared these with them, and the magic would be lost.

I feel lucky and even blessed to be able to appreciate the humor in both sides, but it also feels bittersweet. The best way to describe it is that I feel like I’m sharing part in a big inside joke.


The next day I found myself in my grandmother’s kitchen in Tekirdağ, staring at her bulletin board full of photos of her immediate family: herself, her late husband, me, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins at various stages of our lives, some of whom are no longer with us. Having been transplanted from Turkey at a small age to spend the next 20+ years in California, it’s become increasingly jarring to me when I face my relatives and realize our facial similarities. I’m used to feeling “exotic” for most of my existence, and the annual visits home are becoming forceful reminders of where I came from. It’s like I’m back where I belong, but not quite. Something is amiss; a part of me has changed too much. The change is indescribable with words further than these.

The following day I am on a bus from Tekirdağ to Istanbul. The trip is only two hours, and I watch the Sea of Marmara coast in the heavy rain. The Tekirdağ visits always invoke a deeper kind of introspection, because unlike the modern, sprawling Istanbul, it’s a more modest city with a small-town feel. Life is simpler there. People know each other. My relatives’ worries, perspectives, and aspirations are different from my own. What do I talk about with them? Enough things. If I were there for an extended period, surely the conversations would be deeper. I’m already too full from eating Tekirdağ’s traditional meatballs before being dropped off at the bus station an hour and a half earlier, but I consume the tea and cake they’ve handed out while reflecting on the past two days, watching the rain hit the windows on the bus to Istanbul.

A few shots

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

In Istanbul.

New Year’s Eve – The Turkish Christmas

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

People here often ask me if Muslims have any celebrations around this time of year – as if every culture in the world is supposed to have an excuse to exchange gifts at the end of December. They are surprised to hear that New Year’s in Turkey is celebrated exactly like how Americans celebrate Christmas. I hadn’t even realized it until I moved here.

Everything from decorating Christmas trees, singing Jingle Bells, piling presents under the elaborately decorated tree, to a festive turkey dinner and a visit from Santa Claus were images I and every Turkish person associate with the New Year. Many of those practices stemmed from pagan traditions honoring the winter equinox anyway. People added the Jesus part later.

For us, New Year’s is the time when families come together and share good times. Of course, there are also rowdy, drunken celebrations and huge masses of people congregating in Taksim Square. However, a lot of families celebrate at home, sip on cocktails, munch on snacks, and exchange presents while watching Turkish New Year’s entertainment shows, complete with famous singers and belly dancers, broadcast on every channel. Turkish New Year’s Eve programming is more colorful and entertaining than American equivalents. Apparently there is also a widespread tradition of playing bingo on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve never experienced that myself.

Combining Christmas and New Year traditions definitely make New Year’s Eve a lot bigger deal in Turkey than it is here.

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Skull of a 20-24 year-old woman.

Yesterday my mom and I went to an archeological lecture about an excavation in Domuztepe, Turkey, given by Dr. Elizabeth Carter. Her main focus was a mysterious burial site, fondly referred to as the Death Pit.

The Death Pit was believed to be a result of a ritual performed over the course of a week or two in around 6500 B.C., which involved killing, feasting on, and burying the bones of numerous animals and humans. Evidence suggested that the killings and butcherings were performed in a systematic fashion, and the feasting involved cannibalism. About 9000 bones were excavated, a third of which belonged to animals, a third of which belonged to humans (totaling 36 humans that were related to each other), and a third of which was unidentified.

The human killings were performed by bludgeoning the heads with a blunt object, as evidenced by fractures and gaping holes in the excavated skulls. Some of the humans were decapitated, and many of them were of prime age (adolescents or in their twenties or thirties). The apparent “value” of these citizens leads the archeologists to believe that this ritual’s purpose was to make a sacrificial offering.

The more I heard about the findings, the more morbidly curious I became about this strange society from 8000 years ago. For instance, one image was the skeleton of a decapitated 6-year-old and the skull of a pig near where his head should have been. There were also pottery and figurines that featured headless humans. What the heck were they doing over there?! It is so ridiculous that we will never know. I’ve often wondered what kinds of things future archeologists would be baffled by from our time.

Reading up on it later, I found this Open Context Page for Domuztepe, which displays most of the artifacts that were found in the excavation project. The image above is the skull of a 20-24 year-old woman that I found on the site.

Peoplewatching basics

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

The ideal balcony for peoplewatching is one that is low enough for deciphering people’s faces, hairstyles, and outfits, but high enough for remaining unnoticed.

Feedings at great uncle’s balcony

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Here are some pictures to supplement a previous post where I talk about feeding doves in my great uncle’s balcony. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to take my camera’s data transfer cable with me on vacation, so I took these pictures with my phone instead.

Pigeon gulps down seeds as its less courageous friends watch enviously.

A mourning dove sheepishly partakes of a seed under the watchful eye of the alpha pigeon.

I used to draw

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I was seven years old when we moved from Turkey to the United States. I have only had a few opportunities a year to see our relatives since then. Naturally, they remember the Melike from 18 years ago vividly, and piece their picture of me together with what they’ve observed from our brief encounters since.
One question I get a lot is, “Do you still draw a lot?” It sounds so strange to me now, that I used to draw every day of my life since before I could remember up until the ages of 16-17. The inspiration and number of drawings sharply declined since then, up to the point where I forgot that there was a time when I couldn’t imagine myself not drawing regularly.
I crave playing with shapes and colors from time to time. In the Melike of Now, the thirst for play with colors and forms is mostly quenched by coordinating different outfits every morning. In accordance with the Matchingfreak philosophy, no outfit combination is to be repeated, which raises the bar for coming up with creative color, material, and accessory groupings.
Besides clothing, the only other media where I manipulate colors are the Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and monthly process engineering reports I create at work. Making sure not to waste too much time, I enjoy making the spreadsheets and plots readable and pleasant to the eye…

Taken from a journal

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

We went to visit my great uncle’s today. Their apartment is on the top floor and is flanked by wide balconies along the entire front and back. They keep a small paper bag of birdseeds in the front balcony with which they feed the mourning doves. I sat there for a while and watched the mourning doves, pigeons, and crows flying back and forth among the trees. I looked down at people walking up and down the street. Suddenly a dog leapt into sight and barked right and left at the birds and passerby, leaning against the windowsill with its elbows. The dog disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. It drizzled once or twice. There was a crow walking to and fro on the roof; I could see the silhouette of its feet through the translucent section of the roofing.
I then went out to the back balcony, startling two sparrows by doing so, and saw one or two green trees that had grown taller than the buildings whose backs surrounded them. The sparrows watched me cautiously from the rooftop they had flown to. Sights like these make me feel content.

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Today I was walking around on campus and I saw a huge poster that said, “Study TURKISH in Istanbul.” It was an advertisement for Fatih University’s Turkish Language and Culture Summer Program. It runs for a month and a half, including housing and three meals a day. Students also go on sightseeing tours around Istanbul. You don’t need to know any Turkish before going. Anyway, I think it’s a pretty exciting program and I wanted to let you know about it. The deadline to apply is June 1st! Okay, now I really sound like a commercial. I am not connected to this institution in any way, I promise.