It's a long way from Sydney to the provincial capital of central Anatolia, but that's where I ended up living and working for two years in the middle of the American invasion of Iraq and the entry of an Islamic party into the political scene in Turkey. I was teaching students from mainly small, undeveloped villages how to speak English and understand Western culture. Along the way, my students and colleagues taught me about Turkish politics, the health system, football, marriage and divorce, funerals, religious celebrations, Turkish bath etiquette and how to shop.
Everyday life in Turkey is chaotic and confusing, as the changes wrought by Ataturk are in direct conflict with the religious requirements of Islam. Modernity and tradition collide so the only way to live without going insane from the contradictions is to trust in fate, along with everyone else. The English department I worked in was a microcosm of the larger population, where religious nationalists fought modernist nationalists, good Muslim girls sided with feminists and I just tried to make sense of it all.
Now I live in Istanbul. For most people, Istanbul is synonymous with its world famous sights, the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Dolmabahçe Palace. Few tourists manage to go beyond the beauty of the historical district of Sultanahmet to visit the other face of Istanbul. Yet a short ferry ride from the Bosphorus to the Sea of Marmara brings you to the shores of Asia, to an Istanbul that is vibrantly alive with the sounds of street vendors, wedding parties, dog walkers and more.
In order to introduce people to the other Istanbul and the Turkey I love so much, I write a regular blog. Click on the link below to get a taste of what you can expect.
I have also written two books, Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the Cİty and Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries, both available through Amazon.