Web Developer | Bygone Photographer | Sporadic Writer
Google me, Bing me, Yandex me
Early Childhood of a Single Child
I was born in 1960, in downtown Ankara / Turkey.
I probably received more parental love and intellectual support than the vast majority of toddlers could, but even that could not prevent me from becoming the sicko that I am.
Reading, writing, playing chess (thanks to my father who was a very good player), and swimming were the skills I acquired before grade 1. On the flip side of the coin, there were fierce parental fights I witnessed too closely and serious asthmatic crises I survived.
No, sir! I was no model kid. Rallying neighbourhood boys to start fires in vacant lots at the age of 6, setting harmless but annoying booby traps made up of explosive cork on the streets, or aimlessly wandering outside the neighbourhood all alone at the age of 7 until getting lost, were among my habits.
Elementary School Ordeal
My father was ecstatic when I was admitted to the only real English immersion school available in Ankara then, TED Ankara Koleji, in 1969.
The curriculum might have been strong, but classes hardly mattered to me. I would rather play chess (at a good amateur level at the age of 9), read and re-read series (such as Fantômas by Allain and Souvestre), and do audio recordings at the age of 10.
My sharing of mock-heroic poetry I was writing with my classmates or organising peashooter & slingshot combats, were not among appreciated activities. I was making the favourite topic during parents' meetings: other kids' parents were usually being warned against me. Evidently and thankfully, the brightest kids' parents never took action.
And one November day, we were 2: my mother and me.(Loss of my father… I am still haunted by that emergency room scene and still remember the desperateness that would consume me for the next few years to come, while typing these today. Who would not be dying for a chance to apologise for everything he has done wrong to his passed away father?)
My grades dropped further. But at least I became the second at school in the chess tournament the champion (whose grades were sky-high) and I organised at grade 8. I was also a fast sprinter (100 m / 12.9s), a considerably good swimmer, a semi-serious table tennis player who joined the school team trainings despite being officially eliminated by the coach, an amateur scenarist with one co-author who would be institutionalised later, and a "student who could never be taught to behave like a student," as one instructor would later put at grade 10.
High School Prolongé: TED Ankara Lisesi
Courses were no longer passable without even knowing which textbooks they were associated with. Moreover, the previous year's girls, less interested in me than ever, were even more beautiful.
I reciprocated my fate with playing even more chess, (was head of the high school chess club at grade 10) and by reading more non-course related books.
While frantically trying to make ends meet, my single mom was simply unable to cope with me. As an attempt to protect her own mental health, she opted out of all parents' meetings. She would not / could not supervise me at all, which was perhaps the most radical decision that would make me the existentialist I am.
I allocated the majority of my time to taking photos of my schoolmates during the days by the advanced SLR camera I made my mother buy, and to developing films / enlarging photos in my own darkroom at nights. Activities were: David Bowie
to be played at maximum volume, wining during sleepovers with my overgrown schoolboy cronies, selling the photos of my schoolmates to them, reading existentialist French literature extensively, and variations of the Queen's Gambit. I was fully and carefully utilising the maximum number of days allowed for nonattendance and a juxtaposition of disciplinary warning letters from the school administration was decorating my room. (In fact, all my punishable acts could simply be described as voicing unpopular views, none of which would trigger a letter in developed nations.)
Ankara was over in 1978: my mother and I relocated to Istanbul.
Bogazici University, aka Heaven on Earth
If there was one major feature of the Turkish education system I owed my existence to, it was the central university entrance exam that accounted for the 100% of the requirements. (To be more precise, all high school marks were totally ignored and the final score from that one exam was heavily based on a section called general aptitude.)
My proud mother was not surprised at all. She thought it was the outcome of her very own way of raising a kid with only love and no punishment. I was admitted to Bogazici University, the most difficult-to-enter institution then and now.
Bogazici would shape my perspective permanently. Courses proved to be extremely difficult and I realised very soon that much brighter people than myself were all around. I gave myself a break and made my way to Paris/France. This brief encounter with civilisation was certainly a milestone and my approach to learning was transformed. Upon my return, I gradually became a better student while playing in the official chess team of the university and heading the photography club. Another life-changing event would be an early marriage with one of my schoolmates: an extraordinarily gifted psychology student.
As one of the first married couples among our peers, we started performing La Bohème in a historical, stove-heated Beyoglu apartment. I was the would-be photographer and she would be the woman-behind, who would make a success story happen. There, in that Genoese setting, I mastered darkroom skills, won several photography awards, and we (I barely, she with honours) graduated from Bogazici University.
