Sunday, May 4, 2008

My Old Stomping Grounds

April 13th

My Old Stomping Grounds

I took advantage of this unplanned Sunday to march through the old neighborhood on Lygon Street next to Melbourne University where I had studied five years ago. Nothing of note had changed. The hallowed walls of learning at the Uni were still impressive in there neo-gothic grace. Lygon Steet, home of many Italian immigrants, still bustled with wall-to-wall Italian restaurants, cafĂ©'s, gelaterias, and the occasional books shop. In one of these, I got a little light reading: HG Wells "The War of the Worlds" some Icelandic Sagas and Swifts "Gulliver's Travels." To be fair, my reading list on this trip has, with a few exceptions, been less than distinguished. I found my time alone in WA to be filled of a liking of trashy romance novels of no particular note. It didn't get much better with Josh from Strath’s loan of Jordan Belfont's "The Wolf of Wall Street," but gradually improved. My favorite thus far was a local author, Robert G. Barrettes, "Les Norton and the case of the talking pie crust." This book had me laughing out loud in the middle of Wilson’s prom.

I stopped for some gelato and moseyed through the Victoria Market serendipitously finding a Turkish festival. I find the relationship between Turkey and Australia a very interesting one. In 1915 the Australians and Turks fought each other in Gallipoli in Turkey. This was the incident that created the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) legend and that is credited in large part to creating a national identity of hard work, bravery, mateship and just about everything positive that you would associate with Aussies. It was an exceptionally bloody eight-month battle with horrific losses on both sides. It was a defeat for the Aussies, although the Turks did lose more men. At the twenty year anniversary of the battle, the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, also a highly decorated leader and solider of the Turkish troops, left this poignant memorial in ANZAC cove:

You heroes that shed your blood and lost your lives, you are
Now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in
Peace. There is no difference between Johnnies and the
Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side, here in this
Country of ours. You their mothers who sent your sons from
Far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now
Lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their
Lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Total forgiveness is a real tearjerker. In many ANZAC parades, the Turkish flag is flown - the only flag of an enemy to be given that respect. The relationship continued after World War II when Turkish Cypriots with British passports immigrated to Australia. In 1968 they came en mass after an assisted migration agreement was signed. One of the many signs around the fair was, "we came as workers and stayed as citizens." Seeing such pride of people who are proud of where they came from and where they are now reminds me how important immigrants are to any population. Their will to work and energy renews each generation, and in my humble opinion ,makes a country stronger and richer in the long run.

All this thought of Turkey brought me to my friend, Erden Eruc, born in on the Turkish side of Cyprus, who is currently rowing across the Pacific. He had originally planned to row to Australia. Nature had other plans for him and, nearly 300 days later; he is still at sea. He is the first Turkish man to row an ocean. Erden is an adventurer. He makes my trip look like a vacation. If he is any example of his countrymen, it is easy to see why the Turks have been successful in Australia.

My feet gradually got me back to Kensington. I stopped at Flemington Kebabs, incidentally run by Turks, and my favorite kebab shop in Melbourne. It has gained my lunch business for roughly 3/4ths of the days I have spent in the city. I blame it on the secret spices they put in their meat as well as $3 Turkish bread and the most generous servings of baklava that I have encountered on three continents. The food was the standard goodness, and I was sad for both my last kebab and for my last day in this amazing city, but despite a tinge of road weariness, I am eager to get back on the road.

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