In 2014 thirty-two thousand six hundred seventy-five people were killed in America in fatal car accidents. That same year, thirty-eight people were killed in terrorist attacks in Turkey. I am safer walking the streets in Istanbul than I am driving a car in America. Not only that, I feel safer. I have lived in the Bronx and more than once would find myself walking or taking the 6 train in the wee hours of the morning. I have also on recent occasion found myself on European side of Istanbul in the wee hours of the morning walking to get to the Metrobus because it is the only way to get over the Bosphorus and towards home. I can guarantee you, walking these streets at 2AM is much safer than doing the same in New York City.
I wanted to throw that out right out of the gate because what has happened yesterday and what is on everyone’s mind is the bombing in Ankara yesterday and Erdogan’s retaliatory 18 bombings against the PKK and the YPG. I have recently been in Diyarbakir and saw with my own eyes some of the atrocities that the government has been committing against its Kurd citizens. Even still, I stand by my previous statement. I am much safer walking Turkey’s streets than I am driving America’s highways.
This morning when I got to school, a friend and coworker said to me, “BJ if you are smart and you have a choice, you should get out of here.” I understand her hurt and her frustration. She has family in Ankara. She is frustrated and wishes she could leave and not return until this regime, I mean “government”, is replaced with a more reasonable one. In response I told her, “I am not going anywhere.” Why? I have fallen in love.
I love this country. I love its food and its culture. I love the people and how goodness and kindness and generosity seem to flow out of nearly everyone I meet. I love my students, even on those days when the classroom is far more work and less joy. I love my school and the other teachers. They have treated me so well and have made me feel at home. I love Teachers in Turkey who connected me with my school and who have a clear passion for bridging the divide between international teachers and Turkish schools. I love the rich history the archaeology I have been able to visit and the beautiful old buildings everywhere I turn. I love my church and its people and the international community that is so vibrant here in Istanbul. No, I am not going anywhere. More than that, I would encourage you to come visit as well. Come teach here. Come find out why there is no place in the world I would rather be. I can guarantee that it will be safer here than a good long drive down Route 80.