Selim Ayyildiz

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I am student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am a current Marketing major. Apart from writing for NinerTimes, I enjoy spending my time swimming, playing volleyball, go on adventurous trips, and most importantly spending time with friends and family. I spend a lot of my time helping the community by joining non-profit organizations and volunteering. My biggest goal is to have a huge positive influence and be considered a historical idol someday.

Op-Ed: My Normality and Yours

To the person who claims they know me, more than I know myself, you are right.

I am pronouncing the word “pillow” wrong by calling it “pellow.” I don’t eat pork because I’m “foreign.” In fact, you actually nailed it when you shared your very considerate thought of how lucky I am to be in the United States to your friends.

I see you. I see you looking at me. I hear you. I hear you rambling on with such confident commentary about my life. You watch me run around from one class to another trying to beat the roll call, while you’ve already been warming up your seat for 15 minutes by now. You assume that I’m late because I can’t prioritize and I don’t have the work ethics to show up on time. It’s ok, I understand you’re only thinking what you see, not actually “judging.” We all do it. We make these assumptions about people by their daily actions, what they look like and what they say. Unfortunately, we think we know each other more than we actually do.

However, like I said, you are right. You are right that I might pronounce some words incorrectly according to your “norms.” In fact, considering English isn’t my native language and I practice 3 other languages on a daily basis I’m not surprised I stumble upon my words and intertwine my accents with one another. You are right I don’t eat any pork, but not because I’m “foreign.” It’s simply my choice. I value my religion, in which it insists we don’t harm our bodies with anything that may infect or sicken my body in anyway. And of course, your very considerate thoughts. You are absolutely damn right that I am very privileged to be living in this beautiful, gracious and welcoming country that we both call home. My family and I have earned every single freedom, voice and breath you and I both share. No, I am not late to class because I decided to sleep in an extra couple of minutes, but I do value my education and am willing to put in the effort to make it to class even after a 9-hour shift. We’re all obviously striving for that American dream, so instead of making it even more difficult than it already is, start by trying to encourage one another. I’m sure there will be enough neighborhoods in the country for both of us to have a white-picket fence.

I hope you understand where I am coming from, as much as I understand why you might have those thoughts as well. I do appreciate your concern, just not your unsolicited advice. We both come from different backgrounds, walk different paths, and have different aspirations so it’s not fair to compare my normality to yours. You are right, I can learn a lot from you, just as you can learn a lot from me.

Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd of students and community members, telling them to get out to vote early as well as to speak against Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. Photo by Ben Coon.
Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd of students and community members, telling them to get out to vote early as well as to speak against Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Photo by Ben Coon.

Op-Ed: Race, media and pop culture

 

U.S. opinions on Beyonce's half-time show.
U.S. opinions on Beyonce’s half-time show. Graphic via Tribune News Service

The idea of reading one more article about racial slurs or using up 10 precious minutes of your time to read this so called “writer” who believes his or her opinion matters or will even make a dent on social issues is on the bottom of your to-do list. I understand, news is getting repetitive and articles are becoming predictable; however, this issue has given us all an excuse to actually discuss a topic that is so prevalent in our everyday conversations: race.

The color of our skin has once again ignited this controversial, yet relevant issue. You now have mandatory discussions in class, you watch provocative half-time performances and you’re no longer interested in the performance but more about the meaning behind it, and you all of a sudden start using the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter because your favorite celebrities passed the message and you don’t want be left out. If that’s the case, don’t worry; I am right with you. But some of the bigger questions that come to mind is, why now? Why should we? Why is this happening all at once? We worked so hard to overcome race barriers of race and discrimination for a society that is now arguing between which lives matter more, which to me is a little absurd. Within this whole issue, I don’t understand how we praise one group of people, while degrading another calling this improvement.

Let’s go back to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl half-time performance, which you have obviously seen or heard about (if you don’t live under a rock). Likely it has you either saying 1) “Damn she is slaying up there” or 2) “What did I just watch?” I myself am a huge Queen B fan especially those dance moves; however, I do understand why some may have felt uncomfortable. The performance took me at complete shock. I was confused and uncomfortable, not for myself, but for people who don’t normally listen to Beyoncé music. My mind is so immune to lyrics and songs like “Formation” that I just end up singing along to it. Usually the more vulgar the better, but I can think of millions of people who would beg to differ – those millions of people who tune into the Super Bowl simply for the half-time performance. They want to be entertained, not preached at.

