Saturday, September 29, 2007

Addendum to Censorship In Turkey, Pt. II

As if things in Turkey weren't surreal enough, I came across this bit of gossip today on the Turkey forums at, posted by tararu:

Yeah...Good old Michael is a bit of a worry. I know that it sounds horrible, but sometimes l worry about his dropping by etc......he and his lawyer and other friends who helped him get out of jail last time were trailed by the secret service for a while after he was let out of all worries me a bit...on a rather odd note, his defence for the pictures was that he was expressing himself artistically, so to find out whether his pictures are art, the powers that be have to consult a collection of eminent art professors at Istanbul Universities. If they say it is art, then he is off the hook, but if they say it isn't art, then he is buggered. It really lends a new meaning to being condemned by the critics.


Open Letter to Turkish Students of English

In my former life before LE, I was an EFL teacher. I worked for awhile in the trenches of the dershane, or private language school, where I taught mostly adults. After about 3 years of that, and long after becoming fed up with long hours, split shifts, and "The Student Is A Customer And The Customer Is Always Right" philosophy of these schools, I managed to land a decent job in the English prep school of a private university. Here, the hours and pay were better, and the administration was infinitely more supportive, but what all these schools had in common, of course, were Turkish students.

I've often though that teaching would be great if it weren't for the students. I really enjoyed planning and staging lessons, untangling difficult grammar knots to better present them, and re-working the same lessons after a class to make them better. I even grew to enjoy the fact that planning is not necessarily expected in a dershane, where someone tells you 5 minutes before a 4-hour lesson that you're needed, and you may not even know which room you're in, let alone the students' level, which book you should be using, or which chapter they're on, but you go in and wing the 4 hours, come out feeling like a champ, and the students are none the wiser. But in the end, it's always the students who wear you down, with their predictably annoying behavior.

I should also point out that the peeves addressed below are in reference to adult (18 and up) students. I've never taught kids-- my youngest student was an 11 year-old, and he was one of the best-behaved students in the class. He looked like Harry Potter and his only behavioral idiosyncrasy was that he liked to sit in my rolly-chair and slide around a bit during group-work, a concession I was happy to make given the problems I was having with his older classmates. I address this letter to Turkish students because I've only ever taught in Turkey, but perhaps it applies to students in other places as well. And though it is pretty much just a rant, I think there is probably also some good advice here that can make learning English a more pleasant experience for teachers and students together.

Dear Turkish student,

Though I'm aware your English probably isn't sufficient to read this letter, just bear with me. I want to help you now so your future teachers feel less inclined to strangle you.

1) Trust your English teacher. Trust that she knows what she's talking about, and that the activity she is doing is intended to help you learn (I'm not talking about blind trust-- some teachers are crap. You should be aware of this, and you should also be aware that you have a right to a good teacher). When you first enter your new classroom and your teacher wants to do something that doesn't immediately make sense to you, give her a chance. Learning English from a foreigner will probably be different than anything you ever did before in school, but different doesn't mean that it's bad or wrong. Just because you aren't expected to sit quietly in your seat, fill in blanks, and copy from the board doesn't mean it's not a serious learning environment or that the teacher doesn't know what she's doing. If the teacher is speaking English, it's because she wants you to learn English. If she expects you to speak English, it's to help you practice English. If she wants to do the activity all in English, try to do it in English, rather than trying to subvert the activity and be the first one finished (more on being the first one finished appears below). If you don't understand something right away, chances are your teacher is going to explain it to you. Try listening to her before you start whining about how you don't understand.

2) Don't bitch. I've never in my life heard the amount of bitching that can be produced by a classroom of Turks of any age. When you're bitching, you're not listening. When you're bitching, you're making yourself feel worse and making everything harder. You're affecting the attitudes of the other students in the room, as Turks are particularly prone to being influenced by their peers. Bitching is just annoying and immature. Remember, your teacher is a human being who probably spent a lot of time preparing the lesson (unless you're in a dershane, see above, but even most dershane teachers are relatively well-prepared most of the time), and when you start going "Oof, yaaaaa, I'm so bored, yaaaa, this is difficult yaaaaa, oof I'm hot, yaaaa, this is boring, yaaaa," in that whiny, nasal voice, your teacher is probably really insulted that she and her efforts are being disregarded in this manner, and it will make her quite unsympathetic to any problems you may be having.

3) If you must bitch because something is difficult (and I recognize the propensity to bitch may just be cultural), give it a chance first before launching your bitching. I don't know how many times I've given a class a handout, or barely begun explaining an activity before being immediately interrupted by a chorus of, "What is this? I don't understand, yaaaa, this is difficult, yaaa, etc.," so not only am I unable to continue explaining because of all the bitching, students who might actually be listening to me also can't hear.

