Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scandinavian Skyline, our handicapped minds and beautiful Sigur Ros

Around 1 AM, I was craving for a hot dog or something of that sort. I was a bit weary, I had long and curly hair back then and the next morning I was going to develop a migraine attack because of some bad wine that waited under direct sunlight for 4 days. Before heading back to the tent, I raised my head and looked up into the sky. I looked around into the thousands walking, jumping, falling around. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. All faces merged into each other and the clouds were barely moving above my head. One side of the sky was navy blue; whilst the other was getting only dark. Within a couple of hours sun would have already started from one of the sides. The air was pure fresh. L. was not bothered with my whining attitude:

"But there are also good things about the north. The sky is always so huge, isn't it?"

She was right. Skies mattered to me. Especially when I let my soul tear my body apart and go on orbital journeys into far away lands where friends and family lived, knocking on their plywood doors, slowly creeping on their mahogany floors, having a cup of tea with honey and coming back.

and there was at least the next best thing of the north... Sigur Ros... the shadows of tall Scandinavians and hybernating fiddlesticks... Those were the most amazing moments of early summer days in Scandinavia. The recent Sigur Ros performance in Alexandra Palace, London was as good enough to bring back the endless shades of sky-blue and elvish chanting melodies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Credit crunch and empty airport terminals

I had a share of extensive travel during September and October earlier this year. It was interesting to see empty airport terminals during some of these travels. A claim could be that the credit crunch has had a decisive affect on the decrease on number of travellers. It could also be the case that these terminals were not serving full capacity on the bizarre days and times I used them, or that the people have become more environmentally conscious, but I think the reasoning behind credit crunch is somewhat realistic and even so more dramatic when one is exposed to such sights as the following:

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Or these pictures from a terminal at the Geneva Airport

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part V: The Old and Watery Eyes at the Armenian Cemetery

As you celebrate Christmas, Istanbul's having its first snow (sleet) of the year. I leave the application centre and seek solace at the Armenian Cemetery across the road. They do not let me in, claiming that it is forbidden. The guard probably thinks I'm one of the millions of ultra-natoinalists. After all, the 'leaders' of the state managed to divide this country.

I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It will probably take a month's time before I get the results. I had a last glance at the pictures on the wall of the application centre before I left: Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, the Gherkin, the Vauxhall Junction and a picture from Scotland. All those places I know by heart, where I was a week ago, that we drove around, cycled through, wrote each other postcards beneath...

I made a mistake: I did not obey the manifestation on my immigration limitations. I came back to my family and friends and to my beloved country when I was told to stay there and proceed with my re-application. I risked my future residence, leaving behind a bunch of loved ones in that city. All else is some buildings, mountains and rivers that one can find anywhere.

Now I am at the hands of the politics of one of the greatest world empires that died long ago. I am also at the hands of their 2nd hand diplomacy in Istanbul, and at the hands of the sick bureaucracy of my very own country. Everything is ambigous as has always been the case on this land. The land of ambiguity. This is what people of here have long been feeding upon.

That was the reasoning of the guard at the Armenian Cemetery when he arbitrarily decided it's forbidden for me to enter. What he is repeatedly failing to see in his old and watery eyes of colour of burning black coal is that... that it is time to move on...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part IV: Right Back on Track?

Fast forward to Part V:
Come Monday.

Morning: Hardly wake up to my mother's insisting wake up call. Go to the bank. Put through the request. Go back home.

Noon: Call from the bank:

- It is settled, you can come and collect the letter.

I go, collect the letter. It is only in Turkish, so I request an English one to be written, too.

I download the application form once again, fill it, and start making my application envelope.

In the meanwhile, D. is alert. There is no great news from that part of the world, but as far as bank account is concerned, I might not even need it. She's mailed me the laptop charger, though. That's also good news.

Evening: I feel like it is happenning. No more hard thoughts. Have a nice evening, meet a bunch of people, go see a gig, get a nice message.

Come Tuesday.

Morning: I am lazy and up late. So, skip here to the afternoon.

Afternoon: I go collect the English letter from the bank. At that very instance I realise that both the Turkish and the English letter and the bank account name look very ambigous, rather insecure to me. I have a funny feeling. I will not yet reveal here what it says, but it just doesn't feel right. It does not really state what is up with the account but it is rather a mixture of some names. Is this what the bank is trying in order to help me?

