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ANAMED Newsletter – How has the global pandemic affected your ANAMED fellowship life and associated research?

by Nergis Günsenin, KUDAR-ANAMED Joint Senior Fellow (2019-2020)

Compared to the rest of the world, the impact of the pandemic came to Turkey later in terms of cases and deaths. After news of the first death arrived, however, panic ensued among the fellows who remained at ANAMED. Although I cannot speak about what they were going through on the inside, I could see that the sheen in their eyes was replaced by scared looks. Then, they took off one by one. The personal belongings of many are still in their rooms. Perhaps they were considering returning, or perhaps they thought, “Let me take whatever I can for the time being. The rest is up to God.” What I observed in general was a kind of “mental halt.”

From the third week of March 2020 on, only seven of us were left in our “temporary home.” Seven anxious individuals out of the lively and active original group of thirty, who had been busily creating projects, making travel plans, and delivering seminars before the pandemic. After the first month, worries of whether the virus was among us subsided, and the solidarity between scholars that had already been established in September 2019 returned stronger than ever. The seven individuals started living a truly mutual life. A new “brotherhood of fellows” was formed based on our shared fate.

Through virtual “Friday Teas” of only forty minutes, we tried to follow the lives of our colleagues who were not around, but even this was limited to those who participated. The lives of these researchers, who had specifically came to Istanbul and Turkey and who were now all over the world, must have been profoundly impacted. I am certain that the lovely and bright 2019–2020 ANAMED fellows, who are my juniors, lived/are living through an unforgettable period of their lives. At present, instead of spending time in Istanbul’s museums or archives, or enjoying the Anatolian tours we planned, they are thousands of kilometers away, at friends’ houses or in their dorms, waiting but not knowing what for!

I am from Istanbul, and I am in my home city and country. I applied for this fellowship so that I could continue writing my excavation book under healthy conditions. Of course I have worries about the future just like everyone else, but I feel luckier than the other fellows. I have fewer worries than they do. The writing of my book did advance, yet the recent mental halt has impacted me and my colleagues in such a way that our pre-pandemic efficiency decreased. During our last three months at ANAMED, none of us fully achieved the purpose of our presence here. We could not use the library, we could not organize symposia, nor could we share academic ideas with each other. Through our own means and using academic links we participated in conferences and tried to/are trying to keep sane.

Despite everything, although a third of our time here did not take place as expected, we leave each other with lifetime friendships and with unforgettable memories.

Thank you ANAMED!

—Nergis Günsenin, KUDAR-ANAMED Joint Senior Fellow, 25 May 2020