Moving from Madonna to Meditation and Myths


Here is Esma, the only member of the Karagöz shadow puppet troupe that wasn't uber-fashion-obsessed and was willing to take a walk with me!

These days, my internal Karagöz puppets are more like internal Karagöz demons – fashionista demons obsessed with what to wear to the Sultan of Nutcracker’s ball in Provincetown.  In order to get some solace from the fashion madness – and the fact that Madonna’s “vogue” is on repeat in my house, I sat down to meditate on the bay beach along with the one little puppet who would leave the house with me – Esma.

We sat, lotus-style, and meditated to the waves, embracing and then ignoring the chilly air that made its way into our clothing like chilly octopus tentacles sneaking in on a cold night.  The light blue winter sky was wan and the sand a pale silvery golden hue.  Esma broke the silence, saying “deniz çarşaf gibi!” (Here is how you say that: deh-neez char-shaff gib-bee, and it means “the water is as flat as a sheet”).  My dog ran around like crazy and finally settled in to rest near to the waves – seeming to sense our need for meditation.

The bay beach across from our place

As we sat there, trying to meditate, all I could think of was the lack of water back in the house – and then about how surprised I was at the behavior of my internal puppets since we had arrived in Ptown.  They were busting all stereotypes about Ottoman era shadow puppets so far today.   Eventually my mind stopped thinking and I started to notice my breath and just notice the sounds, taking them in, not counting them.  It’s been a long path between me and learning to meditate properly…yavaş yavaş (slowly by slowly) I am getting the hang of it.

Provincetown monument - and our dog in the foreground - on the bay beach

When I came to, I opened my eyes to see the only tall tower in Provincetown – the monument.  But the first image that popped into my mind was about the “myths vs. realities about the Republic of Turkey” slide show that our twelve year-old niece S. made this past summer when she visited us on Bozcaada.  Lately, S. and I have been re-working her list for a presentation in her school in the States.  Esma, being the mind-reading puppet that she is, heard everything that I said…and started to roll around in the sand, laughing her way mercilessly close to the waves…so much for meditating.  “I think we need to do a myths and facts list for the other puppets, m’lady,” Esma let out, in between chortles “you know – about this place, how do you call it, P-town? And about America? Let’s do it!” So, do it we shall…but first, for a change of pace – I thought I would share it with you today…catch some of the wry comments and picture them being made by the queen of deadpan, my niece S.  Feel free to correct anything or add your own, too!

Myth 1:   Men are allowed to marry as many wives as they wish in Turkey.

Fact 1:    Turkish law say that men are only allowed to have only wife, unless for some reason, their wife died. This law is strictly enforced.  People ask my Aunt if M. has multiple wives, and it upsets her a lot.  M. tells her to say she is the 5th one and he is looking for more.

Myth 2:  Americans thick that because of the country’s name, Turks eat a lot of Turkeys.

Fact 2:    You turkey! Most commonly eaten meat in Turkey is lamb and chicken.

Myth 3:  Turks drink a lot of coffee

Fact 3:    Turks don’t drink very coffee at all, they drink mostly tea.  Coffee is more for after dinner and special occasions.   Men here drink tea all day in cafes but ladies probably drink it in their houses.

Myth 4:  Islam is the law and religion of the land.

Fact 4:   Many Turkish citizens are followers of Islam, but Turkey is not bound by religious law and it is not a religious state.  It is a “secular” state.  That means not-religious.  You should be respectful when you talk about religion so no jokes here.

Myth 5:  Camels are everywhere in Turkey.

Fact 5:   There are some camels in Turkey for tourists (probably imported from other countries), however my Uncle told me that wild camels are not native to Turkey.  He had also never heard about camel wrestling, but apparently that happens a lot.

Myth 6:   Everyone in Turkey speaks Arabic.

Fact 6:    Turkish is Turkey’s official language not Arabic, although the Turks used the Arabic alphabet to sound out Turkish words until 1923.  Turkish is from the Ural-Altaic language family.  Arabic is not part of that language family, it is part of the Semitic language family. Don’t ask my uncle if he is sure that Turks don’t speak Arabic, he might get grumpy (he did once, in a supermarket).

Myth 7:   Every Turk is a Muslim.

