Lounging in bed into the wee hours of the night–well for me at least–I was flipping back and forth between Facebook and my latest iTunes TV series.  Trying to extrapolate what was going on with the elections by reading FB posts in Turkish and English, at one point I remember literally feeling my stomach drop.  It really felt like a black, ominous, suffocating, post-apocalyptic cloud had covered this adopted country of mine.  At 11:00 pm, it looked to me like the AKP had yet again won the majority of votes.

Upon waking, some of the news looked better.  For example it appeared that Ankara had voted in the CHP party, and AKP was out.  Also, AKP had much less support than they did in the last elections, also a good thing.  There were three females elected to key positions…seemingly good.  And then I came across RTE’s “balcony speech” and didn’t have the stomach to finish it.  Do we really have to put up with more of him and his machismo rhetoric as he addresses his paid minions?  Really?

But as the day progressed, and life went on, as it does when you have young children, it dawned on me that this isn’t the end.  Sure, I am bummed that RTE is up there gloating like a puffed up ignoramus but  I am even more bummed that his ultra conservative ideas threaten to break down women’s rights, the environment, intellectualism, and progressivism in all shapes and forms (I mean, does the dude even read?).  But I still have hope for this country.

What I saw go down in June showed me that a significant part of the population does not want a person like him in power.  And for the first time in 13 years, a former student of mine recently told me he wanted to come back from Brown and get into politics in Turkey, and this is a kid I would totally vote for. At 17, he had more conscience, intellect, and integrity than the all of the AKP toadies combined. That alone gives me hope.  Students used to always tell me that the last thing they wanted to do was to be a politician but it seems now that young people are standing up and doing something.  The spirit of Democracy has been re-awakened.  Having been juxtapositioned next to a bully’s leadership ideology, how couldn’t it be?

So, as the old cliché saying goes, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings, and folks, the fat lady ain’t sung yet.


Lady in Red

I wrote this piece back in May, but thought maybe I should wait until the dust cleared a bit.  It has.  Things still continue, but not with the same force as before.  Things are still uncertain as to how it will all unravel with RTE still at the helm but life in Istanbul has resumed. Only time will tell how the Gezi Park protest will make its mark on history.

Where to start?  The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of images, videos, Facebook posts, office chats, speculation, worry, humor.  The first night it all went down, I stayed up well after 1 am to watch my FB feed, the only source of information at that time, stunned at what I was seeing happen in the streets where some of the most important moments of my life have played out.  CNN Turk aired a documentary on penguins.

The image that is seared into my mind is the image of the woman in the red dress– hair billowing in the air from the pressure of the tear gas being sprayed directly into her face while other protesters scatter around her in shock and disbelief. Earlier they had been reading and enjoying the grass and sun.  The image appeared in my FB feed and being busy with work, I didn’t really stop to process what that now iconic image represented.

So what does it represent?  To me it represents passive resistance in the face of police brutality.  It represents a significant amount of people of this country rising up against a narrow-minded government that wants to rid the country of diversity and freedom and open-mindedness.  It represents the power of the people.  It represents the gentleness and pureness at the root of the protest. It represents the spirit and pride of the Turkish people. It represents all that I want in a country where I am raising my twin boys.

I haven’t joined in the protests myself, but that is only because of the goings on in daily life.  But K. has gone and was there to witness history as the people rose up against an increasingly oppressive regime. Wanting the boys to experience first hand this historical time period in Turkish history we waited until the dust settled a bit and brought the boys into the park one Sunday morning. Without getting into the politics of the situation, K. explained what was happening at the park in terms of the story of The Lorax.  Angered by the idea of trees being cut to build something, A. shouted, “But why do we need more buildings?”  My thoughts exactly.

Upon entering Gezi, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Occupying the park were hoards of college-aged kids and what they had set up was extraordinary.  A tent city complete with a library, museum, garden, cafe, lawyer stand, first aid stand, free food stands (donated by the people of Istanbul), a sound stage, children’s art corner, and clean up crews (one of whom I taught in grade 9).  Signs of peace and resistance were spray painted everywhere.  Barricades comprised of rubble blocked the roads around the park giving it all a very Mad Maxian festival feel.  We walked around like tourists, taking it all in snapping a few photos here and there.  What was overwhelmingly obvious though was the spirit behind the protest.  It isn’t just about trees, it is about freedom to think and do as one likes. It means having a choice to buy alcohol after 10:00 or wear a head scarf or not or choose your religion or have access to a good school or have  the control of your body or exercise your right to free speech or live your life the way you see fit.

