It may seem like some quiet and peaceful months from a distance. In fact, the work at and of the house and the garden never stops here. I am not only talking about maintenance but the awareness of a continuous improvement. We successfully completed the insulation of the house, had the roof renewed with a team of workers. Two female volunteers supervised and acted as the contact people between me and the workers while I was trying hard to keep sane and work at my home-office in the midst of construction noises all around. The whole mission extended to 25 days instead of the anticipated 15 days. Never having supervised anything like this before (last summer, Sevil was here fulltime, reporting daily before dinner how the day unfolded) and lacking the knowledge for the process was challenging but satisfactory once it was over. I can write a thesis on the insulation techniques along with creative communication skills when there is no option but to work with pro-government, conservative men as a woman.

Considering the severity and the wide spread of the pandemic, I remain conflicted about welcoming volunteers and immigrants -basically non-existent for this specific time period (another essay topic). I receive volunteer applications from site and genuinely wonder how a group of people/nomads are still determined to travel across the world despite the threats of the pandemic. I have been upset with the negligence among the majority of the locals here, including neighbors and co-workers. This has caused a lot of stress (real headaches); I did my best to handle tensions constructively, never raising my voice and posting warning signs and requests at the entries (of the garden gate and the house door) but mostly they were/are ineffective, and met with some attitude.

Some Highlights from Our Much-Limited Meetings and Activities

1. Collaborating with Muzna Dureid (Canada) and two other activists (names not disclosed) who are based in the Middle East to create a phone app that will be designed to meet the urgent needs of migrant women who experience gender based violence. The current ones in Turkey such as KADES and Polis 155 (interpretation service available when I called for an urgent case on behalf of a Syrian woman) are not as effective or user-friendly for non-Turkish speaking individuals although I tested them and spread the word until we can come up with something better.

2. Online meetings with Alys Sink (Director of Communications at ‎Madison House, University of Virginia) who suggested a collaboration for a book project with women refugees across countries. She already found the publisher: Lexington Books. We are thinking of utilizing letter writing for voicing selected displaced women’s concerns, dreams, feelings among others. When I read Ms Sink’s excellent thesis on the role of refugee women narratives in the U.S. resettlement process at one sitting in 2018, I knew we could work together one day. Thank you Alys for initiating this exciting communication and being such a considerate writer and an attentive interviewer!

3. Online noon meetings every Thursday with Esra Kazanbas (PhD Student, University of Toronto,  Women and Gender Studies). Esra is always full of news, ideas, and inspiration for me and for UmAy! She has been a volunteer assistant, offering her time and knowledge ever since we met in Summer 2019. She is an activist graduate student with a focus on violence against women. Always on time, always on call!  Last week, we watched (pre-meeting) and analyzed it. Esra also regularly informs me of the Oslo Women’s Rights Initiative‘s activities.

4. Professor Gulseren Akyuz paid a first visit to UmAy on 10/10/2020, received an orientation (by me due to lack of assistants on that weekend), offered her help and knowledge for now and the future of UmAy. She is full of energy, generosity, and new ideas as a ‘just retired’ activist academic. The following is the abstract of her upcoming talk after I shared my concerns about the confusion and depression that the young people (I interact with) express due to the outcomes of the pandemic so far (e.g., back to their parents’ home, lacking socialization, work and internship opportunities). Prof. Akyuz believes that if you want to change the worldstart with yourself first: “It is not easy to challenge the paradigms of one’s society. However, once the process begins, you notice that nothing is impossible but only takes some time. We learn that failures teach us more and better than our successes, and we don’t need to be on top all the time. Where should our principles lead to? I invite you to have an interactive conversation where we can talk about our real priorities in this life.” We look forward to have her back in November.

5. Finding foster families and rehoming kittens in the neighborhood (we have many!) I am happy to host three kittens at UmAy’s garden (remember Umay’s reputation as the protector of baby-animals in Turkic mythology?) and thanks to the online pet-adoption platforms, I also managed to find families for three other kittens. Such a relief before the winter hits!

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