Military service is mandatory in Turkey for all men over 18 years old. For the youth, it is a passage to manhood. After returning from their military service, many of them start new jobs and get married. It marks the beginning of their new life. During their service, there is a risk of getting killed, especially in the East of Turkey due to the conflicts with the Kurds. Mothers are worried if their sons will ever come back in one piece. In the meantime, they are letting their little boys fly out of the nest. It is probably the first time these young men are leaving their parental homes. When they return, the story will be different. They won’t be boys anymore. Why do Turkish families and friends send their youth to military service with bells and whistles blended with tears? These farewell ceremonies are sometimes equal to weddings. Is this just a lot of noise to distract the young men from thinking while departing, leaving everything behind: their home, their friends, parents, and lovers? Or, is this for celebrating their new life? With fear inflicted in their hearts, mothers, sisters, and fiancées cry while the soon-to-be-soldiers’ friends celebrate. Photos are taken, drums are pounding, and fireworks are blazing… And, on May 10, 2014, I watch this amazing, glorious goodbye to these young soldiers-to-be while waiting for my overnight bus from Istanbul to Manisa to visit my son’s grandmother (my ex-mother-in-law). I stand in the middle of the asphalt with buses coming and going and the crazy-circus noise of drums, zurna and well-wishers’ singing all mixed together with the fireworks blazing. I watch these young boys wearing Turkish flags as capes ready to be the superman of their dreams.
I am happy to witness, one more time, strong love among the family members and friends in Turkey, just like my own love never dissipated over the last 33 years since I left Turkey. I cry and smile while taking these photos. They are beautiful young men saying their goodbyes.
Then I giggle ( It is really a funny sight!) when I see this dog hiding behind the sink in the public bathroom at the bus station. Poor thing is shivering from fear and cannot figure out what that racket is about. For him, it is a lot of lights, sounds, and drums. I try to share my food with him. But, he cannot stop shivering. Hopefully, he will eat the food when all the buses are gone and all gets quiet again.