The New Life – Sun and Clouds over Barcelona

It was a lovely Friday. All sunny and happy as everyday has been in Barcelona. The day before the Sitges Tango Festival had started. It is an old famous festival known for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, utmost mediterranean. I had wanted to go there for many years but there had always been something that hindered. Mostly work. Now it was happening just around the corner as if it was saying “this time no excuses”.

I went there together with a friend taking the train to the south riding along the Costa Dorada. Beautiful views passed through my eyes. Sitges is a lovely village with an architecture that captures you. There is an old church a little bit uphill situated in a plaza that gives you a wonderful view of Sitges. Soon the dancing started down at the beach. Feeling the sea water under my feet, the sunshine on my skin and the tango music in my ear, I felt this is life as beautiful as it gets. I saw old friends, we went for a glass of cava together, happily chatting, catching up, laughing. Just passing time together until the evening milonga starts. We were first going to dance at a nice open air location in a garden with palm trees, then we were going to continue at the church plaza overlooking Sitges. Creating happy memories for the rest of my life.

It was already late night. On my way to the milonga my cell phone started ringing. I was too late to catch. I saw that it was my good old friend from Germany who called. But he doesn’t really call unexpectedly like this and he knows that I’m here now. So why ? The phone rang again while I was staring at it all confused. Pinar I am really sorry to disturb you like this and I mean it well with you, but I thought you may want to know. There is a coup happening in your country right now. It started just 10-15 minutes ago.

There is a what happening in my country? It was like a slap on my face. An ice cold shower. A knife cut. It was so surreal. I was in this beautiful paradise and my family and everyone I loved and valued in the middle of chaos.

I know what coups mean in Turkey. I have bare memories of the last one. I was still a little child. We were not allowed to go out at nights, there were electricity cuts all the time and soldiers everywhere. My parents would sit in front of the TV every night and watch the news hoping for a reconciliation and a return to normal life. My mom would wait for my father to return home after work, as one was never sure what was happening out on the streets. I know there was much more going on than this, which my child mind could not grasp back then. Fears of childhood remain.

I stopped struck. A coup happening again, while I am here and I cannot do anything about it. It is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and guilt. I am here and my loved ones suffer. Are they safe? Are they secure? Can I reach them? Will I be able to reach them tomorrow too, and the other day? Thankfully I could. Thankfully they were alright. As struck as I am in the middle of the night.

My mom tried to comfort me as sweet as she always is. Pinar, don’t worry about us. We are used to this. This is not the first time it happens. You know that. Everything will be alright. Tomorrow it will pass. Don’t you worry. When you have no options, when there is absolutely nothing in your power to change anything you have to accept what is happening around you. Otherwise you cannot cope. This is what my friends and family doing. Cope to survive.

I am sitting here and watching my country falling apart in bombs, my people killing each other, children dying, moms crying…for what? They wrap it nicely calling it democracy. Killing innocent people to maintain power is NOT democracy. That is hypocracy. My two good friends have babies newborn. One is not even a month old. I don’t know what to think. Will they have a place to call home? Will they be able to write down happy childhood memories like I do?  Stealing those babies’ future is NOT democracy. I find no words to express…

Sun is shining on me in Barcelona. I wish I could give it away to my people’s hearts to tear their clouds away. I wish the same sun would be so strong to awaken my sleeping people, those in the dark. So strong to burn the unsatisfiable egos of madmen, who have forgotton the meaning of human. My heart hurts. Hurts that I am here, hurts that they are there. Hurts for my home, for my people, for the past that made us who we are and for the future that carries more worries than hopes.

A man’s job is to make the world a better place to live in, so far as he is able—always remembering the results will be infinitesimal—and to attend to his own soul.

Leroy Percy

The New Life – Days in Barcelona II

This is now my third week in Barcelona. Time is going with the wind. Everything still feels right and in place. I am getting up in the morning without worrying about the weather. Without the feeling of missing out on something by staying at home. It is a relief. I am taking each day as it comes and I am just being. Nice things are happening.

Since I announced that I moved here, I have received many messages from my friends across the globe. Many cheered up for me who knew how much I have been longing for the south. Some were surprised and some opened their heart to me. They said I have done what they have been dreaming of doing but not daring. They wanted to know how I did it. How did you do? How is it possible?

