Category Archives: Women

Kars’ Secret


The ancient Silk Road bridge standing on either side of the Turkish Armenian border is the symbolic gateway to Ani and this region - aiding foreigners in their travel to and between Anatolia.

The ancient Silk Road bridge standing on either side of the Turkish Armenian border is the symbolic gateway to Ani and this region – aiding foreigners in their travel to and between Anatolia.

Kars has a secret. Walk to the Police Station near the west end of town, past the security, up the stairs, take a right, walk three offices down and through the entrance marked “Yabanci Subesi.”  The desks and file cabinets shift every few months, but once you sit down in the latest seating arrangements and chat for 20 minutes or so, the secret I am talking about will poke it’s head through the door and say, “salam.”

Kars is filled with foreigners. (more…)

Just Sit Down And Suit Up


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Some of the women’s English class notes from the program.

This is a story I understand both completely and… not really at all.  It goes against my principles to tell it…but also to keep it quiet. It was just too weird but also just another chapter in the hundreds of stories of the complex intersecting worlds of villages and local bully politics. And funnily enough, my team and I keep driving right into that intersection, stopping our car, and bracing ourselves at the sounds of a thousand passive aggressive honks.

Where to begin? (more…)

What We Do To Feel Like We Belong: Pushing Hairlines Beyond Feminism, Comfort and Closed Doors


I am a proud and fervent feminist. But I have done some things that would go against the more traditional grains of feminism and I am about to explain how and why.

I live in a traditional remote Anatolian town called Kars. It is a town that was featured in Orhan Pamuk’s novel SNOW, in which a writer (KA) visits Kars in winter to report on women committing suicides because they are not allowed to wear headscarves in school. This story is fictional. Kars is actually not that conservative. But I am more reserved here than I am in most places. I wear baggy clothes. I keep my eyes averted when I walk the streets. I flaunt a wedding ring. I am cautious about male guests. In public I am remarkably guarded for the spirit-exploding-from-the-inside-kind-of-person that I feel I am.

But behind closed doors my world, my body, my thoughts are ripe for the picking: by women. I recently saw the full potential of this when I uttered the following four words: My. Lover. Is. Visiting. (more…)

BALYOLU IS BACK – Walking the World’s Very First Honey Tasting Trekking Route


As the snow melts and the rain pours, I slosh around the Black Sea in my hiking boots in search of bees.

In search of bees…how many times have I finished a sentence with that phrase in the last three years. A Georgian man adorned in a bright and colorful ewok costume chases after me, whip in hand, while I pass through a traditional village in search of bees. I drive 8 hours over Azeri deserts brewing with mud volcanoes and cracked flowers, staring nauseously out the window, in search of bees. I fall to my knees before an ancient lake in Armenia, drinking holy water and silenced by its beauty, in search of bees. I float over flowing velvet green carpeted hill-sides in Eastern Turkey, the sounds of cowbells chorusing throughout the valley, in search of bees. I cry in a hospital, blowing my nose on sheep’s wool, wondering how so much could happen all for some great search for bees!

(more…)

How the Powerful Bow: to the Hajis, Plates, and Boots with the Fur


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I feel comfortable.

Sitting in boarding lounge 101 for the morning flight to Kars, I am listening to loud remixed music and pounding away a grant application on my keyboard. I am coming off of two months back in Istanbul, the US, and Europe where a computer and a pair of earphones are my office no matter where I am. They require no roots other than outlets and extension cords.

I feel exposed.

I look up and see a line of old women shrouded in white veils, their white skirts and white shirts are tucked into white vests and white shawls. Their eyes are a grey murky color of old and they pour searchingly and judgingly into mine. I imagine what I must look like to them, a human wrapped in white cords of capitalism instead of white fabrics of Allah. Reminder: I am not in a world of my sleek Apple products. (more…)

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