Monday, June 20, 2005

Turkish (and Greek) market in Denver!

The Arabaga Turk kahve I'd brought into the office didn't last long. My co-worker Andres and I finished it off in about two weeks, drinking it during our breaks. The proper way to prepare Turk kahve, as Nilufer Karaselcuk had explained in Mersin, is over a stovetop, using a copper pitcher. Andres and I had to improvise by using a microwave oven. (Sorry, Nilufer...)

Turk kahve and cay ("chai") - this photo was taken at our May 17 visit to the Mersin Chamber of Commerce

At any rate, the Turk kahve was depleted, and it was time to restock. My co-worker Igor advised me to check out the shops on Parker Road, across from the Colorado Muslim Center.

So this afternoon I visited the Nazar International Market, featuring fine international groceries and Halal meat. It's on the east side of Parker Road, between Jewell and Florida. As soon as I saw the blue "evil eye" adorning the store's sign, I knew I was in the right place.

Afiyet olsun! Cok iyi! The store's owners, a Turkish man named Erkan and a Greek woman named Suzan, helped me find all the goodies I loved in Turkey. I went home tonight with Mehmet Efendi Turk kahve, Bahcivan taze kasar (white cheese like the Urfa cheese I had for breakfast in Turkey), and Yoruk brand sucuk, the delicious beef sausage. The store doesn't currently have raki, but Erkan assured me they can get more.

Will I be going back? Evet!

Monday, June 13, 2005

A look back at the hosts

This esteemed group, as varied as Turkey itself, includes two dentists, two English teachers, a speech pathologist, several engineers, and a urologist. From them I learned of the unity of a community recovering from an earthquake, I gained insight into the traditions of Islam, and I experienced the closeness of Turkish family life. I also grew to appreciate the passion of Turkish football (Galatasaray and Fenerbahce alike) and I also learned to love Turk sanat musik and Turkish pop music.

Bahadir Tanriluku - Ankara Emek
When my luggage was lost en route from Istanbul to Ankara, Bahadir talked to the good people of Turkish Airlines (Turk Hava Yollari) and sat with me in the Ankara airport. We drank Nescafe while waiting for my bag. When it arrived, Bahadir drove me to his home, where his mom Mukaddes treated us to tea and snacks, displaying the Turkish hospitality I'd become familiar with during my three-night stay with the Tanriluku family and over the next month in Turkey.

Bahadir Tanriluku (Ankara Emek RC) and mom Mukaddes

Taylan, Nermin and Ata Onucak - Adapazari
After riding in Rotarians' cars from Ankara, we met the Adapazari hosts roadside and were shuffled to Sakarya University, where we were treated to lunch and a university tour. This is a proud, tightly knit community which came together after a devastating earthquake in 1999. They made sure we saw Istanbul, even though (as it's outside Rotary district 2430) the legendary city was not part of our original tour. I stayed for two nights with Taylan and Nermin Onucak and their son Ata - and of course, their dog Gizmo, a little dog the size of Jesse's head. Taylan and Ata showed me one of their houses, which was ruined in the quake. Ata and I discussed music and basketball, and our Adapazari hosts took us to meet two mayors of Adapazari and the governor of Sakarya - right in the middle of a barbecue!

Ata Onucak with parents Nermin and Taylan (Adapazari RC)

Meryem Ciftci and Suat Nart - Iskenderun
After a three-day stay at the Dedeman Hotel in Nevsehir (Cappadocia region), we rode an overnight bus to Iskenderun, where for two nights I was the guest of Meryem Ciftci and Suat Nart. Meryem had participated in a GSE exchange to Australia in 2003. A former English teacher, Meryem now works in her father's export business. Suat is a high school teacher and basketball coach. Suat's sister and a friend were in town from Istanbul, where they are university students. They and I compared growing up and education in Turkey and the U.S.

Meryem Ciftci (Iskenderun Yarikkaya RC) with sister-in-law and friend, students at Istanbul, and with cat

Firuz and Duthan Harbiyeli - Antakya
From Iskenderun, we rode a morning minibus to Antakya, where Firuz Harbiyeli, a urologist who enjoys tennis and windsurfing, tolerated my creative tennis skills on a humid Saturday afternoon. After the Antakya RC meeting that evening, he and wife Duthan took me for a pistachio-topped ice cream cone that's the pride of Antakya. Firuz and Duthan practiced their English during my two-night stay, and my Turkish phrasebook was a constant companion, as I practiced my Turkish. This was where I first became familiar with phrases like "Afiyet olsun!", "Bir say digil", and "Hosca kilin".

Firuz Harbiyeli (Antakya RC) and wife Duthan

Ilhan, Nilufer, Kaan and Onur Karaselcuk - Mersin
The Antakya Rotarians bid us farewell near an ancient river in the city center, and we were off to Mersin, where we met our next hosts at the Hilton.

