Tag Archives: friends!

Témoris in 1978?

This is how my friend Burak Sariaslan, from Istanbul, thinks I’d look if we were in 1978… generous!

And this is us in 2010, a night of May on Istiklal caddesi:

Şenay Şaşko is the beauty, and the beasts from left to right are: Çağatay Sönmez, Burak Sariaslan, me and Agah Özberk

My best looks, defo!

Friends of my heart

I got four of the most lovely people in this world, Isik (Istanbul), Odelia, Yael and Dani (Tel Aviv) to meet each other over raki and beers. None of us is religious but, by inheritance, we were a Muslim, three Jews and a Christian. I felt blessed by having them around me. Then a sad thought crossed my mind: when, where could we ever meet again like in this occasion? Small world, gigantic world.

Istanbul farewell

It was an amazing farewell and birthyear party last night, here in Istanbul! Attending were lovely people representing many nations: Türkiye, Israel, Deutschland, Italia, Colombia, USA, Slovenija, Argentina, France, UK, Schweiz… Am I missing someone? Suriya couldn’t come :-( And, of course, México. Next party on Saturday in Barcelona, and this time is my birthday and book launch!

Vanessa with the Dalai Lama

My dear friend Vanessa Able is doing an amazing road trip around India, on the world’s smallest car, Tata’s Nano. Her Nano Diaries are amusing, informative, greatly-written pieces of travel literature. She just happened to stumble upon a very important Dalai Lama’s ceremony in Dharamsala, I suggest you to follow this link and read the whole story, it’s very well written and amusing. And this is a comment I left to her: 

Religion is religion, but there a nicer religions than others. Buddhism has many things I like. A very important one is what you wrote: “in true sanguine Tibetan style the event was given a most positive spin”. Wow… Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews, Shiites, Sunnis, Hindus… it appears to me that their priests, monks, nuns, pastors, rabbis, mullahs and imams tend to put the stress in any really really sad thing for which the faithful should feel regret or remorse or victimhood or unfairness… which a religious group (in-exile and under-domination) as the Buddhist Lamaists could easily do as well. But they choose differently. I feel a lot of sympathy for that.

When I was four or so…

Where is Témoris?

This is a quite recent pic with my cousins from Hermosillo, Sonora, in Northwestern Mexico. The bigger ones are Manuel and Claudia, and the smaller ones, Carlos and Heidi.

And if you follow this link, you’ll see my brother Coizta’s mock edition of my earliest incursion into acting, “El chiquillo del campo”, with my dad sporting a sombrero and saying “Ah, Chihuahua!” at the end (though you must log into Facebook to see it).

Istanbul’s Spring Festival

The Hıdrellez Festival is an ancient Turkish tradition, celebrating the arrival of Spring. Weather wasn’t so spring-like, but the Türks flowed by the tens of thousands to Ahırkapı park, on the Marmara Sea shore, in Sultanahmet (the 3,000 year-old part of Istanbul).

You can find the whole photo album here..

Since the Roma people (aka gypsies, gitanos, ziingari) came here, 600 years ago, they gave the festival their own tone: Roma music bands have the leading part and many Türks come dressed somehow gypsy-like.

Foto: Témoris Grecko

Although it’s now a municipality-organised event, I loved that it keeps a dynamic that has a kind of spontaneous feeling. There is a big stage, of course, where the main acts take place when the evening has arrived. But the must fun part is before that, in the late afternoon: there are lots of small stages scattered around the park and a music band on top of each, playing for the dancing crowd. The musicians suddenly get down of the stage and start wandering around with their darbukas and clarinets leading the people, until they find an empty stage elsewhere to climb and play from.

Foto: Témoris Grecko

Foto: Témoris Grecko

Foto: Témoris Grecko

There is a sad part of all of it, and this is when you can stop reading if you like. I’m adding some photos at the end to illustrate it, you could skip them too.