Driving our recently-bought 13-year-old Peugeot 504, we travelled extensively. We made summer resorts our main destinations during wintertime. (Call it folie à deux, I still think the reminiscence of those extended stays at less-than-budget pensions, is what will always make me grateful that I was born.) I was taking seascape and landscape photographs while she was doing all the backend jobs.
We freelanced hard and our balance sheet was improving. Accomplished projects included 40 vacation villages photographed, thousands of Kodachrome slides archived, 500,000 postcards and 5,000 posters sold in the Southwest Aegean shores of Turkey. (At this point, please allow me to skip my 3-month military service nightmare no human should be exposed to. It was no better than Memoirs from the House of The Dead by Dostoevsky.). Then, that Desert Shield thing happened. Perhaps no WMD could be found, but it certainly interrupted the Turkish tourism industry in 1990.
I moulted into an advertisement photographer and she became an IBMer.
The transition was advancing slowly but surely. Her emotional and material contribution during the hardest years (until the day I would acquire my first apartment in Cihangir and my corporate client eagerly paid the jaw-dropping bill I sent) was another unforgettable. 1995. The beginning of my rich photographer years coincided with the ending of my first marriage, when she met someone better than me.
I am not going to lie. Yes, I did try the "it is not over until I say it is over," tactics. I did much, much worse than that. I could have easily qualified as a Dostoevsky character, if the show went on. (This is my written apology to her after decades. I confess what a sicko I have been.)
4 wild beery years and Zeynep
It all took place before the breathtaking Antalya backdrop. I was at a friend's place adjacent to hers and the date was April 1, 1995. Was it a "consequence of infinitely improbable coincidences" or was it love at first sight? Whatever it was, it started a new era for me.
I was a sought-after photographer and was making significantly more than one would expect from a photographer. Hundreds of product catalogues, a few calendars made up of solely my photos, greeting cards of corporate customers, and an expertly-managed hedonistic lifestyle without negative consequences to self... When I said I was not going to lie, that was limited to the previous section only. This section would be complete only without lying and I would like to exercise my right to leave this section incomplete. After all, there may be wrong readers, eh?
This period included frequent round-trips to Antalya, nightly round-trips to Beyoglu bars, a bunch of buddy-buddies no less sicko than I am, my new 5 series BMW, and everything else that automatically comes with these credentials... Each of those 4 years "
was a very good year", as Ervin Drake put.
Zeynep relocated to Istanbul, leaving everything she worked for behind. Then Santorini must have played the final trick: we married in 1999.
Make no mistake, I did not cease to be a sicko suddenly. I diverted my energy into writing. The 4 crime fiction novels I simultaneously wrote were published between 1999 - 2001. There was no line-up to buy them and I did not make a single penny. However, writing itself was a big fun and to see new people quote from my books even today - some 20 years later - is fascinating.
On the other hand, digital photography I never took seriously was quickly becoming a threat to our business and I was getting fewer and fewer assignments at my astronomical prices. Our income statement was not sparkling like a diamond anymore, the least to say. As a frugality expert, I said to Zeynep that we could do all right until we die, if we just wisely invested even if we earned nothing anymore. In fact, thanks to the 1999 earthquake and the financial collapse of the Turkish economy in 2001, property prices were at rock-bottom levels. That was when and how the number of houses I owned in Cihangir reached 4.
Despite this successfully-working investment plan, our projected wealth (which has never taken an Ege-to-be-born into account) was to be updated dramatically downwards. (To the attention of non-Turkish readers: there ain't no child benefit or the like over there and raising one child properly, is bloody expensive.)
I was the one to first see the newborn baby once I wanted aborted and had no clue that Ege would quickly become my everything. Yes, we redefined all priorities after he was born. However, his hospitalisation on a December day in 2004, redefined my whole life. I was eager to make any deal with any devil so that Ege would survive the meningitis. If you are reading this today, it means that he, and consequently I survived that meningitis. Don't know which devil allowed me to live, but I will always respectfully remember the 2 super doctors (Pediatrician Nuri ÖZER and Pediatrician Meral TANAKOL) we owe our lives to.
We were happily living in two of our Cihangir apartments, were making new friends with toddlers, and were breathing the best cultural atmosphere in the country. Alas, that proved to be an unsustainable happiness.
No one can say we did not try to stay in our home town: the kindergarten fees waked us up in late 2005. There were many schooling options for Ege, ranging from we paying nothing and him getting nothing, to we paying a fortune and him getting what they call "standard" in developed countries. We chose the none of the above option. The idea of Canada, one of the few countries that accepts immigrants based on a point system, emerged.
