A day in Turkey

A lot of reflections today about being in Turkey and Asia for the first time. Breakfast was interesting and being a little bit scared of germs I did not really know what was safe to eat. Discovered the turkish way of boiling tea with the teapot on top with really strong tea and then hot water in the samovar below. Great tea!

We started walking towards the office of the LGBT-organisation KAOS-GL and it was rather chilly. Almost felt like being in a ski resort for some strange reason. I love looking at every small detail of a new city. This time it felt a lot like East Germany or Russia. Something about the cars and the architecture I think. However, all the big brands where present which made the image more complicated. It is something very conservative how we in Sweden use signs and advertisement. In Turkey and in many other countries everything screams at you. Not a single touch of coordination based on decision from the community board 🙂

We arrived at the office of KAOS-GL and were met with wonderful people with great hospitality. The theme for this weekend is a training workshop for journalists for their newspaper that our Swedish project is funding. We got all the self introductions translated and what struck me was the courage and committment that all of the shared. But also that they were from different parts of Turkey and from almost all the different ethnic groups. The situation is Turkey is not easy with censorship, widespread homophobia and very powerful police and military security forces. But despite that they are doing a great job of exposing the life of LGBT-people and working to improve the quality of life.

I introduced myself and a lot of them were quite amazed not only to find out that I am a lesbian woman with a transsexual background but also a full-time career military officer. I generally find that travelling abroad now is a bit more difficult since I have still some special needs and I feel hygine is very important for me. Therefore going to the restroom was a bit of a chock. No toilet chair but just a big hole in the floor, with flushing though. I realised that I have so far never been sitting down and peeing with out a chair yet. I had no idea how to do it and felt really clumpsy when I soon realised that this was going to be really difficult. I won’t go into any more details but after I discovered that this design was very common here I realised that being in Turkey was starting to become really unpractical. After talking about my travel partner’s experiences in Africa I realised that I feel really comfortable travelling in Western Europe and North America. Backpacking does not work for me now 🙂 I need clean toilets, warm water and showers.

However, Turkey is nice. It feels like Islam light and there are not more women with headscarves here than in Stockholm I think. At least Ankara feels rather secular but our partners here were really worried about the increasing popularity of religion and the number of people that reguarly goes to the mosque is increasing each year. That is not good for LGBT-rights.

In Ankara

Arrived in Ankara, Turkey tonight after passing through the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul on our way here. We are staying at the Ankara Gold Hotel and I have got a fairly big room with one huge bed and one smaller one. I checked the TV and found CNN on channel 33 and that together with the free internet connection made me feel comfortable right away. I watch CNN a lot nowadays and think their coverage of the US Election is great. I think one of the reasons why I like CNN is that it reminds me of the vactions I had as small kid when we used my father’s bonus points to stay at nice hotels when travelling by car around Sweden and Europe. At a time when we only had SVT1 and SVT2 at home it was so exciting to check out the channels at the hotels. I have always been interested in politics and think I was a news junkie even back then. So CNN was on a lot of the time. And the signature sound of CNN together with the announcer saying “You are watching CNN International” became a sound connected to exciting vacations. I can actually still get some goose-bumps when hearing that 🙂 Strange but true. I like dramatic and powerful intros. Now I must finish up the preparation of my lecture tomorrow which deals with the way journalism for LGBT-people is affected by the development of the internet.

Vaccination

Last week I accepted an offer to go to Ankara in Turkey to attend a conference there. However, today I realised that I should check the recommendation for vaccines there. Hepatitus A and B seem to exist there and since I have so far only travelled to western Europe and the US I have never felt the need for that. I checked with the nurse at Sabbatsbergs sjukhus and she was very nice and told me they were open until 2000 on Thursdays. So I went there and got my vaccination. Some kind of combination treatment for both diseases. I need to take another shot in a months or so and the third and final one in about a year. I asked her about whether or not the shot would be seen on my regular blood tests for liver affection and she told me no. In fact having this vaccination could actually help to mitigate any liver affection that my rather strong medicines could cause. A good thing to do in many ways!

