When I turned off my phone for three days…

23 Aug

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!I lived a good portion of my life without a phone and internet, but there has always been a screen (TV, Game Boys, computers, etc.) to keep me busy when I needed or when I wanted to procrastinate. I do love doing nothing (!) so I thought my attachment to my smart phone is deep and at an almost addiction level. As I was heading to a slightly small and quiet coastal town for vacation last week, I decided to turn off my phone for 72 hours and test myself and my minor addiction. Here is some reflection on what I realized:

– I consume news purely and solely on social media, specifically on Twitter. I caught myself taking a glance at a newspaper stand and that was something I have not done for ages. I don’t even care anymore what the headlines are on newspapers. They have no power on me in shaping what is important. My interests and views shape my timeline, I am the editor of my own “newspaper” and this feels good. Besides, if there is something really important that you should know about, you don’t have to look for it, it will come to you.

– Turning my phone made me more sensible about notifications. They are simply horrible. All the beepy sounds, blinking lights, flashing texts… Do we really need these stimuli? Especially if our phones are constantly at our sight. Please be nice and don’t irritate yourself and others around you with them.

– I appreciate the nature and enjoy it to fullest without a smart phone, but I have to admit it is great to have a camera with you. The thing I missed the most was the camera app and the simplicity of taking pictures with one click.

– Technology gives us a feeling of connection be it actual or deceptive. A feeling of being connected to the world, our loved ones, and entourage. Even if I know I will not be communicating with a person, I enjoy how easy it is for me to get in touch. Being “unconnected” triggered a fear of missing out on things. It might be one of the reasons why we are so attached to our smart phones. We want to know all. We want to know immediately.

My overall take away from my phone-screen-internet detox is that:

We can survive without phones.

We can be connected without phones.

We can procrastinate without phones.

“I was taught I am, therefore I am”: My take on education in Turkey

22 May

I don’t know much about adult education or training design, but I know a little… I have been educated, trained, etc. for years in Turkey. I am well aware of education system’s issues and even its traumas. I also have some exposure to French and American systems of education. Additionally, I worked for an NGO for more than two years that has a high-impact adult training program on human rights.

A few months ago, I was asked to train. Designing and executing an adult training module brought back my memories about the education system and how we perceive education. Therefore, I decided to put my thoughts and observations on paper hoping they might be helpful to those who will train people who went through education system in Turkey. I should note that this article is far from being scientific and considerably speculative.

First things first: We care about education in Turkey. Education is highly valued among both educated and uneducated population. After all, it is the only way to “make it” in a very unequal and economically segmented society. It is also seen as the ultimate solution to -literally- all the problems we have, be it trashing the streets or bribery. The underlying belief behind that illusion is that you can “shape” people through education. This is the main myth of Turkish educational system. You can shape people’s values, beliefs, ideology and lifestyle through education. So, people who are gone through education are seen as an object, not individuals who have the capacity to find their own truth, values, etc. Education policies have been a medium for governments to impose their own values to the all segments of the society for years. In other words, you can kill millions of birds with one stone thanks to a very centralized and ideologically rooted so-called “national” education system.


Just like we don’t question what we are taught at school, we don’t question education itself either. Education, as it is, is more than enough. I will twist what Decartes said and adopt it to Turkish education system: “I was taught I am, therefore I am”. We don’t look for quality or results when it comes to education, we don’t care about developing critical thinking skills. If we did, there would not have been that many trainings around to suggest change, transform us in a day or two through lectures and Power Point presentations.

The worship to education results an incomprehensible appreciation to education of all sorts. This means if you are a trainer, your trainees will respect you per se. Though be aware: it also creates a hierarchy between the trainer and trainees. As much as you try to persuade the trainees that all opinions are equally valuable and there is not only just one “right” or “wrong”, you are the authority as the trainer in their eyes and whatever that comes out of your mouth is “the truth”. It may make things much easier for some trainers and much more difficult for others.

We cannot skip the “exam” obsession in Turkish education system. We learn to pass the exam. We don’t learn because we love to. Exams in Turkey are composed of multiple-choice questions that test what information you have, not the knowledge. This means there is only one correct answer and you don’t have to be analytical or articulate to pass the exam. If you are going to train people in Turkey, you should know that discussions are stressful for many people since we don’t know how to elaborate and argument. We were not given many opportunities to speak up at classrooms either. This means we have a fear of raising our voice. It gets even harder and unsettling if we don’t agree with the rest of the group.

To conclude, here are a few final observations and tips for trainers and educators who will train people in Turkey:

– Admitting that you don’t know something might jeopardize your credibility. In Turkish people’s eyes good teachers/trainers are good at hiding what they don’t know or they don’t have the right to not to know.

– Trainees expect you to give the right answers. This is how we were taught. We like to listen and be lectured. Interactive methods that will make us give right answers might make some of us bitterly uncomfortable.

