A while back I realised that I had an attitude problem. It wasn’t immediately noticeable to everyone, in fact for the most part, nobody knew.
But I knew and it was eating me up inside.
This attitude was one that is probably not uncommon in expats. It’s a negative view of the country you live in, a pessimism that colours your view of everyone and everything. For a short-term expat this leads to a lot of comparisons with how things are done at home, a lot of communal moaning at expat social events and a lot of stories to tell when you eventually escape back ‘home’.
For a long-term expat, for someone married into the culture and with no plans to leave, it eats you up.
When you find yourself exhausted by your own pessimism it really isn’t healthy. When every positive piece of news is followed by a sigh and a ‘Well let’s see how long before this gets messed up too’, you begin to bore yourself. no plans to leave, it eats you up.
My realisation coincided with a generally negative time for Turkey. This summer has seen the highest level of PKK violence in Turkey with raids, bombings and kidnappings. Twenty-five soldiers were killed in an explosion in a bomb depot in Kutahya. Over 60 refugees drowned when their overloaded boat sank off the coast of Izmir. Against this painful reality several court cases have called into question freedom of speech and media rights. The prime minister gives long speeches that are increasingly authoritarian and removed from the reality of life for the majority of Turks. The opposition are worse than useless. Our next door neighbour is engaged in a civil war and missiles have fallen on Turkish soil and killed innocent women and children. Turkish planes are banned from Syrian airspace and vice versa. Our Greek neighbours are in disarray due to an economic crisis that could spread throughout Europe. The latest report on Turkey’s application for membership of the EU was so negative (and rightly so) that the opposition tore it up.
With so many truly negative things around me I decided to do what I always do – run away.
Whenever life gets a bit much my habit is to read, escape into another person’s world and lose myself. This time I decided to do the same with one big difference. This time I’m reading in Turkish.
Many years ago I tried to read a Turkish book. I found that although I was turning to the dictionary repeatedly my main problem was that I had chosen the wrong book. The author was such a complete airhead I felt the effort of all my translating was wasted. Reading in Turkish was relegated to the end of the never-ending to-do list.
Now I’m 11 years in the country and I feel it’s time to try again. I’m going to read a mixture of modern and classic Turkish authors in Turkish. I’m going to review the books and will blog anything of interest that I come across during my reading. My aim is to change my view of all things Turkish, to readjust my attitude to one that is genuinely positive, regardless of the hard realities around me.
If you have any suggestions for books I should read, please do share, I’m only finding my way around the world of Turkish literature.