What an incredible summer.

 

 

After touching down in London, a quick stint in Serbia, language programs in Zagreb & Zadar, visiting Croatian friends, and finishing up in Istanbul, I’m finally back.

My programs took us around the region of Zagorje, into the depths of the Plitvice Lakes, onto the island of Preko, and up many hills to visit the Trakošćan Castle. I was escorted into esteemed museums, toured around the major cities, and invited to dramatic Croatian theatre productions. When I wasn’t busy gorging myself on octopus salad, roasted potatoes, grilled fish, or cheesy bürek, I was studying Croatian with my classmates. In the first program, we had 5 hours of class a day (the sixth hour was optional) and walked back to our rooms with homework every night. My second program was more culture-centered; we only had four hours of Croatian class a day (with a fifteen minute break after the second hour.) My classmates ranged from a 17-year old Croatian-American heritage speaker to a young blonde Norwegian man preparing to marry his Croatian fiancé to a middle-aged Italian woman who cited her reason for being there as an ‘anti-Alzheimer’s strategy.’ As the weeks passed, I became quite close with the members of my classes. When you struggle together in such close proximity over an extended period of time, your relationship with a person takes on new levels of vulnerability and depth.  I can confidently say that I will remain friends with the people I met this summer, many of whom are living outside of the U.S.

I faced some culture shock coming home. It was the little things – people don’t count out small change here. They exchange slender bills with a slip of the hand, it seems. The sidewalks seem vast and empty to me. My neck cranes with effort of restraining myself from giving cheeks kisses in greeting or when saying goodbye. I continue to be shocked when I locate a lightswitch inside a bathroom, not positioned like a tiny guard dog right outside. Americans smoke less and drive more. I’m re-adjusting to Smith life and Smith culture with a reckless abandon; Smith, I’ve missed you.  I’ve missed the impassioned womyn with a startling worth ethic and a penchant for LL Bean booties.

It’s good to be back.

 

 

 "Your English is very good."



 A Ukrainian filmmaker with long beautiful hair complimented me on my English abilities this morning.
I smiled at him.
“Thanks.”
He scrubbed his pot at the sink. “But you’re not Turkish….”
“No.” I wanted him to guess my nationality. Wasn’t it obvious?
Was it?
—~—
I spent two weeks in Zadar with a pair of identical twins. It took me approximately three days to differentiate the two, and once I made the distinction, they were absolutely two separate human beings, with cute little details unique to themselves. 
I liked talking to them about their twinhood. 
“Women are the ones who fuss about it. Men don’t care.” One commented, grinning. “Women will be like, ‘ooooh, I’m so sorry,’ if they mix us up. “
Later on the trip: “People tend to project character traits on you. Like Cody will say one funny thing in class, and people will turn to each other and say ‘he’s the funny twin.’ It’s all context. It doesn’t mean he’s the funny twin. He had a moment.” (I am sure this story rose like bitter steam out of the depths of twin resentment.)
I think that the same process was happening to me. People were projecting what they wanted to see on my person. Over the course of the summer, I’ve been told that I look American, very American, Eastern European, British, German, English, Polish, Russian, Scandinavian, also specifically Norwegian, Australian, a vague mumble of ‘European,’ and of course the rumor that went around my Serbian village that I was from Zimbabwe.





“In other words, individuals cannot be understood as having a fixed identity that’s ontologically prior to their position in the social world. Identity is not to be find inside a person (like a kernel within a nutshell) but rather it is relational and inheres in the interactions a person has with others” (Elliott, 2005:124).



 


source: tumblr

I’ve developed a new relationship with my American identity. I think it develops the most when I leave America. It’s a locational relationship, not just in the geographical sense – but in that I can locate my identity when it is made foreign, alien, and other through the context of cultural diversity. It becomes tangible when it enters the processes of ‘othering.’
People love to tell me what America means to them. “Oh, America! You like Obama?” “Very big, America! Nice big people!” Sometimes they act as if they want to know more about my country, but they don’t really. They want to be speaking at (not to) an American, so they can feel vilified about their self-serving romanticizations of a country they’ve never visited.
“So in America, does everyone eat burgers?”
“Well, it’s actually quite a big place, and there’s this great wealth of cultural diversity…”
“Because I’ve watched these TV shows about how all Americans eat burgers. We have McDonalds in Hong Kong too. We love it. Spicy chicken wings are my favorite. You Americans probably already know about those. You invented those, didn’t you? Home of the burger.”
It’s pointless to argue. They don’t want to hear reality, they want the romance of discursive pleasures.
 


source: tumblr

I like being American. I can say this with the knowledge that my relationship with being an American citizen is complex, multidimensional, and nuanced. There’s a presence of guilt, anger, privilege, pride, embarrassment, superiority, sentimentality, and goofy adoration mixed in as well. It’s like a “melting pot” of emotion.
In my head, I become more American when I leave.
 But for everyone else’s sake - I guess I’ll just have to see what identity someone guesses next. 
 

