Last night I accidentally walked into a protest. I really had no intention of being there. I was in Taksim at the Italian Consulate trying out an a capella club which turned out to be pretty fun. Two of the people there, the conductor (a 27-year old italian named Martina) and one of the altos (an 18-year old turkish girl whose last name meant “Universe”) lived on the asian side, and so we all were walking together down Istiklal towards the ferries.
First some dudes passed wearing handkerchiefs and goggles. They moved with purpose. Alright, I thought. Then we saw a battalion of riot cops, swinging clubs and marching together down the road.
“Don’t worry about the gas,” Universe told us. “Don’t, ah, touch eyes, and don’t breathe.”
“Ok,” I said. The cobblestones were wet, but it had been sunny all today.
“The water cannons were out,” she said. Some protesters passed and were chanting, and then she joined in. “Her yer taksim, her yer direne.” Then she turned to us. “Let’s go kill a cop,” she said. I think it was a joke.
Then we saw the water cannon tank. It was an armored car with what you’d expect on top: big cannon thing leaking water from the tip. It was turning around, and driving towards us.
“Don’t run,” Universe told us. “They will think you are protesters. Just remember, you are american! Say “I am american” and then no problem.”
“Do I look like a protester?” Martina laughed, pulling at her peacoat. We stayed cool and walked past the water tank, looked straight ahead. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone pitch a rock, a fastball, at the tank. We started to run. Universe pulled us off to the side. We were out of the way, and it was fine. Then it was just pedestrians all out on the street again, just a normal evening on istiklal. Plus one bag of burning garbage in the middle of the ramble.
I am told that as it heats up, the protests will start back up. I’m not too keen on being around for those–not only because it’s not really my fight (I’ve met two anxious white american dudes here who brag about their participation in the protests and play the whole cultural appropriation card, and it’s really gross) but because a few students have actually been killed, killed during these protests. I’m happy to keep my distance.
Later, we all got a zurna durum to calm down. The zurna durum is a 70 centimeter long meat wrap prepared by an insane man who laughs and yells joyously about Obama every time he sees me at his shop. Universe told us a story, without context, about how she was swimming in a cave in southern turkey with her friends, who pissed her off so she walked off, wandered up into the mountains without shoes. And how she got so thirsty she drank her own pee? Her english was spotty. It was the greatest story I’d heard all day, and we’d literally just seen someone throw a rock at a water cannon tank.
Here’s her rescue video on turkish news! This was all real and we met this person. The headline means “Young girl who was waiting to be rescued on the mountain.”
Anyways it’s been a pretty long time since I wrote anything at all, so I guess I should take this opportunity to inform everyone that I quit BT muzikevi–the stress was way too crazy and the boss way too controlling. Jari and I then backpacked through the Lycian Way and had lots of wacky adventures. Sadly, this means I’m no longer living at the Sea Palas with Eyetouch, but I’m going over to feed him dinner tonight. Eyetouch subsists on a diet of boiled chicken, boiled eggs, peanut butter, instant coffee, and tuna fish sandwiches. It also means that I’m looking for new work as an English teacher somewhere–I’ll keep everyone in the loop.