4) Learning English is not a race. When you finish an activity, don't slam your pen onto the desk and shout "Finished!" then start chattering to the other students who are still trying to work. In particular, conversation activities are not races-- they are meant to be conversation practice so you can use English and try out what you've been learning. When your teacher begins the activity with, "Talk to you partner...," this does not mean have a cursory 15-second exchange in which you take turns saying phrases of English you learned on the first day of class, then shouting "Finished!" It means you speak until your teacher tells you to stop.

5) You social life can wait for you for a 50 minute lesson. So can your mother. For Christ's sake, turn off your damn cell phone and don't use it during class. Don't answer it during a class and make the whole lesson stop so you can tell your friend or your mother you're in a lesson and it's boring. Don't open or answer messages-- they, too, can wait. I know your cell phone is an amazing piece of expensive technology, but don't use any of its other functions in class either. Don't listen to music. Don't take or look at photographs. Resist the urge to Google your favorite pop star. Don't rely on the crap Turkish-English dictionary your phone came with. And when you play with your phone in your lap under your desk, your teacher can indeed see what you're doing, so don't do it, and more importantly, don't lie about it when you get caught.

6) We know you need your dictionary, but try not to use your dictionary as a security blanket. If you're an elementary student and your teacher gives you a writing assignment, she expects you to use the English you know, not produce a major tome with all the neat, big words from your dictionary that you don't understand and make absolutely no sense. When your teacher asks you a question or tells you to talk to a classmate, again, you're expected to try out the English you've been practicing, not say something like "I am....." then go leafing feverishly through your dictionary while everyone waits for you to find a neat big word that neither you nor your classmates understand.

7) You might be really clever. You might know all the answers. You might have deliberately bombed the placement exam so you could be in an easier class. Don't worry-- your teacher gathered this on the first day of class and was very, very impressed. That's it. You don't get any extra points or money or candy. So please, when your teacher addresses a question to the class, don't just shout out the answer, every time, before everyone else has had a chance to think. Remember, you're not the only student there, and teachers find this incredibly annoying, you little suck-up. Also, don't be the self-appointed Translator and automatically translate everything the teacher says for your partner or for the rest of the class. You're not helping anyone, and in fact, you're actually preventing them from learning anything, since the students will quickly begin looking to you for a translation of even the simplest sentences.

8) When I was in elementary school, I learned some basic rules of classroom behavior. Presumably they teach you something like this here, too. Let me offer some examples, and I hope they don't come across as crazy, shocking foreigner ideas. Don't carry on conversations while the teacher is talking. Bring your book, writing implements, paper, and homework to class, and don't blame your mother if you don't have them-- it's not her responsibility. Don't write your homework on tiny pieces of paper torn from a daily planner. If you must be late, come in quietly and sit down, meaning don't come oofing and huffing into the room, ignoring the teacher while you say hello to your friends, drag a desk across the floor, and explain in detail in Turkish what happened to make you late. Don't throw things or try to light your classmate's clothes on fire. Don't cheat. Don't lie. Don't put your head down and the desk and sleep. Really, I see that you treat your Turkish teachers respectfully, and there's no reason you should treat your foreign teachers any differently.

9) Sometimes you will get a new teacher. Don't cry when this happens. Don't freak out and get upset. It's not the end of the world. The new teacher may do things differently from your old teacher, but I reiterate, different doesn't mean bad. Try to understand that your old teacher probably wasn't particularly attached to you, so there's no reason you should harbor any unnatural attachment towards her.

10) Try to understand that there's a difference between good teachers and friendly, popular teachers. Of course, friendly and popular teachers may also be good, but they can also be crap if you stop being blinded by their friendliness and adorable Turkish. Your teacher doesn't have to love you for her to be a good teacher. A strict, unfriendly teacher might be very good. Try to look past the surface.

11) Try not to explode with glee when your teacher says something in Turkish-- it's not that big a deal. How do you think she navigates the world outside, after all? Also, try to not laugh when your teacher makes a mistake in Turkish. It would be easier for you not to laugh if you knew what your English sounds like to your teacher. At least she saves her laughter for the bar, after work, she doesn't laugh in your face even when you deserve it.

12) Your teacher may do an activity differently than the way it is written in the textbook. This is okay. Relax. Additionally, your teacher may skip something in the textbook, or even skip an entire unit altogether. This is also okay. The textbook is a tool, it is not the Kuran. If you skip an activity, your English will not be deficient as a result. If you skip a unit, nothing bad will happen. That final unit on past tense passive reported speech is not the key to English that will unlock the doors and make you fluent.

