Meydana Bak (Look at the Square)

I’ve been getting nearly daily updates from a friend who has been living in Turkey for 8 or 9 years regarding the Taksim protests. I particularly liked the end of this one here:

Sometimes – especially after this weekend, where we have lost the park and our movement is exhausted and we’re fighting on every street of central Istanbul – sometimes, it’s easy to feel like we’re losing. I think that’s an important part of actually winning. The city’s officials fear us. Erdogan’s speech today was shrill and absurd – because he fears us. Now, we’re hearing reports that AKP thugs are moving through parts of the city to fight demonstrators, and the police are letting that happen – because they fear us. To suggest, now, that this is a country that has been anything but ruled by authoritarian means is demonstrably false. We pushed them to the point of openly demonstrating their contempt for democracy and for other people, all over a small park that most of us never walked through because it was too damn sketchy at night.

Still, because of it, everything from this point forward will be harder for them, and even if it doesn’t feel like it on a day-to-day basis for us, that is winning.

Also, a shout out to my botanist friends: The trees in Gezi Park are not Sycamores, as has been frequently reported, but Oriental Planes. Apparently, that’s an easy mistake to make, if you aren’t a botanist…

Much love from Istanbul



There is finally some attention being paid to the massive protests currently being staged across Turkey. I’ve got my opinions on the ruling government (just flip through some of my old posts), and I’m so excited to see a populace standing for their democratic rights.

In my hiatus, I’ve worked a bit at a little college you may or may not have heard of, but I’ve also been volunteering with an advocacy group here in Cambridge that works to promote safer streets and civic engagement with the city planning process. I’ll be starting grad school at UC Berkeley this fall (as a FLAS Fellow studying Turkish!!) pursuing my Master of City Planning degree.

I have the city of Istanbul to thank for helping me realize my passion for city planning, transportation planning to be precise. This blog’s title, Dolmus, has become a flaming passion of mine. I’m fascinated with the way in which these little vans connect communities in ways that the myopic city government simply can’t comprehend.  Just one more anthill of activity that many overlook.

These protests came out of nowhere for the central government, but for the rest of Turkey, for the rest of us, those who love Turkey and who have called Istanbul home, they seem like a logical progression of events. The tighter the government squeezes, the bigger the explosion.

Turkey is not coming apart at the seams. This is a democracy functioning. The reactions of many members of the central government simply illustrate how out of touch they are with the wants and needs of the people.  I am so proud of my students, my friends, and my community for standing up for their beliefs.


The Novelty of Deposed Dictators

One of the strangest things about my time spent in Turkey, was my geographic proximity to the Arab Spring uprisings. I remember having to constantly explain to concerned friends and family the fundamental differences between Turkey and these dictatorships. All Muslim countries are not created equal. And, that while I love to deplore the state of Turkish politics, it is true, Turkey is a representative democracy with a generally functioning rule of law. While Erdogan fancies himself indestructible and his power indisputable, it is not so.

I remember the day that Mubarak ceded power in Egypt. I was sitting on the top floor of the Istiklal Cd. Starbucks looking out over the street, feeling sorry for myself. I had just gotten the worst haircut of my life, and burst into tears every time I caught my reflection. It was like Justin Bieber was staring back at me. The horror.

I was on twitter when the news broke. Mubarak was stepping down. I felt ashamed of my ridiculous first-world problems. It didn’t have a hash-tag then or I would have been all over it.

I found that one of the hardest things about living during such a period was mitigating the horrors of the human rights abuses, the death, the destruction with life. There is nothing funny about people being beaten in the streets. We shouldn’t ignore it. But, we can look, with some cynical humor/shame, on the support many of these dictators received from the “great” nations of the world. I mean, remember Ghadaffi’s bedouin tent debacle in DC?

One of my closest friends in Turkey has recently started a campaign to support the Syrians. He started emailing a number of us a few months back about his plans to design and sell dictator mugs. It would be a set that could be bought, containing the faces of various, recently deposed dictators with quotes from their western supporters on the back. He corralled an artist to do the drawings, and with much support, he launched his idea. Putting aside his general aura of cynicism  he decided this project should go beyond the general capitalist agenda (that is, make dolla billz), he launched a gofundme account and plans to put 65% of all proceeds from the project towards various charities working in numerous capacities to support the displaced Syrian populace.

I hope a few of you will find this project as comical as I, and that you’ll support not only the humor that carries us through, but also the Syrian people, who need all the love and support that we can muster. For more information, click the image below.

Cynical Coffee Mugs

Giving Thanks

I am sure the attack on the American Embassy this past week is not news to you all.

I don’t have much to say, beyond that I am deeply saddened by the loss of the Turkish security guard, Mustafa Akarsu. While I never met him, he did a heroic and courageous thing putting himself in the line of fire, and his family should know the security that he provided, daily, for the Embassy staff, even after his loss.

Consider giving, if you can.

Kareteci Kız

This got posted by a friend on Facebook and I nearly died laughing.


I enjoy the title because it sounds quite like the “Karate Kid” and I love me some Mr. Miyagi. I prefer the one with Hilary Swank, which works here since she’s a Kareteci Kız. Also, the thought of a Turkish version of the Karate Kid would probably be spectacular. It would also likely be very sad, and would end with the brutal murder of every main character.There would be  a lot of shots of Ataturk, who would be revealed at some pivotal point to have been an excellent Karate master, freshly inspiring the main character to follow through and prevail. But, like I said, he will die a cold death anyway.

After watching the clip above I was curious, so I googled the film and was brought to the IMDB page which reveals the following:

Zeynep lives with his old father. She has lost her ability to speak because of an accident. She needs an operation in order to be able to talk again. One day, five prison fugitives come to their house and kill Zeynep’s father. The fugitives take their money and attack Due to the shock, Zeynep regains her ability to speak. The fugitives are arrested but Zeynep wants to take revenge, therefore she says that the fugitives are not the ones who have attacked them. The police appoints Murat to make her give a statement. Murat teaches her how to use a gun and some karate, but she still doesn’t know he is a cop. They fall in love and decide to get married. On their wedding, the prisoners kill Murat. Nothing can stop Zeynep now from taking revenge. She becomes a policewoman and traces the fugitives one by one.

Gender confusion and comically short/incomplete sentences aside, this description is interesting. I have the following comments:

  1. Why does she need to lose the ability to speak?
  2. Under what circumstances would a presumably psychosomatic speech problem be curable through surgery?
  3. Yay extra-judicial justice!
  4. Why is a police officer teaching a crime victim how to use a gun?
  5. Why does he know karate?
  6. Of course they want to get married. Of course.
  7. What is on that guy’s face? Is this like that horrible shaved eyebrow craze? It kind of reminds me of Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games:


Right? Right?


I’m only a few days shy of one year since I moved from Turkey. But, just last night, I got a Turkish lesson from one of my indefatigable students Kerem:

There are a few of them who still talk shit about the Celtics with me on Twitter, and who will, on occasion, correct their teacher’s Turkish.