I stayed with Ilhan and Nilufer and their two sons (Kaan and Onur) for five days. Their dining room became my bedroom, and I spent mornings eating olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, sucuk and eggs in their kitchen, talking with Nilufer and watching Yalin's video for "Gunaydin" on the Turkce television channel. I surprised their housekeeper Ganja when, entering the kitchen, I greeted her with "Gunaydin, nasilsiniz?" Then Nilufer and I would watch as Onur boarded the Okul Tasiti (school bus) in the morning. Kaan and Onur are great kids whose future is bright in science, computers, or even the NBA.

Tesekkurlar, Ilhan and Nilufer!

Ilhan Karaselcuk (Mersin Kiskalesi RC), wife Nilufer and sons Kaan (11) and Onur (7)

Abdurrahman, Hacer, and Ezgi Ozkaynak - Konya
Galatasaray Cim Bom Bom and Allah Rahatlik Versin. Those are the two phrases I'll always cherish from my five-night stay with Abdurrahman and his family. We arrived there on a Saturday afternoon, after a riding from Mersin. Deeply faithful, he and Hacer open-mindedly discussed religion with me. Muslim or Catholic, we're all branches from the same tree, and I appreciate the discussion. I also cherish the 6:00 a.m. run with Abdurrahman as much as the late-night discussions on education with Hacer. This family also taught me to appreciate football. They cheered for Galatasaray, runners-up in the Turkish football championship on May 22, and Abdurrahman and I stayed up to watch Liverpool FC defeat AC Milan on penalty kicks three nights later.

Abdurrahman Ozkaynak (Konya Merem RC), wife Hacer and daughter Ezgi (11)

Noyan, Esma, and Murat Bakir - Ankara Kocatepe
After a ride with the Konya Rotarians to Antalya, we spent four nights in Antalya at the District 2430 conference, then rode an Ulusoy bus back to Ankara, our final stop. It was there that Noyan Bakir taught me the ways of Fenerbahce (sorry, Abdurrahman), showed me the rehabilitation he and wife Esma operate, and explained how the ornate marble paintings "Ebru" are made. As the final stop on the trip, it was especially bittersweet saying goodbye to the Bakirs (whose name means "copper"). I can still see Esma waving goodbye from the fourth floor window as Noyan and I drove away to the airport.

Noyan Bakir (Ankara Kocatepe RC) and wife Esma

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Er Buyuk Kopek had a vacation too - and is a TV star!

While I was in Turkey, Jesse stayed at the brand new, state-of-the-art Animal Lodge at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital. Though he didn't get to join me in enjoying Turkish food and swimming in the Mediterranean, he feasted on low-residue Iams Senior and swam in AEVH's water therapy pool, an underwater treadmill.

This pool allows dogs to exercise their joints at low resistance, while keeping their head above water. It helped Jesse's arthritis.

With Jesse and Animal Lodge's Kari, Molly, and Adrianna. They took great care of Jesse while I was in Turkey.

He even got on television. On June 1, KWGN's morning news featured the Animal Lodge, which recently celebrated its grand opening. Reporter Dan Daru saw Jesse lumbering along in the water therapy pool and said, "Look at this old paint! He's thinking, 'Get me out of here; this is so humiliating!'"

Jesse gazed up at the camera, his lip wedged over his lower tooth in his customary Winston Churchill pose. This prompted KWGN weathercaster
Angie Austin to quip to the reporter, "Dan, I think that dog needs a dentist! Look at that tooth!"

KWGN anchor
Tom Green also asked the reporter, "Dan, is that a dog or a cow?"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Seni Seviyorum, Turkiye!

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. I'm leaving on a jet plane, I don't know when I'll be back again.

It's all over except the flying. With our hosts, Jan, Lisa, Bethany, Steve and I attended a terrific symphony performance Wednesday night at Baskent University, including Nabucco, the Madame Butterfly Overture, Gilgamesh, and a Sicilian Folk performance.

Baskent University Symphony takes a bow

Bethany left the show early to catch a bus en route to her departure point for the Greek Islands. Lisa left immediately afterwards to catch her bus for Istanbul. Noyan and Esma drove me home, where we ate cookies, drank coffee, and chatted. Then it was time to pack, a bittersweet task which is now done and I'm writing my final posting from Turkey. In 6 hours I will board a plane headed west.

Words cannot describe what an incredible month this has been. Thanks to all my hosts in district 2430: Bahadir Tanriluku (Ankara Emek), Taylan and Nermin (Adapazari), the Dedeman Hotel (Cappadocia), Meryem Ciftci and Suat Nart (Iskenderun Yarikkaya), Firuz and Duthan Harbiyeli (Antakya), Ilhan and Nilufer Karaselcuk (Mersin), Abdurrahman and Hacer Ozkaynak (Konya), and Noyan and Esma Bakir (Ankara Kocatepe) for inviting me into your homes and welcoming me as a temporary member of your family. I will never forget any of you.

Thanks to district 5430 for sponsoring me and thanks to my teammates Lisa, Steve, Bethany and Jan for all the laughs and camaraderie - for example, all the inside jokes.

Cok tesekkur ederim, Turkiye! Seni Seviyorum!

With Bethany, Lisa and Steve at district 2430 conference, Antalya, May 28

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bilkent University, Ankara Cyberpark, Symphony Orchestra

On our final day in Ankara, we visited Bilkent University, where we met with history professor Barin Kayaoglu, exchange coordinator Aysegul Basol, and toured the library, reputed as one of one of the best university libraries in Europe.