13) The reason you signed up for English classes with foreign teachers was so you could learn English, right? Then why do you complain when the lessons are in English? What did you expect? Your teacher knows your Turkish is really, really good. She's not interested in improving your Turkish, that's why she asks you to practice English when you're in class. Using English for one or two hours a day while you're in your lessons is really not asking too much. There's very little point to doing conversations or other activities in Turkish, and even less of a point when you consider that you're paying to do this. Try to think of your lesson time in English as a game you play with yourself, where you try to speak as much English as you can. If you speak Turkish, you lose.

14) There is no magic way to learn English. It takes time, effort, concentration, and a lot of hard work inside and outside of class. You can expect a minimum of two years to be able to carry on a decent conversation or to be able to understand most things, and even then, you won't be even close to perfect or fluent. Remember, 'intermediate' means 'middle,' so when you finish an Upper-Intermediate level, it means you finished the last middle-level textbook. It doesn't mean you've finished English. If your boss has given you 6 months to learn English, he's an idiot who's obviously never studied English. If the secretary in the front office who signed you up for lessons told you it would take 3 months for you to learn English, she was lying in order to sell you lessons. If you are not fluent in English after a month, it's not your teacher's fault. Please refrain from complaining to your teacher, your classmates, or the school's administration if you find yourself unable to reach an unrealistic goal.

Offhand, dear student, these are some things you can keep in mind when you undertake English study. I hope this has been helpful for you, and I wish you a happy learning experience.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Censorship In Turkey Pt.II

My previous post was about a type of censorship; namely, the state blocking access to Internet sites it finds unsuitable or unacceptable. In that case, however, it wasn't that the state found the site unacceptable. It was a court blocking the site in on behalf of one person who didn't care for the material therein. A scary precedent, methinks, though I should also point out that I think the blocking of Wordpress probably was more the result of legal ineptitude than a step in a larger conspiracy to limit free speech in Turkey.

This next issue is a matter of censorship in the sense that I usually think of it: The state actually punishing a person because it didn't like something this person expressed. Honestly, I suspect this happens in Turkey, to Turkish citizens, way more than I care to think about, but it doesn't make it into the major media outlets here, and I just don't really actively research human rights issues much anyway. Too depressing, to be honest.

But I know about this case because it's happening to a foreigner-- a British national named Michael Dickinson, who lives in Istanbul. And let me preface this by saying I don't particularly care for his work. He makes collages with political themes. Of the pieces I've seen, posted by Mr. Dickinson himself on the Dave's ESL Cafe's Turkey forum, there were lots of penises and piles of poo, that sort of thing. And I certainly don't disagree with some of his overall themes: anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-petrodollars, and the general mess the world is in today because of these.

Last year, Mr. Dickinson displayed a collage poking fun at Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which can be seen on the link above. He was jailed and let go (more details about that are also on the link above), and apparently the charges were dropped. At the trial of the organizer of the show where the offending collage was initially displayed, Mr. Dickinson held up another collage, again parodying Mr. Erdoğan's relationship with George Bush, and was again charged with "insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister."

The latest in this saga is that Mr. Dickinson is facing trial and the possibility of two years in prison for his second shenanigan. And despite the inevitable bundling of undies when one mentions the film Midnight Express to a Turk, let me point out that this would be two years in Turkish prison.

Now, I've already said I personally don't care for Mr. Dickinson's work. That's neither here nor there. I should also point out that I'm not sure how I feel about a foreign national deliberately flaunting the laws of his host country. Obviously there are human rights issues and abuses in Turkey, but part of me thinks this is something Turks need to solve in their own way and in their own context-- a foreigner doing it strikes me as, at worst, patriarchal, and at best, really rude. But, rudeness and bad collages aside, the guy certainly does not deserve two years in Turkish prison, sharing a cell with the kinds of guys who were unable to bribe their way out of Turkish prison. And, rudeness and bad collages aside, I do support the inalienable right of artists to express themselves, no exceptions.

Erdoğan, apparently, disagrees: "Freedom of thought and freedom of the press never amount to freedom of insult; they should not ... If you caricature the prime minister of this country, or anyone else, as an animal, this can never be called freedom (source)." He said this in response to a case he filed in 2005 against a cartoonist who depicted him as a cat. The cartoonist was convicted and fined about $3,700. Censorship, yes, but based on a libel suit, however spurious. In Mr. Dickinson's case, the state is attempting to imprison a man for portraying the Prime Minister as a dog. So, for those not following along, it's $3,700 for a cat, 2 years in prison for a dog.

Scary. Really, really scary.

