From time to time I am asked what I miss the most from the States. Today, I realized I miss the colors of the rainbow.
Turkey is chock full of Turks. They come in varying colors, dark skin and dark hair, blonde hair and light skin. I’ve even met some red heads.
But it’s just not the same as living in Philadelphia. There I could get on a bus and feel immersed in the world. Blacks and whites. Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Ethiopians, Russians, Puerto Ricans . . . and so on and so on. It was great.
In Ankara, we have our fair share of different nationalities and races, mostly due to the presence of many embassies here. In recent days, I have noticed more blacks than usual. I’m assuming they are mostly from African countries. I am frankly embarrassed by how they stand out to me. I stop to admire the deep dark colors of their skin, how their eyes are set, their cheekbones. I wonder where they are from.
I’ve seen a few more Asians this month too.
I start to wonder what they are doing here. Are they all here working at Embassies? Are they students? Were they able to find jobs?
Turkey is not an easy place to find a job. One either comes via Embassy work, or they come to teach English. Other than that, it’s difficult. It’s a lucky few who can start their own business here legally, or who can get a work permit doing something other than teaching English.
Last week, I was with some Turkish friends when a show came on the TV about Pakistan. They were interviewing young women. Suddenly, one of my friends commented on how she found these women unattractive because they had large eyes and noses. Without taking time to think about what she said or how I would respond, I lashed out, “Don’t be racist!” I immediately started to wish I hadn’t said this. I didn’t want to get into this discussion through an interpreter. But before my thoughts ran too far, I was truly warmed to learn that she apologized for the comment and added that I was right. (Honestly, those large eyes were gorgeous to me and I never noticed the noses.)
Then last night, I caught part of an interview on the Discovery Channel of a neo-nazi gang in Russia. They said that the largest population of ne0-nazis is now in Russia. They interviewed a 14-year-old girl who said she became a neo-nazi after seeing Hitler on television. She found him very handsome. She went on to tell a tale (probably a tall tale) of how she “killed a black” with a knife because she wanted to make friends with the gang. I was really sickened by this group, the hatred, the deep lack of respect for humankind.
So today, just 10 days after Martin Luther King’s birthday, I want to recognize the colors of the rainbow. Even though we don’t all get along in the States, I’m glad we are all there, learning and growing side by side. Today, I am praying that the rest of the world becomes one big rainbow too. Today, I’m really hoping that one day soon here in Ankara, a black man (or Chinese, or Indian) will walk by and I won’t turn my head.