What’s the Deal with Happiness?

Well, this post is not confined to Turkey (although the picture was taken in Turkey)20150417_171542, far from being a delight but certainly reminiscent of a bazaar. Labyrinthine, with countless possible outcomes. Just like the future, or the present, and even the past, having as many versions as witnesses and even more. My inner voice was awakened after a long “holiday” fully loaded with deadlines, articles, conferences, lectures, research, shouting desperately: “Sit down and think. Deep. And understand.” It started with 2016 (honestly speaking around 11 p.m, before New Years’s Eve). I was preparing my “Wishlist” for 2016. Done it. Concrete and clear goals related to my professional life, including deadlines (yes, again). And more abstract wishes related to my personal life. Among other “things”, I wished for happiness.

The thing is, happiness is not a “thing”, although many people confuse it or replace it with things. Happiness is a very subjective feeling, which according to the “happiness theories” is triggered not by external conditions, but is a personal choice. I agree, it is a personal choice to see the glass half full instead of half empty, but what if your glass is empty or has only a few drops? Well, you can still choose to see emptiness as an opportunity to fill it with your favorite beverage…  If happiness is not a thing, nor other external condition which we cannot control, how comes that when asked about our happy moments we generally name things, persons or situations that made us happy in a certain time of our life? This sounds like a contradiction… Yet, the theory is supported by our failure to relive the feeling as we remember it by recreating those very specific moments, actions, buying stuff or experiences, being around the persons who made us feel happy and good about ourselves in the past.

If something made you feel good once, it should have the same effect over and over again, right? So, what are we doing wrong? We grow. And in the meantime, our needs and means to meet them develop. Consequently, our happiness is periodically upgraded, reaching higher and higher levels and goals,  sometimes impossible or too difficult to achieve. In other words, pursuing happiness can sap all of our energy, strength, resources and … happiness. When our “happiness goal” is to high and painful to achieve we must reset your “system” and get back to the basics. Back to simple things, back to unconditional joy, love, friendship. Back to compassion and gratitude. Back to saying thank you and I love you to those who we care about. Back to admiring the sunset, the snowflakes, the clouds, the play of sun rays and shadows, listening to the sound of rain. Back to playing with pets. Back to listening to our favorite songs, dancing while cleaning up. Back to hugging our family members, talking to our grandparents, calling our friends. Back to wandering and “losing” precious time only with ourselves. Back to dreaming with our eyes wide open.

As Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Can you define your happiness? What elevates your spirit? What makes you smile with all your heart? What makes you feel grateful? And last but not least, who you are? or better said, Who do you choose to be and what do you choose to make you happy? 

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”-Mevlana (Rumi). You have all the answers, all the tools needed to discover and understand yourself, even though you were not provided with an instruction manual. And no one will write one to fit you perfectly. You are the only person responsible for your feelings, even though it might seem harsh and unfair (Everything is easier when there’s a scapegoat). Don’t get me wrong, you are not responsible for others disappointing you, but you are responsible for giving them the opportunity to do it again and again. There is nothing wrong with happiness. It does not avoid you, nor is it reserved for some privileged persons, or limited. And there is nothing wrong with feeling blue sometimes. You need to let your feelings flow out, whether they are positive-in order to reach others and make them feel good, happy, grateful too- or negative in order to ease your mind and soul, to empty yourself from harmful emotions. Stop searching frenetically for happiness and no matter how awful you feel recall all those things you are grateful for, insist on them and don’t give up unless you succeed to change your mood. In your relation with others stop expecting without asking clearly what you wish for. Communicate and practice empathy. But never forget, you deserve the best. And you can have it.

P.S. It just started to snow. 🙂

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A clumsy learner’s adventures: 7+ funny Turkish words

Here we go again. Back to the basics. It is not a secret that learning Turkish is a demanding job, needing a lot of your time, energy and… imagination. You must commit yourself with all your heart and mind. Unless you want to end up in a “complicated relationship” lasting forever and ever. Which, by the way, is still better than nothing.  Anyway, don’t despair! Besides all the sweating and frustration, learning Turkish can be fun! It depends on your perspective. When you feel you had enough and your brain cells are about to throw up all the Turkish they had stored, instead of looking glumly at your learning materials, take a deep breath and laugh your head off. Think about those Turkish words or expressions that make you giggle. Here’s my short list of funny words/ expressions. Hope to make you(r day) brighter 😉

  1. Piliç çevirme ~ What could you ask for more as a yabancı when you get both chicken (piliç) and translation (çevirme). And no, this meal is not a “translated chicken”, is grilled chicken, another meaning of çevirme being grill on a turning device.