Sometimes it seems like so many things are happening all around us we can't control. Sometimes it seems like the idiots are winning. There's a petition in support of Michael Dickinson here. Maybe it will help, maybe not. At least there's one small thing we can do. Turkey is on the verge of embarrassing itself once again, and once again, it probably feels perfectly justified in doing so, and doesn't even know why it should be embarrassed.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Censorship In Turkey

At the risk of getting this blog host shut down, here's what happened:

Wordpress, another blog host, has been shut down in Turkey. Not just one or two blogs-- ALL of them, more than a million blogs. If you try to access a Wordpress blog from here, you get a page that says: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance." I found this out quite by accident, trying to read something a friend linked to on her blog. I've read on other sites that this shutdown made the front page of some newspaper, but I don't know many Turks who've heard about it, and I certainly didn't hear anything.

Since LE was asleep, I did a little research, and what happened was this. A guy named Edip Yüksel wrote some allegedly libelous things about another guy, Adnan Oktar (and I apologize for being unable to find exactly what he wrote, as it seems to be only on Wordpress sites, which of course I can't access). Mr. Oktar got his nose all out of joint about it, got some lawyers, and went snivelling to a court. The court ordered Wordpress to remove the site, and when they didn't get any response, they blocked the site using the Great Turkish Firewall. In response, Mr. Yüksel got his readers to create a bunch of new blogs with the same information, so the court then ordered Türk Telekom, the state phone company and Internet provider, to block the entire domain (read this for a somewhat amusing account of how the lawyers went about dealing with Wordpress).

This is not the first case of Internet censorship in Turkey. Several months ago, some Greeks and Turks were trading video taunts on You Tube. The Turks said something about all Greeks being gay, to which the Greeks retorted with a video insulting Atatürk, and the state blocked all of You Tube for several days, then reinstated it after the offending videos were removed. This was a predictable over-reaction for Turkey, however. They're very sensitive about Atatürk. Additionally, they do have some rather vague laws about it being forbidden to insult Atatürk, Turkishness, or the Turkish state (quite how they define "Turkishness" is an interesting question to ponder, and perhaps I'll ponder it in a future post, but it was under this law that they attempted to prosecute Orhan Pamuk last year), so this kind of action being taken on behalf of the state, while a bit shocking to a Westerner, was hardly surprising.

But this case with Wordpress is different. Apparently, Mr. Yüksel used to be Mr. Oktar's mentor, but they had a falling out of some sort, and have been trading insults ever since, so really, this is a case of the courts getting involved in a long-standing personal feud, and the courts taking a disproportionately large action on behalf of one guy, an action which affects the entire country and a lot of innocent Turkish bloggers who really have nothing to do with any of this. I have to say I don't quite understand who this action was supposed to punish. Mr. Yüksel can continue to blog as he pleases, but it can't be read in Turkey. Mr. Oktar, as a public persona, and a somewhat controversial one, is prone to having libelous statements made about him, but preventing some libelous statements from being read in Turkey for as long as the court order stands hardly protects him from these statements being made. So in my mind, Mr. Oktar has achieved almost nothing, and Mr. Yüksel is not being punished for his alleged libel. Wordpress and its users are the ones who are being sanctioned, but are they really the ones responsible?

Freedom of speech is an interesting issue in Turkey, particularly as it comes up more often these days in light of their drive for acceptance into the EU. Most Turks will tell you that there are no human rights problems in Turkey, and that they have free speech. However, if you cite examples such as the ones above, people generally seem to agree that this kind of censorship is acceptable. Just as in America, people generally agree on what pornography is, or on what should and should not be allowed to appear in certain contexts (with some gray areas, of course), in Turkey most people seem to have similar ideas about what freedom of speech means and what constitutes an abuse of this liberty. Most people I talked to agreed that banning You Tube was appropriate in that case, and these same people wholeheartedly supported the prosecution of Orhan Pamuk. Of course, I didn't talk to enough people to make generalizations across the whole population, but this is the impression I'm left with.

Istanbul Turks often pride themselves on their Western-ness, and resent any implication that Turkey is like the Middle East. Though both culturally and geographically this place straddles Europe and Asia, Istanbul folks perceive themselves as leaning towards the European while to a Westerner, appearing decidedly more Asian. Taken from within the context of Turkey and as someone who lives here, these events sort of make sense in their own way, but I often wonder if they have any idea how ridiculous stuff like this makes them look in Western eyes?

This is all rather trifling in light of recent events in Myanmar, where the state blocking the Internet is the least of their problems, but dammit, I live here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Another Strange Thing...

