This blog is about one Turkish-American couple’s road trip through a cross-cultural marriage. In the U.S., one of our regular cross-cultural moments comes in explaining things about Turkey, the Middle East, and Islam to others – to the best of our ability.
At work, I have a small Galatasaray Futbol Kulubu sign on my door. In part, this is to welcome some of the Turkish students who study in the English as a Second Language program where I work. Sometimes, when my students visit during office hours, this leads to questions. I consider this a good thing – and try to have a range of interesting objects, art and books that can generate conversations either about the topics I teach – or about the Middle East. I want to do my part in creating more understanding amongst our students – and our society in general.
So, the impetus for this post comes after reflecting on a conversation last week with one such student, who had noticed my Turkish sign, and had asked about it. Although it wasn’t a surprise, one of this student’s first questions was “Gee, well, I guess I am wondering – if it is a Muslim country, do Turks drink alcohol?” In these moments I often sigh inside – and put on my freshest, most open face and walk them through the metaphor about people who are, for example, Jewish, but for example, do not keep kosher. During this type of explanation, I channel the calm, collected and wise Hacivad, instead of the flighty, oppositional agent-provocateur with no patience, Karagöz. This usually does the trick. If it doesn’t work – then I move to Catholicism, and how there can be differing views on abortion, birth control and sex before marriage amongst people who attend Catholic mass on a regular basis. In this case, I explained that most people in Turkey have Sun’ni heritage – but that many also drink – beer, raki, etc.
M. alerted me to this video today – and while it is an advertisement for Yeni Rakı, the Turkish equivalent of anisette or the Greek ouzo. I wish I had had this video in that moment with my student – not only is the video gorgeous – but it shows people singing a popular folksong all over Turkey – the landscapes, traditions and settings of the various regions of the country are shown along the way. Of course, the downing of Rakı is everpresent in the video. It’s lovely, take a look. I especially love seeing the Urfa scene – near the Syrian border in South Central Turkey where we visited last year…a chili pepper is dipped into Rakı before being consumed…
Now I need to decide whether sending that student a link to this video – a link that gets the cultural message across but is also an advertisement for alcohol – whether that is a good idea professionally!