Nayla Erzani (INA AFS to Turkey YP 16–17)
On my first week in Izmir, someone once said to me that it’s one out of several safest places in Turkey. Nothing has ever happened here, and if something happened people would have a screw loose about it.
January hasn’t even passed its first week when it happened. Thursday, January 5th 2017 finally something came to pass Izmir. A terror attack — bombings and gunshots to be exact, occurred less than 10 kilometers away from my apartment. The thing happened before my school was out, so I knew nothing when I walked back home. I saw the news right when I arrived. My brother was depressingly staring at the TV, and at the same time was trying to calm himself because it was really weird for him (or for everyone) to see something like this happened in Izmir.
“I know this would happen. It’s the same when they said that the truck tragedy in Nice would never happen. But it happened.”
— My AFS friend from French
Everyone keeps questioning about me — who still holds on bravely to live in Turkey. Just as a preamble, back in Indonesia I was not an international political issue enthusiast, neither a war correspondent. I’m becoming slightly more sensitive about political issues and history ever since I got here, because this country definitely has a lot to learn from those things. Yes, the girl who used to open her laptop just to take BuzzFeed quizzes now switched herself over into a girl who opens her laptop for Quora — or some other educative websites, although on the other side she sometimes still can’t detached herself from taking those entertaining BuzzFeed quizzes about Disney’s Princesses.
But anyways, one important thing that people should really know is everyone in the city moved on so quickly after bombings that you yourself barely noticed how many had gone off. Despite the increasing frequency of messages from family and friends back home every time something bad came up on the news, I’ve actually carried the feeling of security ever since I landed. During my first months, once I got lost at 9 P.M in the middle of Alsancak without a phone, nor an internet connection. Scared and alone, I finally encouraged myself to ask a random taxi driver that passed the street. Surprisingly, he was just not simply giving me directions; he walked me until I got to my exact destination.
It’s the little thing that strangers do that makes me feel a lot safer. I am comforted by the most ordinary community rituals; a metro station full of pupils every weekday afternoons, prayer calls five times a day, or even the boisterous sound of people who offers coffee in some alley full of cafés in Kızlarağası Hanı. I probably wouldn’t understand what’s so special about those circumstances without experiencing them myself. And so do you as a reader — some of you might imagine how I feel but you can’t actually know.
Magical is not a right term to describe my life and feelings in the past 5 months. In fact, it’s strange in a beautiful way. Don’t you think it’s peculiar to see a place that used to be a central spot from an ancient Greek days eternally stands there as an open-air museum? It used to be full of merchants; a gathering place for people to assemble back in the 8th century. Today, the place that used to be ancient Greek’s Pondok Indah Mall became nothing but some valuable rumbles.
However, there is something reassuring about living among historical places because we know that as long as it’s conserved, it will always be there. For example, I walk pass Saat Kulesi almost on a daily basis, which was built more than a hundred years ago. Until today, it is still looking strong, timeless, and standing solidly on its place. It has witnessed revolution, honorable deaths, and things you’ve heard since its era, which is incredible.
Countless everlasting historical buildings around here has told me an oblique meaning of life; instead of plotting an escape because you’re terrified, it is better to learn how to preserve and honor the life that we love — and to stay until God knows when. This is not a strange place anyway. It’s just a new place. And it’s my first time to live here.
Most of us remember the things that change us most in life, which is why we remember our first times better than we remember anything else. Regarding to this, I can say that at any rate people, places, and things that I learned here will not be vanished or else forgotten easily from my memories.