have started a "discussion forum" with my more advanced classes twice a week. the students attending are incredibly nice and bright and are all in their first year at uni.
what i keep on noticing during my lessons - but even in conversations with locals - is that turkish people have a rather significant minority complex whenever europe is involved: they feel rejected and underestimated and bear a bit of a sulk about it.
hence - yesterday i asked my "forum" group to share their ideas on: "what i really do not like about europe". interestingly - answers included the following ones:
"i hate that europeans think that turkey is a third world country...
do you think we are??"
"germany and france hate turkey. they are terrible. they have many problems...but they think we are the problem"
"my friend is working for the summer in england as a service ((waiter)) and he says life is too complicated there. people are difficult"
"europe people are foolish, i think. i know everybody goes to therapist in europe. turkish people do not do that. they think it is foolish. you pay somebody to talk about your problems. it is strange. if you have family and friends and you are smart you do not do that. but i think people have too much money to spend - they have money like sand in the sea, we say in turkey...
they are foolish. and lonely".
"people in europe think we are like malaysia because we are muslims".
"people in europe do not know our university graduates are very good".
"gay people in europe - i do not like. you say they can have children - how? they adopt?? but it is very bad. if i am the son of my father...together with another man...no, it is impossible. if nature says you cannot have that...why do you force? you say it is "gay rights"
but i do not think you can say "rights" ...they want to have the only thing that nature cannot give them. it is disgusting"
"english people drink a lot".
"germany does not want us. it is because of germany and france that we cannot enter europe. they always vote against us".
"europe does not understand that the government people we have are all liars - like a puppet of america"
then at the end of the discussion one students asked (with the typical disarming, abrupt bluntness they use here): "teacher, i want to know what you admire about turkish people". i had just finished a class with an "ab initio" group of students and made the macroscopic mistake of cracking a joke about turkish pop music - saying that each and every song sounds the same, always the same, again and again...which was one of the worst faux pas i could have come up with. they would have displayed less aghast faces had i peed under my desk in front of the whole class... so i pondered the question with a somber face and said:
"now that i think of it - i came to turkey for the very first time exactly one year ago. turkey is definitely different from any other country i have visited, let alone lived in. initially i just noticed how cut off you are from the "globalised" countries. i must be honest - one thing i still have a hard time with is that...nobody travels here. very few people have actually been away, abroad...and this is a bit of a tragedy - especially for people like yourselves... having said that - in many ways you are better than europe. you are a young country - full of young people. europe is old and tired - in comparison... and your attitude, your behaviour - i actually would describe it as more "genuine"...i kind of understand when you say you have the feeling life in europe is "complicated". well - on one hand we have problems in europe that you have no experience about - immigration, for instance...you cannot even begin to imagine how hard a multicultural, democratic society can be. yet, on the other...yes, i mean, you are right...we take ourselves too seriously - we scream about our alleged "rights" and rush to the therapist because we are lonely...and buy only organic food and waste our money on things that make us feel worldly and sophisticated, when deep down we just remain...mean and unhappy".
they kept on nodding - and as the class was drawing to a close - i had the distinct feeling nobody had understood clearly what i was rambling about... as... i was talking about some place and some habits and some stuff... they were most probably going to experience (first hand) only by looking at their children...if not grandchildren - generations perhaps destined to end up...
like sand in the sea.