Sunday, February 12

Sunny Hours

Istanbul was one of the most memorable places that I've been to.

As I mentioned before, it's absolutely huge. Plus, there's a huge contrast between neighborhoods. Some are extremely rich, others dirt poor. There are areas that are very religious, and others that are much more modern. It's an odd contrast to see many women wearing hijabs, or in some cases covering their entire faces, passing bars wherein there are Turkish girls that are dressed, well, to the other extreme.

While I was there, I met three people through Couchsurfing [a website that I've been using as I travel]. The situation with the first, Esin, didn't turn out very well. In fact, it was the first bad experience that I've had with the site. I suppose something was bound to go wrong sooner or later.

At first everything was fine, and we seemed to be getting along well enough. But on the third day, she got a call from a Turkish man that I had met when I was in Sofia. She had given me permission to call him from her phone earlier, but he hadn't been home. He called back later when I was out, but must have had me confused with someone else. He was certain that I had been to Istanbul several times and that we had met at a party in Istanbul several months earlier. Despite him not having asked for me by name, but instead by my email address, and my having proved to her that I had never been to Turkey before by showing her the stamps in my passport, she became convinced that I was lying to her. The whole situation struck me as very odd, but she told me that she wasn't comfortable having me stay with her any longer, and asked me to leave immediately. It was 10 pm, and putting it mildly, Istanbul isn't a very safe city to be walking around at night looking like a tourist [i.e. wearing my packs].

Luckily, I had just had dinner with another girl whom I'd met from the same site, Aysun. When I called her she was more than happy to have me stay with her, even on such short notice. Her sister Aylin even offered to show me around town the next day, as Aysun had to work.

Aylin and I spent the day taking in as much of the city as we could. She mentioned that she was considering doing a PhD in film, and is looking into several universities in Canada. I'd heard that Concordia has a strong theatre program, and she said that she'd check it out. Perhaps the next time I see her will be in Montreal.

From Istanbul I went to Athens. Just as with Turkey, I didn't have time to take in any more than the one city. I'd been told not to expect much from Athens, and that most of the historical monuments were destroyed. I found that to be a bit harsh. The city had an energy, as if things were on the mend. Granted, it has a major traffic problem for a city it's size. There are around 3 million people living there, but compared to others cities of the same size, the air absolutely reeked. They've had absolutely horrible city planning for the last hundred years. But recently they've built up the metro, as well as improving the bus system. Apparently hosting the Olympics a few years ago helped to pick up people's spirits.

From Athens, I flew to Alicante, in Spain. I'd signed up for Spanish Classes here, which will last for three months. Perhaps the best part of being here is the weather. I'd forgotten what it's like to be warm when I'm outside.

I've been here for a week so far. I'd forgotten how tedious learning a language is in the beginning. I've spent most of my time memorizing words, and although I've already learned about 400, it's really not much to speak of at all. I can barely form any coherent sentences. Still, I feel as though I'm progressing faster than when I started learning French. I'm hoping that things will start to fall into place in a month or so.


It seems like the world just gets more and more depressing. Especially where the Middle East is concerned.

Arab governments are allowing [or in some cases encouraging] massive, violent demonstrations against a cartoon. Think about it. Despite all of the important problems facing Muslims now-a-days, a huge number seem to be hung up on a couple of drawings that appeared in a newspaper in Denmark. Most of the people demonstrating against their publication probably couldn't even find Denmark on a map. But they would say that's beside the point. Apparently their religion has been humiliated by this. Fine. By all means, feel free to voice your complaints. Perhaps publish some lewd cartoons about the Danes in their local papers. But sacking Danish embassies? And asking for the cartoonists to be executed? Doesn't this amount to the laws of Islam being applied to people who are in no way connected to it [not to mention proving that the cartoons were right on the mark]? How in the hell do you justify that?

Perhaps the most disturbing part of all of this is how little western governments have stood up to this bullying, and defended free speech. Particularly America, where free speech is supposed to have originated. And after having looked at these drawings, I have to say that they were pretty tame. Certainly compared to what the Arab press routinely publishes about Israel and America.

Also, I felt a little dumb when I couldn't remember the name of one of the favorites to win the forthcoming leadership convention of the Liberal Party [of Canada]. It's Michael Ignatieff. As I recall, he's been teaching at Harvard pretty much his entire life, meaning that he hasn't even lived in Canada since he graduated from high school. Yet for some reason he decided to come back to Canada to be a politician. Quite a few people are very impressed with him, and see him as the fresh face the Liberal Party needs to get it back on track. I think this is a crock of shit. The man was vocally in favor of both the Ballistic Missile Defense System and the war in Iraq, putting him either on the same grounds as Stephen Harper, or even farther to the right. I have no idea why he choose to run as a Liberal candidate. I realize that what I'm basing this on isn't enough to get a full view of his opinions, particularly domestically. Unfortunately, he hasn't really said enough to give people a clearer picture. That doesn't stop the thought of him as Prime Minister giving me the willies.

Also, it seems that Harper didn't waste any time stepping knee deep into a big pile of doodoo. So far he's only appointed his cabinet, and already he's lost most of his moral credibility. I understand that he wanted to have some cabinet ministers from the big cities [from which the Conservatives were shut out]. But accepting David Emerson as a Conservative and a cabinet minister a week after he was elected as a Liberal [and who represents a riding that has only voted Conservative once, in the 1950's] left him wide open to calls of hypocrisy by the media, and rightfully so. Plus he gave a cabinet post to Michael Fortier, a man who didn't even run in the election. Harper got around this little hitch by appointing him as a senator, although I believe that Fortier promised to resign from the senate if Harper should lose any coming elections. This means that Fortier won't even be on the parliamentary floor to answer questions about the decisions he makes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

your an me

simon le s├ędantaire

1:52 PM  
Blogger Ivansky said...

I don't like your views on the cartoons.
I think it boils down to an issue of respect.

That the arabs are reacting out of proportion is normal - Arabs always do that. But the people who published that cartoon should have been smarter than that.

The way my friend put it: If you really really want to piss of 1.3billion people on the planet of the earth then this is the way to do it.

Ultimately there can be no dialogue between the two sides. The freedom of speech advocates are using rational arguments whereas Muslims act on their religious beliefs.
The danes are at fault here for their lack of respect.

4:44 PM  
Blogger ian said...

to simon, thanks :)

to ivan, thanks as well for the comment. i understand people's outrage over the publishing of the cartoon in denmark. my own opinion after seeing the cartoons is that they were within the boundaries of an editorial. they were pretty light as far as political cartoons go. and the arguement that the prophet mohammed should never be depicted in drawings is akin to applying islamic law to non-muslims. which is of course completely rediculous. the shiites have allowed mohammed to appear in various visual representations for centuries, anyway.

i think that those offended have every right to be angry, and to write protest letters to those who published them. burning flags and destroying embassies for the actions of a few of it's citizens is completely retarded.

as for their publication in the west, i think it was the duty of western newspapers TO publish them. in order to have an informed debate over the matter, it's absolutely critical to know what you're arguing about. the vast majority of those against their publication have never even seen them. and this idea of the media practicing self sensorship is a very slippery slope.

and yes, i think it's retarded that in western europe questioning the facts of the holocost is a crime punishable by a prison sentence. making verbal stupidy a crime does nothing but make those who are arrested marters to their 'cause'. better to just expose the bigots as the idiots that they are. i doubt that they'll win any more friends if they're no longer being hauled off to jail.

12:43 PM  

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