 "Your English is very good."


A Ukrainian filmmaker with long beautiful hair complimented me on my English abilities this morning.

I smiled at him.

“Thanks.”

He scrubbed his pot at the sink. “But you’re not Turkish….”

“No.” I wanted him to guess my nationality. Wasn’t it obvious?

Was it?

—~—

I spent two weeks in Zadar with a pair of identical twins. It took me approximately three days to differentiate the two, and once I made the distinction, they were absolutely two separate human beings, with cute little details unique to themselves.

I liked talking to them about their twinhood.

“Women are the ones who fuss about it. Men don’t care.” One commented, grinning. “Women will be like, ‘ooooh, I’m so sorry,’ if they mix us up. “

Later on the trip: “People tend to project character traits on you. Like Cody will say one funny thing in class, and people will turn to each other and say ‘he’s the funny twin.’ It’s all context. It doesn’t mean he’s the funny twin. He had a moment.” (I am sure this story rose like bitter steam out of the depths of twin resentment.)

I think that the same process was happening to me. People were projecting what they wanted to see on my person. Over the course of the summer, I’ve been told that I look American, very American, Eastern European, British, German, English, Polish, Russian, Scandinavian, also specifically Norwegian, Australian, a vague mumble of ‘European,’ and of course the rumor that went around my Serbian village that I was from Zimbabwe.

“In other words, individuals cannot be understood as having a fixed identity that’s ontologically prior to their position in the social world. Identity is not to be find inside a person (like a kernel within a nutshell) but rather it is relational and inheres in the interactions a person has with others” (Elliott, 2005:124).

 

image

source: tumblr

I’ve developed a new relationship with my American identity. I think it develops the most when I leave America. It’s a locational relationship, not just in the geographical sense – but in that I can locate my identity when it is made foreign, alien, and other through the context of cultural diversity. It becomes tangible when it enters the processes of ‘othering.’

People love to tell me what America means to them. “Oh, America! You like Obama?” “Very big, America! Nice big people!” Sometimes they act as if they want to know more about my country, but they don’t really. They want to be speaking at (not to) an American, so they can feel vilified about their self-serving romanticizations of a country they’ve never visited.

“So in America, does everyone eat burgers?”

“Well, it’s actually quite a big place, and there’s this great wealth of cultural diversity…”

“Because I’ve watched these TV shows about how all Americans eat burgers. We have McDonalds in Hong Kong too. We love it. Spicy chicken wings are my favorite. You Americans probably already know about those. You invented those, didn’t you? Home of the burger.”

It’s pointless to argue. They don’t want to hear reality, they want the romance of discursive pleasures.

 

image

source: tumblr

I like being American. I can say this with the knowledge that my relationship with being an American citizen is complex, multidimensional, and nuanced. There’s a presence of guilt, anger, privilege, pride, embarrassment, superiority, sentimentality, and goofy adoration mixed in as well. It’s like a “melting pot” of emotion.

In my head, I become more American when I leave.

But for everyone else’s sake - I guess I’ll just have to see what identity someone guesses next. 

 

Antik (antique) street in Galatasaray.

Ada Beach on the Prince’s Islands.

Favorite cafe in Çihangir.


Bought sutlaçe, (translates to ‘sweet milk,’) one of my favorite Turkish desserts. A cross between flan and creme brûlée.

Forgot how wonderful it is to people watch in a foreign country, white-paged book at my fingertips, sunlight dappling the tabletops, people on dates all around me, Germans arguing over tourist maps, older ladies with hip haircuts giggling into their cigarettes. Fabulous.

Grand bazaar today.

If New York has Chinatown and Little Italy, then Istanbul has “French Street” (Fransız Sokağı). “Rue Française”, with tented buildings, street musicians, cafés, bars and art centers, opened in summer of 2004.