It was obvious that there was an agenda behind the performance, and Beyoncé had the right platform to endorse such powerful messages, which she successfully did. Now because Beyoncé had allegedly performed such powerful messages in her half-time performance we start to think that movements of such should be encouraged and followed. The purpose of these messages is to overcome race barriers such as recent racial discrimination especially towards the black community.

However, with that in mind, is bringing up historical facts and reliving the past the right move for change towards the future? Racial discrimination has been a part of our history, and as society we have struggled to overcome such horrible legacies in our country. The idea of bringing racism back in the picture and sometimes actually using it to fuel the race issue is just all very contradicting. There is absolutely no possible way to move forward, if we continue to bring up the past.

Some may argue that I don’t understand the issue of racism because I’m not black, but racial discrimination affects everyone regardless of their color. Being a Muslim-American citizen, I struggle with constant uncomfortable comments and stereotyping on a daily basis. Some may approach this issue by throwing #Muslimlivesmatters hashtags and protest award shows, since we don’t get nominated either. But some, like myself, set an example for others by not falling into the negativity and degrading of one another. Instead of playing the victim card I keep in mind that I will not be able to please everyone, and those who I don’t are the same people I wouldn’t want in my life anyways. Instead of fighting fire with fire it’s better to approach these issues with an open mind and willing to compromise, not battle for attention.

Writing this I have no intentions to make decisions for other people. My goal is not to make anyone feel sympathy for a certain community or blame an issue on someone specifically. The purpose of this is to have people think about this so called “controversial” topic in a different perspective and realize that if racism is really the issue fighting against it is not the solution. Hopefully this leaves you thinking about how to make a difference even if that means writing an article and calling yourself a so-called “writer.”

 

OP-ED: Hollywood’s depiction of foreigners as ‘others’ was all too prominent last year

"American Sniper" shares a powerful story but unfairly portrays Iraq in the process. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
“American Sniper” shares a powerful story but unfairly portrays Iraq in the process. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

This past year, I’ve watched more movies than I ever had in my previous 18 years of existence. I am not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing considering the amount of money I’ve spent on all those tickets might be more than a semester’s worth of textbooks. However, I am more concerned about a certain trend I’ve noticed in the movies this past year. Many movies shared a compelling true or politically relevant story as a source of awareness and entertainment.

Of course, the main characters are always the good guys, but as for the villains, the go-to plan is to fill that spot with foreigners. How unfair is that? For some reason, it’s acceptable for Hollywood to portray other countries however they feel like, but then it’s a surprise when it backlashes. I just don’t understand the purpose of creating movies that deliberately attack other nations, beliefs and values.

Maybe it’s entertaining for some. For example, “The Interview” with James Franco and Seth Rogen definitely had intentions of being funny. Although I agree there were some funny scenes, the overall humiliation of North Korea as a country was just too cringe-worthy. I am not surprised there was controversy about releasing the movie to theaters all around the country. Of course, North Korea was not too pleased about the idea of assassinating its leader, King Jong-un. Not surprisingly, this all backlashed when North Korea allegedly hacked Sony’s computer systems, releasing private information. It’s mind-blowing that many people found this movie acceptable.

As for a more serious and inspiring story, the movie “Unbroken” revolved around the Japanese prisoner of war camps during World War II, telling following the story of Louis Zamperini. This movie has actually become one of my favorites.

Zamperini’s story is so inspiring. His braveness and strength helped him surpass all the torture he was put through.  Although director Angelina Jolie did a beautiful job, the movie comes across very one-sided.

At the time of the war, the Japanese felt as though they were doing the right thing. They were following orders, and the country’s goal was to be victorious, just like any other nation at the time. In the movie, we really didn’t get the opportunity to understand Japan’s intentions. Instead, the only thing that I got out of the movie about Japan was that the camp leaders were forceful and brutal. I can only imagine what Japanese veterans would think about the film. Whether they feel remorse or feel shorted because of the biased one-sided story this movie portrayed, I can only say it’s unfair.

“American Sniper,” the story of Chris Kyle, a soldier who felt obligated to support his country and fellow soldiers, shared another inspiring story. Leaving behind his life back in America, Kyle was dedicated to saving lives, while putting his own life in jeopardy. Director Clint Eastwood did a great job spreading awareness of Kyle’s story. The film increased my appreciation for all the soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the safety of our country. As great as this movie was, I couldn’t get my mind off the stereotypical portrayal of Iraq. It seems like in every war movie, Iraq is portrayed as a dry, barren battlefield, when, in fact, it is filled with rich culture and beautiful landmarks like every other country.