Feel shit. Meet a bunch of friends and share the pain with them... Sad thoughts of having to leave here so soon, yet again. Not much energy left to change plans...

Evening: I wanted to cross-examine this bank account and how much it belongs to me by going into a random branch and try to carry a transaction. It is too late, the banks were closed. So, after a fine evening, I go on the Internet and find out that the joint account shows up in my list of other bank accounts. Good relief. I can't try a transaction because it is past 23:00. Gotta wait for the morning.

2 tasks before I feel secure tomorrow:

1. Try a transaction with this account

2. Get another letter stating what transactions I can carry individually on this account.

All else sort of dealt with.

The rest is to show up at the appointment, get a feeling of whether my application looks strong here. I do not want to risk my future in the UK tomorrow with a weak attempt once again. A fucked up situation, a worst-case scenario of going back to London earlier than expected should be a priority over leaving a life there behind.

Moral of the story so far:
In times of hardness and scarcity, the one who will suffer the most will always be the one who has already been suffering. One whose rights of travel, work or live abroad was limited will have even more limited opportunities. There are many those are much worse than me, and the least I can do now is to be reminded over and over again that they are suffering even worse at what they are trying to get to. What we can do the least is to remind ourselves that each and every one of us are responsible of what the others are going through, and those with more power are those who are potentially more responsible. And those who seek power shall always keep in mind that it is just another element that changes hand with every passing moment and we are just intertwined with the complexity of mutual and multi-dimensional dependencies that are all bunches of limitless variables and some "randomish" probabilities.

Let's see what tomorrow literally brings...

Stories of a Visa Application - Part III: R:112, G:66, B:43

Fast forward to Part IV:

I had arranged according to my schedule for the 2nd trial for the visa application back home:

Get home Thursday night, go to the bank first thing Friday morning, enquire about the joint account between me and my mother, get a letter from the bank. If any problems arise, settle them by Monday, prepare all other documents and go for the visa application that I already scheduled for Tuesday 10:00 AM.

Nothing went the way planned...

Turkey was not far behind than the UK in changing its laws, especially in the banking system. Never mind what the Prime Minister and the other ministers have been saying about how the global credit crunch did not affect Turkey much, despite the truth that Turkey has also been hit hard. What is happening is that Turkey may feel the depression a little later than countries like the US or the UK, and that is the time Erdogan is trying to win until the local elections, to be held at the end of March 2009, in order to keep his party's popularity.

Thus, the banking regulations have been ever more tightened in Turkey, giving me a huge pain early on Friday morning, 19.12.2008, to finalise the transaction for the joint account between my mother and me. Remember that I have to show I have had £2,800 in a "personal bank account" for the last 3 months now.

I call a few friends to ask them once again what procedures they went through. Over and over I hear that the regulations have changed. Bummer! It changed in the UK just before I left it. Apparently it changed here again just as I came back.

From Noon till around 3 PM, I sit in the living room, completely devastated. I do not want to go back to the UK right away to make my second application from there before my visa runs out, 05.01.2009. I have to make quick decisions. Instead, I start writing down my story. It keeps my mind fresh...

I call the Home Office in the UK and ask them a bizarre question:

- Can I send my visa application to you from a UK Post Office but physically be somewhere outside the UK?

- No, you have to remain in the country while your application is in process.

My idea of sending my passport there and apply as a UK application, avoiding the £2,800 deal does not work.

Then, I start enquiring my chances of going through with the bank account deal via a bank outside Turkey. My sister's account in UAE? D.'s account in A. or G.? A few more phone calls, some more motivation messages but nothing in concrete.

I left my laptop charger back in London, I am running out of money in my cell phone, I am spending the Friday going through hell...

I call the Visa Application Centre in Istanbul and get some more puzzling messages. Then I send them an email and head back to the bank. Now at around 5:10 PM, they tell me they can arrange it on Monday. Maybe...

I go to the nearby Vodafone and find out that I can switch my phone line to them and keep my same number and even get some free call minutes and SMS. I go buy some necessary stuff and make a few phone calls. I take out some money and start planning for the evening. It feels like there is some progress.

Finally at around 7 PM, I decide to end the day's debates and leave it for Monday. I re-schedule my visa application appointment to Wednesday, 24 December, at noon time.

