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Mon May 24, 2010 3:41 pm

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Kayseri - an outsider's view is interesting travel story from the country Turkey. I hope you will enjoy to read this story !!!


Kayseri – Turkey Turkey: pushed by the West, pulled by the East and yet still retains a cultural essence entirely of it’s own. Nationalistic and proud; in it’s heart lead still by the ghost of Ataturk. Preoccupied to the point of obsession in superficiality and pleasantries. Devoid of any sense urgency or purpose. Geographically located in the middle of the middle of Turkey, Kayseri is neither East nor West; inelegantly thrusting a hefty boot into both camps. It seems that in Kayseri certainly these hugely varied titanic forces of influence do not sit well together. The West has brought a sense of freedom and the idea of personal fulfilment that is so tangible it cannot be denied. It cannot be put back into the box from which it came. The East; masculine, moral, family orientated – giving everything for the greater good. Noble and self-sacrificing but requires dedication and perhaps a certain amount of innocent devotion that is slowly being eradicated in Turkey. Here lies the problem; no servant can successfully serve two masters. Kayseri: stretched in opposing directions as if by an implement of torture. Old wounds and gnarled joints ache; the pain dull but forever burning. Like any other small city, here there are shops and there are shop keepers. There are cafes, businesses and business owners, an airport, pilots and airport workers, cinemas, schools, teachers and children, a university, lecturers, and students; this, and all the other necessary trappings associated with life in the 21st century. At the heart of the city centre lays a fortress. He nestles there amongst buildings not even a third of his age; he seeks obscurity, yet the 60’s esq blocks surrounding him only accentuate his heavy reliability; those vast, protecting walls. It seems to me that Kayseri’s fortress was built with a dual purpose in mind; to guard the bricks and mortar of the city but more importantly to protect the innocence of the conservative hearts and minds of the Kayserian people. (Perhaps the latter duty is a function that has been acquired over the course of time.) Here it still stands; erect, an undeniable show of masculinity, strength and power – a mirror image of the men who were it’s creators; a perpetual reminder of a modern culture rooted in the past. I have been here for three months; an outsider - destined to remain so; absorbing, observing, and yet never being offered the validation my experiences desire, deserve and demand. To say that these people puzzle me would be somewhat of an understatement. For the Kayserian is a creature of many faces; to see them all, I fear, would take more time than I have. To see them all, to understand, would require an insider’s view. Nobody is fond of being a stranger to what is familiar and for this reason I mustered all my wily charm (yes mother, and friends who know me well, charm is something I possess when it is demanded of me) and set forth in Kayseri seeking the road to familiarity and friendship. Oh, I sang such a sweet song even the birds themselves would have gathered round to hear my voice echo and reverberate: Alas, nothing. Resounding apathy. Only slightly deterred at having failed miserably at my first attempt to extend the eager hand of friendship I begin phase two: ‘A Programme of Social Events’ First on the list, starting small, I decide to go for the individual angle. However, all invitations of coffee, tea, shopping or catching a movie are polity declined, excuses made, leaving me deflated yet still with fight. Being as stubborn as I am (and those who know me know that I am stubborn), I begin to hatch another plan. This time, I am sure that in targeting the group success will be mine; I, the valiant knight will triumph. I make arrangements to host a small informal gathering of work colleagues. To my surprise all invitations are accepted. To my shock everybody actually comes, and they all seem to enjoy themselves. They talk in Turkish all night despite the fact that they all speak fluent English, and they leave at nine thirty, but they are Kayserian, they can be forgiven for these indiscretions. Success at last! I can breath easy. Finally, I have been accepted into the fold. But wait a minute, as the days turn into weeks, I begin to realise that life has carried on as before. All invitations of coffee or shopping are again rejected, ‘I would love to but…My relatives are coming,’ ‘….My mother is ill,’ ‘….I’m really tired, can we do it another time?’ Christmas is fast approaching, and it being the season of goodwill to all ‘Men’ I decide to extend this goodwill to all ‘Turkish Colleagues.’ How better to demonstrate my benevolence than by throwing a Christmas party. Preparations are made, beer is bought (for those Kayserians daring enough to drink in public) and the flat is as tidy as is ever going to be. At 6.30pm the door bell rings, (the Kayserians love to start early – that way they can get home to theirs beds at a decent hour – a good night has thought to have been had by all if the guests stay until after 9pm) in fact more people come than I am expecting. The night goes without a hitch, and English is spoken for most of the evening. I am slowly learning not to expect too much from these people. This time I have wised up; I am not going to receive any invitation in return of the hospitality I have extended to them. I will not be asked to go shopping with the girls, I will not be asked to have tea at their houses, or be invited into their lives. I am to remain on the peripheral; this, despite the fact they are all my age, they are all just out of university, all newly qualified teachers. We share so many similarities of circumstance; only, I am not Turkish. I would like to think that if the boot was on the other foot, if they were the guest in my country I would behave differently; offer them some hospitality, make them feel welcomed. Perhaps I would. But if truth be told, deep down, I would feel the same way to them as they feel towards me. I am traffic. I am a voyeur. I will be moving on. Whether it be next month, the end of the year, or sometime in the distant future, I will be leaving. Maybe the point is not that I am moving on, but that I can move on. I have nothing invested here. My life is not here; my life isn’t, but their lives are. Now don’t get me wrong. The Kayserians may not wish to ‘invest’ in us foreigners but that certainly doesn’t stop them from expressing an innocuous and fleeting interest. This ranges from perfect strangers jeering at you in the street as you set about your daily business of grocery shopping, work colleagues insisting on a, ‘Merhaba,’ or, ‘Nasilsin?’ (‘hello,’ ‘how are you?’) or the more welcomed invitations to dinner from acquaintances of acquaintances; people, thrilled to have your attention if only for a brief moment. My local café, of which I am a regular regular: mostly through sign language and broken Turkish my American colleague and I have become acquainted with the owners and the staff. We have been to dinner at the owner’s house and we have been out drinking with the manager (who happens to be the owner’s second cousin) and the head chef. They cannot help but show an interested in our lives, but this interest is interspersed such with passivity towards us I fear I will never fully understand them. The Kayserian is a creature of habit and of conservatism. He likes to be seen to be doing the right thing. Largely due to this Kayseri is actually a relative haven of safety. The streets of Kayseri are safe. The cafés are safe. The restaurants are safe. Even the one bar (if you be enterprising enough to find it) is safe; for this, this is a city where Satin knows his place. So angelic are the Kayserians that the devil himself has been leashed. He now lurks behind closed doors only; shackled to the doorknob, waiting readily the glimpse of an agile eye as the door is pulled open a crack. Heaven and Hell: East and West. Which is which? Publicly The East remains the stronger sphere of influence. Women dress modestly, and are home at a decent hour. Men are men; they may come and go as they please as is the traditional privilege afforded to them by their good fortune of birth. Drinking is publicly shunned; so perilous are the evils of drink. (The one bar resides in the Hilton Hotel and cannot strictly be counted as a Kayserian endeavour being a relative island of western culture). Men and women date of course… …yet trying to get a girl to admit to having had sex outside wedlock is like trying to persuade an alcoholic to admit he has got a problem with the evil drink. Religious fasting is upheld with all the rigour and stiffness of a Sunday Morning sermon executed by an over zealous priest. Usually bustling restaurants and cafes are shut miserably awaiting the return of the comforting ‘cha-ching’ of the cash register. All day stomachs groan, lips smack through dehydration, and breath becomes soured and incompatible with communication; the air is heavy with this inescapable burden. The hour after sunset the city is deserted. No cars, no people, no horses, donkeys or any other beast – only silence prevails. Perhaps if you listen hard enough you might hear the rejoicing – they have made it through one more day. At home, however, a different Kayserian emerges. Wriggling free of the self-imposed restraints the Kayserian executes an uneasy dance; partnering The West -The Devil if only for a short time. A coy onlooker might be able to glimpse this momentarily but so afraid of discovery is the Kayserian that at the slightest hint of detection the chains are immediately re-applied. However, even if only for a short time whilst safely ensconced at home, protected by the four walls they call home, drink, dance, religious indifference, and sexual fantasy (Kayseri is apparently the highest consumer of sex toys in Turkey) are let out of Pandora’s Box. All the toys, however, can still be put back into the chest; the lid shut; the toys safely contained. This is to lessening degrees found in any culture, in any country, in any city, town or village; for this is human nature. We go to extraordinary lengths to find acceptance; I myself desire to become part of this society for which I hold such distain. But just whom do we seek acceptance from? We are The People; we judge and are judged. Is it not a baffling paradox that we demand such perfection from our neighbour, yet furtively, we do the very things for which we condemn him. Perhaps all that the Kayserians are guilty of is being lost; lost in a cultural war that has engulfed them wholly. Confused and miserable they plunder on, unsure of which side to pledge their allegiance; knowing what is at stake if they should chose unwisely. Maybe desire has been replaced with indifference; they have learned not to want, not to hope, not to expect. Why should I imagine them to expect anything of me when they expect nothing of themselves? Perhaps that great old fortress has not done such a good job after all; it has been unable to protect the Kayserians from themselves.




i really enjoy to read this stroy ! Did you enjoy it ?

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