Two Histories and One Border

 

 The raindrops of anger

"No matter how heavy the rain is, no matter how cold the storm is, you shouldn't curse what the clouds found right for us. This is the order of the world. Everybody knows it."

This extract from Elif Shafak's novel "The Bastard of Istanbul" best describes the first two days of our educational trip to Istanbul. During the summer months, when the sound of raindrops woke me up, I felt happy as the rain would water the trees and greenswards and they would not scorch get dried due to scorching sun. It was not like that in Istanbul. To move from one district to another we had to change different means of transport: the metro, trams, the finucliar, buses. We walked along from street to street, from yard to yard, and the rain was continuously pouring as if it was the end of the world. But I love this city so much: the sea, the strait, the ships, the diversity of shops, the abundance of shopwindows, and the architecture. The rain can't spoil my mood and veil this love of mine. It, certainly, cannot. On the third day it stopped raining, the sun came out and the blue sky was reflected in the waters of the Bosphorus, and I fell in love with that city again. I have some prejudices that people living in the coastal countries, are happier, more beautiful and cheerful.    

The Second Bosphorus Bridge

 We arrived in Istanbul by crossing the Bosphorus second bridge. It was also the second bridge of our educational exchange programme. About 200000 means of transport transporting nearly 600000 passengers cross this bridge daily. The number of the participants of the educational project Yerevan-Istanbul became six times as much, and so I am sure that this educational bridge will soon have the capacity of the Bosphorus bridge. 
 This year, the High School of the "Mkhitar Sebastatsi" Educomplex has laid an educational bridge to Getronakan Armenian High School in Istanbul. Getronakan High School was founded in the district of Ghalatia in Konstantinopolis in 1886. It is considered a prestigious Armenian educational institution in Istanbul and continues its ancestors' traditions. The number of Armenian schools in Istanbul is reduced every year but Getronakan Armenian High School with its previous and present day reputation remains steadfast and preferable.

Thanks to the high school principal Ms Silva's efforts the students of "Mkhitar Sebastatsi" Educomplex had a one-week educational programme in Istanbul which gave them an opportunity to mix with their peers in the best Armenian high school in Istanbul. They took part in the lessons, got acquainted with their curriculums and the teaching-learning process. In addition to the activities in the high school, Ms Silva also organized visits to other Armenian and Turkish high schools and a Turkish university. Armenian students should see the environment in which their peers in Istanbul live and grow up. This educational bridge becomes more effective thanks to such visits and ties.            
 
   The Turkish Girl

The Turkish girl: "What we need to do is to look at the future and to build it in another way. I don't deny the past. I recognize your loss and grief. Am I responsible for what my father's grandfather did?"

The Armenian thinker: "Here we can see our difference. You can easily say, "Let's start from the beginning". We are not able to do so. You are to blame not for the crime committed by your father's grandfather, but for denying and ignoring that crime." 

During the meeting of Armenian and Turkish teenagers in Sisli Terakia University, I remembered this extract from the novel "The Bastard of Istanbul" and I felt an inner happiness because thanks to this project our teenagers do not feel that depression coming from the past. There is readiness for acquiring new acquaintances and for making new contacts. The genuine smile of the Turkish girl has been fixed in my memory since that meeting day.    

 

Let's take a photo together

 

They sow hatred in the minds of Armenian children towards Turks and Turkey and in this way they chain people's ability to think freely. There are two histories and there is one border which is smashed, and people's minds are unchained when they cross this border. The children from the Republic of Armenia and Armenian children in Istanbul meet hugging one another overcoming their inner fears. Then our students are hosted in the Armenian families in different districts of Istanbul. The warm family atmosphere with heartwarming conversations and taking photos help them get rid of their inner fears and chains. They consider each other to be sisters and brothers and the "new parents" in Istanbul are addressed to as mothers and fathers. Gagik's "new mother" saw him off with tears in her eyes saying:"He is my son, my son." The Armenian students in Istanbul will always remain in our hearts. They were so caring while accompanying us in Istanbul and trying to do their best to introduce the city's places of interest to us, and if a place of interest was especially beautiful we stopped and took a group photo.     

  

The New Year 

 

According to the Armenian poet Zahrat all the New Year presents are pointless unless people give love to one another, and the soaring spirit of peace is created. Love and peace were soaring in the air during the three New Year eve suppers. The students from Armenia and Istanbul were so harmonious, and there was so much love and excitement in them.  

 

The Armenian Eye: Istanbul without the sultanaholic luxury

We visited Aras which is one of the three Armenian publishing houses in Istanbul. It was founded in 1993 and publishes books in Armenian and Turkish. The publishing house introduces the cultures of different peoples to each other through literature and gives the Armenians living in Turkey an opportunity to preserve their culture and transfer to next generations.   
We also visited Ara Guler Museum which had opened two months before his death. 90-year-old Ara Guler, who won nemorous international awards, and is often called "the eye of Istanbul", "a moment's hunter", "centennial best photographer", "unprecendented photohistoriographer".   
He took photos of old and modern Istanbul, towns of Western Armenia with their historical monuments. 

"Man acquires consciousness, broad-mindedness and conscience with knowledge. Science is subjective to knowledge." Elif Shafak "The bastard of Istanbul"

We are armed with new knowledge after each educational trip. Every time we make discoveries for ourselves, establish new acqaintances and realize that covering such long distances is not in vain and all our efforts and torments are repaid. During the journey everything had its own value, even that pouring rain which caused our anger. All those things form our bright memory.

At the end, I want to express my thankfulness:

  • to the parents of our 20 high school students who had confidence in us and gave their children an opportunity to cross the history border and appear on the opposite side.
  • to Neli Piloyan who is a good fellow traveller, a reasonable and helpful person, who with her Folk Band, showed a new culture and taste in Istanbul.
  • to kind and patient Lizet and other maidens were with our group from morning till late in the evening and did their best to make us feel comfortable. 
  • to Ms Silva, that lady with a mild smile and sweet speech, who taught us to dream and became the performer of our students' dreams.
  • to Mr Bleyan, our Santa. Thanks to his support this educational exchange project is already a reality. 
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