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. 🙂

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.

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 🙂

 

 

 

What do we do for peace?

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We all want peace and still…we do nothing or too little to make it possible. The very meaning of the word “peace” has been shifted from the sphere of reality to a utopian dimension, making it the dream of the hippies or naive idealists and abusively inserting the notion into unreliable political speeches. Therefore, peace is seen as an illusion or a lie. We don’t believe anymore in peace just as we don’t believe in fairy tales. Consequently, we refuse our right to peace and to a fairy tale-like life.

Today is the International Day of Peace and its theme is the right of peoples to peace proclaimed by the 30th United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace in the context of the Cold War and directed especially towards the elimination of the nuclear war threat. The current international situation (see the boiling Middle East, the Crimean crisis, Sudanese civil war and so on) shows us the limits of our efforts to ensure peace and urge us to reflect on a few questions:

  • What happens if our right to peace is violated?

Usually the international community or the concerned parties play the diplomacy card. In other words they negotiate untill they find a common ground. If they fail, the abusive state is subjected to economic sanctions. Will the abusers suffer? Too little. Will they be stopped? Unlikely. Economic sanctions do not have the power to improve the situation of citizens, but they do have the power to worsen it. Economic sanctions violate the right of citizens to development by refusing them the access to resources, and therefore violate their right to peace. It’s an unfortunate paradox which instead of solving the problem deepens it. Of course, if the economic sanctions are applied only to stop the import of weapons the situation can be slightly different. But still they cannot restore peace.

The worst scenario used is bringing peace by war. We don’t (want to) live in George Orwell’s Oceania and still we use(d) the famous slogan “War is peace” from 1984. Think about the results of the so-called “preemptive wars” of the US and you’ll see my point: You can neither prevent a war by war, nor end it. It’s a contradiction!

  • So, What happens if our right to peace is violated?

Most of the time nothing …

  • Why?

Because although we have the right to peace, we are not bound to exercise it. The right to peace is obviously not an obligation, it’s a choice, while international law is still not powerful enough to ensure the respect of the right to peace. Of course, we have the Geneva Conventions of 1949 which regulates the conduct of conflicts and protects civilians, but they don’t make war unlawful.

  • What do we do for peace?

Celebrate International Day of Peace in line with the activities proposed by the UN?

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media.- http://internationaldayofpeace.org/

It’s not a bad idea to help others, to meditate, but do large events like concerts, Peace day selfies really help? I agree, they raise awareness, they set a trend for a day and from tomorrow on everything goes back to “normal”. Shouldn’t we celebrate peace every day? And not only through shapes without substances… Today peace might be on the crest of a wave, what about tomorrow? Will we return to our selfishness or continue to promote peace and love? Unfortunately trends are changing… and as Jimi Hendrix said only “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

What can you do for peace?

  • Educate yourself- read as much as you can and always keep your mind open, don’t fall for absolute truths,
  • Find a positive role-model (mine is Gandhi),
  • Inform yourself– know what’s happening in the world,
  • Raise your voice, show that you care,
  • Develope your emotional intelligence,
  • Put yourself in the shoes of others,
  • Search for your inner peace– a peaceful person cannot be attracted into useless conflicts,
  • “Be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi)

Not today. Everyday!

Çay lav yuu because…

dscn0460I’m an ardent story reader, and sometimes, on this blog, I pretend to be a storyteller. A story reader or teller who works better with çay (tea) especially with Turkish. I love to tell stories… although I usually tell them in Romanian, which by the way is not even my mother tongue, and still, is my native language. Now, probably you think that I drunk too much çay prepared with something stronger than water and ask yourself quite disappointed:

  • Why am I reading this nonsense post?”

Why? There’s always a “why”. And before your “why” arrived I had launched my own set of “Nedenler” (Whys). Don’t be afraid to get yourself lost in translation, soon it will be all clear whether we talk about the questions or the answers (just scroll down). Here’s the list:

  1. Neden yazarım?
  2. Neden bazı insanlar bunu okur?
  3. Neden kendime “neden” diye sorarım?
  4. Neden tüm “nedenlerin” cevabı bilmek isterim?
  5. Neden Türkiye?
  6. Neden Türkiye yerine İtalyadır?

Well, because every question is a boş çay baradağı (empty glass of tea)… excepting one. One single question, question no. 5 is a çay dolu bardak (full glass of tea): Why Tukey? which you can enjoy by clicking here. Şerefe! (Cheers!)

