Author: nathalie alyon

Nurcan Baysal: “Living with the Curse of the Armenians”

Last week, on April 24, 2016 thousands of people around the world commemorated the genocide of the Armenians under Ottoman rule. Once century ago, between 1915 and 1917, hundreds of thousands of Armenians living in the lands that today make up the Turkey were deported from their homes, exiled to faraway lands, and murdered. The Republic of Turkey does not recognize the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the last years of Ottoman rule as “genocide.” According to the Turkish official position, the events were the unfortunate consequences of war wherein both Turkish and Armenian civilians perished, along with tens of other ethnic populations that call Anatolia home. Despite the state’s official denial, an era of reassessment and reappraisal has begun in the streets of Turkey, especially though the works of civil society organizations, academicians, journalists, and others. In this post, I would like to bring your attention to one such journalist and author, whose main focus is not the Armenians but rather the Kurdish minorities in Turkey. Nurcan Baysal is a Kurdish …

On the Obsession of Travel Photography

A few weeks ago, I ate dinner with Barbara—a woman also staying at Hostel La Candelaria in Valladolid in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Valladolid is frequented by travelers and backpackers alike for its proximity to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and breathtaking cenotes–natural sinkholes–scattered about the Yucatan state. Barbara showed me Google photos of Rio Lagartos, a coastal town north of Valladolid where pink flamingos roam free. Even though she failed to recruit any other hostel dwellers to join her day-trip, she was determined to take the two-hour bus ride to the lagoon and photograph the flamingos. “I will go there and take photos of pink flamingos. And they’d better be there or else I will Photoshop them into the picture!” she said. I couldn’t be sure whether her priority was to actually see the flamingos or possess first-hand photos of them. I had previously written about the transformative effects of being filmed on the experience of diving. Barbara’s excitement to possess images of pink flamingos prompted a renewed contemplation over a subject that has long agitated me. As …

[Don’t] Fear the Travel Warning

After the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016 the United States issued a warning to its citizens cautioning travel to Europe. I read the notice while lounging on my friend’s couch in central London, where I had arrived after dodging a throng of tourists near Parliament Square. The alert warned of “near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation.” Reading this email at first made me laugh. I’m used to seeing Israel or Turkey – my emotional homelands – frequent travel advisory lists. In fact, most countries I live in or travel to are on some kind of list: don’t go to Mexico lest you become collateral damage in the county’s drug wars; don’t travel to Colombia for you’ll get Zika; in Israel you might become the victim of a knife attack; in Turkey someone might blow you up in the middle of the capital. And now the Americans had put an entire continent off limits. The absurdity of it all sounded like a joke. I looked at the …

Buraları Asla Unutmayın

 “Sosyal hayatına bir dur demen gerekecek yoksa Meksiko’yu göremeyeceksin,” dedi Eva. Mutfağında organik kefir yapan, balkonunda kaplumbağa besleyen Eva, AirBnB’den kiraladığım evin sahibiydi. Üç odalı evinin bir odasında ben, diğerinde kendi, üçüncüsünde ise İspanyolca kursu için gelmiş 19 yaşında iki Amerikalı öğrenci kalıyorduk. Meksiko’ya vardığım günden beri iki Yahudi-Türk ailenin himayesi altına alınmıştım. Bitmeyen Şabat yemekleri, pazar kahvaltı davetleri, akşam üstü çay sefaları derken Eva’ya hak vermemek mümkün değildi. Ama öğünlerimi İspanyolca – Türkçe karışımı sohbetler eşliğinde zeytinyağlı fasulye, fırında tavuk, pilav yiyerek geçirmekten de pek şikâyetçi olduğum söylenemezdi. Dışarı çıkıp şehrin kalabalık sokaklarında yürümeyi başardığımda ise her köşe başında karşıma başka bir dönerci çıkıyordu. Bir yandan ızgara et kokuları, diğer yandan rogar kapaklarından yükselen lağım kokularıyla bir an kendimi lodos günü İstanbul’unda hissettim. Ama bir zamanlar göllerle çevrili Meksiko’da ne deniz vardı, ne de domuz etinden yapilan, mısır unundan Meksika pidesi arasına servis edilen tacos al pastor dedikleri bu yemeğe döner diyebilirdik. Ertesi gün, anne babası da Türkiyeli olmalarına ragmen Türkçe bilmeyen iki kardeşten bu temel Meksika yemeğinin Birinci Dünya Savaşı döneminde Osmanlı topraklarına …