    Photo: Pizza Gold

    Photo: Pizza Gold

  2. Mısır~ I don’t know about you but Mısır is on my holiday bucket list. One day I will visit this amazing country. No, I’m not talking about the land of corn (mısır). I don’t even like mısır (corn) that much! I’m talking about the land of pyramids, Egypt (Mısır). You got it! Turks use the same word for Egypt and corn.  Not so weird if we consider the fact that Türkiye in English is called turkey (animal). So what Turks have to do with turkeys and Egyptians with corn? But wait, there is more:
  3. Hindistan ~ Hindistan is the Turkish word for India. Nothing strange at the first sight, right? Wouldn’t be weird at all if the stem of the word weren’t hindi, which means turkey in Turkish. So India is another turkey, should we call it Turkeystan? 🙂
  4. Batman ~ Turks have their own Batman, or maybe Batman’s hometown is in Turkey. In South-Eastern Turkey there is a city called Batman, and guess what, there is also a Batman University. But I really doubt they are going to teach you fighting techniques.  Batman
  5. Şeftali ~ the fifth word is actually peach, which means şeftali in Turkish, a word you must learn, unless you want to get on people’s nerves, shock them or cause laughter. You probably wonder why, peach is an inoffensive word, right? Not in Turkish. If you read Elif Şafak’s bestseller novel Baba ve Piç (The Bastard of Istanbul), you already got the point. If no, never too late for a great novel. 😉 Piç pronounced as the English peach means bastard, having just like in English negative connotations, used often as a curse. If you ask me, there’s nothing more stupid than calling someonepiç/bastard. Why this word should be offensive? A child who’s parents didn’t get married or who doesn’t have a father is not a shame, is a child, an innocent child, judged by some societies. But that’s another story. Let’s get back to our list!

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu's

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu’s

  6. Pis ~ pronounced as the English peace, means dirty in Turkish. Although many Turkish people do know the meaning of peace, using it could get you into funny situations.
  7. Canı istemek ~ “to want”. This expression is a little bit confusing for a non-Turk, as the expression is literally translated as “the spirit/heart wants” (can means “life”, “spirit”, “heart” while istemek means “to want”). For example a Turkish song says: Canım seninle olmak istiyor = I want to be with you, lit. my heart wants to be with you. Nothing weird, right? But I can’t say the same about Canım elma istiyor ~ I want apple. lit. my heart wants apple. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but still…

+some words for Romanian speakers:

  1. Tembel ~ lazy, in Romanian means stupid. So you could guess the look on my mother’s face when one of my Turkish friends jokingly called me tembel 🙂
  2. Cem ~ a common Turkish name which in Romanian (written as gem) means jam. At least it’s sweet 😉
  3. Murat ~ Turkish name, in Romanian means pickled. I guess is not very pleasant to be called like something preserved in vinegar or salt water. But for sure is funny. 😉
Video

The rhythm of Istanbul

This is the rhythm of Istanbul melted in the city’s vivid colours, flavours and emotions. 🎶  The streets of the city are a living ethnographic museum, which invites us to a multicultural exploring adventure. The video catches the heartbeat of the metropolis, its colours and diversity. Street musicians, having different ethno-religious backgrounds and unknown stories perform on the stage of humanity asking the rushing passers-by to stop for a second and breathe the beauty of life. Let your thoughts and worries go. Free yourself and feel the music. Let the energy of different cultures passed from generation to generation and preserved in the heart of the performers take you to other worlds, other realities, other times. Music speaks the same language, the language of joy and emotion. Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Spanish street musicians give Istanbul a touch of mystery, a unique sense of togetherness, a mosaic made of contrasting pieces embracing each other. A noisy peace, where everyone shouts, sings or whispers and celebrate his/hers identity. Istanbul stands as the unofficial capital of Turkey (and why not of Eurasia) ~ a testimony of the past, a sample of the present and a metaphor of multiculturalism.

Let your heart be stolen by this wonderful city. Escape today. Enjoy the magic. ✨

Special thanks to my special friend for creating this special video for Turkish Delight Bazaar (originally created for the Facebook page, however, I decided to share it on the blog as well).

Turkey~ one country many faces

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Despite having studied Turkish politics and culture and having traveled to the country for several times in the last three years my mind still cannot draw a simple, linear, mono-color draft to reproduce the essence of Turkish culture and identity. The closer I get to the “truth” the deeper I swim in confusion. The more I discover the less I know with certainty. The closer I sail to the heart of Turkey the farther I am being carried by its beats. It is never enough and, however, it is still always too much. Not enough to build up walls around categories, and too much for those categories to resist the new (and sometimes even the old) waves of understanding and metamorphoses. Turkey is one of “those things” that I am unable to conclude. Perhaps because there is no such thing as the conclusions I meticulously search. I have walked all the way back and forth: I have included my experiences in the frame of previously acquired knowledge, I had demolished and then replaced all the prejudices and stereotypes, shifted from books to opinions expressed by my Turkish acquaintances, to personal perceptions and vice-versa… And still, Turkey does not cease to surprise me. And I guess it will never do.

