Tuesday, September 9, 2008

One more photo

This is the ceremonial marker for Ataturk's sarcophagus (not sure if there's a better word for this). Soldiers and guards keep people about 10 feet away from it. Ataturk's actual burial site is in a room directly below this that is not accessible to the public but is viewable on live closed circuit TV (just the room and marker, not his body). A guard stands in front of the flat screen with the CCTV feed, visibly watching the screen for any sign of trouble. And did I mention that the bus was searched (including the undercarriage but not the luggage compartment) when we entered the mausoleum complex a quarter of a mile from the actual mausoleum?

It's a curious thing in a country that leaves priceless antiquities out where people can touch and sit on them.

Ataturk's Mausoleum

We have been on the road much of the day today, traveling between Cappadocia and Ankara, the capitol of Turkey. In 1923, when Ataturk (the founding father of the Turkish Republic) put into motion a massive campaign of modernization and Westernization, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara. Ankara was at that time essentially a provincial backwater, and a huge building program was necessary to remake the city into one befitting the new republic.

I think we have mentioned Ataturk a number of times so far, but I'm not sure that any of us has really clarified his significance to the Turks. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was in tatters. This previously massive empire (it extended at one time from Austria through the Balkans to modern Turkey, through current-day Syria and the Levant, through Israel and across a strip of Northern Africa) backed the losing side in WWI and was brutally punished by the victors. The treaty the Ottomans were forced to sign at the end of the war left them with essentially nothing but a swath of Northern Turkey and the city of Istanbul, and even Istanbul was subject to significant trade restrictions. Ataturk and the Young Turks refused to accept this state of affairs and staged a revolution against the Ottoman government, nullifying the previous treaty, militarily reclaiming for the Turks what is now modern Turkey, establishing the Turkish Republic, and negotiating a new treaty to claim the land they now possessed. For this reason Ataturk is widely regarded in Turkey as the savior of the Turks, and he retains the status of a national hero to a much greater extent than does a figure like George Washington in the U.S. Ataturk's portrait can be found all over Turkey, in restaurants, private homes, classrooms, government buildings, shops, and a variety of unexpected places. His mausoleum has a status akin to a secular pilgrimage site (where is George Washington buried? Do Americans ever make a special trip there?)

For many non-Turks, Ataturk is more of a mixed bag. Modern Turkey was like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Empire, but in the process many people were burned. Ataturk reformulated the alphabet from an Arabic-like Ottoman script to a Roman script to make it accessible to Westerners, dramatically raised the literacy rate, adopted secularism (based on the French laicite), prohibited traditional Turkish clothing and demanded that women uncover their heads and men wear no hats other than those worn in Europe (e.g. Fedora rather than fez), and defined a form of nationalism that drew heavily on Turkish ethnicity.

The Ataturk mausoleum was fascinating, and it's high on my personal list of places to bring the students next year. At the site we read some of the official Ataturk hagiography (for the students: I use this term loosely - usually it means a biography of a saint, including a variety of miraculous claims. In this case I'm using it to refer to the claims about Ataturk - you'll see why I use the term in a minute). The official story is that Ataturk died in 1938 and was temporarily buried at the ethnology museum (go figure). After he died there was a contest to determine a design for his mausoleum, and it was constructed. Then Ataturk's remains were dug up and the casket was opened only to find him preserved intact, just the way he died (this type of claim tends to be made for saints too)! He was buried in the new mausoleum after that (in the early 1950s).

There is a museum of the history of the Republic attached to the mausoleum which gives a distinctly Turkish understanding of the last 90 years. I think it would be a useful place to visit early in the course because it's probably the clearest example of all we've seen here of some of the ideas we've been trying to help the students understand, such as the concept of a hidden curriculum.

We were pretty tired late in the afternoon today when we got to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations today, but I gave the students an assignment to look at which civilizations were amply represented and which are underrepresented (most obviously the Greeks, who are the Turks' historic enemy, and are generally lumped in with Romans as "Hellenistic and Roman" civilizations if they are mentioned at all). The students were also told to think about the meanings behind the adaptive reuse of this building. Adaptive reuse is a concept from architecture (thanks James!) referring to adaptation of a historic building for use as something else. In this case an Ottoman (Turkic) bedestan (indoor marketplace) has been adapted to house artifacts from the neolithic era until the 19th century in the geographic area that is now Turkey. The vast majority of these artifacts are from non-Turkic peoples.