– You are in trouble if what you contradict what the trainees were thought before. We don’t like when our previous learning/knowledge is challenged to be inaccurate or incomplete. Therefore, it might be your authority that is challenged at the end of the day.

– You are more credible as a trainer if you are a foreigner especially from a Western country, male and older than your trainees.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share your own experiences as a trainer/teacher or trainee/student in Turkey.


Happy and peaceful new year!

31 Dec



10 Quotes from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

28 Jul
doriangray_portraitIt is never too late to read a classic. I recently read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and was impressed by the controversial anti heroes of the book. Here are ten thought-provoking quotes that caught my attention from the book:
1- “But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself.”
2- “Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”
3- “People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.”
4- “Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
5- “When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.”
6- “There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.”
7- “We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.”
8- “If we women did not love you for your defects, where would you all be? Not one of you would ever be married.”
9- “To define is to limit.”
10- “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.”

Change and Future in Turkey

29 May

Screenshot (4)Change is not an absolute word; it can be slow, fast, predictable, or unpredictable. Different forms of change are always around; whether we are able to recognize them or not. Early in the morning on 17 August 1999, it took only 45 seconds for an earthquake to kill over 17.000 people while destroying thousands of buildings and lives in the Marmara region of Turkey. No one could have imagined that an earthquake could lead to such tragic and devastating consequences. These were only the immediate consequences of the earthquake. Over time, we all witnessed the nationwide mid and long-term political, economic, and social changes that the earthquake created.

In the past 15 years, there has been an incredible change in Turkey along with the bid to join the European Union (EU). Turkey has managed to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world as a G-20 country with the youngest population in Europe. Important steps have been taken to solve the Kurdish issue, a barrier for further democratization and development of the country. Turkey today seems to be at a turning point. 2015 will be a milestone for the emerging Turkish economy to affirm its strength and maintain its momentum. The upcoming elections in June will reshape the political environment. The discussions around a new Constitution will highlight whether Turkey would like to pursue the democratization process and EU membership agenda.

The five-year period ahead of us will show us the mid-term consequences of past crises. If we think about how the Syrian civil war affected Turkey, it would be better to analyze the upcoming years. We all know that predicting the future in the Middle East is not an easy task; however, existing instability, extremism, and violence do not look like they will disappear any time soon. Turkey will have to face the knock-on effects of the war. The situation of more than a million Syrian ”guests” will be a burning multidimensional issue along with its impact on social cohesion, employment, public health services and education. Security concerns and the impact of the war on the Turkish economy will also be on the agenda.

Looking towards future, we have to think about a range of variables in a more than ever connected world thanks to technology and social media. We have to acknowledge that traditional political decision-making is being challenged. Parallel to that, change has become a more complicated process. Turkey’s ability to deal with problems effectively along with its capacity to manage change will say a lot about Turkey in the near future.

Challenge Completed

24 Jan

I have a funny relationship with challenges. I keep complaining when I have some and I seek more if I don’t have enough. After working six years in the nonprofit sector in Turkey and additionally leading a national environmental campaign for the last two years, Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship that brought me to the U.S. for 10 months was the challenge I was seeking for. (Let’s assume building a career in the nonprofit sector in Turkey and working for a women’s rights organization where President says he does not believe in gender equality is not a huge challenge itself.)


My presentation on media freedom at ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication 


I am delivering a speech on the nonprofit sector in Turkey at ASU

As you can imagine, all the new experiences I was heading made the challenge very appealing. Although I traveled abroad many times, I had never lived, studied or worked before my mid-career fellowship. So my initial idea was that it would be a huge professional challenge and learning opportunity for me. What I did not realize at that time was that I was actually committing to a sum of small and big size challenges by leaving my job, family and friends, country as well as my routine and comfort zone. More importantly, it was not just a professional challenge, it was a cultural, social and even political one as well. I was not only the one who was challenged. I guess in a way I challenged people I met as well.

I am not sure if that’s the case for everyone new in a country, but the differences between Turkey and USA stroke me first. When I arrived to Phoenix, Arizona; “dry heat”, empty and quiet streets, car addicted lifestyle and desert landscape were among hundreds of differences I could count. In time, my selective perception stopped pointing only differences and I surprisingly discovered many unexpected similarities. Let me give you an example from politics, an area both Americans I met and myself would love to discuss. When I left my country, the top political issues were civil rights and freedoms, political polarization, and rising conservatism. As I immersed into the academic life at Arizona State University, while talking to locals and following U.S. media, it fascinated me how the challenges at large were similar. I guess I also surprised many Americans by pointing those out.