I go out, meet a bunch of friends, stay out long withouth having to think where it would be open at 3 AM because it is a 24-hour city. I leave the shitty day behind. I am tempted to call it an almost "Black Friday" but the small hopes of progress in the evening make it a bit more brownish:

A shitty brown-day. Red: 112, Green: 66, Blue: 43 coded.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote of the day - Günün Sözü (iki lisanlı bir yazı; a bilingual entry)

Vize hikayelerine küçük bir ara.

Biraz önce Time Out Istanbul'un Kasım sayısında, Istanbul 2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti Projesi'nin Yürütme Kurulu Başkanı Nuri Çolakoğlu ile yapılan söyleşiden bir şey okudum:

"2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti ünvanına layık olmaya çalışan AKB Ajansı ve Nuri Çolakoğlu, kente kalıcı güzellikler bırakma peşinde...

NÇ: Gençlerin asla hatırlamadığı bir çağdan beri Ayasofya'nın ortasında duran iskele kalkıyor. 16 senedir o iskele orada. İskele kalktığı gün gidip Ayasofya'da yere yatacağım, şöyle 15 dakika kubbeye bakacağım. Çünkü unuttuk kubbesini."

En son kimleyi hatırlamıyorum ama, gerçekten de bizim çağlarımızdan olanların aralarında veya turistlerle yaptığı muhabbetlerde bu iskelenin varlığından söz edilir ve Ayasofya'yı iskelesiz görmüş olan veya bir göreni tanıyan pek zor bulunur.

Bu makaleye, dün gece yaşadığım ufak ama büyük bir değişikliğin farkına vardıktan sonra rastlamış oldum. Şehrimizdeki tek modern metro hattına 7. ve yeni bir durak olan Şişhane durağı eklenmiş. En azından metro haritasına. Her ne kadar metro gene alışılmış son durak olan Taksim'de yolculuğuna son verdiyse de, bu beyaz arkaplan üzerine yeşil tonla eklenmiş Şişhane istasyonu ifadesi yüzümü güldürdü. Metronun ilk açıldığı, orta okul, lise günlerimizde Levent'ten metroya binip Taksim'e gelerek Cuma akşamları sinemaya ve çıkmaya gittiğimiz günler aklıma geldi.

"Londra'dayken buraları fazla düşünme, İstanbul hep aynı" diyenlerin aksine, İstanbul başka çok şehirde göremeyeceğimiz bir hızla değişiyor. Ya da en azından arada bir dışarıdan bakan bir göze böyle görünüyor. Ve umarım bu değişiklikler İstanbul'un ebedi güzelliğine gem vurmaz...


A small break to my Visa Application Stories.

I just read on the November issue of Time Out Istanbul, from the interview with Nuri Colakoglu, the Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Istanbul 2010, European Capital of Culture Project:

"I am more concerned with the changes we can make to have permanently good effects on Istanbul... Removing the scaffolding that has been standing from ancient times that young people cannot even remember in the middle of Hagia Sophia. Been there for 16 years. The day it is removed, I will lie down in the middle of Hagia Sophia and watch the dome for 15 minutes. We fogot about the dome already!"

I don't remember who it was most recently, but it has always been a funny remark of discussion between many young Istanbul locals and among tourists that there is hardly anyone among our generations that has seen or known anyone to have seen the Hagia Sophia without that gigantic scaffolding in the middle.

I just ran into this article after finding out another small yet big change in Istanbul last night. On our one and only modern metro line, a new station, Sishane, has been added to the metro map as the 7h station on the line. Although the train terminated at its usual Taksim Station, it nonetheless put a smile on my face to see this first extension with a green font on white background, remembering the high school days and the first days of taking the metro from Levent to Taksim after leaving school on Friday to head for movies and on...

Despite all who claim "don't worry about Istanbul in London, it's all the same here", this city is changing with a speed not seen in many other places. Hope it stays as one of the most beautiful places...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part II: Rejection

Fast forward to Part III:
On 25 November 2008, I received a letter from the Home Office. Here is what it said:

"In view of the fact that you have claimed 75 points under Appendix A of the Immigration Rules, but the letter you have provided from the London School of Economics and Political Science does not confirm that you have been awarded your MSc degree, the Secretary of State is not satisfied that you have provided the specific documents as required under Appendix A of the Immigration Rules... Therefore you do not satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules for this category and it has been decided to refuse your application..."

What a blow! But how expected it was. My premature application was rejected and I felt disgusted at the Home Office, then reconsidered my thoughts, then got disgusted at the LSE not being able to provide me a proper document and also at myself as having gotten a rejection by applying a bit too early.

