So for my first post here to you, I plan on introducing myself and a little of Turkish life I’ve had in the past few weeks. Over the next 15 weeks, I will be presenting you with life in Turkey. There will be many themes of course with this, looking at daily life, culture, history, food, similarities and differences, but also I will be looking to your questions you have about Turkey. Think of me as your private investigator, as the blog is called, “on the ground in Istanbul”! At the end of this first post though, I will be wanting to get know a little about each of you and what some of your expectations are. We will also hopefully be able to have a Skype meeting in the next week to get a little bit better acquainted.
So first a little about me. My name is George Rohrich, I am a senior at Portland State University studying International Development and minoring in Turkish studies. International Development focuses on how people, communities, and even governments improve the daily lives of it’s people. This can be with infrastructure (building bridges, planning roads, schools, etc), or with health (providing access to clinics, raising awareness about disease and illness), or social issues (encouraging public participation in voting, alleviating poverty or joblessness). Many of you may have done volunteer projects through your school, places of worship, or with family or know someone who has. That’s basically what I will be doing 🙂
But why study this in Turkey? Well, there is two answers to this. Firstly, Turkey is a country that for many decades has been labeled a “underdeveloped” or “developing” country. Both of these are terms we use for regions that have potential for economic growth and success but maybe have not reached it yet. However, within the last decade, Turkey has almost literally exploded with business. More companies are sending workers here, people are climbing out of poverty, and having better access to education, health, and social standing. I am curious to see how this process is working and changing the country.
The other reason for my coming here is a little more personal. I was actually born in this country and have always wanted to come back. Both of my parents served in the military and were stationed here in the 1980’s and I spent my first few years here. So on top of my studies it was my curiosity to return to the land of my birth.
So now, let me talk a little bit about Turkey
Turkey is a large country sitting atop a high plateau called the Anatolian Peninsula (think Eastern Oregon, they look very similar in a lot of places!) However, one thing incredibly unique for Turkey is that the country is located on two continents, and Istanbul is the meeting point for those two places. Over the last few thousand years, many different peoples have ruled over the land that was Turkey, some coming from Europe, some from further south in the Middle East, and some from central Asia (what we might now call Mongolia). All these different mixtures of people have created a tapestry of culture, food, and language, making Turkey rich in history.
On this map, you can see the how the country is shaped. To the north is the Black Sea, to the south is the Mediterranean and to the east where all the islands are located is the Aegean Sea. The capital city is Ankara located in the heart of the country. Istanbul where I am living is circled in red in the upper left hand corner. A large waterway, called the Bosporus separates the city into two parts, one side being Europe, the other side Asia.
Another view from my university Boğazici (Bo-waa-zi-chi) – meaning “Bosporous”
Turkey has a population of about 82 million people, with about 14 million living in the Istanbul Metropolitan Area. This makes Turkey quite a populous country, and with Istanbul very densely populated. What is amazing is how much history can be found walking around the city. We will have a chance to talk about the history of the city in greater detail in posts to come!
One of the first things that really struck me when I arrived here 2 weeks ago…. the city is utterly filled with cats all over. The Turks are very fond of their cats, many families keep them as pets, but more striking is that they are allowed to roam the streets freely. Many people will even leave bowls of water and food for them outside their doors. At my university campus especially, you cannot go a few feet without seeing a cat sunning itself in the grass or a group of cats patiently waiting for someone at the cafe to drop some food. I learned that in Turkey, aside from having a great affection for animals, many are spade and neutered, and then allowed to roam as they please as an alternative to having unwanted animals put down. I found this to be an interesting solution. They help keep down pests in the streets and peoples home and are relatively harmless. Call it a little cultural difference I guess!
So I’m going to leave that for the first blog. NOW, I’d like to hear a little from you guys, in your response to the blog tell me a little about the following:
-Your favorite 2 hobbies
-If you have had a chance to visit a country outside the US, what was your favorite part? If you haven’t yet had the chance, where would you go and why?
-What issues surrounding Turkey and this project are you most curious about? And what are your thoughts to this first post?
I look forward to talking with each of you and sharing the experience!
Görüşürüz! (Gur-ush-a-ruz) Turkish for goodbye!