This is my last column for The Star because my five-month fellowship ends next week.
It was a remarkable journey for me. I made good friends here and learned a lot of things from this astounding city.
Time flies. Here is a quick summary of what happened during my months in Kansas City as well as around the world, through my eyes.
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In my first days at the office in April, the first Syrian refugee family arrived in Kansas City. The father, Ahmad al-Abboud, said, “I am very blessed to be here.” At the same time, on the other side of the globe, thousands of refugees confronted a new struggle.
My home country of Turkey and the European Union (EU) agreed that all refugees who reach the islands illegally would be returned to Turkey. The refugee issue continues to this day, in major numbers, along with all the other continuing chaos and clashes in the Middle East. Alas, it looks like this issue will continue to shape politics around the world.
I saw that tram on my first day in the city. I said to myself, “Hey, a European-style public transport in America. That’s good.” An empty streetcar was being tested along my jogging route on Main Street. In May the streetcar started to serve people and conquered the city. As far as I can see, the streetcar has helped trigger a major improvement in downtown. At least I see more pedestrians on my jogging route.
There was a big change for Europe in recent months: Britain’s exit plan. The United Kingdom on June 23 voted to leave the European Union. It was shocking for many people. Politics can turn into madness because of power-hungry leaders. British politicians intimidated their voters over refugees, foreign cheap laborers and the other “bad Europeans.” The worst consequence of that campaign was the killing of British Parliament member Jo Cox.
When Britons were saying goodbye to the EU, Kansas City was discussing Uber regulations. Uber means a lot to me in Kansas City. I am probably one of the most frequent users of the application here. It is easy and cheap. And occasionally drivers tell their interesting stories which are funny. One driver wanted to save money and move to California. Another person wants to write a book. Or they come from Somalia, Brazil and other countries.
The cruelest reality of the world continued to grab attention over the last five months. Islamic State members attacked the Brussels airport in March, Turkey’s Istanbul Airport in June, the French city of Nice in July and a wedding ceremony just days ago in Turkey. The killer in the Orlando nightclub atrocity was an American-born man who had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
In the last five months, Turkey has been in the spotlight with the refugee crisis, ISIS attacks and a bloody coup attempt. Americans rarely talk about foreign politics. In daily small talk, overseas matters don’t come up for discussion too often. Yet when I tell someone I am from Turkey, they immediately ask me, “Hey, what is wrong with your country?”
And the Royals!
Here in Kansas City, I have found a new fun pastime: baseball. I used to think it was the most boring sport ever. But a loyal fan of the Royals, editorial page colleague Yael Abouhalkah, took me to three games. And the team won all of them. I really liked watching the Royals play. I will keep an eye on the Blue Crew when I’m away. Let’s go Ro-yals!
Last note: It is my pleasant duty to record my thanks and appreciation to Yael, Lewis Diuguid, Kathy Lu, Jesse Barker and all of The Star’s staff. They embraced me as a part of the team.
And of course Star readers gave me incredible support with their letters and emails. Thank you all.
Gokce Aytulu is an Alfred Friendly Fellow from Turkey. Twitter: @GokceAytulu