The application process was a full time job and waiting for the approval was another. Language exams, notaries, certified translations... Researching, waiting, ups and downs. Towards the end of the never-ending process, I discovered there was such a thing as French Immersion in Ontario and decided that should be the schooling system one should send his child to. No regrets.
Et nous voilà. I hereby attest that I have not forgotten even one single second of our first day. Well, that day was all about Ege's enrollment to one of the highest ranking French immersion schools (Louis-Honoré Fréchette) I discovered before we arrived and the mission was successfully accomplished. Thornhill would be the setting for our upcoming permanent resident years.
Among puzzling details were intersections and bloody dangerous left turns, authorising third parties to withdraw money from your bank account rather than authorising your bank to pay them, never getting a rejection notification from anywhere as the guys here do not reply to inform about the negative decisions at all... On the other hand, politeness, peacefulness, and a government not as the public enemy number 1, were factors that made us admire Canada. This country too has its own unique culture and some downsides, the culture just takes time to adapt and the downsides are not comparable to the daily calamities everyone faces in Turkey.
September 2010. Admittedly, I was thinking web development was dragging and dropping elements and the colleges were teaching how to use various software to do just that, when I went back to school. That was a graduate study at Humber College, not intended for beginners. When I discovered the majority of my classmates were computer engineers, it was too late. "How to write software", was definitely no "how to use software" matter. What was worse was that, when those traumatic 3 semesters were over in August 2011, I was hardly a web developer. I went ahead and redesigned this website then, anyway. The version 3 was live online and that was pretty much what I could accomplish one graduate certificate later.
Zeynep's admission to the Registered Nursing programme of York University triggered another relocation the next year. Barrie would be our designated smalltown where we would stay during her studies, as the programme was a collaborative study with a college there. No French immersion programme in Barrie? No problem. Ege was successfully admitted to the only French board school in which the language of instruction would be French and I could not be happier. Barrie would make another first in our lives by the rental detached house it offered us.
And then I re-returned to school, Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, to really learn the topics I attempted to learn at Humber. This time it worked: thanks to the 27 courses I took there, I could become a true web developer. The faculty were exceptionally student-friendly and knowledgeable, the curriculum was well-designed, and the setting was - literally - cool.
The 2014 summer internship I could find in Gatineau at a federal government department, thanks to Scott McCRINDLE at Georgian College, the endearing coordinator of the web development programme, would mark another major milestone. I kept travelling between Barrie and Gatineau for casual government jobs, until we decided to move to Gatineau.
What one word I would say about Barrie? Peaceful.
Gatineau, Québec, acquisition of our first home in Canada, 2016
Given the job opportunities I would have access to at the federal government, Zeynep being an Ontario nurse, and the impossibility of getting a mortgage without a job in Ontario, Gatineau appeared as the only viable option. The house hunting that involved multiple roundtrips between Barrie and Gatineau was an exciting adventure. We fell in love with this old-fashioned detached house the moment we saw it and called it home. As for Ege, not just the language of instruction, but the entire life would be in French this time, when he had to transfer to the local high school at grade 9. The next year, Ege would be admitted to the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme at l'École Polyvalente Le Carrefour and would graduate from there in 2019.
Truth be told, entering the job market in Canada as a skilled employee is far from being a piece of cake. Having completed programme after programme in my 50s with already a degree and having spent almost the entire sum that came from the sales of 3 apartments in Istanbul, we were running out of cards to play and were about to be in red. Was about time when Zeynep found her first job in Kingston in 2018, where she would keep working while this bio was being written.
I was able to find a permanent position at Shared Services Canada in 2019, after a few more casuals. I started to do what I am exactly still doing now: WCAG testing.
What one word I would say about SSC? Wonderful.
Kingston, Ontario, our second home in Canada, 2020
The COVID phenomenon marked the beginning of the "working from home" era. It was March 2020 and I, along with all my colleagues, was sent home on one Friday the 13th for 2 weeks to wait for the pandemic to end. COVID would simply refuse to go away. Zeynep was renting an apartment while working in Kingston for 2 long years. We were here and there, frequently on the road. I was as free as the birds and could relocate anywhere in Canada, after having been granted the working from home status permanently. Since we knew being a good tenant hardly improved anyone's wealth and considering the historical lows in mortgage rates, we decided to buy a second house in Kingston. The plan was making Kingston our permanent address.
Web accessibility did attract my attention and as an obsessive person, I was deeply indulged with it in time. Proudly obtained the Web Accessibility Specialist certification from IAAP in November 2021, at the age of 62.