And to eliminate the initial confusion, my mother is Hungarian and my father is Romanian, so I do use to speak “fele apă fele viz” (apă=water in Romanian, viz= water in Hungarian, fele=half in Hugarian, it’s a way of saying “I speak half Hungarian half Romanian”), while on this blog I speak “half su half water”(su=water in Turkish). It seems that I’ve created even more confusion… I guess I’m pretty good at confusing people.

“Calm down baby and drink a çay!”- (never) said my inner Turk-“Then start with the beginning”

Hah! He can be really hilarious! I’ll continue with the beginning… as question no. 5 already had a head start. So…

  1. Why do I write?-Because my words flow like çay in the empty glasses… and there are still too many glasses to fill! Writing is a way to “exorcise” all my uncertainties and fears (together with jogging). Is a way to discover myself and the world surrounding me. It’s a way to (re)create my inner word and peace. Shortly, I write to understand myself. Who knows, one day I’ll figure out who I am! 😉
  2. Why do some people read this?– This glass cannot be filled by me. So, there is a boş çay baradağı and I cannot do anything about. Only you, my dear reader, can…
  3. Why do I ask myself “Why?”– 2 “whys” in the same question? Are you nut? I’m definitely not a nut (dried fruit)! Just in case… 😛 So why why? Because I am the girl with the “whys”! I’m hopefully in love with “why”! Obsessed! I need to know all the reasons and if I don’t, my mind will enter its storyteller mode and bomb me with unlimited possibilities of answer to “Why”. Sometimes I wonder how efficient and inefficient would I be without my dear “Why”?… (note: “Why” is quite important in social sciences)
  4. Why do I want to know the answer to all these whys?-Am I afraid to die stupid? Just a little bit…but please, don’t tell anybody else. Still a glass of çay can temporary work instead of the answer. Or another challenging “why”.
  5. ———————————————-> (scroll up if you missed it)
  6. Why Italy instead of Turkey?– now that’s a really really tough one. A short clarification to understand where does this question come from: those who have visited my blog at least once must have realized that I’m in love with Turkey or at least that this blog has many thing to do with Turkey. If you did not realize that,  but you did read my blog, it means that I’m doing a really awful job and I should stop writing right now. A consolation: I might be the worst writer ever, but at least you can find from time to time some great pictures here… and the name of my blog Turkish Delight Bazaar, should work as a hint. Now let’s get back to business. What all this has to do with Italy? I’m not an Italian, although I do spend some time in Italy, given that I’m studying there. As I told you before I’m some kind of “mixture” (just like Turkey), lost between my Hungarian and Romanian selves: People, especially foreigners tell me that I look like a Hungarian because of my light complexion and blonde hair, but everybody back home believes that I physically resemble more my father’s family, which is Romanian… Moreover, my way of being is considered more Hungarian than Romanian (?!), well, sometimes… Are you still there? Ya sabır ya Allah! (God give us patience!) We still haven’t reach our destination. A glass of çay would be welcomed now, you know what I mean. So here’s a Romanian-Hungarian girl, crazy about Turkey but studying in Italy… Guess what she’s studying? About TURKEY! Now can you understand this dilemma/trilemma…? I’ll give you a short solution: Kader (destiny). There’s an assumption that if you can explain something shortly you truly understand it. Well, not all the time… But I have plenty of time to understand. As for  Kader let’s say that he came before Turkey… And I love Kader almost as much as I love Turkey. So much that I’m considering to open an Italian boutique in my bazaar. Italy doesn’t have çay but it has the best latte macchiato and cappuccino to fill the empty glasses, amazing gelato (ice-cream) and pizzzzaaaa! Mamma mia! It’s impossible to resist! So enough with the “whys” for today!

Moral of the story: I need more çay (or cappuccino?) in my life, more dolu bardaklar!

