Two Weeks in Turkey - My Family Travels
Ali the driver.
Hanging out with your friends.

From the thirtieth of July to the seventeenth of August 2009, I was in Turkey, or more accurately the city of Istanbul. My mom’s childhood friend Orhun Ãtavdar founded an art museum. Half of my time there was spent working there alongside his son Yunus. The other half was spent on a boat trip in the Aegean Sea. This trip to Turkey was of extreme importance to me since the only other two times I’ve visited my homeland were at the ages of three and ten and neither trip yielded any memory as to what Turkey is like. Also when I was ten I went on one of Orhun’s boat trips, for reasons discussed later, it provided many insights as to who I was and who I was becoming.

I realized a few things about Turkey in my time there. It’s almost, a bizzaro America. It’s a superficial version with imitation converses, and imitation Playstation 2 games and imitation DVDs and imitation everything. All the cultural width but none of the depth. I went to my grandpa’s house, and stumbled upon a collection of my mother’s old vinyls, almost all of them were by an American band. That’s when I realized how far back this thing stretches. It’s a great place but frankly it’s just how I saw the teenage culture both of now and of thirty years ago.

Another thing I noticed was human labor. In Turkey there are parking garages where people put their cars. What’s cheaper is a chauffer who will wait six hours while you visit a friend’s house and takes care of the car. Upon my arrival to Turkey, they looked at me as if I was insane when I put my luggage in the trunk and opened and closed my own car doors. When we went out to eat, they gave me the same look when I asked what Ali (the chauffer) was doing. They replied with a “don’t worry about it, it’s his job.”

This, above everything else made me very uneasy. The entire time I was there they pretended he was invisible. I have a memory of him of when I was three. Upon asking Yunus where Ali was from or what he did before, he replied with a shrug and the eloquent phrase “Iunno.” For someone to be with you that long and be treated in such a way that you neither know nor care about him really upset me. And here I was thinking my life in their house would be like that of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with a Butler full of personality and who is actually treated like a human being.

The boat trip was amazing. In the Aegean, there’s no light pollution, so the night sky is as vibrant and moving as any painting of Claude Monet. I realized many things about life. I realized the crushing futility of my actions upon reading Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’, and learning of his “absurdist” views. How death is inescapable, how all your achievements in life mean nothing on your deathbed. But I also realized the beauty in it. How I don’t have to make it into a history book or be a doctor or lawyer for my life to have meant something. I know I’m too young to think about the end, but let’s just say I like to think ahead.

-Sinan Ziyalan


P.S. Before I went on my boat trip, I took a picture of three old men who reminded me of when my friends and me meet and talk. I’ve also included a picture of Ali.


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