It started out as a very normal, post holiday conversation about my most recent trip to Turkey.
I usually call it the post holiday mortem report.
THe usual questions always pop up -
Q: How was the weather there?
A: Freaking awesome..! Nice sun, cold winds, low humidity, longer daytime.. simply gorgeous. I wish I had time to check out the coastal towns coz’ it would have been perfect.
Q: Picked up any cute guys?
A: Nope.. They did all the picking up instead.. Asians are like hot stuff there for some reason.
Q: How is the shopping?
A: The emptiness of my pockets and the heaviness of my bags are the best evidence to the shopping experience. I literally spent every single cent I had because I liked everything I saw.
Q: What’s interesting there?
A: Everything! I guess it really depends on what tickles your balls? But as usual, I found everything fascinating – the depth and mix of cultures as well as history in Turkey is not something one can fully appreciate or understand in 1 trip.
Q: Why do you go back so often??
A: Really? Very often meh? This is only my 2nd trip… (-_-)”
I answered them as diligently, dutifully, respectfully and honestly as I can.
I tried, unfortunately not all questions warrant in depth answers.
Now, because of all the unrest that have been erupting in various cities in Turkey, the conversation I had with this particular person took a more interesting (in my opinion at least) turn.
Q: Turkey is a Muslim country is it?
A: Nope. They are a secular state but a majority of its population are Muslims. They’ve been that way since the Ottoman Empire dissolved? The process to how it happened is pretty interesting, I’d suggest you go read up about since I am no expert in this area…
Q: Oh. Then what’s up with the protests and riots?
A: Umm.. The root of the resentments go way deeper than what is being told in the media I think.. Again, I’m no expert. You might have to go check it out yourself..
And the conversation goes on and on about the state that Turkey is in right now and blah blah blah..
I stopped listening after the last questions, and started planning my ‘escape’ from the conversation before I blew up in that little annoying piece of shit’s face.
Yes, I am actually exercising extreme self-control.
Little piece of shit then asked the killer question – Which side are you on? Will you go back again?
Which side am I on??
Am I even entitled to choose sides?
This isn’t my battle, I haven’t experienced what they have been experiencing.
What or who gives me the right to pick sides?
I am a bystander.
Watching the events unfold from what/ where ever I can glean information from, and the media hasn’t exactly been very helpful.
The information that was disseminated reflect their different interests in the country.
Most importantly, I believe a country should be defined by its people, and not by religion, politics or its politicians.
No offence intended but I think religions are just another political tool invented by power-hungry men as another form of control over the mass populous.
I refuse to pick a side because this is not my battle and it is not my right.
I did not see for myself if indeed the reports were true, that police violence against the protestors were what sparked the initial round of violence.
What I did encounter, however, were the people.
In the last 15 days that I’ve spent in the country, I have been constantly overwhelmed by their generosity with a complete stranger like myself. I have been overwhelmed by their generosity and willingness to share whatever they have, be it stories, shelter or food and drinks.
I did not witness the riots or violence, but I did witness the pride and passion the Turkish people have for their country.
Young and old, men and women.
There was an unmistakable pride and joy in their voice and twinkle in their eyes whenever they talk about their homeland.
I witnessed their excitement at meeting a stranger like myself being as in love with their country as they are. That unmistakable joy they have when introducing me to the different parts of their country, store and homes.
I will return because of these people I have met.
When I finally had access to international news, then did I realize how bad the situation had become.
I wanted to go to Taksim to see for myself; to understand the violence that the media was portraying.
I wasn’t looking for a thrill, an adventure or excitement.
The media was confusing me more instead of giving me the answers I needed.
I simply needed the truth, to understand and see for myself.
That night that I couldn’t sleep and decided to make my way towards Taksim.
The train services had stopped so I dropped at the furthest station I could go and decided to walk there. A dude dressed in slacks and with an Anonymous mask saw me and asked me if I knew where I was going.
Taksim. I need to see it for myself.
He didn’t say a 2nd thing and turned me around by the shoulders, and walked me back.
He told me it was getting ugly and that it wasn’t my battle.
I shouldn’t be there because I will get hurt.
To him, I was an innocent bystander and should not be involved.
Dude actually accompanied me all the way back to the hotel.
He told me what he was fighting for and why he fought.
And that sheer belief he had in his ideals touched me in a way that I could never have felt.
We grew up in a country that is clean and safe.
We grew up in a glided cage, with everything in black and white.
We were taught to pick sides a long long time ago and we no longer know how not to be that way anymore.
These protestors, they are different.
They are fighting for something they believe in, for a future they want to have.
We, as bystanders have no right to judge or choose sides.
No matter which side you choose, someone loses.
Right or wrong is matter of perspective.
Everyone that I have met on this trip were more than eager to help and keep me from harm.
You can say I’m naive or stupid for trusting strangers I’ve met so easily but I stand by my faith, that all men were born inherently good (except the dude who smacked my ass while I was shopping in Grand Bazaar..) and I have been very lucky and fortunate to have only experience the goodness of Turkey and its people.
So yes, I admit I may be biased.
But as I’ve said before.
A country should not be defined by its religion, politics or politicians but its people.
The Turkey I remember, will always be defined by the people I’ve met, by their generosity, pride and passion, and not the violence that has thrown it into international spotlight.
I understand that when I do go back again, it may be a completely different Turkey from what I remembered it as, but it remains to be seen if the change would be for worse or better.
I choose the latter.
I have faith in the people who I have met, that they would want to make their country, a country they love so much, better than it has ever been.
So yes, I will definitely go back to Turkey again for everything it has given and shown me.
Places and memories change, but I know the Turks won’t disappoint me.
I did not tell annoying little piece of shit all these in his face, or I might have slapped him instead,
I simply told him, with a big wide smile,
“Yes, of course! I’m not done with Turkey yet.”
He stared at me blankly and shook his head, repeating all that he said previously.
I continued smiling and switched off.
Some people are simply not worth my efforts.