Posts Tagged ‘istanbul’


Photo: Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
The new Istanbul subway machines add credit to your subway cards while crushing, shredding, and sorting your recyclables.

Creating a more sustainable world doesn’t have to be painful for the individual or expensive for government. In Turkey, a city government wanted people to recycle more, and so it got the idea of rewarding subway riders who help out. Ceylan Yeginsu has the story at the New York Times.

“Istanbul [has] rolled out an alternative currency for commuters who need to top up their subway cards but are short of cash: recyclables.

“The city is installing ‘reverse vending machines’ at metro stations that allow passengers to add credit to their subway cards simply by inserting a plastic bottle or aluminum can into the machine. Once a value has been assigned to the recyclables, the machine will crush, shred and sort the material. …

“This is how the vending machines [work]: A 0.33-liter plastic bottle, for example, roughly equivalent to 11 ounces, would add 2 Turkish cents to a subway card, while a 0.5-liter bottle would add 3 cents and a 1.5-liter bottle would add 6 cents. (A subway journey costs 2.60 Turkish lira, about 40 United States cents; 100 Turkish cents, or kurus, make up 1 Turkish lira.) …

“Istanbul’s mayor, Mevlut Uysal, said the machines would track the number of bottles recycled by each passenger and reward those recycling the largest number of containers with free or discounted events such as theater tickets.

“Turkey is Europe’s third-largest producer of household and commercial waste, after Germany and France, and it is the worst in the region at recycling, according to a 2017 report by the consultancy group Expert Market, which is based in Britain. …

“Elif Cengiz, a manager for the waste management project, called Zero Waste, said … that the municipality had made waste management a priority in recent years because of rising concern over the damage that waste is causing to the environment.

“The country’s recycling drive has started to produce results, saving 30 million trees in 15 months since last June, Mustafa Ozturk, the under secretary for the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, said, [adding] ‘The use of recycled material in production contributes to productivity and separate storage for paper waste also saves storage space and decreases waste collecting costs for local administrations.” More at the New York Times, here.

I’d love to see the perennially cash-strapped Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) try the reverse-vending idea instead of constantly raising fares.

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Photo: Bruch / Stringer
A street in Istanbul where people could go to have documents typed up while they waited, 1959. The tradition is only just dying out now.

In Turkey, public scribes have offered a document-typing service for generations. Now, partly because of the opposition of lawyers and partly because of new laws providing legal access to the indigent, the tradition is fading away.

Joshua Allen writes at Atlas Obscura, “On a side street near Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse, an electric sign reading ‘Petition Writer’ points to the open door of 67-year-old Hayrettin Talih’s tiny, one-room office. …

“Talih sits in front of a manual typewriter, in the same pose as a black-and-white photograph of himself, from 40 years earlier, which is tacked on the wall beside him.

“Occupying the chairs opposite his desk are a couple of older citizens who are explaining a property dispute with a relative. Talih listens, demands clarification where necessary, and finally applies his fingers to the chattering typewriter, producing an affidavit that the couple will use to start proceedings at the courthouse, and hopefully get their rightful dues.

“Although he is not a lawyer, Talih has clients who clearly trust him to translate their experiences into Turkish legalese, which is replete with archaic Ottoman words — much like the Latin phrases beloved of English-speaking lawyers. An understanding of this obscure language is vital to Talih’s work as a public scribe or arzuhalci, a profession he entered almost 50 years ago. Now, he is one of the last of his kind. …

“Public scribes were a necessity in the Ottoman era, when the language used in state documents was even farther removed from ordinary speech and a large percentage of the population was illiterate. On top of legal work, the scribes also made a living by writing love notes and letters for soldiers who travelled to fight in the wars that consumed the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. …

“The scribes say that they do not claim to be lawyers, as they merely help clients to express themselves on paper. ‘Let’s say I wrote something I don’t know about, and the person lost all his expenses and lost the case. Won’t he turn around and complain about me for putting him in that loss? It’s better not to write something you don’t know,’ Talih says.

“[Scribes] defend their profession as the only option for those who cannot afford a lawyer. … But according to İmmihan Sadioğlu, a lawyer at the Istanbul Bar Association, … the legal labyrinth cannot be navigated by an amateur, and the specific wording that the scribes use in the initial documents can be crucial. …

“After all, there is a government system in Turkey that covers the costs of those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. … As this government support becomes better known, Sadioğlu and her fellow lawyers believe that the last scribes will see the writing on the wall.

“ ‘If a disadvantaged person can access justice easily, then he won’t look for other solutions. As for the state, it should increase the level of funding for legal aid,’ Sadioğlu says. ‘Someone who can receive a better and higher quality service from a free lawyer will not consider risking his rights by using a scribe.’ More at Atlas Obscura, here.

Don’t you love the fedora in the old photo? I think I’d ask for the help of a scribe just to sit and admire that hat.

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About a year ago we had the great pleasure of attending a panel discussion featuring Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. We took our seats at the New Yorker magazine’s lecture series, and because I had read his novel Snow, I was expecting someone quite dour and grim.

Instead he was hugely entertaining and funny as he talked about literature and his latest project, creating a museum to replicate one he had invented for his 2008 novel, The Museum of Innocence.

Writes Gareth Harris in the September 2010 Art Newspaper, “Turkey’s most famous living novelist is holding a pair of dentures in a room packed with ephemera reflecting everyday Turkish life of the past three decades. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006 and author of My Name is Red (1998) and Snow (2002), is standing among a sea of objects—sewing machines, clocks, soda-bottle tops, buttons, lottery tickets, china dogs, birdcages, cigarette lighters and false teeth—that will soon go on display in The Museum of Innocence, a four-storey building in the Çukurcuma neighbourhood, central Istanbul. This venue, not just a chamber of curiosities, is the real-life incarnation of the museum painstakingly assembled and detailed in his book The Museum of Innocence (2008).”

I expect that, for someone who has read the novel, the museum experience will be both delightful and unnerving. I know I felt delighted and unnerved years ago after reading a nonfiction book about a Rhode Island community and then trying to reconcile the characters who had seemed so real with the people who had been described. Storybook characters coming to life. At first the real people seem shadows. Then as you get to know them, the storybook characters become the shadows, superficially imagined imitations.

April 30, 2012, update here.

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