Kayaoglu, who will soon be working in the U.S. at the University of Virginia, gave us a slideshow presentation on Turkey's history. By this point, the material was review for us, but we discussed social and political issues with the professor over lunch in the student dining center.

Lunch at Bilkent University. Professor Barin Kaytaoglu is at left.

After lunch we visited the Ankara Cyberpark, where Business Development Specialists Ozgur Sar and Kuzyehan Ozdemir showed off their state-of-the-art "incubation center" for startup technology businesses. Businesses are allowed to use this facility for one year, receiving a tax break. I asked Sar and Ozdemir to compare the costs of IT labor in Ankara to those in Eastern Europe (such as Moscow, Samara, Yerevan and Kiev). They said a university graduate from Bilkent in an entry level job would receive about 1,000 USD per month. But as Kayaoglu pointed out, where would you rather want to live? Yerevan or Ankara?

Tonight our hosts will be taking us to a symphony orchestra performance. We will see the Akdeniz Ulkeleri Genclik Senfoni Orkestrasi of Baskent Universitesi. The event is sponsored by the Ankara Bahceliever Rotary Kulubu. Then we will bid "gule gule" to Bethany and Lisa, who leave tonight on buses. Tomorrow Steve, Jan and I will bid "hosca kilin" to Ankara.

US Embassy, Turkish Psychology, Ebru, and Beyti Kebaps ... Why Not?

Atakule Tower in Ankara, Turkey

After giving our final presentation of this trip today at the Ankara Kocatepe Rotary Club meeting, we hurried to the US Embassy on John F. Kennedy Caddesi, where we met with Counselor for Commercial Affairs Amer M. Kayani.

He said that US-Turkish relations are nearly back to the point they were before March 1, 2003, when Turkey declined to allow the U.S. to use its land as an entry point to Iraq. Responding to questions regarding cost being an obstacle to trade between the U.S., he said that if an entity is needed badly enough, cost is not an obstacle, but affirmed that China and Southeast Asia dominate the market for imports to the U.S.

Regarding software piracy, he said that Turkey has made strides in preventing illegal software, but cautioned that there is still more work to be done. Kayani also said that some 35% of software in the U.S. is pirated, and said that U.S. software companies need to devise more innovative means of preventing piracy.

After our visit to the embassy, we stopped at the Ulusoy bus office so Bethany and Lisa could buy tickets for their travels after the GSE trip, then met with the
Turkish Psychological Association, an organization of particular vocational significance to Bethany (a psychologist), Lisa (a public health official), and Steve (the executive director of a day care center). I found it extremely interesting as well.

The representative we met with said that the standard for licensing psychologists in Turkey isn't as concrete as in the U.S. She said that the TPA favors Turkey joining the EU, as it would compel Turkey to offer greater resources and credibility for psychologists. She said many Turkish psychology students lack the necessary practical knowledge to succeed.

The psychology official also mentioned the traumatic effects of the 1999 earthquake in Turkey's Sakarya region. We visited Adapazari, capital of this province, from May 6-8, and were struck by the close-knit camaraderie of the community. It was like the U.S.'s attitude in the weeks following September 11, but for the people of Adapazari, the community spirit has endured. The TPA official said that some 500 of its psychologists worked with earthquake victims, and were trained in collaboration with UNICEF.

In helping the earthquake victims, TPA used
practices called "Energy Psychology", involving positive and negative energy, and "EMDR" (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a way of using patients' eye movements to treat their emotional trauma.

If the Adapazarians' compassion, appreciation of life and people, and sense of community is any indication, these treatments worked!

This evening, after my host Noyan presented each member of our team with Ebru (beautiful marble paintings), we ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking a lake south of Ankara. Rotarian Ali Morel recommended the Beyti kebap, a meat dish served with grilled onions and tomatoes.

At dinner with Pervin Demircan and Esma Bakir. The Beyti kepaps were history by this point.

It's like an Adana kebap, hot and spicy, but with garlic. "Beyti" is not to be confused with "Betty", the Turkified pronunciation of Bethany. We each have become accustomed to the Turks' pronunciations: Jan is "Zhan", Steve is "Stiv", Lisa is sometimes "Lizza", and occasionally I'm "Wictor".

But the Turkish version of my name (meaning winner) is Zafer, as Zafer the accountant told me in Iskenderun.

Tomorrow we will visit Bilkent University, and tomorrow night we'll enjoy a concert. And that will be it for our time as a group here in Turkey. Lisa and Bethany will board buses on Wednesday night, and the rest of us will board planes on Thursday morning.

We've seen almost every corner of this fascinating and historic land. We've seen the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. We have ridden on planes and ships, buses and camels.

We've seen a young and vibrant nation that embassy counselor Amer Kayani today said, geographically, is "in a bad neighborhood". But I think Turkey will bring up the resale value.

The Turkish Psychological Association slideshow displayed a quote from Bernadette Devlin that is fitting not just for Turkey's future, but for anyone: "Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win."

As the Turks are fond of saying, why not?