By CATHERINE SALTER BAYAR
I decided to move to Turkey a decade ago and have been able to retain what resonates about my California upbringing and global travels — while adopting the cultural mix of our small Aegean town.
Although my dual life can leave me feeling like a culture-shocked newcomer, I’m an identity adventurer by choice.
My husband’s conflicted identity has been thrust upon him. Being an ethnic Kurd with Turkish nationality, he’s like a Third Culture Kid. A blend, spending part of his developmental years away from his parents’ culture. But unlike a TCK, he did not have to leave the country of his birth to mix his way of life.
As a 13-year-old boy in the early ‘80’s, his family sent him to live with a cousin in Western Turkey to escape blood feuds and civil war in his native southeast. He spoke only Kurdish, and decided learning English to work in tourism would benefit his future more than Turkish would. Globalization became his means of survival in a ‘foreign’ land that grapples with assimilation issues and only recently began public dialogue about what it means to be a Turk.
I can comfortably be an American living in Turkey. But he is not always comfortable being a Kurd and a Turk — though he is both. I’ve been told it’s impossible for someone from such a young country to understand how deep ethnic divides can go, but I equate his experience with Native American tribes who struggle to hold on to culture and language in a land where they’ve lived for millennia.
My husband’s Utopian solution is to call us “citizens of the world”. He named our waterpipe bar ‘Mozaik’ to reflect the cultural mix of locals and visitors that crossed its threshold.
When and why do you feel like a stranger in your own land?
California native Catherine Salter Bayar creates knitwear, seeks textile treasure, lives near the splendid ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, and writes about it all in her upcoming book, Weaving Our Way Home.