We’re All Asians Really

We’re All Asians Really

Geographically, Anatolian Turkey is in Asia and Thracian Turkey is in Europe. A simple glance at a map confirms it. Istanbul is not called the city that straddles two continents for nothing. For commercial convenience, the whole of Turkey is often classified as Europe for such things as travel insurance and flights. Lonely Planet lists Turkey under Eastern Europe and the Caucasus when it is part of neither (apart from Thrace). Is Turkey also part of the Middle East? This is less clear. The Middle East is an ill-defined term that always includes Arabic countries, but may or may not include the nations of North Africa (who speak Arabic) and may or may not include non-Arabic Iran. Where does Cyprus fit in? It’s closer to Asia than to Europe and the Greek side is part of the European Union (nominally on behalf of the whole Island but that’s another story).

Does any of it matter? Certainly not to long gone conquerors who marched across Asia Minor from all points of the compass at the drop of a helmet. Take a look at this to see what I mean.

It only matters to me when trying to catch the weather forecast on BBC World. The Beeb doesn’t seem to know where Turkey is either and generally ignores us altogether. Consider this. Geologically, Europe isn’t a continent at all. It’s an appendage to Asia with an arbitrary border drawn along the Ural and Caucasus Mountains. Those in the know describe the entire landmass as Eurasia. You see we’re all Asians really.

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Turks and Tampons

My third Guest blogger is Alexandra from Death by Dolmuş. Alexandra is a Yankee lass who teaches in Istanbul. She writes about the quirky side of life in the ancient city and has a mild obsession with public transport. Alexandra also publishes an amazing photoblog. If you don’t like discussions about women’s itty bitty parts, don’t read the following (oh, go on).


There are strange things that occur in Turkey. I am pretty on top of most of it, but from time to time things do catch me off guard. I’m unfazed when a man brings a 12 foot (4 meter) ladder into an over-packed dolmuş (roughly 5 meters long itself.) I’m unfazed when my bank calls to ask permission of my employer when I wish to close my account (obviously a mere mortal like me can’t be trusted with such a serious decision.)

I was caught off guard when my colleague, a punk, riot-grrrl feminist with red hair (not Irish red, but like, the color red) and combat boots, moans to me, doubled over in pain, ‘Gahh, I wish I hadn’t left the window open last night.’ It had been a sweltering 80 degrees (25 C) and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with her abdominal pain. ‘The wind, the night air, you know, it gives me cramps.’ Efendim?

Now, I’m fairly certain that cramps are caused by your uterine walls contracting to expel the lining. But, you know, who can say for certain…

I was constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge these university educated women displayed about their own bodies and the science contained in them. I know Freud thought that hysteria (that vague, female-ish complaint) was caused by a ‘disturbance’ to the uterus, but I’m pretty sure somewhere in my 6th grade sex-ed class, I remember learning something different…

As I was moving out, I had an enormous amount of tampons that my roommate and I had hoarded like we were preparing for the apocalypse. God knows when we would be able to find tampons again, so every time we ventured out of the Islamic Republic of Turkey, we bought up the store like they were going out of style.

Not having space in my luggage for 47 boxes of Tampax Pearls, and with the confidence that I could pick some up any time nature called at my nearest pharmacy (that’s a chemist’s for you Brits), when back in the US, I decided to give them away. Because honestly, who doesn’t like free tampons? Apparently, Turkish women.

So that’s how I found myself, on my last day of work, sitting in a locked office with my colleague, demonstrating how to use a tampon. I unwrapped it, showed how the applicator worked, as she dissected the tampon I had handed her, checking that the string was in fact well secured at the center. I extolled the tampon’s virtues: you can go swimming! (Her face lit up, what do you mean? She asked in disbelief.) You can wear white pants with no fear! Thinking back to all those tampon commercials of my youth, you can go shopping with your fresh-faced friends and laugh to your heart’s desire while spinning around in circles to demonstrate your new-found freedom!

Asia in a Minor Key

A real challenge to able-bodied emigreys is to find a gainful occupation that doesn’t involve propping up the bar in some sad, insular expat dive to Blighty-bash and complain ad nauseum of all things local. I have my blog but what of Liam?  An early decision was to order a Roland keyboard from Istanbul. A creative renaissance ensued. Liam spends endless hours tickling the ivories and fiddling with his knobs. Well, if you can’t beat ’em then join ’em, so I have embarked on a set of suitably pretentious lyrics for him to compose around – more Shakespeare’s Sister than Shakespeare, methinks. The lyrics are evolving into a compendium cryptically entitled Asia in a Minor Key.

The title lyric, an ode to the emigrey forlorn, goes like this

Land of my fathers,  don’t you want your son?
Shall I run from you, my kin undone?
To the land of sunrise and chattering minarets
Bizarre bazaars and monkish pirouettes
Chase my dream across dusty hills
Past olive groves and neglected mills
To find myself in the arms of strangers
To talk in silence and delight in dangers
Erase the pain of past misdeeds
Follow my road to wherever it leads
Land of my father I have done all I can
To find the love of an Ottoman
Asia in a minor key
A game of chance
Last chance for me
Land of my fathers; don’t you want your son?
I ran from you, my kin undone
To the land of sunrise and chattering minarets
But shall my dream stay unrequited yet?

Pompous twaddle or what? I guess Liam thinks so. While his Steps to Sibelius musical palate may be a broad church, classically trained Liam struggles with hooks and the art of a well-crafted three minute pop song eludes him. In any case, his real dream is to complete the requiem he began to write a decade or so ago and to write a score for a film. This is now.

Liam has been experimenting with his keyboard by writing some short pieces as part of his score for a soundtrack. It’s very much a work in progress but you fancy a listen, please click below.

Liam Brennan