Arriving in Ankara Fri April 20

Hi my friends. I am sorry that I wrote last time that I had a heap of blog posts to be released and then didn’t release them. I thought this would be a summer of

Hi my friends. I am sorry that I wrote last time that I had a heap of blog posts to be released and then didn’t release them. I thought this would be a summer of peace and work, but it’s turned out to be a summer of adventure. So I can’t keep the pace of a blog post per day, but hopefully one per week. Now, please follow me to Ankara:

We went down to our good old bakery and got more breakfast from the wonderful people there and then we went up to the flat to play a game of StreetSmart. After the game we went to the restaurant of yesterday night and had delicious filled eggplants for lunch. We talked about the discrimination against Turkish people in Europe. The topic made me depressed so I tried to cheer us up by telling a joke my father (who worked as a Swedish-teacher for immigrants) told me about The Turks who came to Hell:

One day, some Turkish guys went on a trip to hell. The devil himself greeted them and they were very well taken care of. The people were very nice, the girls smiled and flirted and they found some friends and all in all they had a very good time. After they came back to Turkey they said to each other “wow, how nice it was in hell” and one day they decided to go there again. But the next time, everything was different; they got heavy, dangerous and low-paid jobs, people avoided them on the streets and they felt despised by everyone. They went to the devil and complained: “Last time we had such a good time here, but now it’s like … hell”. “Well well” the devil said with an evil smile, “first time you came you were tourists. Now you are immigrants.”

Alp didn’t laugh at the story but protested: “It’s not true. They don’t treat tourists nicely. When I went to Germany as a tourist they treated me like I had come to apply for welfare and blow up things”. For his next trip he will go to India.

He put me in a cab and told the driver to take me to the toll station for the Ankara highway. The taxi ride was 10 €; perhaps it’s a bit luxurious to take a cab to the hitchhiking spot, but we simply didn’t know how to get there otherwise. I had a sign saying “Ankara” and tried to stand so that the policemen wouldn’t see me. But after 5 minutes they came and honked their horn, winded down the window, pointed at me and the place and said “problem”. I made gestures that were supposed to look like “so, where can I hitchhike?” and they shrugged their shoulders and said “problem”. I pointed here and there and asked “problem?” and they made a “whatever”-gesture and drove away. After 10 minutes and 49 cars a guy stopped and picked me up.

He was an electrician and had girlfriends all over Turkey. As we drove through the endless Istanbul suburbs he asked me if I was Christian and I told him I was an atheist. I thought that would put me on some kind of neutral middle-ground, but it had the opposite effect. He got all upset and pointed at the mountains and the sky and at us and asked “how?! how?!”. “I don’t know, I don’t know” I said, and I didn’t mind not knowing. Then I fell asleep. When he woke me up we were at more than 1000 meters up and there was snow everywhere. Oh no, not snow again, somebody let me out of this long winter!

When we had passed the peek of the Istanbul-Ankara highway he turned off the engine and we were pulled for 10 minutes by gravity like skiers. He let me off in central Ankara and I had a kebab and sent text messages to and fro with someone from the METUcon game convention who didn’t know where I was and where to go. After an hour or two I found the Guvenpark bus station and found the bus to “Odtu”. I sat in the back next to an old man and everyone in the bus gave each other money that slowly moved forward to the driver. I showed the old man my hand with coins and he picked out 1:35 and sent it forward.

When I got off at the gate of the Middle East Technical University it was already dark. I sent a text message to the METUcon number and waited. After 5 minutes a car came full of people who got out, shook my hands, threw in my luggage and put me in the front seat with a “welcome beer”. They drove me to the canteen of the university were people were busy setting up tables, making fantasy sculptures and having an informal party going on. I got some tables for me and my game (I was a little bit of a novelty as a foreigner, the first to make METUcon an international convention.) and then we had a very nice time with nasty and witty jokes flying in all directions. I wondered whom of all these men was Murat, and eventually he got out of his anonymity and presented himself. I was introduced to a great number of people and I had a hard time learning their name. I could hardly remember my own name, which I think was Hamid.

I didn’t know where to sleep, but joined them to the club house that was sprayed with slogans like “IMF – International MotherFuckers”, and “Atheism – a Non-Prophet-Organization”. We listened to music, ate snacks and tried to make me stop talking politics. I asked some people if they wanted to join the EU and they replied “You know the answer”. “Is … that a yes?” I asked and they said “Yes, if we are treated like an equal nation and not like a second-class country full of fanatics.” As they talked about how they wanted and not wanted to be treated, they changed their mind and didn’t want to be members of the union anymore. I understood perfectly, it’s a perfectly rational attitude. If a club wants you, it’s rational to want membership. But if you suspect they don’t want you, then it’s better to not want to be a member, or you’d look rejected. The problem is when a club wants you after a long period of rejection. During the period of rejection you have cultivated reasons for why you don’t want to join the club. You have found faults with the club and stressed them, you have developed a strong identity that is incompatible with membership in the club. If the period of rejection is long enough, then those reasons may have grown so strong that membership has become infeasible.

And that’s what extremists on both sides are hoping for. (And that’s what happened, with Erdogan.)

Bahadur, Murat, Burak and I went to Bahadur’s place for a little after-party.

Burak is a bit older than the others; he went back to college to take his MBA after 10 years translating fantasy novels into Turkish. After graduation he’ll start a company importing and translating GOOD stuff. They were all tired of the dragon-slaying mass-products that were filling up the bookstores.

Someone complained about the term “geek”:

“In Europe and America, people who play RPGs and boardgames are called ‘geeks’. But here in Turkey these are hobbies for intellectuals…”

Of course it is! It’s the same all over the world. But intellectuals are geeks. RPGs and board games are for the smart, for the intellectual upper-class (which is not necessarily the same as the economic upper-class). Calling yourself and others “geek” is not degrading; it’s humble and equalizing. It means, “I’m not smarter and have a richer life than you TV-slaves, I am just a geek”. You call yourself a geek to make the non-geek and cool Tom Cruise-loving people feel better about themselves. So cheer up geeks, be proud of yourself and hide your pride under the humble veil of the geek-tag.

I fell asleep on a sofa, Bahadur offered me a bed and I thought “aha, so this is the place”.

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