Saturday, March 20, 2010


Yesterday Cağri and I celebrated Istanbul's first Jor El Earthquake Preparation Day. We declared the holiday yesterday morning.

First, we did our own earthquake preparation. We went down to Kadiköy to buy high-powered flashlights, radios, a big stock of batteries, and other obvious things to have on hand. (Anyone who wants a list of things they should do if they live in a seismically active zone, feel free to contact me or check the tab in the Notes section of the Jor El Facebook page.) We arranged to have someone come over and secure my heavy furniture to the wall. I've still got to get a few more things, but those were the most important.

We both noted how much better we felt for having done the basic preparation. You can't control everything, but it takes a big weight off to know you've controlled what you reasonably can. Denial saps energy. Pushing the thought, "I'm not prepared" out of your head is actually a lot of work.

We then went to the Bereketzade muhtar to discuss the neighborhood's earthquake plans. For those who don't live here, the muhtarlık is the smallest level of local government--the neighborhood councilman, in effect. I was very curious to see how well this would work. All things considered, I thought it went very well.

Cağri was initially annoyed because he wasn't where he was supposed to be: His daughter was in the office, but didn't know where he was or what to do in his absence. But we found him pretty quickly; he was selling real estate down the street. Cağri was fit to be tied by this, asking me why a local elected official thought he should be unavailable to the public and pursuing another job on taxpayer time, but I didn't think it was all that problematic, really. We found him quickly, and he was very willing to talk to us and take what we were saying seriously. A note on his office door saying, "I'm two blocks down the street selling real estate, but here's my number, and my door down the street is always open to the public" would have been nice, but it certainly wasn't impossible for a determined local resident to find him.

At the suggestion of one of Jor El's members, we brought him a nice box of lokum. He seemed delighted to speak to us (if perhaps slightly saddened that we didn't want to buy real estate). We explained why we were there. He at first said that there was nothing the local government could do: We were lucky, on the one hand, because the ground in our neighborhood was good, but there was no local helicopter landing port, no emergency plan, no storehouse with emergency supplies. So we had best all just pray it never happens.

We explained that actually there was quite a bit we could do. I mentioned encouraging people, for example, to secure their heavy items to walls (and pointed to his unsecured cabinets), making sure they had information about the importance of moving heavy furniture away from their beds, reminding them to stock up on food and water, telling people what to do during and in the immediate aftermath of a quake. We gave him pamphlets and literature from MAY, and invited him to come to our meeting with MAY on the 25th. He seemed very enthusiastic, and agreed to come or to send someone on his behalf.

I thought this was highly encouraging. I really believe people want to know how to survive an earthquake, and are happy to learn that there are things they can do, personally, to protect themselves and their families.

Cağri was demoralized, however, because a woman in his office -- we have no idea who she was -- told us that we should stop worrying about it and trust in God, who would protect us from earthquakes if our faith was sufficient. She scolded us for trying to panic people and intimated that I must have an ulterior motive in this, seeing as I was American.

As I said to Cağri afterwards -- sure, people will say that. If many people here didn't think that way, there would be no problem to solve, right? But I thought the main thing, the important thing, was the muhtar's receptiveness to the message and his willingness to work with us.

I'm curious to know how other people's visits have gone.


  1. Excellent! I'm very glad to read this!

  2. Such a typical story, Claire!
    At least he was receptive, though you probably need to pester him for anything solid to come of your meeting. Remind him about the meeting with MAY before it happens etc.

    As for the woman, there are a lot of people who believe the same thing. And as the gavur, you have an uphill battle to convince her of anything. It's convincing the people around her that might change her mind in the end.

  3. The 1999 Marmara quake was August 17. I think it would be a proper day for Turkey to hold a preparedness day. It could be possible to have a concerted push for recognition this year.

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  5. well I think that always we have to be prepared for any situation and of course learn to fight is even when you born because you are survivor of this planet