The Roma people, the gypsies, are among the most vulnerable groups in many countries, here too. And as many other cities, Istanbul is subject to a predatory gentrification process, in which real-estate speculators and local officials use the pretext of modernisation to evict poor people from their neighbourhoods in order to bulldoze them and build apparment blocks and malls.

Last time I was here, in october 2009, I went to Sulukule, an ancient Roma settlement, famous for its gypsy atmosphere, for the dancing and the emotion now we have to look for at yearly festivals. It was completely destroyed. Some of its old inhabitants were still there, clinging hopelessly to a vanishing happy place.

Foto: Témoris Grecko

My reportage on Sulukule, in Spanish, was published in Esquire, you can find it here http://issuu.com/temoris/docs/estambul/7?mode=a_p

A happy workers’ day in Istanbul

On 1st of May, 1977, the police cracked down on the demonstration and killed 34 workers. Every year since then, this anniversary was marked by clashes and violence. But we didn’t smell tear-gas this time, no one splashed us from water cannons and we didn’t have to run chased by anti-riots. The government announced that the march would be allowed. And the people came from all over the place, crowding central Taksim square. TV showed amazing footage of huge columns crossing the bridge over the Bosphorus strait, from Asia to Europe. The mood was really festive. Hundreds of thousands of Istanbular came singing to hear the speeches, dance and laugh.

You can view the whole album here.

Foto: Témoris Grecko

Foto: Témoris Grecko

I was with my very dear friend Işık, a Turkish political scientist. We met back in 2004 when she was doing academic research in Mexico.

Isik Özel. Foto: Témoris Grecko

Not much here of a workers' leader, I think... I look more like Buzz Lightyear: "To the inifnity and beyond!" Foto: Isik Özel

The day was beautiful, lovely sunny day. And so, with my friends Burak, Jan, Felix, Anna, Marianna and others, we went down to Tophane park, a terraced garden with a wonderful view over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

Tophane park: the Nusretiye mosque in the middle, the Bosphorus on the left, the Golden Horn on the right. Foto: Témoris Grecko

In the background, behind the Golden Horn, Ayasofia, or Saint Sophia, left. And the Blue Mosque, on the right. Foto: Témoris Grecko

Then we met our friends Oya and Huseyin for beers in Tünel, to finish the day hanging out in Cihangir. A truly happy day.

A birthyear with the sun -Tel Aviv stage

We gathered last Saturday in the Hudna bar, in Tel Aviv, to keep on with my birthyear celebrations, which started in Kampala, Uganda, and had follow-ups in Nairobi and Cairo. This was also a farewell from Tel Aviv for me. Next party will be in Istanbul!

Take a look of the photo album here.

A genuine artist in Uganda

Just when I was leaving Uganda, photographer Benedicte Desrus arrived there… it’s such a pity, because she is doing an amazing work there on topics I’m interested on and I’d love to have worked together. Take a look at her pics on homosexuality and the antigay bill in Uganda (my story on Mexico’s Proceso weekly, currently on sale, is on the same issue).

A year on the road and a birthyear with the Sun

Dear friends:

Last March 2 it was a year since I flew out of Mexico and started this second round-the-world trip. I’m in Nairobi now, which has trapped me just as it did back in 2005. And, as I decided that I will turn 40 once and only once (not tempted to repeat), I won’t have a birthday, but a birthyear with the Sun. Therefore, I’m also starting here a series of celebrations which should follow the fireball in the sky: from South to North as the Boreal Summer approaches and the Austral one heads off, and from East to West as the light chases away the darkness.

In this year I have seen things that have made me feel ever more amazed about our world, its nature and its peoples.

