The Ataturk Obsession
It’s so creepy. Ataturk is literally EVERYWHERE. It’s an official law in Turkey that every administrative and official building (like schools, students dorms, hospitals, etc.) must have his photo framed on the wall in every single room. Every single classroom in a school needs to have his image on the wall. Is he seriously that important that we need to see his face wherever we go???
There are statues of him everywhere. My friend took a photo of this statue above at a main intersection in Malatya (a city close to Elazig). As if having one statue of Ataturk wasn’t enough, they had to have another twin of himself placed, completely naked. It seems very occult like.
It’s as if he’s worshiped. I’ve asked so many Turks over and over again, why do Turks love Ataturk so much? And they always give the same typical answer: “Well, he’s the founder of the modern republic of Turkey, blah blah blah…” Well, no kidding Sherlock, I know that. But why exactly do you love him? What did he do which makes everyone love him so much? No one can answer this question for me.
It’s as if they don’t even know why they love him so much; as if they’ve all been brainwashed. Literally, everyone loves him. But for what?? For getting rid of the Arabic script and using Latin? For abolishing the caliphate? For forbidding the athan to be heard? Despite all the oppression he forced on people, I have yet to find a person who says they dislike him. Which is really weird, because you’ll always have some people who hate a person and others who love him/her. There’s always a balance of opinions. Except for Ataturk. Or maybe they’re just still not allowed to voice any negative opinions of him.
What baffles me is how in a country that seems so religious and devoted to Islam, how can they have so many statues and images of him placed everywhere? Statues are strongly forbidden in Islam. It is a very strange paradox.
In Elazig, all the students and teachers were in the auditorium rehearsing our closing ceremony (for the end of summer school). We all stood up to sing the Turkish national anthem, and of course, lo and behold a huge picture of Ataturk comes up on the screen. I found this all very strange since in Islam, the only one for whom we stand up for is for Allah s.a.w. Yet all the kids were singing at the top of their lungs like soldiers, singing for Ataturk. I think I had my right knee bent, and my student standing next to me, nudged me saying: “Teacher you have to do it like this!” She puts her arms to her sides with an arrow straight posture and her chin held up like they’re all in the army. I’m thinking… this kid needs to relax.
The level of devotion they have for Ataturk is bizarre. If he were an incredibly good man who helped humanity immensely, then I would understand… but at the moment I couldn’t help but feel awkward standing there, while all the other kids sang to his photo with immense pride.
Getting fat in Elazig
I think I’m going to have a “Getting fat in…” post for every city I go to now, haha. But, wow, Turkish hospitality is really something; we’re treated like queens here. They just won’t stop feeding us, the meals keep on coming. Elazig is also apparently known for its cuisine; there are over 200 different types of dishes in this city.
My aunt who has been living in Istanbul for 20 years said she still hasn’t tried out all of the Turkish cuisine; there are just too many dishes. You need to live here your whole life to try all the food, but maybe even that is questionable haha. I am firmly convinced that Turkey is the gastronomic country of the world. French cuisine now seems… wait…what French cuisine!? :p
So here are some of their dishes, since our main activity here has been eating lol:
Manti: it’s bits of meat wrapped up in dough, cooked, with yogurt on top. Turks really LOVE yogurt. They can’t have a meal without it, plus they’ll have ayran (yogurt) again as the main beverage. They even have yogurt cold soup.
Sarma: Ground beef wrapped with green leaves. They’re much smaller than Bosnian Sarma.
Peynirli ekmek (sekerli): Sweet bread. Sugar and cheese cooked on top. Really good.
Gomme: ground beef + walnuts+ onions
Dut: fruit I’ve never tried before prior to coming here. It’s very sweet!
Meatballs are also popular. They’re really spicy and some of them are eaten raw with lettuce.
They drink tea non-stop. Not coffee.
When you’re eating out in restaurants and kebaberies, they give you such huge portions of food for so little money. Whenever I order pide or a kebab, I have to split it with someone else; it’s way too much for one person to eat. (Well for a girl anyways)
They’re sooo generous. Unlike in France and Spain where they charge you extra just for sitting down. Umm…HELLO I’m a human being, of course I want to sit down and eat my ice cream which I bought at your freekin store for a few minutes. They charge an extra 1.5/2 euros or so just sitting down!! SO RUDE AND SELFISH. Their mentality: give us your money and leave. Even when I was skiing in the French Alps, I had to eat my fruit sitting on the cold snow because I didn’t want to order a tiny 15 euro meal from the restaurant. The restaurant itself is outside, and it was 90% empty. The waiter comes over and tells me with a disgusted look, that I can’t sit there and eat my strawberries. Pfffttttt what snobs.
Here in Turkey, they already randomly gave me free watermelon and ice cream. And they’ll always let you sit down for a rest even if you don’t order anything. With a smile on their faces. On real chairs/divans with Turkish style cushions.
Turkey rocks. <3
P.s. I will try to get a pic of their super stretchy ice cream for you all. It’s very different from the west.
Harput (in Elazig province)
So back in Elazig, we took the kids on a school field trip to the ancient town of Harput (which apparently means rocky fortress in Armenian), about a 15 minute drive from Elazig. Its settlements date back to the first century.
^ Harput fortress a.k.a. The Milk Castle. It was actually made with milk to put the stones together. Reminded me of the Old Bridge in Mostar, Hercegovina and how it was built with eggs during the Ottoman Empire. Those Ottomans sure were smart!
Ancient mosque with its tilted minaret.
^ This tree leans directly in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.
^ We visited a Turkish Cultural House to see how Turks lived in the 19th and early 20th century. At the front door, they explained to us, two pieces of metal were used to knock on the door; the top was used by men, the bottom by women. They each made a unique sound, so the host would know who to expect at the door.
^ Carpet artwork hung on the hall. A common motif that I found peculiar was that they would always have a picture of a black man rescuing or kidnapping a pale white girl in the middle of the night.
^ Again lol.
^ Baby crib hanging from the ceiling. I don’t get how would they be able to get the baby when it’s so high up??? Especially since most Turks are on the shorter side hehe.
^ Living room/ first room from the entrance of the house.
^ They used this piece of wood for flattening the fruit and making pekmez (jam).
From what I understood (everything was explained in Turkish + broken, very limited English + charades) during winter time, this heavy blanket would be heated up using some sort of stove, then placed on the table, and everyone would huddle around, cover the bottom half of their bodies to warm themselves up.
^ Again, from what I understood, the women would give out food and drinks to guests from this little window in the wall. I think this was done out of privacy if the guests were male??
^ A tree that’s 1700 years old.
Elazig province’s lakes in the background.