I discovered the country three years ago and I definitely experienced sort of cultural shock, a shock that I expected to have and I enjoyed, a shock without which I would have been disappointed. I have been always keen on discovering the “difference”, at such a degree that I was seeing it even in places where it did not exist. I am fascinated by different cultures, ways of seeing and understanding life, this attraction being reflected even in the books I chose to read, which, of course, deal with culturally rooted issues. Being gifted with a great amount of empathy allowed me to overcome even my most entrenched prejudices and tolerate the strangest and darkest point of views, looking always for the cultural or historical explanation behind them. My mind started to work on the “what if?” mood, questioning all the values and “truths”. Visiting and living for a while in Turkey sharpened these abilities, but instead of helping me to clear the image they dissolved all my mental sketches leaving me only blurred lines… Foggy pictures of different Turkeys.

Yes, there are many Turkeys in my mind and heart. Culturally speaking South-Eastern Turkey is very different from the Western part of the country. Try to compare Izmir with Mardin, and you’ll get what I’m talking about. It’s like speaking the same language (not always, as there are many Kurds and Arabs in the East), eating the same dishes (although in my opinion in the East the food is more delicious, while in the Western part of the country you can notice an invasion of Western foods-pizza, pasta) and listening to the same music in different universes. If you visit the former Ottoman capital you can catch the spirit of Turkey, Istanbul being a micro-cosmos which embodies both of the worlds: Taksim, Moda being a metaphor of the West, while the conservative neighborhoods reproducing traditional Turkey.

Seems easy, right? Well, I initially felt in the same trap. But reality is way more complicated. Although appearances encourage us to resume Turkey to the West-Orient axis, there is nothing more wrong. Turkey is more diverse than we can imagine, actually is the mother of diversity (or father?), showing many faces of the same reality. Shades you will discover only when talking with and especially listening to people, not before they trust you and feel free to express their opinion, being sure you won’t judge them. If in the beginning you had met the “Oriental” and “Western” type your brain and their pride (proud to be Western-alike, or proud of their traditions) encourages you to see, in the end you would have to recognize there are no such great difference but paradoxically there are many tones and sides of the same coin, making you understand that you would have probably thought and acted in a similar way if you had grown up in the same environment(s). You would be surprised to discover that the başörtülü (wearing Turkish veil) lady you met is more open-minded, funny and tolerant than many of her secular counterparts. Or that the guy who traveled half of the world and considers himself an atheist is strongly attached to the patriarchal Turkish society, and when it comes to marriage he prefers a traditional housewife to a modern, emancipated woman, and even lets his mother to make the choice. Of course, I’m not suggesting that Turkish people are not what they seem to be or that conservatives are more modern than secularists. We are those who see them in a wrong way, being captive in our stereotypical shells. What I’m saying is that a person’s character and cultural building is more complicated, especially if he or she was raised in such a diverse place as Turkey. There are as many Turkish sub-identities as are the Turks. So don’t rush to judge at the first sight or talk.

“To bargain” is probably the most suitable verb to describe Turkey. Besides being the activity which made the Turkish bazaars famous, negotiation is a necessary tool to resist the daily avalanche of apparently contradictory values and the continuous social and political changes (sometimes crises) the country faces. Most of the people (yes, including conservatives and strong secularists) are found in the middle, trying to negotiate and to conciliate their values and believes. And if opposite directions, extreme sociopolitical contrasts are clear and unquestionable, the middle way is subject to negotiation. And exactly this is the way consciously but most of the time unconsciously followed by many Turks. If politically speaking is quite easy to choose a camp, in daily life people are more confused. Turkey and Turkish people are somewhere in the middle, belonging to both West and Orient, but somehow in the same time to none of them.

Anadolu’nun kokusu… Scent of Anatolia

Huzurlu, sessiz bir akşam…Uyandırdın hayallerimi ve büyülü bir fikir dizisi boyandın sonsuz aynanda. Unutulmuş hatıraların ülkesine bir seyahate götürdün beni, Anadolu kokusu getirdin bana. Sevgilerle… Elazığ’dan

Peaceful, quiet evening… you have waken up my dreams and painted a chain of magic thoughts on your endless mirror. You took me on a journey of forgotten memories. You brought me the scent of Anatolia. With love… from Elazığ.