“Soğuk” stories: Fall fal told me my destiny…

tumblr_m23m1kLDcW1qa6qjbo1_1280Photo: LITTLEテアシ Draws

It was a fall fal, although I’m not so sure of that…but considering the fact that it was a little bit cold that night, it must have been autumn already, as Elazığ kept itself çok sıcak until our last days there and probably turned soğuk only to show us its disappointment caused by our decision to abandon it. Unless it was a summer night frozen in mystery… It doesn’t even matter anymore the exact time (or season) of the experience. It’s more important how it felt. It felt like fall. It sounded like fall (fal). Therefore it wasn’t a summer fal for sure, it was a fall fal for me. And it still is. But the resemblance of the 2 words (fall/fal) don’t give us any assurance about the truthfulness of the fortune-teller. I’m not even sure I had a real falcı (the person who can read the fortune in coffee), whatever that should mean. But I don’t care, It was fun. And I succeeded to avoid some paths of destiny written in the coffee grounds. Or not? Well, it depends what I want to believe… According to “Inside out Istanbul” (the post I shared yesterday) it is believed that the fal has the power to predict only the near future. The very near one. Forty days. Well, it has been 2 years since then. Let’s check the “list” of predictions:

  • you’ll work a lot: ok, I did work a lot…but who does not? A whole year I was reading for and writing my Master thesis, participated in as many conferences as I could, learning for my exams, preparing for my Ph.D admission exam, learning Italian and Turkish on my own, having a strict programme from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and only a few hours of free time during the weekends. Working for a foundation and coordinating a youth programme (Youthbank), writing editorials for a newspaper… If this is not a LOT of work, then what is it? So this one is true…but I don’t consider it a prediction! Unless you are filthy rich or you won the lottery, you must work. And estimating your amount of work is a subjective issue.
  • and succeed:  True…up to a point. If I take only the ups and forget the downs. I did pass my Ph.D. exam in Italy, so now I’m one of the 15 lucky Ph.D. candidates in History of Europe (my thesis focuses on Turkish politics) at Sapienza University of Rome, the oldest and biggest university in Europe. And one of the 3 foreigners studying there. This was the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced. And passed. Successfully. Another achievement I am proud of is being one of the 50 students (from more than 320) selected to participate in an international conference this year in Izmir, and one of the 10 students who received funding. Well, I did participate in many conferences before, but this was my first one in TURKEY! Just one more and I’ll stop. Promise! A live TV show, a few weeks ago. Me as a presenter. 3 guests. Topic: Linguistic journey in Turkey. Turkey and Turkish- 2 words which transformed this humble experience in something extraordinary! (Even though I could have been more extraordinary) I’m sure for most of you these are not great achievements, but I was happy like a child, a child in her twenties. Ok. I agree. Enough with the praise! The following word spoils the magic:
  • BUT
    (there is always a silly BUT, right?)
  • but you won’t be rich. The falci‘s eyes said “Don’t panic” and his mounth continued the idea. You won’t be poor either. You’ll have enough money to live well (and to travel, I hoped secretly!).  No. I didn’t panic. I’ve never dreamt to be a rich girl:-) And if  I were one, I would use my money to bring smiles on the faces of poor children. Take this as a promise! The fal was right, I’m still not rich!:-))
  • you’ll live somewhere in the mountains near to a lake. Now that was really disappointing for someone who’s hopelessly in love with the sea… From that moment I’ve started to dislike the mountains. Last summer while being in the Alps for 3 weeks at a conference, instead of enjoying the sight I was complaining about the weather (it rained a lot!) and about our host, who said “Romania nicht schön, nicht schön” (Romania is not beautiful, not beautiful), although she has never visited my country! I hate the stereotypes related to my country! Ok, I lived in the mountains for 3 weeks, but there was no lake near to our pension. Now I live in Romania. No mountains, just hills, no lake just a river. And in Rome (Italy) not too far from the sea.  Dear falcı, at this point I prefer to consider you a liar!
  • You’ll make a parachute jump. I did not. Not yet.:-)

The truth is I am my best falcı, I’m drawing and guessing my destiny (destinies). But still, who knows? Let’s keep a little mystery!

DSC01353This is a picture of my coffee cup. If there is a falcı, I'm waiting for a second opinion:-)

Maktub…

2759904631_3a2204901a_oPhoto: Celso Flores

No heaven without pain…

No pain without love…

No love without God.

No us. No-one.

Maktub*.

Your sun is our rain

No rainbow, just the flame

which burns with every tear

your rest and our peace…

Maktub.

Unspoken questions, silent feelings

trembling hearts and sorrows…

Deserted roses, million colours

faded away in black holes…

Maktub.

Heal us, oh memory

your smiles, your kindness are our need

to soothe the storm and plant the seeds

of future smiles and dreams.

Maktub!

My clumsy poetry dedicated to my dear grandmother who is watching us from heaven… Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist

* “Maktub” the merchant said, finally.
“What does that mean?”
“You would have to have been born an Arab to understand,” he answered. “But in your language it would be something like ‘It is written.”
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho