02 June, 2010

Deceleration

There was no party, no procession, just a slow deceleration - assignments and exams slowed to a trickle, and then i was free - without fanfare, like most of the milestones in my life, a college graduate. I moved my things to a friend's apartment, spending my last few nights in Ankara in his spare room. In the days since, i've stumbled onto a routine that is almost too comfortable to leave.

I wake and walk toward the city center, past groceries and bakeries. At one i buy a loaf or two of bread - small loaves, light and sweet, smothered in sesame seeds, one lira each. To say i am finished with college doesn't mean i lack things to do. Today, for example, i made the commute back to Bilkent to meet an old friend - Emin - for lunch, and to use the library wi-fi to at last file my tax returns.

Over lunch we discuss the recent news - how Israeli soldiers boarded a Turkish vessel bound, bearing aid and activists, for the Gaza strip. Though the soldiers reportedly carried only paintball guns, a violent altercation ensued when they rappelled aboard, as activists defended their ship with kitchen knives and whatever else they could find. The net result: a handful of Israeli soldiers wounded, while dozens of civilian activists were wounded and nine were killed. Turkiye withdrew its ambassador from Israel, traditionally a strategic partner, and this afternoon Prime Minister Erdoğan delivered a speech reiterating his earlier indictment that Israel is "good at killing". Yet despite a sadness and tension that dominated, particularly yesterday, and chanting protestors in Kızılay, it's an ordinary day in Turkiye. Young families walk the Abdinpaşa sidewalk with ice cream cones.

Eight in the evening i board the Bilkent bus to ASTI, whence i take the subway all the way to the other end in Dikimevi. From there it's a little over a mile walk uphill. Last night i made a wrong turn and ended up at a park with a spectacular view of Ankara; it was trash night and - since there aren't trash barrels here - street dogs picked at reused shopping bags lining the curb. Tonight i stop to eat chicken döner and drink ayran, and then buy kavun and beyaz peynir to enjoy with my host when he arrives home in a couple hours.