By FIGEN ÇAKIR
Why are you visiting Turkey this summer, one of my smart school friends asked, her eyes very wide. “Goodness, it’s all desert mostly, isn’t it?” She no doubt imagined me in flowing robes on the back of a camel.
I went to an all-girls’ secondary school in Britain and back in the early ‘80s we were a bright new breed of young woman. Lucky to be unhampered by adolescent boys, we focused on over-achieving. Getting into the best universities. Being pioneers. Perhaps we were influenced by Margaret Thatcher, a powerful force whether loved or hated. We had a tough school curriculum, too.
Which is exactly why I was stumped by the question. I had never met this level of cultural ignorance first-hand. Maybe I was haughty to assume everyone should know basic geography.
I had been to Turkey several times. A large part of my maternal family, of pre-revolution White Russian descent, was now ensconced in the country. My English father, of expat parents himself, had grown up in a Greek Orthodox community and still speaks with such an unidentifiable accent that people think he’s Italian.
Is this why I had never assigned stereotypes to places myself? Because I could not claim any kind of stereotype as my own?
My impulsive reaction to the friend’s question was to defend the country I was later fated to live in. Now I find so many things here difficult and I miss England. But when I am back there and anyone makes a derisive comment about Turkey and the Turks, my hackles immediately rise.
Likewise, it seems everyone in Turkey has something awful to say about the Brits. Espionage theories. Drunken louts in Kuşadası. Then I feel I have to defend them. I’m practically a double agent.
As a global citizen, when (and where) are your loyalties torn?
Interior designer Figen Çakır lives in Turkey with her husband and two children dividing her time between developing an online venue for creativity and fostering a love of Turkish fiber and traditional arts.