Ramona mentioned the issue of eating during Ramadan. This has been a complicated issue for us, particularly during the last part of our tour with a guide who is a secularist and has some disdain for religious Muslims. After Ramadan began we tried to eat only indoors and we had late dinners so we wouldn't be eating in front of those on the streets who were fasting. This has been, to me, a matter of respect and an attempt not to interfere with other people's form of devotion. I certainly don't expect our students to fast during Ramadan but do want to encourage them to be respectful. Sometimes we've been ofered tea during the day by people who are fasting. We can refuse once, but beyond that would be impolite. As Ramona mentioned, we've been assured by various people that for them continuing to fast when people around them are eating and drinking affords them extra blessing or extra merit for resisting in the face of temptation.

I must end here for now, because it's a very short night tonight for us. Wake up call is at 2:40 am. We will see you all soon.

Suzanne Mallery

Soldier guarding Ataturk's Mausolem
Hello to all the incoming honors students. You'll be happy to know that the students who are with us this year are already helping us plan for your trip next year to make it even better than it is now. We hope you are excited about traveling with us next year, but if you aren't, don't worry. Many of the students from this year weren't too enthusiastic about Turkey until they took the UNHR 121 class in winter quarter.

Reading our blogs may not give you a good understanding of some of the underlyng themes and conflicts in Turkish society right now, particularly if you don't have a good background understanding of modern Turkey. Very briefly, one of the big discussions in Turkey right now is how to be a secular republic when the vast majority of the population is Muslim in some form (whether nominal or devout). Secularism in the Turkish sense is very different from American secularism. Turkish secularism insists that any expression of religiosity be private, and thus barred from any public sphere under the aegis of the government. For example, women wearing headscarves are banned from the universities, and sermons in mosques are written by a government ministry. In practice this leads to friction between Muslims seeking a greater voice for Islam in the public sphere and secularists seeking to uphold Ataturk's vision for the Republic and avoid the potential for Turkey to become like Iran. The practicalities of this delicate balancing act often seem counterintuitive to the minds of those educated in American schools and universities.

Our visit to the tomb of the Mevlana (Rumi to many people who are not Turks) in Konya yesterday demonstrated some of these oddities. The tomb and mosque complex were built by one of the Ottoman sultans. This functioned as a religious pilgrimage site and a working mosque and tekke (like a Sufi monastery where the brotherhood lived and worked). With the birth of the officially secular Turkish Republic in 1923, Sufi orders were banned, and the site was converted to a museum (as was the case with the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul). Thus this is officially a secular site, and we were discouraged by our guide (who is a strong advocate of secularism) from covering our heads inside the former mosque, as this appeared to him as an alliance with the islamists. At the same time, however there were many people in the museum-mosque engaged in prayer and devotional practices. Some of the students expressed discomfort about not knowing the appropriate etiquette in this situation, and indeed the issue is more than "etiquette" or even respect. It reflects a deep political divide, and wearing or not wearing a scarf is in part a reflection of one's political position. We can always fall back into the role of "tourist" as a defense, but our goal is to be students rather than tourists.

This issue of the "tourist" role has been a difficult one, particularly for the last part of our trip. Because we are now traveling in a bus with a guide and because we are traveling long distances with a regimented schedule, it is easy for the students to fall into a passive role. This was a concern for me about this portion of the trip, and I think it will be useful to make some changes for next year. The difference in their behavior and engagement stands out to me, but I do understand it. I think being in a different city each day for the past five days has been a bit hard on all of us. The students were very active learners for the first week, so I know they are quite capable of sustaining the excitement of discovery and active learning, but the fatigue of long bus trips coupled with reduced freedom to explore on their own seems to have sapped some of their enthusiasm. Last night and tonight we will be in the same hotel, and I think that is a good arrangement for us. The students are definitely aware of the tendency to be more fatigued and passive with the guide, and have been working to counter it. They tend to do best when they have the opportunity to roam a bit. In the evenings and during their free time many of the students have gone to the hamam (Turkish bath - an experience in itself, even when it's affiliated with a hotel) or to folklore shows. They are also taking advantage of their fre time to meet people. Now that they have gained an understanding of how much the Turkish people tend to value relationships, they are taking advantage of every opportunity they find to talk with people about their lives, what they value, how they experience the changes taking place locally and nationally, and what they dream for the future. We have many discussions over meals about what they are learning from the people they meet. Neither I nor our guide can always answer their questions satisfactorily, but often what they need most is an opportunity to frame or elaborate on those questions in ways that encourage them to go out and ask more.