I did not just discovered my skills and potential…

Another interesting contrast I have noticed was the leadership culture in the U.S. vs. “president culture” in Turkey. I developed a lot of prejudice towards the concept of leadership before my Humphrey year. It had sounded me as the leadership is only about a hierarchy between those who lead and are led. The huge power distance that I have seen and criticized in my country shaped my distance to any article or book on leadership. I made my peace with it as I realized all along the year that there is not just one way of “leadership” and it is actually about “bettership”. My conclusion from all the readings and presentations on leadership was that I should not just aim to become a leader, I should aim to find ways to do better. I should fınd ways to improve.

When I was first told I should find an organization to work with for six weeks, I thought of applying to an international nonprofit. Then, I wanted to something different than I expect myself to do and I ended up at Twitter Headquarters in San Francisco! Just a few weeks before I start to work, I saw on my Twitter timeline Turkish people tweeting about Twitter ban in Turkey. It was ironic, sad but true. During those days just before the local elections in Turkey, I realized how much Turkish people depend on Twitter to practice and save their democratic rights. I was convinced once again of the importance of social media and impressed by its impact on the way we react, act and communicate. This is a revolution, opposition and challenge that I wanted and achieved to be a part of it.

It has been more than one year since my adventure started and broke into small, medium and big sizes of learning, excitement, frustration, fun, panic and many other state of minds. With the pleasure of a year full of personal and professional learning and reflection, what I can say is: What challenge is next?

Things that I have been reflecting on

19 Aug

I don’t update this blog as much as I want to, but it does not mean I don’t write anything at all. In the past few months, I wrote two articles as guest blogger.

In March, I wrote for ASU Lodestar Nonprofit Center on nonprofit sector in Turkey and the U.S. You can read it here.

When I was interning at Twitter in May, I had the chance to listen Adam Grant, the author of bestselling book “Give and Take”. I wrote down the highlights of the interesting talk and it is available here.

As always, all comments and feedback is very much appreciated.

How can news media and nonprofits collaborate for social change?

27 Jun

This was a question I tried to answer a couple months back when I was presenting at ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. My answers and my ideas on why it is important are listed in the Prezi below. I would love to hear your comments and ideas.


10 Surprising Facts About Phoenix

23 Feb

Months ago, I wrote about the things I love in Phoenix. Living in a new city means also being surprised by many things I have not experienced before. So I decided to put them together and make a new list. Here it is:

  1. You are likely to see more people in the middle of the desert on a hiking trail than downtown Phoenix on a Sunday afternoon.

  2. It is a place where you can’t see any raindrops on the ground when it is raining. Evaporation is in light speed.

  3. You can see at least 3 tattoo shops in 3 minutes walk in Downtown but reaching to the closest grocery store takes at least 20 minutes by walk. In other words, it can be easier to get a tomato tattoo than a real tomato.

  4. The spring and fall seem to coexist in Phoenix. You can see a tree full of yellow leaves next to a blooming one.

  5. Any basketball or baseball game you would go probably will make you feel as if you are in a different city. The supporters of the rival team are almost as many as (or sometimes more than) the supporters of Phoenix team.

  6. The best jokes about Phoenix are the ones you hear when you are out of Phoenix. Key words include hell and heat.

  7. Image

    Source: Phoenix Trolley Museum

    Who would have thought that Phoenix used to have a more expansive “light rail” system 100 years ago?

  8. While a deserted looking building can actually be a cool art gallery or coffee shop, a mall looking building is always a car park.

  9. The grass in a garden means more than grass in Phoenix. It means wealth.

  10. If you are driving your car at speed limit, you are likely to be the slowest.

Friendship: What to do with it in professional life?

6 Feb

Don’t we all wish that there was a magical recipe or an operating manual for managing relationships? We have so many different kinds of relationships and each of them is unique: different foundation, mechanism, and conditionality.

Some relationships are more complicated and baffling such as the ones we have with our colleagues since they are closer to the line between your professional and personal life. In my experience, I had friends who became just my colleagues and colleagues who became my good friends.

There are so many traps in establishing good relationships in professional life: competition, disagreements, conflicts of interests and any other inter-personal, inner-team issues. It is always said that we need to find a balance our personal and professional life, but in practice it is not easy at all.

Why? Let’s start with cultural issues. In my country (Turkey), almost every professional relationship is personal. We tend to work with people like us, people that we can relate to. In general, the qualifications play a secondary role in the decision-making when an employee is hired.

Therefore, we consider every criticism, disagreement and conflict as personal even in professional life. A real life example: If someone provides feedback about the job we are doing, the initial instinct is to take it personal. Before questioning the work, we question the emotions of that person toward us. Or if we have a good relationship with someone we avoid expressing our criticism and dissatisfaction.

It is hard to completely separate your personal and professional life. It is not fun either. If you are more than colleagues at work, it is more likely that you are better motivated and better teammates. It is also perfectly OK if you choose just to stay colleagues. On the other hand; it is a very tricky balance to keep. We need to have awareness about the intersections of personal and professional life and communicate openly.

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