Some Christmas…

Christmas Market

I just saw a story on the news about the ever-recurring CD collections of Christmas songs that appears every year this time. I started thinking about my own relationship towards Christmas traditions. What do I think of Christmas really? Well, let’s begin with what I am in reality doing. Not much, really. Usually spend December by winding down from intense work weeks and getting a cold. No decorating at home and definately no Christmas tree. I usually spend Christmas with my mother and brother and that is were the Christmas mood at least make a short visit. It is not that I have any issues with this, in fact it is often rather nice to be relaxed about Christmas. I mean who haven’t seen these families where a lot of energy goes into arguing in what order different families should be visited and then spending several hours in cars.

However, I think I actually have some kind of Christmas dream or rather “design” that I would like to follow someday. That involves actually decorating my own apartment, celebrating the first sunday in December with the first candle, going shopping on Christmas markets, actually celebrating St. Lucia and even going to a Christmas concert. I think I actually would like that. However, being sick each year in December does not help. I guess having a girlfriend would increase the odds of this somewhat, of course depending on her own attitudes towards Christmas.

Going to Germany

Today I will be going to Germany on a business trip. Someone that asked me what I was doing today asked what I was doing there and I said it was a business trip and he looked a bit sad and said something like “oh that is a bummer”. I don’t agree. I like that my job allows me to travel a lot and usually the workshops and conferences I go to are very interesting. So combining interesting work with new experiences of different countries does not seem to be such a bad deal for me. The only drawback is that my cab leaves for the airport at 0545 in the morning which is very early for someone who has to wake up more or less three hours before closing the door on my way out.

Nice flight back home – in business class

Flying in SAS Business Class

On Sunday we left a warm and sunny Orlando to go back to Stockholm via Chicago. At the Orlando International Airport we just had to spend a few more dollars on NASA stuff in their new airport shop. I bought a pink and grey NASA t-shirt 😉

When we checked in at the counter at O’Hare international airport they just swapped our boarding cards for new ones and told us we had been given a complementary upgrade to Business class. I was so happy about this – not so much about the better food and so but for the comfort of being able to lay down more or less completely. Even if I can sit for a few hours on a soft chair now, spending 8+ hours in an aircraft chair is still uncomfortable. So the trip back home turned out to be a wonderful experience. SAS have installed a new chair called the Business Sleeper in their aircraft and they are just wonderful. I did some work on my computer (power for the computer is in the chair) adn then put my chair into sleeping mode and actually managed to get a few hours of sleep. The food was just great by the way. For starters we had grilled marinated prawns with mango salsa and for the main course I selected lamb loin with Dijon mustard crest with Red Bliss potatoes, sautéed mixed mushrooms and mustard sauce. We arrived a little early to a rainy and cold Arlanda where a friend of mine met me with my car.

EPCOT Segway Tour

On Segways in the World Showcase area with the EPCOT ball in the background

I have been to Walt Disney World (WDW) for four years in a row now and even though I still love it there is always nice to find something new that I have not seen before. One of these things are the special backstage tours that Disney offers to experienced Disney guests who want to see and do some more. Last week we did the special tour in Magick Kingdom called “Keys to the Kingdom” and today it was time for the 2 hour Segway Experience in the World Showcase area of EPCOT.

I have been on a Segway before and enjoyed it very much so I really looked forward to this tour. It started with the mandatory safety slides and signing a paper about Disney´s liabilities if an injury should occur. Then we went to the Segways in the indoor training area where we practised turning and going back and forth in a very rigor training program. We finished off running a slalom course and a ramp excercise before it was time to head out amongst people.

The first part of the EPCOT park was open to the public (this was 10 am in the morning) but the World Showcase was still closed off and that is where we were heading. It was just as wonderful as I had remembered and even more fun now with the second generation Segways which has steering built-in as a lever rather than turning a knob. Experience the big World Showcase area on a Segway suddenly made everything smaller and distances shorter and it was great to be almost alone out there. Normally it is packed with people. The guide led us through some small obstacles which was fun and then stopped in Germany, Italy, Marocco, USA and finally France to give us some more detailed facts of what the buildings in respective countries where representing.