Posts Tagged ‘International Reporting’

I am staying in a hostel in Taksim for my last few days here. I have taken to sitting in my window with my camera and snapping candid snapshots of the people in my new hood. I am so loving this city. Below are some of the images I have shot during my last week. Some are from my window, some are not. All are little tastes of the things I love about this city.

There is an enormous stray cat population in Istanbul. This little guy was sitting in the doorway of the underground mosque in Karaköy.

Shot from the window of my hostel. This woman was basically doing what I was doing – watching the neighborhood go by from her window.

A couple of days ago, I took a boat ride up the Bosphorus. It was the first touristy thing I had done since my first week here. It was nice to be on the water, to see the landscapes and to watch the people relaxing.

This mother was showing her son how to feed pigeons. Feeding flocks of pigeons seems to be something that is common in every city I travel too.

One of the things that I love the most about this city are the community areas. All throughout the city are parks, squares and waterfronts where people gather, sit, drink. eat, and socialize together. Cheap outdoor entertainment that promotes community wellbeing. Love it.

Another shot from my boat ride. I love the reddish brown building.

I see this woman sitting on her balcony and watching the people below almost everyday. Her balcony is just across from my window.

There was something about this grandfather and granddaughter that I loved. I think it was the older generation caring for and guiding the younger one.

Being a predominantly Muslim country, women in head scarves are not an unusual sight. I just finally snapped a picture of one.

I find this city to be so enticing. Not just visually but in every sense. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel… I am deeply, madly in love with Istanbul. I can’t wait to live here.

Peace and Love.

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This is it! I am finally done. My profile is written, my photos are done and, the biggest thing, my multimedia project is done!

This past week has been a whirlwind. Interviews, filming, shooting, more interviews, more filming, more shooting, followed by a lot of crying and multiple moments where I had to fight to not throw my computer against a wall. I was thoroughly convinced as I had to start my piece over for the third time, and find a whole new topic, that there was no way that it would be possible for me to actually produce a finished piece. I am still in disbelief that it is done… and that I am actually really pleased with how it turned out.

Here it is!!!!!!

This past month has been a lot of things: amazing, hectic, spiritual, insane, beautiful, frustrating, fun, intimidating, sleepless, romantic…. the list goes on and on. I can’t even begin to describe how much this experience has meant to me or how much I feel like I have changed because of it. I have learned so much about myself, my trade, my passions, and my beliefs. Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, this has been a life changing experience. All the stress, the fear, the doubt, the questioning, all of it are by far outweighed by the things that I have gained while being here.

I was talking to someone about this today. I have received so much more from this experience than I ever expected or thought possible. Not only did I learn to improve my writing and photography, not only did I learn to shoot and edit video, and not only did I learn a little Turkish, but I also gained new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs. Previously held conceptions and ideas have been smashed. My eyes and my heart  have been opened  in a way that I never thought possible. I feel happiness, love and contentment in the depths of my soul.

Priceless gifts that have been given to me. Grateful doesn’t even come close to describing the way that I feel.

Peace and Love.

Monday morning, back to the grind that is student life. After a long weekend of doing a whole lot of nothing, the grind doesn’t feel as comfortable as it once did and today contained more challenges than the average.

I am finally finishing up my profile piece on Ferat Şahin, the director of the Children of Hope Association. Good thing too, because it is due in full tomorrow. I am really happy with the written piece, but less than thrilled with the images (can’t win ’em all). Regardless, it’s done and it has to be done. It’s time to move on to the multimedia piece. That would be the problem…

This afternoon I found myself sitting in the hallway outside our multimedia lab feeling quite discouraged and overwhelmed. I had hit a brick wall with my feature ideas and I was almost feeling ready to quit. Luckily, I have too much pride and ego for that. Instead I sat down with my advisors and tried to figure out a way to pull my dying feature from its deathbed. The conclusion was to find a new subject. Not necessarily what I was hoping for, but it has to be done.

So my new feature piece will be on a street performer (or a group of performers) and I have made my peace with that. Tomorrow, my interpreter and I hit the pavement in search of a subject. The bright side is that it will be more visually appealing, the downside is that I have 7 days to get it done. Perseverance is key.

I feel a lot of doubt, fear of failure, and stress. These are all emotions I have felt before. Such is the life of being a student… or at least my life as a student. I am grateful to be present enough to feel these feelings and know that they are not fact and I am grateful for the amazing support I have received from my advisors. If nothing else, I have found in this experience a new strength and  the ability to ask for help. Those are valuable things to possess.

Regardless of how I feel about my new topic, I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether I like the reason or not. I know that there is potential for something great. And who knows? This could be the story that I am meant to tell.

Peace and Love.

Today was a day for multiple interviews, love poems, hanging with some cool people, a random act of kindness and generosity, and lots and lots of laughter. My heart is peaceful and full.

I went to Children of Hope today for a second interview with Ferat Şahin and ended up conducting a total of six interviews. Ferat was not there when we got to CHA, which was unexpected because he was the whole reason I was there in the first place and the only person I had prepared interview questions for. So I conferred with Bürde, my interpreter, for a minute and we decided that this would be a good opportunity to interview some of the residents and volunteers. They were really excited to have us there and really curious about us. We sat at an outdoor table and were instantly surrounded by curious onlookers. I figured that it would be best to talk with one person at a time and so we got started.

