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Beauty and Benefits of a Global City

By Danica Taylor

            Last semester two friends of mine studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain. For spring break they traveled to Greece and Turkey. They told me that I would be astonished by the beauty of Turkey, that there were no words to really describe the feeling that you get when you’re in Istanbul. When I thought of Turkey I thought of sand and deserted cities and Muslim women with their faces covered...but this was far from what I was about to experience. The article, “Bridge Between Europe and Asia” by Jenny B White describes the complex housing situation in Turkey, but also highlights the immense variety of beauty. White described Istanbul as “Mythical…a city of jewels and jewel like colors, of passion and intrigue…the city does seem to stretch like a sinous dragon along the side of the Bosphorus Strait, sparkling with thousands of tiny diamonds, low-voltage house lights sprinkled over the invisible hills” (pg. 21) After reflecting on the conversation I had with my friends, and the reading I had the most beautiful picture painted of what this mystical city would be like. I then thought of all the places I’d seen thus far on this journey, the Mekong Delta, Taj Mahl, The Great Pyramids, and the Great Wall of China….could Istanbul really surpass these great beauties?

When I stepped off the boat, it was cold. A bittersweet reminder that the seasons were changing and that we were once and for all getting closer and closer to home. Knowing all the city had to offer I decided to for the first time on the entire voyage to stay in and around the port city, allow myself to get lost and become familiar with one area of a country instead of jet setting all over it.  Within two minutes of exiting the ship, I saw my first Turkish Mosque. But right across the street from the Mosque was a billboard for brand new luxury apartments, and next to that was a Citi Bank. It was an instant feeling of being in a more westernized city, one that has adapted to a transnational world. A friend of mine on the ship has a friend from Turkey who studied in the States for a year, his name is Atesh. We met Atesh for dinner one night and it was really interesting talking to him about life in Turkey. We asked if he was Muslim, both he and his friend kind of laughed, and said “so-called Muslims”. But what was even more interesting was talking to them about serving in the military. In Turkey, although the government still requires men to serve three years of service, the more fortunate citizens have benefited from loop-holes in the government that allow them to utilize transnational benefits. Atesh’s Mom is from the United States so he was exempt.  However his friend received an invitation from the Canadian government to become a citizen, therefore exempting him from serving in the military. His family, bought a house in Canada, which nobody lives in, and that alone allows him to never have to serve in the Turkish military.

Learning about this made me realize what a global world we live in. Fifty years ago, people first of all would have been proud to serve their countries because it was a way of life back then. Secondly, the Canadian government wouldn’t have had the ability to communicate and invite those fortunate civilians to become a member of their country for the sole benefit of Canada increasing its population, thus suiting Turkish men who are evading serving their country. The extent to which our world has become transnational has truly influenced all aspects of the developed world’s daily lives.

This trip has allowed me to see the opportunities and doors that open when a nation becomes developed and global, like Atesh and his friend being able to avoid not serving in the Turkish military by accessing transnational networks. In contrast, I have also experienced the simplicity and contentment of people living in non-developed nations also affected by transnational movements. But in the end,  we all live our lives day to day, whether it’s in a brand new high rise, a thatched roof house, or a nice square of cement on the sidewalk; nobody knows what will come next.

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