What has been the most extraordinary to me has been the resilience of the Gezi protesters.  The police may clear out a street with a water gun or tear gas, but five minutes later the people are all back. RTE calls the protesters marauders (capulcu) and they embrace the word and it goes viral.  The police say clear the square and thousands more pile in. RTE accuses them of being violent and they respond with music, yoga, and ballet. Tear gas canisters are launched into crowds of unarmed protesters who shove them into buckets of water, stifling the gas. RTE calls for mothers to come and get their children from the park and in droves mothers go to the square to form a protective barrier between their children and the police. Public transportation is stopped so protesters attempt to walk across the bridge. The police prevent protesters from crossing the bridge so they sit there until the wee hours of the morning waiting until they can pass. Even after last night’s increased police aggression, the protesters have not given up.

Even the people who do not make it up to the square to protest join in.  Every night at 9:00 the city of Istanbul comes alive with the tink-tinkering sounds of thousands of people banging pots and blinking lights. The Monday after the first police attacks we all wore black.  Last week a man played a piano all night in protest; when it rained they held a tarp over him.

Some people are worried for the future of the country.  I am not sure, but my gut feeling is that this is a step forward for Turkey.  The secular Turks have finally put their foot down.  RTE has been shown he can no longer bully the people and rule like a Sultan.  Democracy is embedded deep in the hearts of all the Turkish people I know.  And that gives me hope that this country that I call my home will persevere.

Wild Turkeys

              by Annie Ozsarac

Sunday, May 19th 2013

Number of stitches: 63

Number of broken bones: 5

Number of trips to the emergency room: 17

Number of corrective bone surgeries: 3

Number of metal plates in arms: 4

Number of times heard wailing in pain: 15

Number of Darth Vader voices after being hit in the throat with a basketball: 1

Number of bloody lips: 5

Number of bloody knees: 4

Number of teeth lost naturally: 8

Number of teeth knocked loose from rough housing: 1

Number of times stress hormones prickled my body while remaining calm: countless

Monday, May 20th 2013

Number of stitches: 63

Number of broken bones: 5

Number of trips to the emergency room: 17

Number of corrective bone surgeries: 3

Number of metal plates in arms: 4

Number of times heard wailing in pain: 15

Number of Darth Vader voices after being hit in the throat with a basketball: 1

Number of bloody lips: 5

Number of bloody knees: 4

Number of teeth lost naturally: 8

Number of teeth knocked loose from rough housing: 3

Number of times stress hormones prickled my body while remaining calm: countless

Number of times I have said to myself, “boys man”: still counting

A pastiche of the poem “Living in Numbers” by Claire Lee

I’m Back

It has been some time since I have visited this space.  Too much time. I have a good excuse though. Life around here has been pretty intense and busy.  Well, at least it was up until a few weeks ago.  Things have settled into healthy pace that I hope  will last.  This past semester was  intense  with two broken arms, two surgeries to correct said broken arms, two anxious boys starting 1st grade at a school that isn’t the one we work at, Baba gone for 13 days to the bottom of the world and back, and, losing Rog.  This of course doesn’t mention work and homework and meetings and raising two active boys and…well, you get the idea.

Feeling rested,  today I ventured out into the city to meet up with a group of people to talk about writing.  Tucked away in a cozy little corner of the city with a view of the bridge and Bosphorus, we wrote, we work-shopped, we talked and we ate.  This was the first time I joined this writing group, but I felt right at home.  It was well-organized, the other members were smart and pithy and the host even had a writing prompt for us to scribble away at for a sweet twenty minutes of uninterrupted time. There was talk of writing and words,  laughter and food and I received some helpful feedback on my writing. What more could a nerdy English teacher ask for?

The prompt was to write a narrative poem about something in our day where there was conflict of some sort.  I struggled for a bit to come up with something, but then I remembered my morning walk, inspiration struck and the words flowed out.  I love it when that happens.

Just for some background before you read the poem, until the wee hours of this morning  Koray and I watched the recording of Rog’s celebration.  It was phenomenal, capturing and celebrating the spirit of my friend whom I miss so much.

So, without further ado…



Shoes on, earphones in,

I head out.

Cold air fills my lungs, finally.