CHA is only allowed to house “kids” 18 and older, so the residents there were mostly young adults, although Ferat made it clear that he will never turn anyone away. Occasionally “kids” under 18 are given permission by the social workers to stay with CHA instead, but most of the time they end up in group homes until they are 18 (after which they usually end up back on the streets). Any minor that Ferat takes off the streets, and there have been hundreds of them, must be turned over to social workers. The system is terribly flawed as most of the kids turned over to social workers run away from their group homes and end up back on the streets and back on drugs.

The first “kid” I interviewed was a resident whom I am going to call “C”. He is 26 years old and has been living at CHA for the past few years. He was reluctant to talk to me about his family life only saying “I don’t have a good life story. That’s why I don’t want to tell you about it.” He said that he lived for many years on the streets using drugs and stealing to survive. When I asked him to share with me a little bit about what his life was like in the streets, he would only say “There is nothing much to tell, but the streets are like a hole that can suck people in.” I’m not gonna lie, I was disappointed that he wasn’t willing to share more with me. Despite being 26, he looked so young and his eyes had a look of deep sadness behind them. At the same time I found gratitude to CHA, for giving me the opportunity to meet this boy and, most importantly, for giving him a second chance.

The second “kid” I interviewed was also a resident that I am going to call “Y”. He is 16 years old and has been living at CHA for the past 3 or 4 months. He couldn’t really give me a time estimate as for how long he has been living on the streets. He did say that he came from an unhappy family life and ran away to escape it. Currently he is battling with addiction. CHA works hard to help kids get off drugs and turn their lives around, but there is no formal treatment for them (and there is definitely no 12 step approach). “Y” says that he wants to stop using drugs but he can’t.  It was hard to see this kid and hear the parts of his story he was willing to share. He didn’t look much older than my own son; he just looked like a little kid.

The drug that seems to be popular among the street kids here in Istanbul is called Tiner, which is Turkish for Paint Thinner. It is cheap, accessible and a real problem for the these kids. It was mentioned to me that these kids need the drugs in order to survive on the streets and Ferat mentioned to me that drugs in Istanbul are getting cheaper, more plentiful and easier to find – a bad combination for kids on the street.

The last interview that I am going to share about was with a “kid” that I am going to call “O”. He is 19 and is one of the newer residents at CHA. This kid was a reporter’s dream (for the most part). He was open, charming, and talkative. He shared with me that he started living on the streets when he was 13 (the same age as my son), when he ran away from the domestic violence in his home. He survived by begging and asking food stands for yesterday’s food. He used drugs. He had been hit by 3 cars, during his time on the streets, and one of the accidents has permanently damaged one of his hands, which limits the type of work he can do. Today he lives at CHA and  is looking for work. He loves to write poetry and he insisted on writing a poem for me. He dictated to my interpreter and she wrote it down and then translated it for me. It was a really sweet little  love poem. Words cannot even describe how full my heart was after talking to this boy and how happy it made me to see him happy and smiling and healthy. I think I might see if I can use him for my feature piece – Street Kid Turned Poet? Has a kinda cool ring to it…

There were more interviews too. I have 40+ pages of notes to organize and type. It was such a beautifully full day today. My spirit is happy, my heart is full and my head is quiet. Who could ask for anything more?

Peace and Love.

Last week, across the globe, was Pride Week and in Istanbul there was no exception. On june 27, 2011, approximately 2000 revelers marched onto Taksim Square, and down the Istikal, carrying banners and signs, waving rainbow-colored flags, and chanting. The group was met in Taksim Square with tear gas (which we later discovered actually had to do with a Kurdish protest that was also attempting to march onto Taksim Square) as well as astonished on-lookers.  Although demonstrations in Istanbul have a tendency to turn violent, this rally remained mostly peaceful (more tear gas was released into the Pride crowd; the second time it was meant for us).

As the revelers made their way down the Istikal, they stopped in front of several businesses, booing and chanting. I later learned that these businesses had been sources of discrimination by refusing service to a member (or members) of the LGBT community.  The revelers stood outside of these discriminating businesses waving rainbow flags and brandishing signs with catchy slogans such as “Love is Not a Crime” and “Out of the Closet and Into the Streets”. This was the revelers way of saying that they would not stand for discrimination based on their choices of lifestyle.

Overall, the rally was peaceful; filled with music, dancing, laughter, and smiles.  Having witnessed several West Hollywood Gay Pride rallies, I was surprised by the differences between the two.  Make no mistake, despite it being a peaceful demonstration, there was definite potential for things to go terribly wrong. As I mentioned before, demonstrations in Istanbul have a tendency to turn violent at any moment, and this rally was no exception. The LGBT community is not at all supported nor aided by the city in the organization of these demonstrations or in safety assurance.  Streets were not cleared nor blocked off and if there had been any serious opposition to the revelers, it would not have been contained.  Revelers were made to negotiate their way through throngs of on lookers and in Taksim Square there was a very large police presence, heavily armed and wearing riot gear attire. Fortunately, the rally remained peaceful and, in the end, love prevailed.

Peace and Love