A short essay by Eda Saraç, May 2022, Kavala
Borders, check points and passports…The reality of the post-modern life. We need them for our travel experiences even though we share the same heritage and legacy as part of the Mediterranean area. I look through my passport and throw a bitter smile at the Schengen visa. Supposedly, we share the same region and culture, but still we need lots of documents and paper work to enter into our “komşu”. However, immediately after entering into the country, I forget the fact that I am in a foreign country. The feeling is the same, the taste of food is similar, because we are in our neighbor. I feel nostalgic and emotional because I remember when I was an Erasmus exchange student in Corfu, at the Ionian University. My conditions were much worse than as a poor undergraduate student back then and I smile at the opportunities I have taken in life so far. From being a humble undergraduate student to being a researcher who is funded generously by the Swedish Research Institute. Life is all about the action and development, I ponder. Is this development also related to my volunteer work at the library of Ionian University? Like a kind of compensation of good will and intentions? I have been pondering about all these questions since the beginning of the journey. Life is all about the balance of given and taken things, and somehow I think I have created a good balance with this journey to Kavala.
The existence of similar atmosphere of Kavala with Gelibolu or Ayvalık also strikes me. Even the old Greek men staring at the people and gossip are similar to our Turkish grandfathers who chat and stare at the people in these coastal towns. The mutual similarities are so many that I don’t have a real chance to think about what differs us, to be frank. The next day, entering into the Swedish Research Institute in Kavala, we find ourselves with the chance to think about the tobacco industry and the people who occupied themselves with this particular business. I understand that there is a lack of narration about these families who sustained the tobacco trade in Kavala. Who were they? What were their names? How many people were they? What kind of lives did they lead? All these questions seem so obscure in the stairs of Swedish Institute. At this particular moment, I realize and think that I would have been much better of being a historian who specializes in writing family histories. I kind of feel envy towards the historians in our group. I also feel a bit jealous because they understand Ottoman and try to figure out the writings on the walls and scribblings that we come across in Kavala. At that moment, again I understand how important it is to learn languages.
Dr. Cengiz Sisman’s humble attitude towards his young and aspiring colleagues amazes me. I long to be like him when I aspire to be a much more experienced scholar in the future. He appreciates and elevates his young colleagues among everyone, and this humble attitude makes me much valuable. I strongly think that he is a wonderful mentor.
All in all, the freedom to try out different tastes, the chance to meet extraordinary colleagues and the brainstorming sessions has definitely given me a wonderful break from the routine and tedious life, and provided me with the reality that there is the availability of another life out there and we can definitely obtain that chance.