Even though today we learned about a number of important and interesting issues that this region is dealing with in the present, a personal experience we had today was definitely the highlight of the day. Special enough that it deserved its own blog post! We got to witness Attila’s reunion with Sevda, the hemşin woman who he photographed for the cover of his book, Ebru. It all started when Attila told us in the van that he had arranged to meet with Sevda, the woman on the cover of Ebru, whom he hadn’t seen since he took her photograph ten years earlier. We first met her husband at a cafe where he works. There he and Attila talked. The husband was still not very pleased with Sevda’s appearance on the cover, even though at the time they were not married. After leaving the cafe we headed over to a mountainous road that led to Sevda’s house. We arrived at the house and waited for a few minutes while Sevda came out. We could not wait to see Attila and Sevda’s reactions to seeing each other again. It was an amazing moment when we saw Sevda come out holding one of her children and saw Attila’s smile as he talked to Sevda and her mother and held Sevda’s little girl. It was the cherry on top of a wonderfully informative and scenic day!
When we began our trip we had clear guidelines for the ventures that we were going to visit in all of the places that we were going to go to. Nevertheless the plan for Camlıhemşin seemed more nebulous since we were not visiting any particular venture that was concerned with social innovation. We mostly heard that we were going to speak to people that had created opposition to the HES and dam projects that were planned by the government. We also heard a lot about the social development of this area and about how the population is aging and because of emigration there are few young people. At the same time a few of the people we talked to were return migrants to this region, having some sort of family connection to the area, but having left when they were children or young adults. We were able to piece these trends together after we had the chance to talk to a number of different people.
Today we started off by heading to the Fırtına Pansyion where we got to meet Selçuk, who was originally from this area, but lived in Samsun for years, choosing to move back a few years ago. He talked to us about Savaş, a man educated outside of this area, who later returned with his children and German wife in order to foster economic development in the region by trying to bring new economic activities such as raising chickens and growing azaleas. Selçuk felt a strong connection to what Savaş advocated and eventually became one of his “disciples”. Savaş’s son, Evrim also lives in this region today. We met with him later in the day. Even though Savaş died when Evrim was young Evrim was profoundly influenced by his father’s ideas and hopes to sponsor development in this area through eco-tourism.
After meeting Selçuk we headed up the hill to meet with Vatandaş (Citizen) Mustafa, an environmental activist from this region who is involved with the AKP government in an effort to sponsor environmental protection of this area.
Most of what we did today was related to environmental activism and the question of how to create jobs and employment in the Black Sea without destroying the environment. This is an important issue because as we found out repeatedly throughout the day there is a lot of emigration from this region. There are few children, not enough to keep most of the schools open and those children who do live in this area often end up going to boarding schools in the bigger coastal cities since the schools in this area are sparse and of doubtful quality. We got a closer view of this issue as we talked to Betul, a girl whose father had decided to move back to this area after he retired from the army. This was also manifested in the recurrent theme of return migration that we saw as Selçuk, Betul’s father and Evrim had lived in the big city, but felt compelled to come back to this region eventually, both in search of a more peaceful life and in search of alternatives to develop tourism as well as conservation in the region. Their families had originally moved from this region searching for jobs or looking for a college education. It was interesting to see the different perspectives of Selçuk and Evrim in comparison to Vatandaş Mustafa. Even though the first two had roots in the region they had become educated in western schools, away from this region and came back seeking to change in through small initiatives mostly concerning tourism. On the other hand Mustafa has lived in this area during his whole life and even though he only completed primary school education he is extremely knowledgeable about the HES projects and is advocating for this region on a larger scale, becoming directly involved with the AKP and currently serving on its local board. Meeting with these different kinds of people gave us the perspective of innovation explicitly within the system and innovation in the way that Defne presented it previously, on a small and gradual scale without necessarily being directly involved with the existing government.
Our meetings during the day gave us a lot to think about in terms of the Black Sea region, what challenges it faces on both an environmental and on a demographic level and what people in this area are trying to do to preserve it and develop it at the same time.
After a short day in Konya today we were on the road again. We headed towards Kapadokya where we will be for the next couple of days. I am excited to go back to Ürgüp because it was the first place I saw in Turkey other than Istanbul. I was there in February as part of an excursion with my fellow Duke in Istanbul classmates. (Fun fact: on our plane I sat behind Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who was then one of the last remaining reputable members of the AKP government (before the Syria tapes came out)). Going back to Ürgüp I had all these memories fresh in my mind and was ready to see what else was in store.
As we drove in the car I came to the realization that my first travels in Anatolia mimicked the structure of our trip except I before I had traveled in the opposite direction, starting in Kapadokya and ending on the Aegean coast. As we drove I reflected on how my perspective of the places we visited has changed from the first time I went there to now as I revisited them with the Field School.
I had been to the area around Ayvalık before, but hadn’t realized how deeply linked this location was to the population exchange after WWI. As we walked around the town we saw the shells of the Greek houses and saw the traces of the Greek culture scattered around in the form of churches and greek lettering on some building . Also previously in Küçükkuyu, near Dedetepe, we had seen a statue commemorating the population exchange in both Turkish and Greek, demonstrating the depth of the impact this event had on the population living on the Aegean coastline. We also had the opportunity to see the incredible city renewal that had taken place in this area, as Attila was amazed to see a church in Cunda completely renovated, which he had photographed ten years ago in ruins. I had also been in the area in mid May and was able to see the change in the church as it went from being under renovation until now when it is open to visitors.
