March 11, 2003
Sunday night again, and I am thinking of what I can write to tell you about my thoughts over the past week.
First of all, it has been an active week, politically speaking. As you know, Turkey turned down the United State's offer to use the southeastern border of Turkey as a base, which came as a surprise to many people here. The day of the vote, the streets were packed with protesters; the banners, fliers, Turkish flags, and posters still remain in the windows and on walls a week later. Over one hundred thousand people packed the streets and the question as to whether there is a correlation between the enormous protest and the "no" vote is hanging in the air. Could that protest, and the voiced objection from the public that has occurred on numerous occasions before last Saturday, have been heard? If anti-war protests are occurring internationally, does that make a difference? I would really like to know. Yesterday, as well, was Woman's Day and, again, the streets filled with anti-war protesters, women marching and men supporting their march from the sides. Even the concert I attended with a group of Comparative Religion and Culture students last Friday night held an anti-war sentiment (anti-war, not anti-American), and as the Turkish musicians left the stage the crowd was chanting: not "one more!" but rather, "no war!"
While at home, I spoke with many students from the US who shrugged off this question, and apathetically said that protests are in vain and overly idealistic. And I wonder? Do we take our "vote" and "voice" for granted in the United States? I am reminded of an old woman I met while I was in Nicaragua last semester: a small group of students and I visited her small, broken home one afternoon while we were visiting the schools of this particularly poor part of Granada. She spoke about politics and about how ineffective they were in creating any real change in the conditions in ways that affected her struggling family. She spoke with apathy and almost disgust at the level of uselessness of politics, but when I asked her if she voted during the elections she looked at me and said, "Yes, of course!" as though I had asked a silly question. And I felt silly for making the assumption that her answer was different from what it indeed was.
So I have spent my week with the new "crew" of CRC students, who arrived in Turkey the same day that I did. As this is the same program I did last year, it is interesting to see what a different group of students are dong with the same curriculum. As I sat in on their seminar class, I remember asking the same questions that they did, but there are new faces around the table asking them. The group this year is very different from mine, but incredibly welcoming to me-which I am very thankful for! CRC amazes me, and the way it allows students to truly examine not only the cultures and religions in which the students are based (Taiwan, Thailand, Italy, Greece, and Turkey this year), but also the manner in which students are encouraged to ask questions. In fact, the year seems to be about asking questions, not just of the cultures and religions but even more about the students themselves and how they approach their interactions with diversity they encounter. "Not only learning, but learning how we learn," said one student.
My research is going well; every new Center I visit provides me with new ideas, perspectives, and experiences that help me shape my understanding of the Friends World Program. It seems that each Center emphasizes and highlights different strengths of the program, and the diversity of the programming is reflective of the diversity of locations of the Centers. It is great, also, to be with CRC again. I talk about it as though CRC is a person or something. Not a person, just good memories J And being with the new crew brings them all back. As I sit in the hotel that we lived in for four weeks last year I continue to think I see the faces of my friends from last year. Nope. But instead, new friends. No complaints here?
Much love from Turkey! I miss you and will see you soon!