Raki II

For those who read the last post and are aware of the context in which it was written, I have somewhat revised my views on alcohol over the last 24 hours. Now that I am among Muslims in a traditionally Muslim country (although quite secular compared to most Muslim countries), I consider it just as important to be respectful and sensitive as to have fun — and where my need for fun clashes with the norms of my new home and my home-within-a-home (the hotel hallway where I live among all my fellow students), I will pledge to choose the latter over the former.

I have considered alcohol to be a social substance that builds camaraderie and helps reduce tension, leading to more substantive conversations. It is rare that I drink alone or for the solitary purpose of forgetting. Nonetheless, Friday night helped me recognize that alcohol can also be an antisocial substance if it is not shared and loved by the company one maintains. When my father was inebriated in my presence as a child, it was undoubtedly antisocial — no matter his intent.

On a positive note, I had a wonderful time with my alcohol-friendly friends and ate seafood for the first time since I can remember while looking out over the Black Sea in Sile (pronounced “Shih lay”).

Alcohol certainly has its value, and it goes beyond loosening one’s inhibitions. I saw a documentary on the plane called How Beer Saved the World that argues, among other shockers, that agriculture originally developed around beer (bira in Turkish) production instead of food production, that beer has mystical healing properties, and that beer was the method of payment to the ancient Egyptian laborers who built the pyramids at Giza. I would be curious to know how exaggerated some of these claims are — they are made quite convincingly — but if the short (less than one hour) length of the documentary, which spans thousands of years of history, is any indication, this is the result of shaping evidence around a pre-determined conclusion. I like to call this “historical cherry-picking.” Moreover, the title gives off the impression that this is not a serious film. I did not think that it was for real until the first credentialed scholar appeared on the screen, usually with a beer in front of him. If nothing else, it did make me feel slightly more at ease with my own drinking habits.

Nevertheless, I think I will take it easy for a while and concentrate on reading, studying Turkish, and preparing for my classes. The scenery is intoxicating enough (especially in Istanbul, which I will get to in a later post). I could probably go the next eight months without a drop and be happy.


1 Comment

  1. Patty Courtney said,

    September 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Yeah! Matt, you are manipulating alcohol consumption to work for you in the right context for the right occasion.

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