Be connected… (to nature)

image (1)This day was one of the most interesting days not only of our trip, but also my entire life. I visited a wooden house built by Birol Topaloğlu in Arhavi totally made out of chestnut wood and brought there from Çamlıhemşin; secondly I saw my first beginning of a HES Project, first tea field, and then met Mehmet Gürkan and Hüseyin Acar from ‘’Brotherhood of Rivers’.’ Afterwards I met a village representative who lived in the States for eleven years, and finally heard about Uğur Biryol’s venture.  Each and every one of these interviews was very special and inspiring to me… Additionally, I witnessed that here, people’s way of resistance, converting, changing society is completely different from each other and most importantly, not centralized.

Ezmoce (dream)  is the name of the house built by Birol Topaloğlu and even though we couldn’t have chance to talk to Mr. Topaloğlu, our guide, Uğur Biryol told us the history of this dream house which is used not only as a pension and/or café, but also used as a gathering place for the enlightened people of this region. We learned that Mr. Topaloğlu’s aim was to revitalize Laz culture through music. He built this house not only for business purposes, but also to represent Laz culture and to meet other people who  migrated back like him. We can say that this place helps them to create a new but closed community. In that sense, it reminded us of Latife Tekin’s Gümüşlük Academy. Like that closed, ‘’anti-social’’ community, this community is also created from people who have similar motives to come here, I would say. He has produced five music albums and makes contributions to the Yayla (plateau) Festival to raise awareness about Laz culture. Even though this created community seems to be so closed, I appreciated his effort put on this project and built an informal cultural center there.

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Our second meeting, with Mehmet Gürkan and Hüseyin Acar, started very unusual because, it took a while to convince especially Hüseyin Acar that we are there just for our field school and independent from any organization and institution. Even though, firstly I found his approach strange, then I decided to evaluate, study this as a part of their story. He stated that, when the government can’t enter a place, they send some people there to pass through the ‘’enemy-line’’, so it was the reason why he found us ‘’suspicious’’ but just because we were Uğur’s guests it didn’t take long for him to believe in us. During the meeting, according to them, the crucial questions that should be asked were following: Do we really need this energy, if not, for whom this energy is getting produced and aren’t there any other options for saving energy through like ecofriendly lamp balls. They claimed that, it is so obvious that HES Projects in Turkey that dry up rivers and damage the ecosystem were built to meet EU’s energy supply requirement and export energy to certain countries. For example, even though France gave up building nuclear centrals on its own land, it invested in the construction of the nuclear power plant in Turkey. Moreover, on 2,000 rivers 4,000 dams are scheduled to be built and it is also because of the tendency of the government to make money out of selling the right to use water to certain companies, countries. Not to mention, it should be made clear that one can’t decide on how to use water and to whom to sell it because the water doesn’t belong only to people, but also to plants and animals. It was also so interesting to me when they said that they don’t let in any workers, military policeor non-locals to start construction on hydroelectric power plants and it is a matter of life or death for them. In addition to that, he said people can get united when they feel that their way of life is threatened and I think that it must be one of the most daunting tasks, especially in a country that uses bribes and creates extremely biased educational materials on the topic of energy.  In primary school, building dams and HES projects are portrayed as a positive and alternative way to use and produce energy in a proper way… For instance, even wind energy and sun panels that are very positively portrayed in books also destroy, damage the natural ecosystem in a way that changes birds’ migration routes with the wind energy and replace plants with sun panels. To be honest, I didn’t think about these ‘’alternative’’ energy types that were taught in primary schools as being positive, so it was a new thing for me to think about. They were also complaining about people who came there, to Fındıklı and made a documentary about their resistance without including an objective view of the reason for their resistance.  I want to end this paragraph with two striking sentences:

‘’One should admit that the nature doesn’t belong to him but he is only a part of the nature.’’

‘’While I was studying in the college, I ended my school in a dark room because there were no electricity and it didn’t take me away from studying, I found my way and graduated from the college!’’

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Our last meeting was with Uğur Biryol who owns a café named Livera in Çamlıhemşin and migrated to his hometown from Ankara, so it was not usual for me because the notion of migration always reminds me of people who move from rural to urban to study, work or for another reasons. While we were talking to him, he showed as his books, so he is a writer, also a journalist and the owner of this café that can be also considered as a ‘’culture center’’. According to him, the concept of his café is very new and rare for this region, because Livera is also a book and music store in which Black Sea Culture can be experienced very well through meals, music and books that are sold there. He has three books, one of them is Kaçkarlar’da Bulut Olsam that reads the geography and culture of the region, second one is Hemşinliler, Göç ve Pastacılık: Gurbet Pastası  which deals with the worker migration from Black Sea to Russia, Poland and the workers’ getting experts of bakery in these countries and their coming back to town. The last one is Karardı Karadeniz)and it includes eight articles that were compiled by him, so, one of the reasons he came back Çamlıhemşin was his willingness to write about this region by living within this environment, feeling it by heart. Furthermore, I learned from him that Hemşin people are originally Armenian and they used to be Christian and Laz people who are members of another ethnic group migrated here from Caucasia. Afterwards, we talked about that there are no maps of natural parks, tracking roads or information centers in Black Sea and actually it is not specific with this region, all over Turkey we don’t have a proper map of even Efes which is world-wide famous touristic place. According to him, Turkey doesn’t use its potential for tourism and in general, Turkish people and the government don’t approach the nature as something that should be preserved, but, instead, the government is always eager  to make money out of it.

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While we were talking to him, a man came in the café and Uğur introduced the representative of Hilal village in Hemşin and he also came here from a big city, İstanbul and lived in the States for eleven years. His story amazed me because after living in such big cities, daring to live in a village with the population of maximum 100 in summer time when everyone is in the village. Even though, he didn’t exactly tell us the reason why he migrated here, he pointed out that living here and dealing with people, the nature is not that realistic and, of course, it is not easy. It took him eight years to get used to the way that people speak, ‘’curse’’ each other in their daily lives and also it took the villagers approximately 5 years to accept him in this community, because there was a rumor that he came here to escape because he killed a man in the States. I suppose this statement  clearly shows how much harder it is to get included in a community as a foreigner, even though this place is your hometown. He stated also that women in the villages don’t want to marry men there, because they know that tasks here are labor intensive, so they choose to marry men from big cities or, if possible, abroad, so this is one of the aspects which trigger migration. In addition to  this, he said that it took him 5 years to teach men to do the tasks that women do, because the tradition and knowledge about planting, working on the field and harvesting shouldn’t be lost, so he one of his concerns was that and I appreciate his effort. This man showed me how a person can adapt in a community, how to change people’s life there as a representative of the village in a world that the representatives mostly work for the constructions of new roads etc… He also put forward that he needs young people to settle there, in Hilal Vilage because he needs labor force and develop the village. His final words are like the summary of the entire interviews we have done:

‘’Be connected to nature and just respect it!’’

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