Japan Day Tue April 24

Yesterday I saw a poster advertising a “Japan Day” on the METU campus. Among other things there was information for Turkish students who were interested in studying in Japan. I felt this was an opportunity

Yesterday I saw a poster advertising a “Japan Day” on the METU campus. Among other things there was information for Turkish students who were interested in studying in Japan. I felt this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, so I kindly asked Asli if I could stay another night. “No problem” she said. “There will be more room now when the Cypriots have left”.

I joined some people in a car to the campus, and there I got lost. Someone had said that the forest on the METU campus was the largest forest in the Middle East. Sounds like an exaggeration to me, but it was obvious that I could never find my way by just walking around at random. I started asking people and after a long time I found the library and the room for the Japan Day. I heard that some kind of presentation was going on in there; and from the flyer I saw it was about martial arts. I wanted to set up a table just outside this room and sit there with my game when everybody came out, but the only table I saw was a huge solid piece of wood that would require three Turks to carry. First of all, let’s get some food and coffee or I won’t make any wise decisions here. I hid my box with SEIGO games and went out on a hunt for food. I found the big house with the huge Kemal flag, the club house, the canteen and the restaurant and got myself coffee with Chicken Baklava and spinach.

When I was back at the library the martial speech was still going on and I saw two young Japanese men smoking outside. I introduced myself and we had a little chat and they asked what I was doing in Turkey and I said that I was here to present a strategy game based on the Japanese writing system. They were, to say the least, a bit surprised by a Swede showing up a sunny afternoon in Ankara on this particular errand. I presented my game and one of them happened to be METU’s Japanese teacher. He took a flyer and promised to strongly recommend the game to all his students. A guy from the Japan Club showed up and they introduced me to him and he recognized me from METUcon and he suggested that I’d present my game to the audience after the guy from the embassy had given his speech about the Monbukagakusho scholarship. They first asked him if it was ok, and he said it was, but recommended that I’d go up before him. I got on stage, the audience were friendly, they laughed with me when I wanted them to, and all in all it felt good.

Fukuoka-san from the embassy spoke for almost an hour. It was in Turkish, but I kind of understood what he was talking about anyway; I guess I have visited many hearings like this one. Afterwards he took a look at my game and said that I should show it to the embassy in Sweden and that they would send me on a 2-year scholarship to Japan. I’m not in that phase of my life, but thank you anyway for the encouragement. Maybe he could write that paper the Warhammer importers needed to sell SEIGO?

A lot of people came up to the stage to look at my game and I talked till my throat ached. I made an appointment with some of them to play in the library tonight.

Waiting for tonight’s game session, I sat for the rest of the afternoon in a cafe drinking tea and reading my fantasy novel. A lot of people from Metucon were there as well and they were like “what are you doing here, the event is over” and I was like “I’ve got my own business here”. After another Chicken Baklava I went to the library. I was one minute early. After 5 minutes a girl came and apologized for being late. No one else came so we stood talking for 20 minutes. It turned out that she had joined this game session mainly because she had applied for a free Master program in Sweden and I happened to be Swedish. I told her all about studying in my country (which is still free for all foreigners despite the new right-wing government) and recommended Uppsala of all my heart. Together with Lund, it is THE place to go for studies if you’re interested in meeting other students, which you are. Interestingly, Zeynep had also applied for studies in Japan and Taiwan, so she had managed to apply for those 3 countries where I have lived for a longer period of time.

After some time, Evrim, Ekin and Goksel from the Japan club showed up and we set up the game in the library. They said they used to play Go and Shogi in their club. Excellent. And they really understood SEIGO. I don’t want to be rude now, but most people don’t understand the beauty of SEIGO and it’s a waste of time to play with them. It’s not just a waste of time, it’s a torture. I hate it. But I still do it, because I have to. But these guys really got the game. They got the beauty of it. They were trading, negotiating, making careful border wars. And they didn’t draw Kanji cards like idiots since they understood it would be bad for them. Instead, we were fighting over the few Kanji cards that were drawn; intriguing and plotting to prevent each others from getting the right syllable combinations. The game was played like it was supposed to be played. It was such a pleasure to play with these sophisticated, well-cultured and intelligent gentlemen and gentlewomen. And fun – they made so much fun all the time. And when the clock stroke 10 pm and we were thrown out of the library we all cried bitter tears. They bought a game from me and walked me the whole long way through dark and chilly Ankara to Asli’s house.

I recognized the house, it was next to the house with the green waste basket and the Turkish flag. But when I knocked on the door and a woman opened it looked like the wrong house. I had never seen that woman, and no one else was in there and most of all: it was spotlessly clean. The house I left this morning was a mess, it looked like 10 guys and girls from Cyprus had been playing role playing games and drinking for a week. But then I recognized the paintings on the walls, said goodbye to Evrim, Ekin, Zeynep and Göksel and got inside.

The woman offered me some tea and cookies and I gratefully accepted. We didn’t have many words in common so we watched TV, smiling to each other every 5 minutes. After an hour the girls came home and translated for us. The woman, who was one of them’s mother, could then ask for my name and nationality and stuff. She asked if it was true that Romani people had special rights in Sweden. I said I had no idea, but that Romani (together with Finnish, Meänkieli and Yiddish) was an official minority language, but what it means other than recognition I don’t know. “She is curious, since she is a gypsy” Asli said.

I looked at maps of Ankara and chose the village Gölbasi for my hitchhiking to the South. We looked up buses and then I read a chapter in a history book I found in my room.

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