TUNISIAN THINKER İBN-I HALDUN SAYS, “GEOGRAPHY IS FATE.” WHAT DEFINES OUR FATE IS OUR TRAVELING PATHS BEGINNING AT TWO DIFFERENT GEOGRAPHIES…
Two women, two different stories and one joint venture… Life is a very magical adventure. Usually, we think that we are able to form it by our hands. In fact, many factors outside our control are capable of changing the flow of life at every passing moment. Brief contacts, coincidences we thought to be insignificant may open new windows in our lives. For instance, we would not be able to even guess that our lives could bring us to this point. Tunisian thinker İbn-i Haldun says, “Geography is fate.” What defines our fate is our traveling paths beginning at two different geographies… It is definite that the many languages we are able to talk would not be enough to describe what a great chance was it that our paths crossed at the turning points of our lives. First of all, we would like to convey to you how our adventure in Turkey had begun, and what we think of life here.
My name is Manuela Kaltenegger Görgü
I am Austrian. I was born in a village in the city of Salzburg, and I had psychology education in the same city. My business life followed a path different from my education. I usually worked in the marketing departments of commercial companies. I worked at the company “Fair Trade” in Austria. Maybe you know that Fair Trade companies work with cooperatives and market their products throughout the world.
While my business life went on like this, on the other hand, I had come to the point of choosing and writing the contents for my master thesis as a part of my academic education. I decided to choose my fields of interest as the topic of this thesis. I had to write a thesis regarding immigrant women. I decided to make Turkish immigrant women the subject of my thesis. Unfortunately, I did not know the Turkish language. So I came to İstanbul and went to a Turkish language course for a period of two months. Those brief contacts, those coincidences we thought to be insignificant must have been in charge again at that time, for I met my future spouse in İstanbul. And thus I started weaving connections to Turkey, beginning with knots of love.
I visited and left Turkey quite frequently for the following two years due to my thesis study. And I conducted field research for a year at the shanty houses in Ankara. I traveled around Turkey so much during this time period that my academic studies strengthened my cultural ties to the Anatolian culture. For example, I stayed in Gaziantep through a whole summer that was very very hot. That was a really significant experience for me. The thought of living in this country, with which my emotional ties had become stronger through my thesis study period, gradually became dominant and I gave that decision when my thesis study was completed, so I settled in Turkey. This decision had not been a hard choice as it may be perceived when looked from the outside. General thoughts employed against foreigners in Austria and work opportunities steered us towards Turkey. This new adventure I had begun with my life also had a sweet excitement to it. I thought that I could make many different studies in social fields within this beautiful country. The social life in Austria being very definite and thus quite boring caused my life to advance along a straight and monotonous line back there. My spirit that was used to that routine liked and embraced the different, exciting and dynamic life I faced in Turkey. This change created a talent to be able to see the world from diverse windows. For example, although Europe and Austria seem like geographies and cultures that have so many attraction and opportunities when gazed from down here, actually they are also places that have specific disadvantages, places that may perhaps bring considerable disappointment to people.
My name is Dorothea Atalay
I was born in Trier, Germany. I am a teacher and after graduating, I worked at a secondary school in Aachen, Germany. I met my spouse and settled in İstanbul in the year 1985. Afterward, I lived in Adana and Ankara. When I think back about the times I came to Turkey, I remember that Turkish people had been immigrating to Germany by masses. So mine is a story of “reverse immigration” in a sense… I chose to settle here, I worked, I made my home here.
Turks are people who are as curious as they are sincere; the first thing they ask was always the question, “Which one is more beautiful, Turkey or Germany?” For me, the answer to this question is very easy: “The most beautiful place in the world is the place where the person is happy.” I had the opportunity to visit and see the Coasts of Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea. I also saw Van and Central Anatolia Region. I found out during such travels of mine that there were very diverse and beautiful handicrafts in Turkey. These were traditional handcrafts and the ties between culture and history were preserved through these crafts in a most beautiful way. I was so impressed by these handcrafts that displayed much richness of diversity from region to region. This richness offered a very significant foundation for “Eldoku” that we established.
Although both of us had lived for very long years in the same city, our paths crossed only six years ago. However, our meeting together occurred with great timing. It was a period that both of us desired to blend our impressions of this land, and the experiences we accumulated together with our European roots to transfer all into a new kind of activity. These ideas of ours steered us towards establishing a cooperative. However, we failed to actualize that. The experiences I had gathered on this subject back in Austria and my dreams about the cooperative establishment, unfortunately, did not coincide with the actual structure of the cooperatives here. The hierarchy of the system did not allow us to actualize our ideas. So we went on to establish a social enterprise. And believe us, we observed that we could support the women so much more in this manner. The adventure covering the foundation and development of Eldoku was realized this.
Throughout this adventurous period, we tried to travel and discover almost all corners of Turkey; maybe we had come to know Turkey even better than we know our homelands. Because traveling here is both so easy and so rewarding in terms of new and fascinating experiences. The people, geography and cultural structure of all places are very diverse and deep. We return to Ankara with different experiences and amazing impressions after each travel we make into Anatolia. And Ankara is the city that we live together with our families, the place we feel like our home now. Eldoku is a social enterprise. When our education and experience were mixed together with our dreams, the brand Eldoku was born, which creates productivity and diversity. We would like to strive with whatever is in our capacity towards rendering the handcrafting skills and labor of the Turkish women more valuable through our productions by modernizing the traditional Turkish handicrafts and making them more in tune with the modern lifestyle in a sense, and towards seeking and establishing joint channels for production and sales. While doing that, we act in line with a social and just trade vision. Utilizing local materials and labor to produce natural and environment-friendly products and market such to domestic and abroad markets are among our objectives.
“When I look back on my life from this moment, I see that I spent most of my time here, in Turkey. Although this is not my homeland, Austria also feels very remote to me. And I see that life is not lived on a straight line. Happiness, unhappiness, disappointments are all intertwined… Time gets its beauty from living in the moment. As it is always said, “Go after your dreams but live in this moment!” In fact, Turkish people live so close to this philosophy.”
“During the times I newly came from Austria, honestly, I did not have much knowledge regarding Turkey. I merely read “Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları” poem of Nazım Hikmet and some books of Yaşar Kemal that was translated into German. And of course, there was Ruhi Su that I was familiar with. I felt, for some reason, a strange attraction in this heavy and sad music. Now I think back to those days, the days I came to İstanbul for the first time, and I may say that I had not felt like a stranger even in those times. The city had a strange charm that bestowed a sense of belonging.”
Turks are people who are as curious as they are sincere; the first thing they ask was always the question, “Which one is more beautiful, Turkey or Germany?” For me, the answer to this question is very easy: “The most beautiful place in the world is the place where the person is happy.”
Yazan: Manuela Kaltenegger Görgü – Dorothea Atalay / Fotoğraf: S. Bahar Alban
*This article was published in the March-April issue of Marmara Life.