Meksiko, Francis Alÿs, ve Kardeşlik

Meksiko’daki Rufino Tamayo müzesinde sergilenen sanatçı Francis Alÿs’in “Relato de Una Negociación” adlı sergisinin beni bu kadar etkileyebileceğini hiç düşünemezdim. Aslında herkesin övgüyle söz ettiği Antropoloji müzesine gitme gayesiyle çıkmıştım dışarı. Antropoloji müzesi Pazar günleri halka açık olduğundan oldukça kalabalıktı.   Bilet gişesinin önündeki bir sanatsal protesto gözüme ilişti.  Sonradan tarih hocası olduğunu öğrendiğim Angelica, elime bir broşür iliştirirken, hükümetin ayrımcı öğretmen atama politikasını protesto eden 43 öğrencinin neredeyse bir yıldır “kayıp” olduğunu anlattı. Göstericiler, devletten bu kişilerin ölü ya da diri nerede olduğunu açıklamaları için hesap sormaktaydılar. “Bu müze benim de dahil olduğum INAH araştırma kurulumuna ait olduğu için burada protesto yapmamıza hala izin veriyorlar ama kimbilir yakında buna da karışırlar,” dedi. “Kilise varlıklı kesimle bir oldu, laik eğitim sistemimizi özelleştirmeye çalışıyor. Okullarda çocuklar yine rahiplerin eline kalacak, zaten sağlık sistemini de özelleştirdiler…” Yarım saat sohbet ettik. Türkiye’yi sordu. Yeni seçimlerden çıktığımızı, geleceğin belirsiz olduğunu söyledim. Tesadüf bu ya, aynı gün, 7 Haziran günü Meksika’da da yerel seçimler olmuştu. Ama ülkenin yarısı bile oy vermeye gitmemişti. Canım hiç antropoloji müzesi gezmek istemiyordu, rota değiştirip yolda …

Form vs content in art, travel & life

In the last few weeks, I have been busy stuffing my clothes in vacuum bags, stacking my books in the closet’s unreachable shelves while standing on wobbly chairs, and packing everything in my Tel Aviv apartment that says “Nathalie” into a dark storage room in preparation for Part II of my journey to unknown destinations. As of March 12, I have officially released my apartment for sublet and begun my journey anew. After a short detour visiting my grandparents in Istanbul, I have arrived in the warm homes of old friends in London. On my first day in London, I chanced on a tiny temporary exhibition presenting selections from The Museum of Innocence at the Somerset House adjacent to King’s College. As fate would have it, I had visited the original museum that stands in a small street in Beyoğlu, Istanbul just a few days earlier, also without conscious intent. The Museum of Innocence is the physical manifestation of the Orhan Pamuk’s 2008 novel by the same name and comprises small vitrines showcasing items collected by the novel’s …

A Smartphone Addiction Saga

Do you ever feel like you are less focused than you once used to be? Is your attention span shrinking? What do you do in those seemingly “dead” minutes while waiting for the bus or a friend to show up before a date? How do you spend those 15 minutes between awaking and actually getting out bed, those moments spent standing by the stove waiting for the soup to heat? My hand automatically reaches to my iPhone and wherever Facebook ushers me. There comes a sudden curiosity to Google “cooking with fresh turmeric” when I don’t even have turmeric—or hold that thought! Let me look up how to spell infinitesimal, because why not do that right now, in the middle of the street, as wait for a green light? Lately I notice that my concentration scattered. I check my email in the middle of writing an essay, answer Facebook messages half way into a book, and before I know it, I am reading about the latest adventures of ISIS or watching a TED video on …

The Impostor Blogger: On Self-Doubt and the Fraud Police

Before I quit my job and became an unemployed writer of unpublished texts, I used to work as associate editor to the Journal of Levantine Studies. As one of the founding members of the journal and having dedicated five years for its ongoing excellence, separating from my baby wasn’t as easy as slapping a resignation letter onto my boss’ desk. I mean that metaphorically; my ode of separation was sent via email. Since then, I continued to help the new team, answering questions on dealing with annoying authors or dilemmas regarding capitalization rules in Arabic transliterations. All simple and straightforward. The most recent question the editor-in-chief asked, however, caught me off guard. She explained that they were preparing to launch a new blog for the journal’s website and needed input. “As a blogger yourself, what do you think Nathalie?” she wrote in an email. Me? Blogger? Whaaat? If anything, I am the imitation blogger. A woman who writes stuff online without a clue. A blogger-impostor in disguise. “I don’t know anything about blogging!” I said to the screen. Thankfully no human lives behind …

When the Muses Block your Creativity

A few weeks ago, a Muse hit me on the head—not with a magical wand but with a book. It was on one of Tel Aviv’s few gloomy days. A grey wind blew outside my window, making the thought of any venture outside even more depressing than staying in. A writer’s block had occupied all corners of my keyboard. I must get out of the house, I told myself and hopped on my bike. I rode through Allenby, dodging low clouds and loud busses to arrive at Halper’s Books – one of Tel Aviv’s hidden gems for used books in English. I didn’t have a book in mind. One should approach used bookstores like an antiques store; you never know what you will find. At this point you are probably expecting me to reveal that I discovered a special edition of The Wasteland or Anne Karenina, soiled by coffee stains and breadcrumbs left from their previous owners. No. I bought almost-new copies of The Road (saw the movie but never read the book) and Alain …

A World through Transcultural Eyes

With globalization a trend of the past, cultures are no longer clashing but rather mixing, people are no longer stationary within the traditions that they are born into, but rather constantly evolving. Over two months have passed since I arrived back in my apartment in Tel Aviv. Once again there is a drawer designated for my underwear and I reunited with my electric toothbrush. Almost every day, I run into friends and acquaintances on the street. After all, Tel Aviv is a microcosm for cosmopolitan urban living. They ask if I have “returned.” I don’t really know what to say. I am here. For now. I don’t know if I will stay, how long I will stay, where I will go when I go. And I am fine with not knowing. My dear friend Aditi’s wedding in Portugal provided the perfect excuse for flying back to this rusty corner of the world. (Posts on Portugal are in the works). But I had other reasons, too. In Mexico, I realized that a year of gallivanting around …