When I visited Konya I had not particularly seen as a birthplace for innovation, but this time around I realized that political and religious conservatism does necessarily stifle social innovation. I had been introduced to Konya with it being one of the most conservative places in Anatolia, as well as a religious center because of its Sufi heritage in the form of the Mevlana Museum and the legacy of Rumi. This time around I was able to see its Hittite heritage as well as to visit the DownCafe, a very prosperous social venture.
Finally visiting Kapadokya again I learned more about the region in terms of how it depends on the lemon trade and how seasonal migration plays a role in the area’s economic activities. When I had come before I had been more entranced by the history of the region and the history of the Rum and Christian populations in the area. Thought to be amongst the first Christian converts in the world the people who lived in this area created ornate churches in caves all around the region.
Revisiting parts of Turkey has allowed me to understand that going to one place does not mean you have really understood every facet of it. Going to these places again allowed me to view them in a different light, different than what I had seen in them as a tourist before. I feel like what I have gained by revisiting these places has been a closer understanding of the people who live there now, how they make a living, which problems they face and how they deal with these problems.
Going to çöp(m)adam today was a great opportunity to speak in-depth with its founder, Tara Hopkins. We had had the chance to talk to her previously over dinner and were overwhelmed with questions to ask her and inspired by her answers. Before talking to Tara we wandered around the neighborhood asking people if they could give us directions to the store. We found that a lot of the people living around the shop were not aware of its purpose or of its existence. A group of older women we talked with did not know about it; nonetheless they were making crafts and expressed to Cansu their disappointment at not being able to sell their products or make a living from them and therefore having to resign themselves to making them for friends and family members. This short interaction proved to us that there are still a lot of women in Ayvalık who could be potential beneficiaries of çöp(m)adam and that there is still a long way to go in terms of women’s development in Ayvalık.
As we arrived in the shop we asked a few follow-up questions we had come up with after discussing with yesterday’s group. Since they had covered a lot of ground with the ladies yesterday , our conversation with them ended quickly. For this reason we decided to focus the majority of our attention on Tara and her role and vision as a social entrepreneur. Through our conversation we were able to see her evolution and that of the business. We saw the evolution of the business from one where she was in control of almost every aspect of it to a business where the women run the books and manage the sales and she is just focused on color choice and outside marketing. Tara not only allowed us to understand her business better in this way, but later moved on to some more philosophical aspects of her train of thought, discussing with us how she worked within the system in order to create change. The way in which she did this was by working with a number of large multinational companies and their operations in Turkey in order to advance her business and the well-being of the ladies, even though she sometimes disagreed with the operations of these large companies and refused to consume their products. What was interesting about Tara’s approach is that she is very much an activist, she continues fighting for causes that she views as important, such as women’s empowerment and maintains the fervor that we have now as college students. Many of us lose that degree of passion over time as we become more entrenched within the system and find it hard to become disentangled from it.
Our experience at Dedetepe has been focused on coming closer to the environment and in becoming more aware of how we can change the way we live in order to practice a greener lifestyle. We spoke to a number of different people, starting today with Güneşin Aydemir. Our meeting with her was very inspiring because she told the story of Victor Ananias, a man who brought on a lot of change through his ideas about the environment. He started small and ended up sparking a movement that was the basis for Buğday, the extensive network currently in place that implements a lot of green projects throughout Turkey.
Victor’s work began as he noticed a particular system inefficiency, the fact that consumers did not understand the stories of those who produced their foods. In order to remedy this, he opened a store first, where farmers could explain how they produced their goods. He later moved on to a restaurant and finally created a group of people who helped him to develop Buğday, his organization where Güneşin works today. Buğday worked in a number of products, focusing on a lot of grassroots initiatives and today helping with the creation of organic markets in Istanbul. Some of the grassroots movements coordinate the buying and selling of different crops and create monitoring systems for farmers to be accountable to each other. Güneşin also mentioned the idea of creating prosumers and of erasing the difference between consumers and producers. Finally one of the most interesting things that she talked about was how new communities were created where parents could talk about alternative eating, education and medicine. Therefore creating new spaces for people to discuss and develop alternative methods for growth. This is an interesting concept, which we will continue to discuss as we visit the “Happy Goat” school and look into how social entrepreneurs have found alternatives to the traditional channels for poverty relief and “development”.
Monday truly felt like the beginning of our experience here in İstanbul. The first few days were sort of like a hazy dream, from being the guests of the Nilüfer Belediyesi to peeking into the lives of the bustling İstanbul intelligentsia. Monday’s meetings covered topics that directly related to the backbone of this course, the social entrepreneurship component. A lot of what we saw over the weekend was a cultural introduction to Turkey, but what we saw today was a little more specific and tangible, it was an introduction to what we’re going to see over the course of the next few weeks.
First we talked to Nick from Ashoka at the Grand London Hotel, with a beautiful view over the Golden Horn. We learned about a number of different social entrepreneurs in Turkey that are Ashoka fellows and got an initial indication about what we are going to see during our trip. It was an exciting foreshadowing to the rest of our trip as Nick remarked that we were meeting with very interesting people and headed to beautiful places. After this meeting we headed to Kadir Has University across the Golden Horn. There we met with Levent Soysal, the head of the İstanbul Studies Center. He made us more familiar with the city and explained the different developments that are taking place in İstanbul over the next few years and how the city is changing. He also delved into how the city perceives itself and what categories it fits within, either designated by itself, or by others. This prepared us for our next day around town when we were able to map the changes around the city by visiting two very different neighborhoods, Bebek and Balat.