Yesterday morning we stopped at the Sultanhani Caravanseray, a waystation for traders in camel caravans in the 13th century. Christina gave us some background information on it and then we all had a chance to explore the rooms and climb around a bit. Julian bypassed the sign (in Turkish) saying it was forbidden to climb on top of the caravanseray and went up to take some pictures. Paul says Julian is in training to become a National Geographic photographer. Several of the group also climbed to the top of the walls of the masjid (small mosque for travelers). Often there are no caretakers or guards keeping people off the ruins, so our students have more of a chance to explore and pose their own questions. They seem to learn more this way. Alex has pointed out, though, that the full accessibility of these monuments (especially in comparison with the overzealous guarding of the Zeus Temple we observed in Berlin) only strengthens his argument that architectural artifacts should belong to the finder rather than to the nation on whose land they were discovered. These arguments are only more complex in situations like Turkey, where the artifacts are uncovered on land that is now governed by the Turkish Republic, by German archaeologists, during a time when the Otttoman Empire was in power (and allowed the Germans to remove them), and where the original people who created these objects and buildings were Hellenistic, and thus to great extent the ancestors of the modern nation of Greece. We have been focusing on this problem of perceptions of identity and history, often anachronistic. The term "Anatolian" seems to be used here in cases when the Turks want to claim a non-Turkic past as part of their own history (e.g. the Hittites, Hellenistc period, etc.) For example, Homer was officially an Anatolian here.

Watching the Sufi dancers (whirling dervishes) last night also seems to have impacted the group. The environment was quiet and medtative, and I have heard a lot of comments and questions from group members and expressions of a desire to understand more. In general, I think the students have been impressed by their opportunities to observe Muslims in worship and prayer. They have been respectful and curious and have gained a greater sense that there are people here sincerely seeking God.

Because we are here during Ramadan, the month of fasting, we've been told many times by people here how many hours and minutes they have left until they can eat and drink when the sun goes down. We have also observed the great generousity of people who continually offer us tea, even when their own throats are parched. I think these relationships and observations will be very valuable to these students as they continue in their search to understand their place in the world and the diversity of people in it.

Again, I must mention how impressed I have been with our students. They have been tremendous about allowing themselves to be challenged in new ways and about reaching out to get to know people and trying to undertand situations that seem foreign to them. I have heard very little complaining even when they are tired or inconvenienced or don't feel well. Each one of them has demonstrated strengths that I never knew they had. I am also thankful to the families who have given their blessings to these students to go with us across the world and experience something life changing. They are all returning with many stories and thoughts and ideas, and I think many of them will see their own lives differently for the experience.

Suzanne Mallery

P.S. This may be our last post before we return. I'm posting from a truckstop on our way to Ankara. If our hotel tonight has wireless I will post again, but since we have to leave the hotel at 3 am for our flight home I won't search out an internet cafe in Ankara

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Day Insıde of Rocks

This morning we woke up and had a lovely breakfast at our hotel here in Ürgüp in Cappadocia. Our dining area is SO nice its worthy of mentioning ın the blog. You walk under an arched doorway wıth wooden doors ınto a beautıful garden/dınıng area wıth stone pathways. The stone buıldıngs surroundıng ıt have steep steep twestıng staırways leadıng to other parts of other buıldıngs...ıts just a beautıful locatıon and many of us weren't antıcıpatıng such a beautıful spot... ıts "quaınt" :)

Today we started out by headıng to Nevşehır. Thıs town was named after Gregory of Nyssa one of the Cappadocıan Fathers (also termed ın the 4th century as the Three Saınts of Nyssa). Gregory along wıth Basıl the Great and Gregory of Nızıanzus were the defenders of the Nıcean Creed. They establıshed the ıdea of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spırıt (the Trınıty) as beıng equal-- that ıt ıs ımpossıble to thınk of one member of the trınıty wıthout thınkıng about the other two.

So ın vısıtıng thıs town named after one of these three men we fırst went to an underground vıllage. It was pretty amazıng! These homes are carved out of porous stone and they were expanded upon as needed. We crouched down and moved through thıs large labrynth (yes, ıt was that complex), complete wıth multıple levels and long tunnels. These types of homes housed Chrıstıans years agowho would hıde there to escape relıgıous persecutıon.

As we traveled along today we made a stop at a roadsıde bazaar where we looked around, bought some thıngs, others clımbed up on these huge boulders to look at the amazıng vıew, and some of us even took camel rıdes! (yes, thats rıght ... we rode on camels! -ha ha-) It was pretty "WoW".... what an experıence! LoL

After drıvıng and seeıng many of these holes and door ways carved ın the sıdes of hılls, and actually gettıng to see an underground vıllage, our tour guıde suggested we try to vısıt a frıend of hıs who actually lıves ın one of the cone shaped homes made out of thıs stone. So we dıd... and ıt was REALLY nıce... ıt was cool ınsıde and the walls were paınted all whıte. It was a sımple neat home carved ınto a hıll, complete wıth a beautıful terrace wıth patıo furnıture, beautıful flowers and a hammock :). These homes at one tıme were prımarıly pıgeon houses where they would collect pıgeon feces to be used as fertılızer. They later were used as homes that the state has trıed to take away from many people, however thıs famıly has the deeds and what not so they were able to contınue lıvıng there.