Fact 7:    Even though Islam is the predominant religion in Turkey, there are followers of the Jewish and Christian religions (including Gregorian Armenian and Greek Orthodox religions among others). There are a few different types of Islam – Sunni, Shia and Alevi, for example.  There are also Sufis in Turkey, but this is a lifeway, not exactly a religion.

Myth 8:  All Turkish woman cover their hair with a scarf.

Fact 8:   Not all Turkish woman wear veils and many, many do not.  Some wear veils for religious reasons, but some women in working in fields wear veils to keep cool or to be modest due to cultural traditions that have nothing to do with religion.  Like Mosques, Catholic churches once expected their woman to wear veils as well, but this tradition is not practiced as much now.  My Aunt’s grandmother wore a veil to church in Spain where she was born and also in Massachusetts when she went to church, for example.   Lots of people ask my aunt if she has to wear a veil or if M. makes her wear a veil and she says “NO!.” I tried on a veil to visit the mosques on Bozcaada and it was no big deal.

Myth 9:  Turkey is an Arab country, as is the rest of the Middle East

Fact 9:    Turkey is not an Arab country, as many people think.  Most Arab countries are located on the Arabian Peninsula with others in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East.  Not all of the Middle East is Arab.  Turkey is a Middle Eastern and European country, but not an Arab country.  Same point as above, don’t ask my uncle about this in a supermarket or he might get grumpy.

Myth 10:  Turkey, like the rest of the Middle East, is one big dry desert with hardly any rain or snow or cold.

Fact 10:    Contrary to American popular beliefs, Turkey is not one big giant desert.  There is a lot of variation, as in the United States.  Most people in the United States think that Turkey has only two seasons, but this is not true, Turkey has four seasons, as does the rest of the world.  There was a lot of snow in Istanbul last year.

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This entry was posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Cross-cultural learning moments, Introducing the Karagöz puppets, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Moving from Madonna to Meditation and Myths

  1. Jack Scott says:

    It’s good to debunk a few myths. On my first trip to the States I was asked if London was big town and did I know the Queen. BTW, there are a few camels in Bodrum and camel wrestling is a popular annual event here.

  2. Alan says:

    come to Mugla and Aydin provinces during Winter when the camel wrestling is on. I’m led to believe that the closest language to Turkish is Finnish! Agree with Jack, busting stereotypes is good – a lifetime occupation, even.

  3. Liz Cameron says:

    For real? If you knew the Queen? Al-lah-hal-lah (as I hear it, no idea how to spell that one in Turkish. Americans are so embarrassing sometimes.

    I am getting a lot of mileage out of this camel issue – M. is stumped – born and raised in Ist he cannot imagine it. City boy! Our niece is now begging to come back to SEE camel wrestling now that our myth-bust is a bust. 🙂

  4. Liz Cameron says:

    I think we are going to have to do this. This whole camel myth busting issue has taken on a life of its own in our home now – my city boy cannot believe it. I am wondering how someone from Ist could miss this? I adore the myth-busting role – and see it as one of my major jobs in life, so I agree totally….

  5. Pingback: On the 1st day of Christmas: Meet Esma, the hippie Karagöz puppet | Slowly-by-Slowly

  6. pisisultan says:

    Hello Liz;as you know Turkish languge was born in Central Asia,7years ago I was in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia,there I met an Uighur lady from northwestern China and she didn’t speak Turkey’s version of Turkish and I don’t speak Uighur Turkish,somehow we managed to communicate.It was an unbelievable experience for me,Uighurs are asian and as you know we Anatolian Turks are caucasian and we were mesmerized by eachother(I was like I am really coming from Asian ancestors,oh my god).Couple of years later I met some Uighurs in Istanbul and they said I can speak Uighur language in 15days tops 1month,If I go to Sincan(China call it Xinjiang) and start living in an Uighur village.As usual great blog,merry christmas to you and your family

  7. Pingback: Kristmas Eve Karagöz Kollaboration with the Fairy Queendom | Slowly-by-Slowly

  8. Maite says:

    Thank you for your interest, Gabriel. With my very iieiffncusnt Greek, I understood that you have been to Kars and Erzurum. I always believe that any Turk who visits Greece and any Greek who visits Turkey cannot feel hostile towards his neighbor anymore, even though he was feeling so before.Take care,Emre

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