Cartoons in an Almost Forgotten Language

I lived in Cyprus for 16-17 months on and off during the years of 2002-2005, directly after I graduated from college. The learning experience of living in Cyprus was more formative than any of my formal schooling, by a long shot. I learned to live alone; I learned that 6 or 7 pm is still considered afternoon by the more civilized human beings on this planet; I learned some Greek and Turkish; I learned that you should put yogurt and lemon juice on everything; I dealt with love, loneliness, friendship, my wild side, shadow puppetry, partition, teaching, diplomacy, how to drive on the left side of the road, how to be host, how to be a guest. And much more.

I dream about Cyprus all the time, still today. I have a recurring nightmare that I am in Cyprus and can’t figure out how to the cross the Green Line over to the north, and thus I am unable to find my dear friends Mustafa and Pembe (who you will see pictured dancing in one of the cartoons below).

I wrote and illustrated the book below for a final project for a year-long beginner Turkish class that I took while a master’s student at Harvard in 2007. I have forgotten a great deal of this language, but feel so cozily at home in the sounds and rhythms of it–meaning is gone but music remains. My near-failure to comprehend these poems that I once wrote is what I imagine picking up an old musical instrument must be like, after a great deal of time away.

Anyway, I translated my poems (to the best of my ability) into English.

I removed the accompanying poems from three of the cartoons due to their politically sensitive nature.

Tip: I recommend viewing this on a rather zoomed out screen so you can see the English translations under the pictures. Click on one of the icons below and you’ll get a nice large slide show.