Arabian Experience

IMG_1619.JPGIt’s been a while since I wrote a blog. Actually I have been willing to write about my Beirut Trip for a while but did not get a chance. So I shall keep the topic a bit broader in this blog. Bear with me for keeping it a little longer than usual.

2018 appears to be a very busy year for me.

I find myself working at my business, traveling, volunteering at charities and being socially active all at once. In January I went to Lebanon with an Inner Peace Group which is a kind of version of Sahaja Yoga which I have been practicing for 20 years now. So the idea of gathering with yogis mainly from France but also other parts of Europe; and trying to help little children in school feel Inner Peace was exciting.

I had not been to Arabian territory except for my trip to Dubai ages ago, so I did not know what to expect. As soon as we landed, surprisingly I felt at home. A Lebanese Yogini was kind enough to pick us up and take us to our hotel.

Until I arrived to Lebanon, it was a former French Colony under French influence in my head. I did not really associate it with us Turks. During my time spent there I realized that I had not been to very many former Ottoman territories, thus I have very little awareness of our influence.

Last summer I was in Greece but they are our neighbors so one expects similarities.

What I saw in common in both former Ottoman territories was the feeling at home due to some sort of cultural resemblance although one country is in the Middle-East the other in Europe. The common denominator is our influence I guess.

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(Sultan Abdülmecit Street in Byblos)

Another thing I saw in common is that they don’t like Turks but they like us! I know it does not make sense. The common denominator I was mentioning above is cultural traits which are hard to explain but there is an understanding of each other.

So when I was in Beirut I came across many fluent Turkish speakers who were all very, very kind to us. I mean it was, going out of your way to comfort someone type of real sweetness. But if you ask them they complain that Turks ruled over them for 450 years. (In reality it was about 300 years in the Middle-East, we were in the Balkans for around 450 years)

When the Ottoman Empire was losing strength at the turn of the 20th century, western powers allied with the Arabs and Greeks and most territories that we lost with a promise of independence.

Of course that is not what happened in any of those former territories. After 450 years under Turkish rule, the Balkans was ruled by the USSR for around 60-80 years until the Soviet Union fell apart. It was not until then that they released our former territories to be free nations. A moment of weakness.

The same way the French did not release Lebanon until World War II which when they were having a moment of weakness.

Armenia was a promise by the Russians to the Armenian while they were revolting against us in 1915. The independence of Armenia was not established until 1991.

Yes, you know the story! The Russians did not let go until the Soviet Union dissolved. A moment of weakness.

I had a chat with someone on politics and tried to explain that freedom and independence are never handed to any country by another country. You have to fight for it!

Anyhow I was sad to see posters advocating Armenian Genocide, in the streets of Lebanon while being treated so well for being a Turk at the same time. Politics versus ordinary people…

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Still the whole experience made me feel a type of association with the country that I did not feel before. It made me realize that we are culturally connected to our former territories. Even if they dislike us as former oppressors, we share a past.

It also made me recall a small chat I had with an American girl from New York at the Istanbul airport. She said that she loves to watch Turkish soap operas when she is back in New York, she never misses them.  This did not make any sense, an ordinary American would usually not be so much into our soaps it’s a different culture. Latin Americans love them because we are both emotional, deep and a tad drama queen cultures, but north Americans?!?

As these thoughts were crossing my mind I asked her “Why are you so keen on our soaps?”

She simply said “I am originally from Pristine” which is the capital of Kosovo our former territory.

It meant ‘we are of the same’, which is true.

Recently they released the birth records of our ancestors and although I always knew my Grand Mother to be Bosnian I did not know that her family was born in Sjenica Serbia. My other Grandmother is Circassian her family had moved to Ottoman from Sochi Russia. So being a Turk also means to be culturally connected to where Turks have been, which was a pleasant realization.

Anyhow going back to the subject of Beirut…

Beirut is a very beautiful city. I really fell in love with it. The people are very sweet, the food is amazing.

The Inner Peace Program was a little different than I expected.

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Sahaja Yoga was established by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi and Her methods and instructions have always been very clear and effective.

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Somehow with Inner Peace people felt they should make adjustments which resulted in less vibration. The whole point of Sahaja Yoga meditation is to be connected through vibrations. When you take this connection out of the equation, it becomes just some movements. So my take out of the whole experience was that it was an admirable effort to reach out to the kids in schools. However, the method used made us miss the point.

Here is a clip of the event.

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I have also been volunteering for a charity called Erdoder for a while acting as a member of the board I have been working towards raising awareness etc. Erdoder’s main goal is to save premature babies.

However recently there have been child abuse cases as well female abuse cases on the rise in Turkey. So we decided to make a video clip trying to raise awareness on these issues too. A dear friend of mine happens to be one of the best advertising film makers in the country with plenty of awards and he was kind enough to offer his company’s services Pro-Bono.

So the cameraman arrived and we all said a few words which adds up to a message; asking people to pay more attention to children and call the authorities if something seems off.

The below clip arrived shortly after the day we were filmed.

My initial reaction was not to like myself in the video but I thought, “This is not a time to be vain!  Just pass it on to the group to be shared officially. The cause and the message are way more important than you!”

So I did! The other ladies also did not necessarily like the way they looked, one of them asked to be cut out of the clip. Of course that was not possible it would throw off the whole sentence plus this was not about looks. If you ask me the strength of the whole idea came from the fact that some of these ladies are used to be seen in magazines all dressed up for big events, and looking so plain and simple in solidarity of a cause shows genuine care I think.

Anyhow another surprising comment I received from these ladies was that I looked the best in the video?!?

Really?!?

That is not how I perceived myself at all. I mean Mom said “the camera loves you” but she is my mom of course she is going to like it.

Anyhow, I realized that insecurities can find us sometimes. The best attitude is not to give-in, I guess. In my case, at a moment of insecurity I chose to focus on the importance of the actual cause instead of myself and it made me feel fine…

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