I spot the bob, bobbing heads of daffodils, awakened early from their winter rest.

And I walk,

hands cold, basking in the chilling breeze.

Nudged into sight by a song,

a boat makes its way into my view, right there amongst the trees and the crows.

Be present, let it row, let him row, watch how he silently glides past me.

Stopped in the middle of the road, eyes brimming, heart heavy,

lifting my face towards the sky,

I smile.

And I walk.

A Poem

Up at 6 am

Crisp fall morning,

the bench is fuzzy with frost.

Muted autumnal tones shout out their presence

against the dark Atlantic waters.

My breath feels new and purposeful,

the sunrise beautiful in its peachy hues.

Neighbors, they just come

to be there, to be a part of it, to show gentle, silent support.

The ladder looms above us, capturing eye duct taped

at just the right angle. Back straight, head forward, hand positioned, let’s get it right this time.

click click click. I think we got it.

Toes tingle, tea steam evaporates  into milky cold.

How it is possible that loss can turn into

such heightened wonder?

How can this be?

The crows dance above our heads

in memory and celebration

of the red figure cradled in his nest,

and I remember.

Rainy Day Musings

Today is the day all of Turkey remembers the death of their revered leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  The anniversary fell on a weekend this year, so the school gathered in the AD Hall to honor him.

Koray’s parents are usually here Saturday morning, but this week they had something else to do, so Ali and Omer joined us.  Now first graders at a school here in Istanbul, they know who Ataturk is, what he did for the nation and why he is so respected.  As the ceremony began, Omer looked up at me and said, “Ataturk is our hero.  But you are American, so who is your hero?” This question really stumped me.  I actually don’t know who my hero is.  I hadn’t really thought of it.

“Well, there are lots of people I respect and admire, but I don’t think I really have a hero. I will have to think about it”

This was met with a look of surprise bordering on worry which melted into a look that rationalized this concept with that fact that I am American, who maybe just don’t have heroes, and then it seemed to be OK.

When Koray walked onto the stage, something I see every week and have for four years now, Ali and Omer’s eyes lit up.  Like little moths, they were mesmerized by the spot light and the sight of their Baba standing in it.  Omer looked up at me now with love gleaming in his eyes said, “I love seeing Baba on the stage.” I patted his hand and continued listening while Koray delivered another speech that made me so happy to be married to such a smart, open-minded individual.  I also remembered that on this day 11 years ago, I was a naive 26 year old who  had just met (the night before) this intelligent dashing man and well, wow.  Look at us now.

The speech was just the right length, but Ali and Omer being six year olds who would rather be at their Mad Scientist class, fell asleep. If Koray had any delusions of grandeur, a quick glance at his sleeping sons would have burst that bubble immediately.  The universe again.

Next week we board a plane and make the trip back to the beautiful land of Nova Scotia to see people we miss and reconnect with Rog through those that also love him. I dreamed last night that he was happy and healthy and smiling.

I just hope that this too is the universe and that it is telling me that all is well.

A Glimpse Into My Day

The Universe

Down the steps, students pad silently behind, me feeling all too serious, I turn and am poked in the heart with an umbrella by a boy whose name means hope. Shock and horror turns to giggles and apologies. The universe is funny that way.

We make our way through the school, noticing things we maybe hadn’t noticed before, or jotting down things that make us feel something nice, or good.  I see Obama on the muted TV screen.  I scribble in my notebook.

Through the hallways where they first met the fate of these next five years, students are reflective of who they have become in such a short time.  I see a broken arm propped on a desk and smile.  This too goes in my notebook.

Out the door we go, into the finally crisp November air.  Down these steps I walked in autumn twelve years ago.  I reflect on the person who stood there then and the one standing here now.

“Do you want to see something weird?”

Feeling now like the pied piper, curious teenagers follow me.  Out at the storage area, they spy a discarded toilet and snicker,  laugh and point.  The universe again.

Then they notice those really big shoes, smile and take pictures, pondering why these strange things are placed here, in a big cage. It is a nice moment.

We walk back, I spy mushrooms growing out of construction debris and roses blooming in November and I remember a poem also about Istanbul roses blooming in November.  And I smile.  The universe is like that sometimes.


For Roger. By his example he inspired me to be a purposeful teacher. Through his kind words he gave me the courage to figure it out by myself. From his musings on teaching he cultivated in me the idea that students are where it’s at.