The same letter advised that I could not appeal to this decision as I still had a valid Student Visa until 5 January 2009 and that I should re-apply within the United Kingdom before 5 January 2009 once I got my University Degree.

After being depressed for an evening, I stood up against the shitty weather of London and the shitty circumstances and decided I would re-apply. I sent a few emails to the LSE Registry who were the correspondence for getting me a proper letter for the application but did not hear anything useful from them. I went as far as to send an email to the Director of the school about the inconveniences I had to face and how I though the Students Service (where Registry is located) has an effect in it. I actually got an official reply from the Head of the Students Service on 15.12.2007 saying that they apologize for how they misled me and confused me with the emails we have exchanged back in October when I asked help for them. Well, too little too late for me, I had already made up my mind to go for a second application.

The shittiest thing about this second application was going to be the fact that when I applied in December, I would be stuck in the UK for all of December (see previous chapters for a similar potential problem I was trying to avoid by applying in October in the first place). I started to get used to the idea that I would spend the Christmas and New Year's in the UK. F. was going to come for a 10-day tourism trip to London, S. said she would come down around the New Year's to entertain herself and I started to believe that maybe I could get through this depression with a different New Year's agenda, in London.

In the meanwhile I had been working quite heavy at my research work at the Urban Age, helping a compile a document for an urban design briefing competition held by the Paris Municipality. On 3 December 2008, a week after my Degree was officially announced, I printed out the Application Form once again whilst working on a late night shift for the deadline of the document.

!!! Vıtally significant note: As I started filling in the Application Form for the 2nd time, I immediately noticed some changes from the 1st one. At the "How would you like to pay the Appliation Fee?" section, there was a missing part: The words writing "If you are exempt from Fees please proceed to section A21" was missing !!!

Some research on the Home Office website revealed that there has been change of laws on 27 November 2008, and the dual state of the UK had removed the exemption from application fee for some citizens of some nations, includıng Turkey (please refer to this exemption note from an earlier chapter). This changed the rules of the game and the circumstances under Sub-Heading 5 of the Applicaton Procedure and now I would have to pay £400 for my application within the UK or £205 for an application made from Turkey.

Considering I did not want to spend Christmas and New Year's in London, that I would save £200 in application and more by not renting a room for December and living for cheaper in Istanbul in the meantime, I decided to go back to Istanbul to make my 2nd application.

There were some things to consider with this new idea:

1. Exemption Fee: Now I would pay a £205 application fee compared to £0 before, but at least I wouldn't pay £400

2. Proof of Funds (Maintenance): This would be the tricky part. Now I would have the 3-month backtrack of a bank account with my name in it instead of the earlier 1-month deal before the 31 October. And what is more important is that, applying within the UK I would have to show £800 in my bank account, but a huge £2800 when applied in Istanbul would be waiting for me. I've had the £800 in my English bank account already but I would only have the chance of submitting a joint-account (with my Mother) to show a £2800 in Turkey. This proves vital for the rest of the story.

After a few telephone calls around 3-4 December, I decided I could do the application in Turkey with my University degree papers in hand, and a joint bank-account provided with my Mother. After getting used to the idea of spending New Year's in London, I booked a one-way ticket to Istanbul and re-started getting used to the idea of spending some nice time with my friends in Istanbul.

I would be back home on 18 December 2008, and having completed the online application, I would attend my Visa Appointment on 22 December in Istanbul and hope for a succesful visa application, to be finalised some time around mid-January.

I took the British Airways 16:05 flight from the impressive Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on a very mild (11 Degrees C.) London evening. As we passed through the clouds into the upper sky, the orange lights of the setting sun in the far west shone into S.'s eyes as I started dreaming about the night lights of Istanbul...

Stories of a Visa Application - Part I: First Attempt

Fast forward to Part II:
I sent my Post-Study Work Visa Application to the Home Office on 31 October 2008 around 17:20, on the day of the deadline for 1-month of proof of evidence for funds (Maintenance) (please refer to the previous chapter). Not only I have sent the post 10 minutes before the Post-Office closed, implying another 'last-minute Turkish strike' attempt, but furthermore, I had to send in a premature application. This means I had a 'weak application' regarding some of the documents I sent in. Let me reveal how this has happened so:

I decided to make use of the 31 October 2008 deadline because it meant I only had to show my bank details for 1 month. I had to show I had £800 (refer to Maintenance and how it relates to where I apply from in the previous chapter) for at least a month. After returning to London on 2 September 2008 after my summer holidays and Thesis research in Istanbul, I put money into my personal UK bank account, and therefore had enough money for the last 1.5 month or so.

