Fatih and I planned to hike up Ulu Dağ but despite my efforts to hide my discomfort and weakness I had to back out in the end, on the stairs leading up to the Teleferik, as even walking up a couple steps exhausted and pained me (in the stomach). Worried, we took his car on a tour through Bursa to search for an open pharmacy – something that required quite a lot of looking as everything was closed for the Bayrami. We found them eventually I proceeded to stay in the rest of the day and the entirety of the next day.
I wasn’t entirely idle, however, as we spent a lot of time watching movies they’d downloaded or playing starcraft 2. In fact, I managed to finish the missions (Fatih seemed eager to watch me play, and I was only too happy to oblige him. Since moving made me rather unhappy, this was the perfect pastime. The afternoon of 9.12.10, however, Melek had a guest over and we needed to vacate the place for a few hours. We set off downtown and I was determined to draw the interior of the Ulu Cami. I parted with Fatih there and sat within for awhile.
Now, two things interfered with my drawing the space. First, I was very very unwell at this point. I had a bout of intense fatigue and for most of the day I could hardly concentrate enough to write my letter, or even move. I spent most of the time sitting in a window vestibule, looking forlornly out at the beautiful day. After lunch time I felt strong enough to walk. I got a nice lunch from the lahmacun salonu across the way, where both patrons and workers took immediate interest (and photos) of me, happily engaging me in conversation once they found I understood their Turkish. Luckily, I had ready topics, as that day was quite a significant one.
9.12.10 marked the referandum for Turkey’s new constitution. My hosts variously supported or opposed it for similar reasons: it would usher in more rights (to women, for instance) but also concentrated the power a bit more dangerously in the governmental structure, with the judiciary coming under the purview of Parliament, rather than being the independent body it had been. Most those I met approved of the ideas in the new constitution, but some were afraid of what this concentration of power could mean. Specifically, what with the highly religious present prime minister backing the new constitution, they were afraid of an Iran-like outcome.
The advertising for this referandum reminded of that for Proposition 8. Obviously the scope was vastly different, but the campaigns and even the population count of those affected (California is huge, people) matched nicely. The government plastered signs everywhere which bore “Evet” – Turkish for “yes” – in large red letters, and little else. While I was in İstanbul I constantly heard the prime minister booming away passionately from trucks trundling slowly around, using “Inshaallah” and “Demokrasia” and “Evet” over and over again. The opposition, much less powerful, simply copied the “Evet” poster, just substituting “Hayır” in the same place. Like Prop. 8, I began to forget which stood for which. Interestingly, the one-or-the-other choice presented by this referandum garnered me some sympathy from my Bursa hosts, who thought the low voter turnout in America was pretty ridiculous. They’d never had to choose between two unsavory options before, and this provided a bit of insight as the the impossibilities created by the two-party system.
The other reason 9.12.10 was a big day was the basketball game. Turkey hosted the FIBA World Championship this year and their team had actually progressed to the final, to face (of course) the United States. The game was this same night and my following of basketball (due mostly to my brother) came through for conversation, as I actually knew two of the chief players for Turkey.
I left the restaurant to hobble about Bursa a bit, taking a tour of the more westerly historical areas. I made a big wobbly circle from the Ulu Cami, with frequent rests inside mosques, all of the same ornate but humbly sized T-plan style. When I returned the other deterrent to drawing evidenced itself in full force: my otherness. While I finished my letter or curled up in stomach pain in the vestibule, visitors kept coming up to me for photos or to talk. My chosen window lay in the rear of the mosque, so most of these were young women. They all took inordinate interest in my hair.
Reactions to my hair are something I haven’t really written about but which make me rather amused to remember. In every place I’ve traveled through, someone makes a comment on my hair. At Gosia’s house, for instance, her father asked me if it was natural (one of the most common questions), as many Polish girls dye and straighten their hair to approximate the same effect. Melek liked to pet it and constantly marveled or complimented it. Paweł commented that musicians sort of have to have long hair. Someone, I forget who, wouldn’t believe I didn’t use straightener. Another kept asking what brand of dye I used.
Once I finally started to draw what was to be a quick sketch, two young children hung about me a while, talking animatedly with me and interspersing their nice interactions with entreaties for money. They’d ask how much my water cost, or my bag, or my watch, or my camera – and wouldn’t believe when I replied that I hadn’t payed for any of them. I felt uncomfortable around them but somehow enjoyed their company in my sickness, too. They seemed to find me something of a curio and displayed my journal drawings to passersby in the mosque after I’d showed them. It was one of fathers in these passing groups which finally escorted these two children away from me, gently. I didn’t remain much longer. On the bus ride back, ticket-less as ever, a young man swiped for me and refused payment of the fare.