I’ve had the chance this week to meet two wonderful new friends, David and Lois Bradt, who will be joining me in Kayseri, Turkey this September. David will serve as an English Language Fellow (ELF for short) at Erciyes University while I work in the English Preparation (hazırlık) program. David and Lois are both retired professors from Southern New Hampshire University. After having to reschedule the invitation a few times because of the Red Sox and the Turkish Consulate, I was finally able to visit them at their camp in Vermont Monday.
This is a good chance to explain the differences between the two programs. David is an English Language Fellow (ELF). ELFs are Americans usually with higher degrees in English brought in to actually teach English subjects versus the English language. For example, David is expecting to teach some Literature survey courses and Literary criticism. My program is to help students pass an English proficiency examination at the end of the year. However, English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) are paired with ELFs to have someone to reach out to if needed. I’m elated to have David and Lois in Kayseri with me.
David and Lois welcomed me into their home, a gorgeous camp in rural Vermont just north of Montpeiler. Both of them had many stories to tell from their prior work in Turkey, and also with their work in the Czech Republic. I’m looking to traveling with them in Turkey, they are well connected with friends in the East and Western shores of Turkey. They each have a lot to add with their own experiences, and I hope you may catch and interview or two with them on this blog later in the year.
The President’s address to the Muslim world was another encouraging step for many reasons. One of them was the President’s emphasis on debunking the assumptions and stereotypes that have caused confusion, anger, or worse between Americans and Muslims.
“I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” said President Obama, “But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”
Mr. Obama has yet again put dialogue and airing out stereotypes on the table as something that should be treated seriously. Mr. Obama was keen to note passages from sacred texts of all three Abrahamic faiths. Some obviously have brushed this off as nothing more than political pandering, but one could also look at it as an example of how to reach out. We can’t be afraid to open our minds and learn about the beliefs of others. It is this very example the Turk Film Project seeks to follow.
As for reactions, I did not get to speak to many people today to see if this or any particular part of the speech resonated for them. Ofcourse, pundits from CNN to Fox News made the traditional comments either blasting or commending the president. Republicans like House Minority Leader John Boehner said he was “concerned” about President Obama’s stance on Israel and while other Republicans like Mitt Romney also wished Obama would end this “apology tour” for past US policy moves.
Still, even Obama’s critics like Marc Thiessen, former Bush speechwriter, said the address emphasized many strong points including the fact that more Muslims have died at the hands of Al-Quaeda than Christians or Jews.
Coming back to the point that an open look at our selves and each other would improve relations, supporter Andrew Sullivan wrote for The Atlantic, “At its heart, the speech sprang, it seemed to me, a spiritual conviction that human differences, if openly acknowledged, need not remain crippling.”
With nearly 2 billion followers, Islam is the world’s second largest religion. However, Americans, many who don’t work or see Muslims on a daily basis, understand very little about the religion including its basic belief elements. This video was made at Boston College for a presentation by the college’s Muslim Student Association. The video polls students on some basic questions about Islam.
If you have questions you’ve always wanted to ask, or would like to see certain issues addressed in future videos about Islam or countries like Turkey where the religion is prevalent, check out the Islam Awareness forum on the site.
With some of the world’s most heated issues involving religious conflicts, it is no longer possible to avoid or put off learning about one another’s basis for belief. Mutual respect can only come forward through mutual understanding.
As mentioned in the About section, the inspiration of this site comes from President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey last spring. The President described American-Turkish relations as essential. Above are clips from President Obama’s address in Istanbul with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his address to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.
The inaugural video for this site is rather simple, and part of me will confess the opportunity was more a way of testing the equipment versus anything too new, serious, deep, or compelling. However, the results were incredibly successful…and fun.
My friend Kasım and I organized a small pick up soccer game last Friday at Boston College. The idea came about while watching the Bekşiktaş-Galatasaray soccer match at Boston’s Turkish Cultural Center. I asked Kasım if he played much soccer around Boston and suggested it was something we could do together. I was up for the challenge, although I hadn’t played soccer since I was in second grade.
I think if there is anything close to an “international language,” the two most viable candidates are music and soccer. Soccer is in reality “a simple game”. A game that anyone can pick up pretty quickly. No mind twisting plays like in American football, no confounding rules like in baseball, no high rims like basketball, and no ice like hockey. I’m not saying this to say soccer is the greatest sport ever, especially considering I have watched countless more Patriots and Red Sox games than any MLS or World Cup games. However, soccer is a sport that is very easy to pick up and play for several hours like we did on Friday.
What you take from this video, if anything, might be how everyone was able to take a moment out of life to play. On an interesting note, we had people on the field from Turkey obviously, but also from England, Iran, and the US. There were no uncomfortable or awkaward moments, no pauses or mistranslations. Everyone understood soccer’s language: pass, shoot, and score.
I’d like to know what you think about soccer, football, or futbol (whatever you call it). Do you agree or disagree? Has soccer made an impact on your life, or are you one of the many Americans who just doesn’t understand the passion of it all. I guarantee you this won’t be the last soccer related video. In Turkey, futbol is a major part of society, and the rivalries are absolutely fierce! However, I’ll leave that for another day.
Lastly, the music for this video is by Tarkan, a major Turkish pop star that has international reach. He was actually my first introduction to Turkish music by my friend Emily who has been writing her own blog while in Turkey on a Fulbright. In any case, my friends have helped open my eyes to Turkey’s musical diversity since then, but Tarkan wrote this song, “Bir Oluruz Yolunda”, as the entrance song for the Turkish national team during the 2002 World Cup. “Bir Oluruz Yolunda” translates to “United for You”.
Whether you understand the words or not, you certainly can feel the sentiment in the song. Chalk another one up for music’s linguistic abilities.
The Turk Film Project is a chance to use short video segments, some created by myself and hopefully others created by Turks, to help Americans become better informed about Turkey, its rich and diverse peoples, and the importance of the country for the US and the world.
I’m hopeful that through this site, a forum can begin between Americans and Turks interested about each other. I encourage all readers to comment and check in on this blog frequently. The trip will officially begin in July 2009, and continue until June 2010. We hope this will be a unique opportunity for the interactive and collaborative creation of a documentary film through the videos, comments, and forum discussions on this site.