Otherwise, if I missed the 31 October deadline, I would have had to show sufficient funds (£800 when applied within the UK) for 3-months. This would mean I would have to wait until December 2008 to complete the 3-month period. Here is another important note:

!! My current visa (as explained under 'Visa Application Procedure') runs out on 5 January 2009. It means that I can stay in the UK and apply for this visa before 05.01.2009 or I go back to Turkey and apply for the visa before 21 November 2009, which is the end of 1-year after I get my Award degree. !!

Waiting until December to apply had 2 problems for me:

1. It is too close to the end of my current visa,

2. It means I have to stay in the UK for all of December as the application process takes at least 3 to 6 weeks.

So, providing my Maintenance proof, the Application Form and all other application documents, I had 2 other boxes to fill: The UK University Degree; and the Application Fee.

Let us learn a bit more about the Application Fee:
Again, depending on where and how you apply, there are various different fees:

1. If you apply within the UK you have two options:

A. Send your application via post and pay £400 as an application fee.
B. Get an appointment at the Visa Application Centre, apply in person and pay £600.

2. If you apply from Turkey, you can fill in an online application form and get an appopintment at the Visa Application Centre and apply there in person with the £205 fee.

!!! Another important note: There was one sweet rule eligible for citizens of some nations such as Turkey, Croatia, Armenia, etc.. who have ratified the European Social Charter. The rule is that the citizens of these countries did not have to pay application fees.

These countries are obviously far from random. This is, basically countries who are not part of the EU but are somewhat attached to Europe by means of social and economical rights. Do not think that this is a privilege that
these countries have been given by Europe. It obviosuly comes with many responsibilities as well, one of which is manifested and known well by Turkish citizens; the abiding rules of the European Court of Human Rights over the Turkish Legislation with regards to cases dealing with social issues.

However, on 27 Novebmer 2008, the dualist state of the United Kingdom decided that they lift this exemption and make a note of this please, because this is an essential information that will be referred back to in the next chapter !!!

The other thing I had to deal was the UK-University Degree. This is where it got all tricky. I completed my program at the LSE on 2 September 2008. That was the date I handed in my Thesis. Apart from the Thesis, I had completed all my exams and other duties back in June 2008. So, as a decent human being I would expect to get my grades by some time in September or October. Of course, the awkward English (or LSE) system decided that I would get my results only in November. So, this is a problem when you want to apply by 31 October.

At this moment I happened to come across a web page on the LSE website where they said they could give me a letter that helps me with my application. A letter not confirming my degree but telling the Home Office that I will get my degree.

This letter never came about. Through extensive e-mailing I was only told that I could not get this letter before November. I fought and fought and fought to get a decent letter in the end on 30 October and so were all my documents ready with the exception that my Degree document was a bit weak.

I was confident at the Post Office on the evening of 31 October 2008 at 17:20. I made a big application concerning my life and sent away my passport for an indefinite time. I walked out of the Post Office into the dark and chilled evening of Brixton. I called D., told her that my application was sent on time and we started discussing about the night plans for the Halloween Party.

The wait had begun...

Stories of a Visa Application - Context

Fast forward to Part I:
This story mainly takes place in the countries of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Turkey. It is the story of Omer Cavusoglu's (born 03.08.1985, Istanbul) application for the UK Post-Study Work Visa and spans through the period of October 2008 and onwards.

The Visa: The Points Based System Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) (INF 25); in short, the Post-Study Work Visa, was introduced in the UK in 2008. It is somewhat the updated version of a previously similar scheme, that was called the International Graduate Scheme (IGS). It allows for non-British and non-EU immigrants who have completed a University Degree (Undergraduate, Master's, PhD.) in the UK to earn a 2-year long work and residence permit. As far as I know, this is one of the greatest advantages of studying in the UK as in many other countries your chances of extending your stay depends solely on finding a sponsor through finding a job, whereas the Post-Study Work Visa is intended to give you up to 2-years of permission to find this job after completing studies

The application process: There are two ways to apply for this visa:

1. Apply within the UK: You can apply for this visa whilst you are still in the UK, before your current visa runs out. In my case, this means I can apply for this visa within the UK before 05.01.2009.

2. Apply from outside the UK: You can apply for this visa from the country of your home residence. In my case this means I can apply for this visa from Turkey.

