A Very Special (and Strange) International Women’s Day

March 8 was International Women’s Day, which, as is the case with May Day (Labor Day in the United States), began as a radical workers’ holiday but lost its focus over time. The irony of spending time watching a high-school-aged woman demonstrate how to use a loom was, in turn, lost on me until now. But I should back up a little.

The day began with an exam — a very difficult written exam requiring citations that I only barely managed to finish before time expired. Fortunately for all of us, it was as much of a test of wills as a test of content, and we all passed the former. I am confident that I not only passed, but mastered the latter as well due to my diligence over the past week. It helped that I had experience with the subject before — Peace Education — and had even been admitted to the UN-sponsored University for Peace in Costa Rica’s Peace Education Master’s program in 2008 (I did not attend because I was not given a scholarship and narrowly failed to procure one from Rotary International two years later).

Putting my thoughts on exams and teaching methods aside for a moment, we finished off the week with a visit to an all-girls vocational school in Sile, which I had passed by multiple times before but never noticed. Even though we had already read about the level of militarism present in Turkish society, I was still surprised to see posters in almost every room of the school with soldiers and military slogans on them (not to mention the giant bronze head of Ataturk in the main corridor). This is a school for girls, mind you, and girls/women are not allowed to serve in the Turkish military. Without going into a deeper discussion as to the true purpose of education in the context of the state and its citizenry, which can be summed up by Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education,” I will explain what made the day particularly strange.

Apparently I am a celebrity in this town — at least among high school girls. That makes me a ‘teen heartthrob’ I guess. I must have posed for 20 pictures in less than two hours and was even asked to sign my autograph on a piece of paper. It probably helped that I recently shaved off my bird’s nest-like head of hair — the new ‘do brings out my eyes, they say.

And to top it all off, the girls’ English teacher e-mailed me and said she saw my interview on Turkish television. What a country!

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