Jet lag is kicking my butt (I’ve had no more than 3 hours a night of sleep since Saturday) and I’m honestly shocked that I haven’t had any sort of break from reality yet. My roommate and I were up at 4am this morning and got antsy. We went to the lobby and begged the bellman to find us some fruit. He shooed us away, but 20 minutes later he brought two toasted goat cheese and tomato sandwiches to our room.
Our orientation is hardcore. 9-5, pack it up, pack it in. Tonight we are going to a traditional Turkish dinner. 7 courses all with wine and spirits. I’ll let you know if I make it through awake.
During our Monday training, we had a security briefing from the chief of diplomatic police who (for Katie and Christy) power posed the entire time and had clearly been leaning in for her whole life. She began her speech to our group by saying “Be safe during your tour of duty… uh, I mean, during your deployment… wait, during this year in Turkey!” While we all laughed, I think she honestly didn’t see much difference between a deployment to a war zone and our assignment. She explained the critical terror level threat of Turkey (in contrast to their low/non-existent crime rates), how to respond to police brutality, and how to best run away from tear gas. Don’t worry. We met with the deputy ambassador to Turkey later in the day and he showed us all the actual statistics on danger levels in Turkey which pale in comparison to all major cities in the US. Clearly, its good to be informed and smart. But I’m also not willing to develop any anxiety over my safety (of course, I’ll be careful, mom!).
As a consequence of her little mix up, I found myself reading Henry V at 3:30am, thinking about the forced camaraderie of war.
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” (oh how it rends my heart)
One of my favorite sections (and yes, I realize it’s harshly contested and non-PC) from the play is the King’s call to arms:
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”
Where is this going?
My blog title!
Everyone talks about Turkey as the “bridge” between East and West, Islam and Christianity, the Middle East and Europe, antiquity and modernity. I plan to run a half Marathon in Istanbul in November where the race literally crosses the Bosporus Bridge and takes the runners across two continents. The bridge imagery is absolutely apt.
Concurrently though, I’ve been thinking about Turkey as a “breach” country.
Turkey is definitely a bridge, but it is also a gap. Its a hole waiting to be filled in my mind since I’m so totally ignorant as to the history and culture of this place. It has been warred over as a potential route to empire, wealth, and power. It has made breaks from previous iterations of itself many times over the centuries, sometimes growing more humanizing, sometimes faltering on its route towards greater freedom (istaklal). It fails to fit into any easy category: not fully European, Middle Eastern, Asian, Arabic, Muslim, orthodox, secular, or sacred. I’m fascinated by anything that breaches easy categories (hi there, liminal living). So, it felt apt to use Henry V as a starting point for my reflections on life in Turkey. I’m headed into the breach, or, as we say in the Turkish, gedik.
I love that this word can be a noun and a verb. It can mean the act of breaking or failing, but also a break through, a step of progress. It suggests infraction, perhaps even transgression, but simultaneously is an inroad to something dearly fought for. And of course, it can mean a simple notch in a piece of wood, a nick or a tear in an otherwise perfect surface.
I’ll have nothing perfect to offer about or to Turkey. But I intend to spend my 10 months here continually running into the breach, crossing the bridge, standing in the threshold. The gedik, a place that is not a place without all the warring worlds around it, will be my domain.
(Don’t freak out. I’m not moving to Syria or headed to the Iraq border. I just need to live a little).
Also! I found a swan park on my run with my roommate this morning. Two stray city dogs (tagged so we know they’ve been vaccinated) ran right alongside us through the winding park paths. I’ll take pictures tomorrow.