Packing analysis

As I’m double- and triple-checking everything I’ve crammed into my suitcase and carry-on, I’ve noticed a couple of pieces that reflect the Turkish culture and weather. These items are not too noticeable, but they’ll keep me from looking like a disrespectful and soaping-wet fool.

Skirts: I’ve packed a couple, not only because I’m going through a skirt phase, but also to cover myself up when we visit places of worship, and just to stay conservative in certain areas of town.

Head scarves: To further respect the culture when we go to mosques, I’ve brought along head scarves. Luckily, these weren’t too hard to find: my mom and I use them all the time to wrap our hair up at night.

Umbrella: It’s going to be raining for a significant amount of the days we’ll be in Istanbul, so a good umbrella is a must. I’ve also wedged in some Nike sandals. When it’s pouring, I can slip those durable babies on; then, when I get where I need to go, I can put on nicer slippers. (Note: extra sandals are also great for when you visit houses and need to take your shoes off.)

Water bottle: Make no mistake– it’s may rain, but it’s also going to be in the 70s many of the days. Plus, our house is on a hill, and I’m all about staying hydrated.

Apart from that, there are the general key things that travelers must bring (adapters, soap, visa, etc). Also, see Megan’s blog post on the journalism equipment we’re bringing.

When Food isn’t Just Food

Turkish subcultures can be displayed in many different ways, but in my opinion, food is the most relatable way to do so. Everyone eats, everyone is hungry and everyone, though they may be hard pressed to admit it, wants to try food from different cultures.

What is really interesting me, though, is how resturants in America tend to be more generalized toward the countries as a whole. Rarely are there any “Tatar” diners or “Kurdish” coffee shops in Chicago, but rather, there are simply “Turkish restaurants.” This is surprising, especially when you take into account the amount of cultural groups that migrate to Turkey.

Granted, the United States is able to differentiate certain specific cultures from some countries—I’ve eaten at many Cantonese restaurants before in Illinois–but there are some countries that have subgroups lumped together in terms of restaurants in the states. What’s the difference between Cretan Turks and Anatolians? As of right now, I don’t know. But they are two different walks of life, so why does the cuisine have to be the same? My hope is to find that in Istanbul, the restaurants are sub-culture specific, something that is not the case here.

Of course, I had to first establish some background so over spring break, I visited “Turkish Cuisine,” a general Turkish restaurant located in downtown Chicago, on the ethnic strip of Clark Street. Between feeding the meters, and navigating I-88 going home, I had the pleasure of talking to Marina Cardak, the manager at that time. She said she brought Turkish Cuisine to Chicago because of the need for a Turkish restaurant in the area. Though Cardak is the first to admit that the menu is comprised mostly of Mediterranean and Anatolian dishes, she said that because the food is general, Turkish Cuisine is able to feed multiple people.

These are some of the pictures from Chicago. Check back soon for some more from Turkey. Hopefully, I’ll discover different cuisines that accurately represent the population breakdown of Istanbul. At the very least, I’ll be constantly eating, which is one of my more serious hobbies.

Kenneth Cuno

Professor Kenneth M. Cuno is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who researches, teaches and writes about the history of the modern Middle East. He spoke to our class about the Ottoman Empire and Turkey today. Throughout his lecture he discussed the relationship between Islamic institutions and the state during the Ottoman Period and the 20th century. Religious endowments, education and the legal equality of law all contributed to a shift in the relationship between mosque and state. Cuno also discussed how the Ottoman Empire was destroyed during the first World War as well as how the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923. Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk helped modernize Turkey and move the country toward westernized principles. In the 1920s the Republican People’s Party encouraged a change in ideology and shifted the country from an Islamic identity to a Turkish national identity. After WWII Turkey democratized and started holding multi party elections.

Turkish 101

Lindsay and I attended a beginner’s Turkish class taught by Dr. Ercan Balci last week. It was really hard to figure out how to pronounce a lot of the words – some of their letters make completely different sounds in English. But we did get the hang of the most important Turkish word; “Merhaba,” which means hello.

Till next time, “güle güle,” or “Be on your way with a smile!”

A Backpack Reporter’s Equipment

Nearly a week away from our departure, we’ve been busy getting our equipment in working shape. While we’re in Turkey, we’re going to need the necessary equipment to shoot, edit and produce all of our content. As a writer, all of this video and photo stuff was new to me, and it’s not easy!

If you’ve ever wondered what a backpack journalist has to carry at all times, here’s your guide:

Camera – Ours are Canon PowerShot SX10’s. They’re small and handy, but shoot high-quality material.Tripod – To prevent shaky video, we bring along a portable tripod at all times.

Audio Recorder – We’ll use recorders when we do interviews to get the best-quality audio for our video.

Lavalier Microphone – This connects to our audio recorders to a microphone that can clip onto the collar of whoever we’re interviewing.

Batteries – Journalists should never be without lots of lithium batteries on reserve!

Camera Bag – All of this equipment, plus cords and headphones, fits into a compact camera bag.