Photo credits: MYA

10405322_929166800476946_581180987696063811_nHazar gölü

11063762_929166873810272_1995923693275465912_nRoad to Elazığ

11693850_929167103810249_3307828422446784033_nKeban Dam

11235283_929166883810271_7896113113662510487_n

Harput kalesi

11737907_929166797143613_8725706795505977037_nHarput kalesi

Photo credits: MYA

Dear Santa…

prozor         Photo credits: Blue Hortensia

It has been a (long) while since my last letter, since I believed with all my heart in your magic. I really miss those times. And deep inside me I know I can get them back. I can live all those magical moments again and again. And many others. It’s up to me. I can design my own reality. I can paint it in any colour I want. So, I choose to see the  magical side of reality. I choose warm sunshine, enchanted snowflakes, whispering breeze, dreamy clouds, dancing raindrops, smiles and…miles.  And I choose to believe in you again. Therefore, I’m sending you my letter, faithful that you will read it and make my wishes come true. Before starting, forgive me dear Santa, but what I’m going to ask won’t fit into your sack…

  • Courage. To overcome all my fears and to surmount all the obstacles in the way of happiness and success. To follow my dreams.
  • Patience and calm. I’m the kind of person who wants everything at once. My life has been a little bit “fast and furious” lately. I’m like a marathon runner. Deadline after deadline. Dream after dream. Patience is just out of my league. So is calm. Although I really need them. I even tried to meditate, but is useless. I cannot get rid of all my thoughts, future projections, plans. I have many of them. More than I could use in 5 lifetimes. I’m so good at scenarios, I even developed the ability to guess or “foresee” other people’s possible futures. When a friend tells me something about his/her studies, activities or hobbies, I’m like wooow! you could do “that” by doing “this” or you could… Stop!
  • Santa, show me the Way. I know we, adults, are unable to see you or talk to you, because the older we grow the less we know about magic, but still, Santa can you please, help me to figure out what do I really want? You can choose any method you wish, visit me in my dreams or hit me with an apple, just like you did with Newton. I don’t care, just do it! Help me to choose one of the many paths I’ve projected. And I want the best option! + a SWOT analysis attached. Ok, ok, forget about the SWOT, I totally trust you.
  • Happiness to spread around. Happiness for all. Tons of smiles. Don’t worry, it’s not as heavy as it seems. Actually smiles defy gravity, so it’s going to be a child’s play, just pretend you are running kites. Bright kites for every child and every adult. Bright kites to end prejudices, sadness, fear, envy and wickedness.
  • More dreams and dreamers, in order to live in a dream world.

Oh, and Santa, I promise I’ll be a good girl! Better than the one I was last year 🙂

 

 

 

Deniz~The sea

9533004939_a06b10be80_o(1)                            Photo credits:Sam Agnew

Deniz gibiyim… Dalgaların beni istedikleri yere alıp sürüklemesine rağmen geleceğe güvenle bakarım. Dalgalara güvenirim. Ancak, çoğu zaman onları kontrol etmeye çalışırım. Hiçbir rüzgar, hiçbir fırtına, hiçbir yağmur, hiçbir gök gürültüsü, yıldırım ya da siyah bulutlar hayallerimi ve umudumu yok edemez. Cünkü soyadım İyimser. Her zaman hayallerinin peşinde koşan birisiyim. Hiç durmam. Duramam. Başarılı olsam da olmasam da önemli değildir. Seyahat, varış yerinden daha önemlidir ve de daha güzel, daha manalı. Umutsuzluğa vakit yok. Bir limana er ya da geç ulaşacağım. Ve eğer o benim hayalımdeki “limanım” değilse yolculuğuma devam edeceğim. Bir denizim, duramam. Her gerçekleştirilmiş hayalin ardından yeni bir hayal doğar. Her hüsran sonrası yeni bir umut doğar. Her ölen dalga yeni bir dalga doğurur. Bu denizin güzelliği. Deniz kontrol edemez. Mevlana’nın da dediği gibi “Kalp deniz, dil kıyı gibidir. Denizde ne varsa kıyıya o vurur.” Nasıl olsa.


I’m like the sea… The waves carry me where they want, but still, I am confident about the future. I trust the waves. Although most of the time I’m trying hard to control them. No wind, no storm, no rain, no thunder, no lightning or black clouds can take my dreams and hope away. Because my second name is Optimist. I’m always chasing rainbows. I never stop. I cannot stop. It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or not, the journey is more important than the destination. And more beautiful. More meaningful. There is no time for desperation. Sooner or later I will reach a port. And if that’s not the „port” of my dreams, I will continue the journey. I am a sea. I cannot stop. After every fulfilled dream a new dream is born. After every defeat a new hope is born. Every dying wave gives birth to a new wave. That’s the beauty of the sea. The sea cannot be controlled. As Mevlana said “Heart is a sea, language is a shore. Whatever sea includes, will hit the shore.” Sooner or later.