The street behind Galatasaray High School known as Cezayir (Algeria) Street was completely renovated from head to toe by a group lead by Mehmet Taşdiken within the scope of a two-year project. The buildings and sidewalks were improved and a special music system was established. Taşdiken had close contacts with the Municipality of Paris, so the stones of the street were arranged by Parisian architects, and 100-year-old coal-gas street lamps from the Municipality of Paris were installed.

Mehmet Taşdiken says “the French have a very important legacy in Beyoğlu. Most of the establishments of Beyoğlu, such as the first cafés and first movie theaters, were established by the French in the 19th century and the buildings on the left of Cezayir Street bear the signature of French engineer-contractor Marius Michel, who lived in Istanbul between 1890 and 1910 and built the Karaköy and Eminönüdocks.”

Fransız Sokağı has a covered area of 9,000 square meters and a capacity of 3000 people together with the open-air areas. The number of daily visitors is around 6.500. The heaters on the streets allow the open areas to be used even on cold days.

Various establishments in two-three story buildings have turned Fransız Sokağı, formerly Cezayir Sokak or Hayriye Çıkmazı, into a 7-day-a-week live culture and entertainment center, with cafés, restaurants, street concerts and artists, and an art gallery. “
- mymerhaba.com


Ps, check out that screenshot from the 360cities website. Ever have wanderlust (& a smartphone)? GO ON THAT WEBSITE IT’S MINDBLOWING

Early early morning bakery run through taksim square to pick up some börek for my co-workers before my morning shift.

"Börek (also appears in the form böreği) is one of the most popular “dough-based” foods. The duo of baklava and börek can be considered one of the richest cornerstones of Turkish cuisine."

Croatians love the balkan version, burek. They claim it originated from Bosnia I Hercegovina. Honestly, it’s the same gluteny, crusty, cheese-filled, golden brown dish.

There is so much inter-cultural mingling that manifests in social, stylistic, or gastronomical traditions, but as a traveler, you don’t dare mention this to a person of that country. Nationalism & patriotism can be powerful sociopolitical tools.

We show them our hand… and they show us their hand. In a slap. But we don’t feel the slap.
New friend in Cihangir, talking about the youth-based uprisings this summer and the governments steps toward retaliation.

I keep trying to hang out with the 12 yr old boys that run the market next store.

I was too shy to ask if I could try out their bicycle this morning.

I’m really happy that I’m in Istanbul because of culture & history & all…. But some days all I want to do is take naps and eat black figs. 

:)

I’m really happy that I’m in Istanbul because of culture & history & all…. But some days all I want to do is take naps and eat black figs.

:)

Compilation of croatia photos.

Volim hrvatsku!

Check out these fabulous ice cream magicians here.

Late night ice cream trickery as we walked back from Nargile. Specialty goat-milk ice cream acts like an elastic band with the addition of salep, a wild orchard root.


This is a common treat, these vendors (who are marvelous drummers and have a propensity for hollering out amongst the gaggles of sweaty of tourists) dot the sides of Istiklal, the main pedestrian drag in Istanbul.

I have spent a cumulative 2.5 months in this incredible city, and this was my first dondurma experience!

Check out these fabulous ice cream magicians here.

Late night ice cream trickery as we walked back from Nargile. Specialty goat-milk ice cream acts like an elastic band with the addition of salep, a wild orchard root.

This is a common treat, these vendors (who are marvelous drummers and have a propensity for hollering out amongst the gaggles of sweaty of tourists) dot the sides of Istiklal, the main pedestrian drag in Istanbul.

I have spent a cumulative 2.5 months in this incredible city, and this was my first dondurma experience!

Another gorgeous night in former Constantinople.

Visited 5 Kat (which sounds like ‘beige cat’ when you pronounce it in Turkish!) Restaurant and Bar, and it was incredible. (Apparently rated one of the World’s best rooftop bars.)

 I went with a Swede and an American grad student who had spent the summer in Greece as part if her archaeology work. We gazed at the Asian Side and sipped delicately flavored cocktails.

A man next to us had birthday cake sent to our table. Banana cream. Yum.

Istanbul

A Smithie's experiences in Serbia/Croatia/Turkey, participating in summer intensive language and cultural programs.

putovi; "trails" (Croatian)



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