Why not? We have only one life, which we don’t know if we have it tomorrow. We spend it either by missing our ‘happy’ past or making plans for our ‘happy’ future often in an environment that we force ourselves to fit in. How about being happy now? That we postpone because we are too busy with worrying or planning. How did I do? I stopped doing that. Instead, I bought a flight ticket.

Yesterday I met a friend. I had not seen him for fourteen years. We had studied together back in the USA. We were both exchange students. He just happened to be around here with his family and we met. What a magic moment. As if no fourteen years had passed. As if we had seen each other only yesterday. His beautiful kids showed me their souvenir toys shyly. Happiness of being here and now and it is priceless.

In the evening I went out for dinner with another friend. A touristy place but we didn’t mind. In a little while a street musician walked in and he went directly towards a big a table to entertain them. I started listening to him as it was impossible not to. I thought I heard him singing in Turkish. But that must be an illusion. Did I miss home already? No. He was really singing in Turkish. He was singing the old tavern songs that I remember from my childhood. My family and their friends used to go out to those taverns to eat fish and drink raki, later the music would start and everyone would dance. He was singing those songs.  The big table was all Turkish. They started to dance and sing along loudly. I sang with them and clapped my hands. Just like back at home, back in my childhood. Then we all started to cheer up together. The musician was not Turkish. And he understood no single word. He just knew and sang the old Turkish tavern songs so perfectly. So perfectly that he filled us and himself all with joy.

I have been seeking these moments. I have been longing for them so strongly that nothing else mattered. That is how I did it. Happiness of being here and now and it is priceless.

If you want to be happy, be. Leo Tolstoy

My Father’s Turkey

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My father always used to tell me how Turkey and Istanbul once was. His Turkey, his Istanbul. I loved to listen to his memories as if they were tales. My father used to tell me Istanbul was a place full of public beaches. Families and singles would hop on a tram, go to the next public beach and spend a nice summer day there. He used to tell me people would always dress nicely when they went out to the streets, out of respect to the others. They would greet strangers on the streets if their ways crossed. He used to tell people would discuss poetry, politics and arts at long dinners while drinking raki to the fish they ate.

My father used to tell they were proud of their young democracy, they respected those who went to mosques to pray, just as well as those who didn’t go nor prayed. Women with head covers were respected as so were those without. Nobody questioned, nobody judged. Nobody asked why their hair were so apparently visible, or why not…Things were just the way they were

My father was a kind gentleman, who never said a bad word to anyone, even if the price he paid for it was to be looked down upon or be considered a weak person. He increasingly grew sad to see his Turkey and his Istanbul descent…

He saw Istanbul’s streets getting more crowded, and then more crowded and even more crowded, so that it became impossible to greet neither the strangers nor the acquainted faces. He saw people becoming more and more disrespectful to each other because the life got more stressful as the competition for resources got higher and tougher.

My father’s Turkey was a place, where everyone were sisters and brothers,no matter what religion, what ethnicity. Everyone was proud to have had established an enlightened republic after the Ottoman Empire and the yearsof war. Everyone was hungry for knowledge and the word ‘human’ was written in capital letters.

My father didn’t live long enough to see what I saw.

A week ago I saw the Taksim Square turning upside down…I saw the demolished cars and busses, I saw the young people running away from the police as these were chasing them with pepper gas sprays.

I used to go to operas and to the concerts of the Istanbul Symphony Orchestra with my father at Taksim Square. Now a battle field… I used to get on the bus that crosses the bridge to go to ‘our side’ with my father at Taksim Square. Now a battle field…I used to go the the Borsa Et Lokantasi to eat the famous ‘doner’ and the baked milk rice pudding with my father at Taksim Square. Now a battle field…

Then again, I saw the hopeful, determined, proud, open minded young Turks, who sat in front of the beautiful green trees of the Taksim Square to protect them from being torn down…I saw them uniting their hands, minds, dances, songs and hearts to protect the democracy in Turkey. I saw the ray of light at Taksim Square.

My father didn’t live long enough to see what I saw.