In either case, the applicants are eligible to apply for the Post-Study Work visa within 1-year from when they receive their UK-University Degree.

I have received this degree on 21 November 2008. Therefore, regardless of where I apply, I have until 21 November 2009 to do so, in order to obtain this type of Visa.

The application pack: This consist mainly of the following:

1. The Application Form: For applicants within the UK, this is a 47-page document, a lot of which consists of answering 'No' to questions like 'Have you ever tried to assault the Queen of the UK?', 'Have you ever thought about becoming a terrorist?' which the British formalise as 'any deeds that would suggest that you are not a decent citizen'. Apart from these funny bits and all other regular visa application information, the Form is quite straightforward and easy.

2. The UK-Degree: This is the Degree you obtaion from your University or Institution that states What you studied from When till When, in Which city and country and How were you awarded this qualification. Obviously, the Who question is also answered as your name proudly stands scattered around this Degree paper:

Omer Cavusoglu obtained his MSc. in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science on 21 November 2008. He has completed his course requirements, commencing on 1 October 2007 and ending on 1 October 2008. Bla bla bla bla....

3. Proof of evidence for your funds (Maintenance): The most tricky, cruel, blasphemical, troublemaking part of the application. The qualities of this Sub-Heading is directly related or affected by the decisions you make (or you are forced to make) for where you make your applicaton. The procedure is as follows:

You have to prove you have (and have had) sufficient funds in a bank account that clearly states your name. The general rule is that, on the day of application, you have to prove you have had the sufficient funds for at least 3 months. This means that if you are applying on 15 December 2008, your proof of evidence must consist of a Bank Letter OR your Account Movements OR Account Pass Books stating you have had sufficient funds on every single day between 15 September 2008 and 15 December 2008.

!! However, because Post-Study Work Visa was only introduced recently, the Home Office allowed until 31 October 2008, that those apply before 31 October had to show only a 1-month of sufficient funds. This was a special clause but a very important one. Keep this small note in your minds as it is essential for the story and I will refer back to this quite often. !!

The Amount of the Funds: Depending on where you apply, the amount of funds you have to prove for this 3-month period varies:

A. If you apply within the UK, you are obliged to show you have had £800 in your bank account for 3 months.

B. If you apply from outside the UK, you are obliged to show you have had £2,800 in your bank account for 3 months.

This section B is also extremely vital and I will refer back to it quite a lot of times, too.

4. Rest of the Documents: The generic documents you have to include for almost all applications such as Photos

5. Application Fee: Yet another very essential element of the story. This will be discussed in detail within the story. The basic information you have to bear in mind is that this is just one of those regular Application Fees you have to submit with your application and is non-refundable whatever the result of your application is.

From here on, I may pass on to the Story.

Stories of a Visa Application - Introduction

There are many things I have been looking forward to share in this space.

My recent experiences at the Manu Chao concert in Kentish Town(16.12.2008); some useful information on reports I have written about Istanbul and Haydarpaşa for my research work (17.12.2008); the Twisted Christmas event at the Barbican Centre (11.12.2008); a visit to Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture City for 2008 (07.12.2008) and some insight into the 'Digital Cities' exhibition at the New London Architecture; and there have been many commitments (eg. BoltArt December issue) I have been postponing due to some ambiguities in my Visa Application process for a new work and residence visa in the UK.

Having just arrived back in Istanbul to try a different route to get this visa, I have been confronted with more bad news in the last few hours.

Therefore, I have decided to dedicate this space, for the time being, to write about what I have so far been through in this visa application process. This will both help me keep track of what has happened (which may be useful if I ever decide to sue the State of UK), and help whoever is interested to learn about this process in detail. I hope it is also useful for people to become aware of some practical details of what sort of pain many people go through, confronted with visa regulations, rights of travel, and any other circumstance regarding immigration.

There will be new text each time I get an update on an essential input.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Life is when you look down the drain at N+2 years of age at the bathroom of your girlfriend's flatshare (which is a fragile bathroom of a 4-girl flatshare I remind you), and think "I never thought I would even end up in this X city of this Y country of the world, and have a girlfriend of a completely 'opposite' but yet so affiliated culture when I was only N years of age"...

So, the calculation is:

2 years down the road, and you end up in a completely random sewereage entrance point that you didn't imagine of, and you're happy with your 0.5 alcohol concentration in the blood and the friends in the 5 m2 British kitchen modern design 2m. away from where you are, having a happy conversation surrounded by architecture put initially up for an Southeastern Asian household.