The house was down ın a valley that we accessed vıa a long staırcase. There was an amazıng vıew from where we stopped by the sıde of the road to get down there. Where we stood overlooked far out to many homes lıke the one we were vısıtıng... also we could see many other beautıful large rock stuctures.

Our last two stops were at open aır museums where we saw sımılar facılıtıes carved ınto stone. These were huge areas wıth some parts stıll needıng excavatıon. The fırst area was a church that had remants of carvings of crosses and paintings on the walls--evidence of Byzantine Chrıstıans. At the second area we were able to go ınto far more areas. Thıs was a monestary and were able to see where the monks ate and worshıpped. There were many churches at thıs sıte, a few of which had BEAUTIFUL frescos on the walls and up in the dome structures.
It was amazıng to see how detailed these carved buıldings were and how large and complex these places were. It was really a great experience to see how some Chrıstıans got by to avoid being persecuted for their faith.

Just another fun-filled day in the lives of 11 traveling students =) Sımply amazing.

Ruth .K. Smith - kT

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Turkey, Seljuks, and Whirling Dervishes

Today, September 7 2008, was the 14th day of our trip and what a wonderful day it was! It started off like any other day. Today, however, I had the great honor and pleasure of french braiding Jasmine's lovely hair. After that, my roommates, Jasmine and Katie, and I went downstairs for breakfast, which was rather scrumptious. Then, it was finally time to explore the Museum of Stone and Wood-Carving. We were initially scheduled to visit this site yesterday, yet we were unable to, so the guide decided to postpone it until this morning. 

This museum was formerly a madrasa or a Quran school, where Mirvana and his father once lectured. The museum consisted of many Seljuk monuments, which were characterized by many stone carvings. The eljuks are the Turkish people that came before the Ottomans. The most significant part of this building was its monumental gates. As we entered the museum, we saw a big court yard and little rooms on the sides, which were formerly study cells. 

As the rest of the group wondered around the museum, I was w
ith Dr. Suzanne Mallory and the guide and they were talking about the history of the Seljuks and how they were more liberal Muslims compared to the Ottomans, who once ruled the Muslim world. They did not have any Khalifs, because they believed that
 true Islam states that there is to be no author between man and God. 

After listening to this very insightful conversation, I decided to look around closer, and realized just how wonderful these inscriptions were. They were clearly carved words onto stone. The reason why I can confidently say that they are clear is because
 I am blessed with the ability to read Arabic and most of the words were in Arabic, due to Islam. Many of these stones had mythical creatures on them, and I saw Alex and Dr. Paul Mallory attempting to decipher what they were exactly. It is very nice to see geniuses at work! 

When our time was up in this museum, we moved on to the great Alaeddin Camii or Mosque. This is one of the 13th century's earliest mosques. Unlike many of the modern mosques we have seen, this one had no dome and had a flat roof and was composed of many wooden pillars. Outside the mosque was a list of all the dead Seljuk Sultans. Also, right outside the mosque was an odd structure, which was protecting what seemed to be a remnant of an old wall. The guide described it as a modern structure protecting an ancient wall. This made me think about the irony of the situation. There you had an old, extremely meaningful piece of history protected by a newly born meaningless structure. You would have to see it to understand.  And here it is: 
The guide clarified that this Mosque had been evidently renewed, since the original Seljuk structure must have been much fancier and more ornate. 

I still recall the first time I found out we were going to the Alaeddin Mosque, I thought of Aladdin... the disney character. I asked Dr. Suzanne if this Sultan had anything to do with the disney character, yet unfortunately he did not! I was so excited about telling my younger siblings that I went to Aladdin's mosque, but now, that would be a lie! Oh well! 

When the mosque had been toured, we moved on to the bus and got ready for a relatively long drive to the Sultanhani Kervansaray. On the bus, Christina gave an excellent presentation on the Hans. She stated that this one was of the biggest ones and was built in 1229. The purpose of these structures was as an overnight stop for traders and were within 10 miles of each other. They offered 3 nights of free lodging, which is a rather generous offer. They were usually large triangular or square structures and sometimes had a mosque or masjed in the middle. The particular one we visited was square-shaped with a masjed in the middle, and was infested with pigeons everywhere. 