I understand movies are not created for everyone’s satisfaction, but they can often be misguiding. Many stories are biased, stereotypical and just plain mean, but as the audience, we should take all that in consideration before we jump to conclusions. In most cases, these movies are entertaining and appealing, but all too predictable. That’s Hollywood for you.

OP-ED: The typical 4-year graduation plan is becoming more unrealistic

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Wake up at six in the morning, brush your teeth in the shower and pick out clothes with one eye open as the other one catches up on sleep – a quick daily routine in order to make it on time for that long day ahead. It seems like the older we get, the shorter the day becomes. We are always in a rush, trying to get everything done in the quickest manner. We live for that satisfying feeling of knowing that everything on the to-do list is marked off. But are the sleepless nights needed to finish that “big” paper really that serious? Is a speeding ticket in order to make it to work on time really worth it? Really think about this next rhetorical question. Is rushing through college to make that four-year deadline actually realistic?

Yes, I know many people have done it before, but is it really the best course of action for everyone? No, I don’t think so. It’s the natural thinking of the same society that forces us to believe that standardized tests measure our value. It’s just perceived that people who graduate in four years are the successful ones. However, the amount of time it takes someone to graduate from college does not guarantee a successful future. In fact, graduating alone doesn’t completely guarantee that future.

As students, we strain ourselves to be that perfect kid that every parent wants. As ideal as it would be to graduate within four years, sometimes it’s just not meant to be. It’s already hard enough juggling our awkward social lives, managing to stay alive with our minimum wage jobs and keeping our perfect little reputations as perfect as they can be for our parents. Now imagine topping all that with 18 credit hours. Each class consumes about an hour and 15 minutes, not including the excessive amount of work outside of class. It’s overwhelming, but somehow, some of us manage to do it.

On the other hand, some students are already in their fifth year trying to complete that last bit of classes – and that’s completely understandable. Often, students go into college with a certain major in mind, but by junior year and after three change of major forms, there’s no other choice but to take more classes and push back graduation. In other circumstances, taking five classes a semester can be very difficult. Everyone has different stress levels, and some people are simply better under pressure,.

I’m not trying to encourage anyone to stop setting goals for that four-year plan, but I’m simply trying to saying that it’s understandable if you don’t. Everyone has their own pace and methods. College is meant for our own personal enrichment, so wouldn’t it make sense to set our own goals and follow our own pace?   

Foodie Friday: Monterrey Restaurante Mexicano

It was only my second day at Charlotte and I was already feeling homesick. I couldn’t handle being apart from my siblings, my own bedroom and most importantly my mother’s delicious homemade food.

I was already over the dining halls and the overly crowded restaurants on campus. After a bunch of whining, over dramatic complaining and countless blank stares at the wall, I decided to look up some restaurants online.

I immediately came across Monterrey Restaurante Mexicano, an authentic Mexican restaurant about two miles away from UNC Charlottes campus.

After gathering a couple of friends, we headed down the road and there it was, on the corner of Town Business Center. We were greeted at the door and seated instantly. We were surrounded by the rich aroma and dark walls covered with paintings. Loud and energetic Mexican music was playing in the background, setting a cheerful tone.

We were presented nachos with salsa right away. Although mild salsa is not my cup of tea, my friends devoured it. I personally prefer spicy salsa, but I understand they serve to the majority and majority of people are not as risky as myself.

However, when it came to my meal I was simple and safe and ordered the Pollo Con Crema, also known as chicken with cream. Pollo Con Crema consisted of chicken cooked with cream sauce, topped with peppers and onions, served along with beans, rice and tortillas on the side. Though for my meal, I decided to substitute the beans for more rice, the beans were delicious according to my friend who also ordered Pollo Con Creama. I particularly like to mix the rice with the chicken and cream sauce because I get the best of both worlds in one bite.

My dish was pretty good. For future references, I may next time get it without onions, or even try something new, which I highly doubt.

After finishing up our meals we were asked if we would care for any dessert and we all mumbled and rubbed our stomach in ache and replied with “No thanks, we are way too full,” as any financially struggling college student would say.

Our checks were presented shortly and our meals ranged from $8.30 to $14.00, mine being around $13.00 since I had a drink also.

My overall experience was delightful, and it definitely met my standards. Although prices are a tad bit high, it’s a great place for fine dining, dates and simple getaway from school food. The location is convenient, the food is pleasant, and the staff is cooperative, which are all key factors to a great restaurant.