In essence... It's all about beauty of life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

aus Berlin

Warschauer Strasse'de bir gecenin ardindan, 22.10.2008 - saat 03:00 sulari, Frankfurter Tor civarlarinda bir yerlerde, ne ictigimi hatirlayamadigim minik bir barda doldurdugum bindunya kafa'yla yazilmis bir seyler...


Hayat inanilmaz bir sey. Sag gozunun ucunda Fernsehturm'un diyagonal isiklari. Karsinda Sovyetik bir blok, neoklasiksel facade ile. 6gen cizgili sokak lambasinin arkasinda, 8 katli bir bina, 35 metre eninde, neredeyse butun Karl-Marx Allee ve kesinlikle Strasse der Pariser Kommune hakim. Ufak balkonlari ortasinda, Viyana'nin palasina benzer ideolojik ve estetik kaygisiyla. Mini mini komik cumbalari var 20 yil once Dogu Berlinlilerin ucuz dikis makinalariyla nakis islerken pencere kenarinda cekirdek citlettikleri cunku DDR sosyalizmi hic bir zaman cinsiyetleri denklestirme derdinde degildi 5-yillik devlet iktisadi planlama programlarinda. Komik minik bulutlar parca parca uzaklasirken gecenin karanliginda, der Himmel uber Berlin'e bakarak aldim ilhamimi...


Some bullshit I've scribbled down my some 0.20 Blood alcohol concentration in the middle of the night in east Berlin. Sorry, it's only in Turkish for the time being...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Slaughtered Lamb in London, Farringdon

On the first day of the Kurban Bayrami (Eid al-Adha, The Festival of Sacrifice), one of the major Islamic holidays, millions of animals have been sacrificed, in some places, rather very unhygienically or unaesthetically. Families migrated across towns, villages, neighbourhoods in cities to come together, gather for lunch and evening meals and give each other presents and some "pocket money".

On a completely different agenda, ironically resembling the main activity of the Kurban Bayrami, I went to a pub called "Slaughtered Lamb" on Great Sutton Street near Farringdon in London last night. It is a well looked-after, cosy and large pub where people gather for evening meals and drinks, before heading home or to one of the most popular clubs of London in the area. However, if you go down the stairs in the pub, just before the toilets, on your right side, you would have the chance to walk into one of the coziest live music venues I have ever seen in London.

The downstairs of Slaughtered Lamb hosts many events, mainly produced by the London Electroacoustic club. The music room consists of a small bar, a small stage, 5-6 large leather couches, and 2 wall-side niche-like seating spots. The walls are made of bricks, painted black across the room. Together with the black leather couches and the dim light, the colors are quite dark inside, but the atmosphere is far from anything depressing.

On a very mellow evening, with only an audience of handful of people we saw two consecutive acts. Sam Beer is a folk singer/songwriter based in London, playing his harmonica and acoustic guitar, singing shyly into the decent crowd, and is recording his first album.

The second act was the cheerful, beautiful Alice McLaughlin who could not keep her feet still nor sit in her small chair, and stood up after the first song, singing the rest of her tunes dancing and jumping around on the carpet. She has, in the past, appeared as a guest singer with Oi Va Voi, a UK based Yiddish band with Hungarian origins. Alice's vocals were something extraordinary in the sweetest sense, added to her humble gestures through her show.

Both downstairs and upstairs of Slaughtered Lamb offer for a very nice evening-out, even on Mondays. It is one of those pubs in London, named after god knows what, but the experience of the place will probably keep you far from some sacrifice of animals elsewhere.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


As of yesterday, a (un)fortunate series of events unfolded in such a way that I decided to go back to Turkey (for at least a good month's time) around mid-December.

Here's a copy from an email I sent to a friend that might help reveal the secret:

The "lovely" London School of Economics has disappointed me greatly.

I wanted to apply for the Post-Study Worker scheme (Tier 1) to get a residence/work permit and I made the application before the 30 October 2008 deadline, by when the Home Office (the guys who will give me the Visa) only had a 1-month backtrack of my bank account (to prove that I have money to stay in their country). Otherwise they have 3-months backtrack and I hadn't had sufficient funds back then to cover a 3-month period (I didn't have money in my bank account counting 3 months back from October).

