Good Reading : June 2016
Lindsay Kelley BEHIND THE BOOK 3 So let me tease that out. I had nothing against Muslims or Buddhists or Jews or people of any other religion. Culturally, I observed Easter and Christmas, and I understood what Lent signified. But everything else was ‘the other’, the unknown, the alien. I worked for 25 years in the tour ism industry, which took me to almost every country in the world. But when it was suggested that I should live in Turkey as a regular citizen – not a tourist – I was taken aback. Hidden under these thoughts, I now realise, was an attitude of overweening super ior ity. After all, we were the West, we were white, we were the most successful civilisation since Rome, Egypt or Greece (although I didn’t think at the time about what happened to them in the end, and I didn’t know that the Ottoman Empire, at its peak, was perhaps as great as any of them). So here I was, making the best of it, stuck out in a suburb called Etiler, not knowing a word of Turkish and only wanting for Ted to follow his latest dream. What happened then is the story I tell in Accidentally Istanbul. It’s not a story about Islam or religion; it is, rather, about the many sur prises I had in the long and joyful lear ning curve that was my stay in Turkey. There were unpleasant surprises too, but most of them tur ned into pleasant surprises once I began to slowly realise that Wester n ways were not necessar ily super ior. Cats, for example, are traditionally not owned by any one person, but they are nonetheless fed in alleys, and they keep Istanbul’s rodent population down, despite it being a major shipping port. Strangers, also, are treated with respect and not kept at ar m’s length, as they are in Western countries.You may not be the sister, brother, son or daughter of a Turkish person, but you are someone’s sister, brother, son or daughter, so you are treated as if you are a family member.You won’t enjoy the same level of privacy as you would in a Western country, but you will be looked after. After two years we extended and extended – I underwent a small life-reinvention, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve never been the same since. So why did I wr ite this memoir? First, it was quite easy, because I kept a blog all the way through, and I had written articles for magazines about life in the great city. Second, I often hear other people malign Muslims – and I take it personally. This is on behalf of the many hundreds of Turkish friends, students, shopkeepers and colleagues who have charmed my life over the last 12 years and who have left me with a humble admiration of a way of life that is more loving, honest and car ing than I ever thought that life in a big city could be. As outlined earlier, this is not a tale of religion, which is scarcely mentioned. It’s a story of a love affair with a city. But underlying the story is the fact that 98 per cent of Turkish people are Muslims, at least culturally, if not by belief. After you have followed my story I hope you will love the city too, or at least be a little more infor med than I was when I started one of the most fortunate, although accidental, adventures of my life. Accidentally Istanbul: Decoding Turkey for the enquiring Western traveller by Nancy Knudsen is published by Tamejin Publishing, rrp $24.95.