When we had seen this, we crossed the street to a little restaurant across the street and the guide treated us to some tea, before we headed off for a half-hour drive for lunch. It was always difficult for me to eat, with the knowledge that most if not all the surrounding people were fasting. Then, I spoke to Dr. Suzanne about it, and she told me not to worry about it, since seeing people eat, as they fast actually brings them closer to God and to their devotions. I guess that does make sense, yet we were also taught to respect the Muslim religion and Turkish culture, so I am still trying my best not to rudely eat in public before the time comes to break the fast. 

After lunch, we headed for Cappadocia. On the way, the group played the concentration game and black magic. I, however sat daydreaming of how lovely it would be to go home and be with m family again. We made a stop to view the remarkable houses that were in the mountains... literally. They were beautiful!  

When we finally arrived to our hotel, the Surban Hotel in Urgup, we checked in and awaited dinner which would be at 7:45. I was personally quite pleased with the time, since the fast breaks at around that time, and we would be respecting the Turks and eating at a proper time to depart at 8:40 to see the whirling dervishes. 

By the time dinner was over, we had to rush to the bus to make it by 9:15, and we did! We had some time to spare once we got there, so we posed for pictures. When the doors opened, we entered, and after moving from the fifth row, ended up getting the first three rows. The performance was extravagant! About 11 men came into the room. 5 of them were actually whirling, 5 were playing various musical instruments and singing, and one seemed to have been guiding the dancers. It begins and ends with oral recitations that I believe were in Arabic, spoken with a thick accent. The whirling was mind boggling. They truly seemed to have been on a rotating device of some sort. I really enjoyed the spirituality of the event. It all circled around prayer. Initially, one of the musicians prayed aloud, then the 5 whirlers began to whirl, stop, and whirl again for about 5 times. The whole performance was repetitive, yet symmetrical. My interpretation of that would be a portrayal of equality and fairness through God. The dancers greatly respected each other, and this was evident through their bowing to each other. Another religious aspect that sprung out is the meditation that accompanied this activity. Looking at the whirlers as they twisted and observing their facial expressions and motions, one can see the serenity and desire for spiritual union with God. 

This performance truly made my day, and though they may have been worshipping as Sufists or Muslims, I truly felt that I could relate to them, and I truly respect their devotion to our one universal God.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

More photos

If you would like to see more photos from our trip, click on the "More photos" link on the right side of the page. I haven't been able to get the slideshow to work from here for some reason, but this is where we'll upload more photos of what we're doing.

Life On the Road

I have always wondered how life would be like as a rock star on the road... and now I think I do. For the past couple of days, we have been on the road on our tour bus for hours; only stopping for bathroom breaks, lunch, and of course, our destination. Today, our destination was the city of Konya, which was a seven hour bus ride! So how did we pass the time? 

Need I explain...

Today, we visited Mevlana Museum. 

This museum is dedicated to the 14th century mystic philosopher Mevlana. Known for his love for others, and unflinching concern for humanity, he was also a big fan of meditating- while spinning around. His unique meditations prompted his later followers to formulate his principles into a religious order; therefore, making him the accidental founder of The Whirling Dervishes (which we are going to visit tomorrow)! 

Not only did the museum contain his mausoleum, but there were a number of Korans on display that came from all different centuries, shapes, colors, and sizes! I noticed that people were trying, with excitement, to read through all the Korans, as if the Korans of the past and present differed. I appreciated the Muslim people more because of this because they showed me that they had a deep sense of respect towards the history of their religion. But if there was one thing that most fascinated me about the mosque (now turned museum) was that Muslims still use it as a place of worship! I witnessed Muslim of all ages, praying towards Mevlana and some of his followers' tombs, and tearing up at the displays of Korans, and that of the holy beard of Mohammed. That was a sacred sight for me, and I only observed in amazement that Islam truly has very faithful followers.

After our brief visit to the museum, we took a short stroll through the main streets of Konya, where surpringly, we were not tremendously hassled by the bazaar store clerks, but were rather hassled by stares (think of a group of multiracial students walking through a non-touristic street). We then headed back to our (fourth) hotel of the week: The Balikcilar Hotel,

where we dined in and celebrated Julian's 21st birthday (planning to celebrate his legality in the US upon return).

Late nights in a hotel? Check.
Riding on a tour bus across cities? Check.
Receiving stares or amazement wherever we go? Check.
Rock star status?   ;-)

Rock out,
Michelle Lumban-Gaol