Therefore I urged LSE (actually almost begged them, emailing back and forth for 10 days, emailing them even from a remote village in noth Slovakia) to provide me a letter by 30 Oct. 2008 saying I completed my courses, I passed them and I'll get my diploma (they don't even have to tell my grades). I know that this request of mine was put before their official release of grades but on the LSE website, at a "Post-Study Work Visa" section, they were saying that they could provide such a letter if our Board of Examiners (people who read our essays, exams and Thesis who are objective, meaning Prof. outside the LSE) met by 30 Oct (and for my Department, they met 17 Oct.) This means by that day they finalise my grades (not officially stamped but my degree is finalised).

Anyhow, they gave me a shitty letter instead of a letter that confirmed I passed (I even suspected for a few weeks that they didn't give me a letter because I faield) and the Home Office (guys who give me the visa) refused my application. To my further dislike, 2 days ago, LSE prepared that fucking letter saying "Omer has passed his courses on 1 November 2008 (2 days after I applied!!) and will receive his Diploma). And this is so disgraceful because, actually I already learned all of my grades officially already 1 week ago!!

This meant I'd apply again now, and spend all of December stucj here (because my passport would be kept there), but i found out yesterday that on 27 November 2008, they changed a rule! An imporntant one!! Nationals of Turkey, and some other countries that have signed the European Social Rights Charter are exempt from paying visa fees (they are considered almost as EU members because they abide by Human Rights rules set by a European Commission, and right of work and right of travel are amongst them).

However, because the UK doesn't abide by all European laws (they want to stand out in the crowd, only that they don't know they're not a world-wide respected empire anymore), I think they took an initiative to lift this exemption and rip us off £400 for each application, considering the financial crisis they're going through.

This means that, now, if I have to apply again, I pay either £400 (applying within the UK) or the Turkish Lira equivalent of £205, if applied in Istanbul. Considering the fact that, it is cheaper back home, and that I would be saving up on renting (because I was about to move houses this Friday but hadn't paid any rent or deposit yet) and that over the Christmas and new Year's, I will bore myself to death instead of finding any jobs (come on, who will sit at recruitment desks of companies in a city like London that is sinking to the depths of the economical world?), I decided I'll go back home in 2 weeks time and apply from there...

I know, this is a bit confusing already, but such is my life! If you want to hear the story again, clarified by vocals and my body expressions, then we'll have the chance to go for a coffee or beer soon in London, or in Istanbul..

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

BoltArt -- Yeni bir guncel, gorsel sanatlar tanitma ve tartisma platformu

Yaklasik iki ay once, New York'ta yasayan lise arkadaslarimdan Merve Unsal'in, Guney Cuceloglu ve Ozge Ersoy'la birlikte kurmayi planladiklari bir blog sitesi uzerine email almistim. Aylik olarak guncellenecek ve bunyesinde sergi yazıları, proje tanıtımları, denemeler, röportajlar ve fotoğraf projelerine yer vermeyi amaclayan site, kurucularinin tabiriyle "görsel sanatlar, performans sanatları, tasarım, mimari ve sanat felsefesine duyduğumuz tutkumuzu Türkçe olarak paylaşabileceğimiz online bir platform yaratmak için" Ekim 2008'de hayata basladi.

Kasim guncellemesiyle birlikte ikinci parti yazilarin yayilandigi site bir yandan yeni yazi ve yazarlarla icerigini zenginlestirmeye calisirken, bir yandan da web icerigini ve tasarimini gelistirerek karakterini oturtmaya calisiyor. Yazilarla, yazarlarla, site ile ilgili goruslerinizi bildirmek ve guncel konularda fikir paylasimlarinda bulunmak icin i ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

Not: Merve'nin nazik daveti uzerine, Ekim ayinda yazmam gereken ama mesguliyetlerim yuzunden aksattigim bir yaziyi da sitenin Kasim guncellemesinde okuyabilirsiniz.


For the English readers:

I received an email about 2 months ago from a high-school friend Merve, who has started a blog site with two other friends, Guney and Ozge, all based in New York. The blog site, aiming to create a discussion platform around topics of visual and performing arts, photography, architecture and art theory, is updated montly and includes exhibition reviews, project briefs, articles, interviews. It has been running since October 2008.

Unfortunately the material within the site is only available in Turkish, hence this Turkish blog. If you are learning Turkish, or interested in the language, or a keen admirer of random words and letters, or are just someone who enjoys looking at some images, then please go on and check out the site.