First of all, I watched in big close-up the Iranian Green Revolution. It was a unique chance to witness the bravery, generousity and glamour of a wonderful people rebelling against the military-religious dictatorship that rules them. If it was only for this experience, the whole trip is worth it. As long as the authoritarian regime is in place, I won’t be welcome back in Iran, which makes me very sad. But I believe in the Iranians and trust that they will get rid of that fanatic, corrupt cast of pious cheaters, liars and killers. I wrote a book on what I saw and heard, which shall be on sale in Spain (a little later in Mexico and Argentina) by mid-April. It’s title is “La ola verde. Crónica de una revolución espontánea” and it will be published in Barcelona by Los Libros del Lince. It’s in Spanish, of course, and though you can dismiss the possibility that some foreign publisher would like to acquire it and translate it into English, this is not very likely. As one English writer puts it, “we English native speakers stopped reading foreign language authors since Voltaire was alive”. Hope dies last, of course, so we’ll see.

I’ve also seen the pledge of the Uyghur people from Kashgar, pushed far from their homes as the Old City, a crucial stage on the Silk Road, was being bulldozed by the Chinese government to build huge appartment blocks in its place. I saw huge Buddhas in the Mogao caves and six-hundred metres sand dunes nearby, in Dunhuang. I crossed the snowed Pamirs and the Tian Shan, now in Kyrgyzstan, where my belongings ended in some thieves’ hands. Then, in Uzbekistan, I went to the now-defunct Aral Sea, where ship corpses strangely lie on the sand in the middle of the desert.

Iran was the highlight. But I was almost caught by the police commiting journalistic crimes and had to escape to Armenia, where I made a detour to Nagorno-Karabakh and the occupied, utterly destroyed Azeri city of Aghdam. In Georgia, I went up to Kazbegi, a wonder in the Greater Caucasus, in Georgia. Then I took a little holiday. Sort of, because I went to Barcelona to write the book, but my dear Catalina and many other friends, old and new, made me feel the most welcome.

Back on the road, I went to the Turkish Kurdistan and then to one of the most amazing cities on Earth, Istanbul, where I was also warmly received. In fact, this part of the trip makes a big contrast with the Central Asian one, which was tough for many reasons, being the main one a deep feeling of isolation. Now, and for months, I’ve met lovely people in almost every place. Like Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, Nicosia, Tel Aviv, Accre, Jerusalem, Ramallah… and Mama Africa: it was a coming back home. Uganda, Congo (with it’s volcanic eruptions, an eclipse, gorillas), Ruanda, Uganda again… and now Kenya.

So here I am, reporting on a year on the road… and inviting everyone to join me in this birthyear with the sun…

No time for siesta. Life is fiesta!!!

The celebrations actually started in Kampala’s Backpackers on New Year’s Eve and following weeks, with Sean, Adam, Kate, Clare, The Prince Formerly Known as Frankie, Andy, Rafa, Peter, Rachel and so many more! Nakasero nights, Kololo nights… Kabalagala nights and mornings! What a start!

And then Nairobi, with Laura, Melanie, Waireri, Sheila, Waringa, Cynthia, Peaches, David, Ben, David “Hacienda”, Wendy “Paloma”, “Rodríguez” and again, Adam, who took a few days off to celebrate with me in Westlands, Langata, Hurlingham and… well, not yet, but Madhouse should appear at some point.

What next?

Well, be aware: A party! Coming soon to a venue near you!

Next in line are:
Following the Sun from South to North: up to Cairo, by mid-March; Tel Aviv, late this month; and Istanbul, late April.

Then, from East to West: Barcelona, late May; Madrid, in June; and Mexico City!!! in… well, all this is temptative, so let’s say August.

The celebrations will have covered, by then, 8 cities in four continents.

Naturally, Mexico City’s celebrations should be rather quiet, my body will be quite diminished after all this, and well, it’s 40… but I paid everything I owed and was punished for every sin in the deserts of Central Asia and Iran, this is my only 40th birthyear, and that’s my beloved city!

(And the celebrations threaten to connect with the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence, in September… dammit!)

So, as you see, I’m not as serious as you no doubt thought I was. And you are welcome to be as unserious as you can in any, or all, of these fiestas!

Happy bithyear!

Con amor, Témoris