about çay for change

Hi there!

I’m Lara. I’m an extrovert and a cynical optimist. I like meeting new people, taking strolls in unexplored neighborhoods, photography, reading about (paranoid) Ottoman sultans, and drinking tea. I really like drinking tea.

I also really like change.

Over the past seven years, I’ve lived in five different cities in four different countries. About half a year ago, I decided to stop moving and start settling down in my favorite city, Istanbul. To many, settling down might seem the very opposite of change, but for someone who is used to packing her bags every other year, it’s one of the scariest things to do.

Wherever I go, I am intrigued and inspired by those around me who are trying to disrupt the world as we know it in order to make it a safer, more equal, and more tolerant place. But stories about change are often dominated by Western ideas of development and civilization, including notions of who and what needs to change. Mainstream media surely shows Turkey as a turbulent and transforming place – but rather for the worse than for the better. Instead, I’m interested in the story of those individuals and communities trying to change Turkish society from the bottom-up and their vision of change, reform and – for some – revolution.

So what’s with the tea?

As Turkish society is in constant flux, one thing remains constant: Turks’ love for teaNo Starbucks or Caffe Nero can beat a cup of good old çay. Contrary to popular belief, not the Brits, but the Turks are the world’s largest tea consumers, drinking an average of 7 pounds a year per person.

Inspired by Lindsay Ratowsky’s 50coffees project, I decided to meet 50 young Turkish people and talk about their vision of change over a cup – or four – of tea. How do they try to affect change in their environment? What inspired them to do the work they are doing and what do they hope to achieve? And how to they see Turkey’s future and their place in it?

tl;dr: What’s the point?

The purpose of this project is manifold. Firstly – and selfishly – I get to meet really cool people. And drink lots of tea. But more importantly, I hope that this blog will serve as a space to both counter visions of stagnation and passivity in the Middle East and Turkey in specific, and explore the spaces and avenues for change in Turkish society and spotlight the brave and creative people occupying these spaces.

Finally, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the amazing people I met along the way. So thank you for sharing, for listening, and for always challenging me.

Let’s always keep our hearts and minds open.