N & P: End of Summer Edition

Friday, September 25, 2020

Summer is over. And what a summer it's been! Actually, I can't complain. Bozeman is a beautiful place, and I always felt like I had plenty to do. Luckily, I was at a stage in my book project in which just staying at home and writing was probably the best thing for me. 

Now the weather is getting colder. It's not crispy--the way it gets in New England around these times--but rather more like a big deep wind that brings darker and colder climes. 


According to The Moscow Times, the Russian Coronavirus vaccine has already been licensed to be sold in 23 countries, EU members Bulgaria and Slovakia included. 

Avifavir, manufactured by Russia’s ChemRar biotechnology firm, was the world’s first drug to be registered for coronavirus treatment. Belarus, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan already sell Avifavir, though it remains unavailable to Russian consumers as production is mostly export-oriented. 

Not to be outdone, Turkey will host a Chinese-developed vaccine trial in Kocaeli.  


President Aleksandr Lukashenko had himself sworn in as president, protests notwithstanding. 

Here's what the Jamestown people say:

According to the Belarusian constitution, the event had to take place within two months from the election—that is, on or before October 9. Lukashenka took the oath of office in Belarusian and then delivered a speech in Russian. “We did not just elect the president of the country,” he declared, continuing, “We defended our values, our peaceful life, sovereignty and independence. And in this regard, we still have a lot to do.” Other essential parts of his speech concerned his interpretation of Belarus’s acquisition of statehood and of the unusually tenacious protest movement that arose immediately after the August 9 election, Belarus’s social policies, economic development, work on the new constitution, and even Belarus’s peace-keeping functions that Lukashenka vowed to preserve (Belta, September 23).

The BBC sez there were mass protests in Belarus in response to this news. 


After weeks of escalation of hostilities with Greece, we get de-escalation

Turkey’s Director of Communications Prof. Fahrettin Altun said on Sept. 24 that Turkey had to de-escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and maintain the momentum towards a fair and lasting solution together at the “International Conference on the eastern Mediterranean."

It's fine, I suppose, to engage in this kind of political theater at the international level, but sooner or later it blows up in one's face. For Turkey's leadership, so much is wrapped up in picking fights with various adversaries. Usually, it ends up as nothing. 

Nevertheless, putting people on a hair-trigger can be dangerous, as we saw when Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet in the midst of a confrontation with the United States just six months ago. You roll the dice too often, every once in a while it can blow up in your face. 

Bear News

28 Years

This past Wednesday marked 28 years since I first moved to Istanbul on September 22, 1992. 

I had found a job the previous April, when I had spent a week in Istanbul en route to Eastern Europe. Originally, the plan had been to go find a job in Budapest, Prague, or some other place in the former Warsaw Pact. In Istanbul, however, due to a series of crazy coincidences, I had wound up on the campus of Marmara University. Somehow, the director of the "prep school"--the English language school (of a fashion) upon which the English-medium departments of the university were based--thought it a good idea to offer me a job. 

I had an English Literature degree during a time of recession. Times being what they were, I accepted the offer. 

It was the best decision of my life. 

Perhaps precisely because Istanbul had not been my original destination, I found it much easier to touch down there. Even after getting the job offer in April, I went up through all of the places that I wanted to see and check out the situation. There were a number of reasons why I chose to take the job in Turkey, but one of the most important was: I felt wanted there. 

I remember going back to my flophouse "hotel" in Sultanahmet after getting back from my visit to the university. I was chatting with the guy working at reception, and told him I'd been offered a job. He seemed to get genuinely excited by the idea of my moving to Istanbul and told me I had to do it. The guy dishing out Efes Pilsens on the flophouse's rooftop bar similarly appeared actually happy to hear the news that I might have found a job in town. To them, the idea that I would want to come and live in Turkey made absolutely perfect sense.

And so it began to make sense to me. 

Living in Istanbul in the 90s was a great opportunity. It was the last time, I imagine, that I will be that cut off in terms of communications. It took three weeks for a letter to arrive from the United States, and talking on the phone was prohibitively expensive. My Mom used to send me newspaper clippings relating local sports news. I didn't have the chance to talk to people on Skype, so I had to make friends locally. I wasn't able to read the NYT online, so I was obliged to learn Turkish and read the Istanbul newspapers. I was 23 when I arrived, and 30 when I left. It was a pretty important time of my life. I learned a bunch of languages, traveled to dozens of countries, and experienced most of the normal things that people go through in their twenties--only I, a child of the American midwest, did it in Turkish. 

Ultimately, I decided it was time to leave Istanbul and come back to the US to go to graduate school--that was my second-best decision. 

Nevertheless, I've missed Istanbul ever since I left. I had so many routines there that I enjoyed so much, so many random individuals that I interacted with on a frequent basis. No matter how banal the conversation I was engaged in, I felt I was learning something.  

I miss it to this day.  


Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your library.

More commentary, photos, and links can be found in the Borderlands Lounge. 

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