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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…)

Why I Don’t Want To Give My TEDx Talk


Phosphate loaded energy efficient manure cakes stacked on top of each other in Kars.

Phosphate loaded energy efficient manure cakes stacked on top of each other in a village in Kars. Photo by Cat.

There are the classic reasons why I don’t want to give my TEDx talk: public speaking is terrifying, traveling to the venue and preparing takes a lot of time away from my work, and the whole process is stressful. These are not exactly reasons actually, more likee surmountable excuses. But I have other reasons that have taken me months of introspecting and writing drafts and quizzing my friends and watching hundreds of TED talks and even working with a speaking coach to truly understand.

These reasons are complicated, and I still haven’t sorted them out into a neat list. But this is how I feel. (more…)

God Pities the Foreigner


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I am a foreigner.

I was born and raised in the US, I immigrated to Turkey when I was 21 and I have since fallen in love with the country and stayed. I worked hard to learn the language. When I arrived, though I couldn’t count to 10, I was placed in a classroom of people who had been studying for 3 years, because beginner Turkish was cancelled. There was not enough interest. Classes were from 9-1, I had private tutoring from 2-4, and I watched Turkish movies and rehearsed Turkish songs from 6-9 pm. It was nearly 12 hours of Turkish for over 6 months. I went through three schools, and on the weekends I sat and did homework with my boyfriend’s family, who kept a cautious eye and a bottomless bowl of fruit next to me at all times. Read the rest of this entry

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…)

Starting At the Street, How Do We Make the World Safer for Women?


If Turkey continues on its current peace-in-the-neighborhood trajectory – think, Mr. Rogers meets improved relations between Turkey’s regional countries and its ethnic Kurdish minority – living in Turkey may very well be the safest it has been in over 30 years. The economy is stable and growing and somehow Turkey has managed to be friends with Israel while impressing the rest of the Middle East with its edgy sitcoms. It is a marvelous feat that even the village conspiracy theorists can’t quite wrap their heads around.

But as it is worldwide, there is still one group that regardless will look over their shoulders when they walk down the road: women.  After witnessing gross sexual assault scandals from my former homes in the US to Europe to Japan – more and more I am convinced that neither religion, economic status, nor geography are great indicators for whether or not women live in fear of sexual assault or harassment. This kind of discomfort is everywhere and it can happen to anyone.

I am writing about Turkey and my experiences here because this is where I live and it is what I know. I am writing because the more horror and humiliation I live through, the more civility and bravery I experience, the more I think I have a small handle on what I can do to confront this enormous injustice that all of us face in one way or another.

Let’s start with a few stories from the last few weeks.

(more…)

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