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


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.


I usually don’t find these things that people post on Facebook terribly interesting, rather, I tend to “unfollow” people who abuse the posting-of-crap possibilities offered by most social networking sites (no I don’t want to see pictures of every meal you have eaten, and if I see one more variation of “Keep Calm and Carry On” I’ll put my fist through a wall.)

This, however was pretty comical.

When I try to explain why Turkish is difficult to learn for a westerner (or really anyone who is not from a Turkic-language speaking nation) I explain that the whole thing is like a giant mathematical equation:

Right? Right?

And, I’m back… in Boston.

So, I miss this.

I miss writing in a blog that I care about, and that people actually read. I’ve been trying to come up with some outlet in the form of several incarnations of other blogs, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m just not creative enough to top Death by Dolmus, because hot damn, it’s a pretty awesome name amiright?

So this marks a turning point. This is the new Death by Dolmus. It will include musings about my current life, living/surviving in Allston, an undergrad-infested enclave of Boston, while continuing to work in higher ed. My life is still dominated by public transportation. While Boston is sadly devoid of dolmus, it is chock full of terrible and outdated trams, subways and busses.

Additions to my life:

  • My roommates Steve (the bureaucrat) and Ryan (the nurse)
  • Hulu & Netflix
  • Harvard University’s library (yay!)
  • Moderately priced alcoholic beverages 
  • A job for an employer that actually cares about my mental health (YOK, take note)

I hope you’ll keep reading, even if my life in Boston bears little semblance to my former life in T-Dag, I hope you’ll find this blog at least as fun and as entertaining as I hope you found it before.


Turks and Tampons

I recently sent a piece over to Perking the Pansies blogger Jack Scott. He’s on holiday and was looking for other Turkey-based bloggers to fill the gaping hole left by his absence.


My third Guest blogger is Alexandra from Death by Dolmuş. Alexandra is a Yankee lass who teaches in Istanbul. She writes about the quirky side of life in the ancient city and has a mild obsession with public transport. Alexandra also publishes an amazing photoblog. If you don’t like discussions about women’s itty bitty parts, don’t read the following (oh, go on).


There are strange things that occur in Turkey. I am pretty on top of most of it, but from time to time things do catch me off guard. I’m unfazed when a man brings a 12 foot (4 meter) ladder into an over-packed dolmuş(roughly 5 meters long itself.) I’m unfazed when my bank calls to ask permission of my employer when I wish to close my account (obviously a mere mortal like me can’t be trusted with such a serious decision.)

I was caught off guard when my colleague, a punk, riot-grrrl feminist with red hair (not Irish red, but like, the color red) and combat boots, moans to me, doubled over in pain, ‘Gahh, I wish I hadn’t left the window open last night.’ It had been a sweltering 80 degrees (25 C) and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with her abdominal pain. ‘The wind, the night air, you know, it gives me cramps.’ Efendim?

Now, I’m fairly certain that cramps are caused by your uterine walls contracting to expel the lining. But, you know, who can say for certain…

I was constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge these university educated women displayed about their own bodies and the science contained in them. I know Freud thought that hysteria (that vague, female-ish complaint) was caused by a ‘disturbance’ to the uterus, but I’m pretty sure somewhere in my 6th grade sex-ed class, I remember learning something different…

As I was moving out, I had an enormous amount of tampons that my roommate and I had hoarded like we were preparing for the apocalypse. God knows when we would be able to find tampons again, so every time we ventured out of the Islamic Republic of Turkey, we bought up the store like they were going out of style.

Not having space in my luggage for 47 boxes of Tampax Pearls, and with the confidence that I could pick some up any time nature called at my nearest pharmacy (that’s a chemist’s for you Brits), when back in the US, I decided to give them away. Because honestly, who doesn’t like free tampons? Apparently, Turkish women.

So that’s how I found myself, on my last day of work, sitting in a locked office with my colleague, demonstrating how to use a tampon. I unwrapped it, showed how the applicator worked, as she dissected the tampon I had handed her, checking that the string was in fact well secured at the center. I extolled the tampon’s virtues: you can go swimming! (Her face lit up, what do you mean? She asked in disbelief.) You can wear white pants with no fear! Thinking back to all those tampon commercials of my youth, you can go shopping with your fresh-faced friends and laugh to your heart’s desire while spinning around in circles to demonstrate your new-found freedom!

Adım Alex.


Alex de Souza is the bain of my existence. Never mind that I’m not the biggest of Fenerbahçe fans, this man’s name tormented me throughout my time in Turkey. Who is Alex de Souza, you may ask.

Well, he is one of several athletes who I discovered over my time in Turkey, the first being former Boston Celtic player Semih Erden, the questioning would go:

“Where are you from?”
“Ahhh Semih Erden!!! Boh-ston! Boh-ston Celti-h-kssss!”
“Oh, yes, he plays for the Celts, yep.”

I go by Alex, which can at times create a bit of confusion, it being a typically male name (I am not male). In Turkey, I encountered a whole other level of curiosity.

“Alex, mi?” (Alex?)
“Evet, futbolcu gibi.” (Yep, like the footballer.)

I once tried to explain that my name is the Anglicized version of Iskander. That seemed to confuse them even more since Turkish has no female version of the name (I suggested Iskandera several times to confused looks and shrugged shoulders). And, because Turkish names tend to fall into one of two categories (1. Qu’aranic names 2. Turkic language names) mine, like many foreigners’ was a bit of a comedy.

This isn’t the first time that I have encountered issues with my name.  It has always been a source of interest. Its about as WASP*y as it gets: Alexandra Snow Hallowell. Either its my middle name: Snow (no my parents weren’t hippies, its a family name), or its a “Oh, you’re Alex, I was… ahh… expecting.. well never mind.” No, I’m not a guy.

I’ll never forget when the recently arrived Swiss exchange student point blank asked me, “Alex? But isn’t that a boy’s name?”

Obviously not.

So, Alex de Souza. Watch your back.


*For you non-Americans,

WASP is an informal term, often derogatory or disparaging, for a closed group of high-status Americans usually of British descent with a Protestant background who supposedly wield disproportionate financial and social power.