Category Archives: Turkish

About my name ..

I have a relatively long name, if you consider my first, middle and last names together. As individual pieces they are pretty short: Çetin means hard, difficult, insurmountable, in Turkish, while Kaya means rock or boulder, also in Turkish, which makes my first and middle names as Çetin Kaya, i.e., a difficult to climb rock or an insurmountable rock! This would imply that my parents (particularly, my father who seems to have chosen this name) must have been pretty ambitious when they named me.

Actually, the real story is simpler and somewhat poignant: Çetinkaya is the name of a small town and train station between Sivas and Erzincan, two easterly provinces of Turkey:



The story goes, while my mother was pregnant, my father took a train from Istanbul in a winter month, where he was doing his 24-month-long military service, and came as far as the town of Çetinkaya, where the train was stranded due to heavy snow. They were stuck there many hours, probably, half of a day, until the snow was cleared out. They were pretty hungry, the townspeople of Çetinkaya, brought breads for the unlucky passengers of this coal-powered steam train, looking probably something like this:



This memory forever carved into my father’s brain is something he tells anyone who is willing to listen of the story behind my unusual name. I say it is unusual because most people in Turkey have classical names, such as, Mehmet, Ahmet, Mustafa, Ömer, etc.

That’s all I want to tell you about my name or even myself. Unless it is absolutely necessary I don’t want to tell you much about myself, the author of this blog. This blog is about ideas, thoughts, and gedanken experiments. I want to write here, even as there is no one here to read or to listen. Like anyone of you out there, I’ve got my own issues, my own dilemmas. I am a person who hates his own pictures, and avoids having a picture of himself taken, at all costs! I avoid mirrors like plague, and often find myself in embarrassing situations, like having a piece of melted dark chocolate on the side of my mouth or on my chin, because I failed to check my face out on a mirror before leaving the house! 🙂 Seriously, I should learn to avoid such awkardnesses. Alas, I cannot accomplish it. I just can’t stand seeing myself from outside; on the other hand, I am pretty (almost) happy watching myself from within, especially when I am alone, walking, working, writing, reading or listening. That takes me away from the moment, at least momentarily, and I hope my friends and students forgive me when I look at their eyes with an empty stare, not having heard a single word of what they are saying in the last I-don’t-know-how-many seconds! Luckily, we are talking (I hope) only about seconds. You be the judge, when you meet me next time.

One last thing: my last name, Koç means ram (male sheep) in Turkish, which is a completely random choice. Someday I could tell you more; suffices to say that one day suddenly the Turkish Government of the day (1930s) decided that everyone should have a last name, and apparently, my grandfather selected this one, probably by thinking a few seconds when asked by a census clerk to quickly produce a last name, while watching sheep graze on the meadows at the edge of the town! A few of his cousins selected other and equally arbitrary last names (they should have selected the same name; they probably did not know that they had to), again very likely watching some meadows or hills in a dreamy state! So, different branches of my family (my grandfather’s cousins) have different last names.

This is the humble story of my unusual name, a pretty impressive collection of words: Insurmountable Rock Ram! It sounds even more pounding in Turkish: Çetin Kaya Koç!

But this is the beginning and the end of impressive things about me .. as far as I can see. The rest of my life is pretty normal, with a few lucky breaks, some work, a quark of concentration.

The State of the Turkish Educational System …

This street banner ad pretty much sums the state of the Turkish educational system. A private school company advertisement says:

Nature College Children University Kindergartens!


This is a country where a significant percentage of parents are uneducated or practically illiterate, and they think that if they send their kid to “this school”, paying several thousand dollars, their kid will be studying at College, University, and Kindergarten all at the same time! 🙂

Unfortunately this is not a laughable matter. 🙁

Unscrupulous businessmen make ton of money preying on kids and their dimwitted parents by setting up such phony schools where the teachers are paid near minimum wage salaries.

It is very depressing.