... and it's really gross this time. BE and I went to the airport to buy plane tickets home for Christmas. Naturally, it took much longer than it should have-- over 2 hours, actually-- but as we were paying, I looked over into a waiting area and saw a man who appeared to be nodding off. On closer inspection, he wasn't actually nodding, but sort of asleep and sneezing repeatedly. Before seeing this guy, my husband and I were trying really hard not to look at this fat old woman in a knee-length skirt sitting with her legs wide open so you could see her sensible white panties and mottled thighs. It was like a train-wreck and we couldn't stop looking at her.

So this sleepy sneezing guy provided some distraction from the old-lady panties. There were two long, thick strings of snot streaming out of his nose and he kept clumsily swiping at his face, but definitely wasn't quite awake. First, I pointed him out to BE for a giggle, but then it slowly dawned on us that the guy wasn't at all well, so we suggested to the travel agent that she call the airport infirmary. She did, and said, "They'll be here in about an hour." People sitting around the guy were starting to move away, which is strange for Turkey because usually crowds gather, not disperse, but the sneezing was worrying and the snot was nauseating.

Two security guards came by and some people pointed the guy out to them. They both puffed up with self-importance and went up to the guy, then saw the snot and looked put out at having to deal with this. The woman guard stepped back and got on her walkie-talkie with a disgusted look on her face, while the man guard went up and poked the guy a few times, saying "Bey effendi, bey effendi," but he didn't wake up or respond.

I guess the woman guard was actually talking to the airport infirmary on her radio and not her friends, as some medics showed up a minute or two later and went to work. "Drunk," said the travel agent. BE couldn't contain his curiosity any longer and scurried off to watch the growing commotion that everyone was still watching from a distance. Fortunately, the first thing the medic did was wipe up the snot.

"Yeah, drunk, " said BE as he walked back. Which was what everyone was saying, but I couldn't figure out how being drunk would make a guy sneeze like that.

"We get them all the time," said the travel agent. "Alcohol-induced comas. One time a guy got drunk and passed out and missed his flight. He came to my counter and said, 'I got drunk and missed my flight, what should I do?' and I told him, 'Don't drink!'" She shook her head and smiled at the obvious wisdom of this advice and said again, "Don't drink!"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Strange Things I've Seen

1) On a side street, there was some sort of hullabaloo involving several cars and an ambulance with its lights flashing but no siren. There was not the usual horde of onlookers, just a few people and a nurse. This was near a hospital so at first I didn't really pay attention, but then, from the back of the ambulance, they took an incubator with a baby inside-- I could see its little purple hand waving around-- and with a great flurry of nurses and a few nearby guys, they loaded the incubator into the back of a waiting car, then both car and ambulance sped off in different directions.

2) About a month after Ramazan is Kurban Bayram. This translates as Sacrifice Holiday, which I'm given to understand commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. It was just one of God's more serious tests, and he spared Isaac at the last minute after Abraham showed his willingness to kill him. In his place, Abraham sacrificed a ram. So at Kurban Bayram, people sacrifice either a ram or a cow, depending on their means, and keep some for themselves and give the rest to the poor. All over Istanbul are penned up sheep at the side of the road, staring at passing cars and awaiting sacrifice-- not just at Kurban Bayram, though at this time there are a lot more. People used to do the sacrifice in their homes (and of course they still do outside the city, in their gardens or whatever), presumably in the bathtub if the apartment block didn't have a garden, or outside on the street, but the city banned this practice a few years ago, partly due to the mayhem caused by sheep who cotton on to what's about to happen, escape, and run amok (every year there are news reports about sheep trying to escape their doom, complete with footage of things like villagers throwing rocks trying to get the sheep down off a roof or wherever they've ended up), and partly because of the sanitation issues presented by the sheep blood and guts in the street. Anyway, here's the strange thing: One of my neighbors bought himself a lamb a few days before Kurban Bayram. For some reason it was painted pink. However, Kurban Bayram passed and the pink lamb was still there, tied up outside the guy's shop. Weeks later it was still there, and growing. I guess the guy got attached to the little thing and couldn't stand to cut its throat. By Spring, there was a nearly full grown sheep on a rope there on the sidewalk every day, the pink color having long faded. Eventually I think the police made him get rid of it. Or maybe he went ahead and sacrificed it after it wasn't cute anymore.

3) Again with the sheep: In a butcher's window, I saw a few dressed whole sheep hanging on display. In order to make this display more attractive, someone had put bouquets of fake roses in the holes where the sheep's butts used to be. I wish I'd gotten a picture, but this was a few years ago, before I had a digital camera. Naturally I am on the lookout for another such display.

4) Again with the roses: Not so much strange as sweet, but I saw a big, nasty, dirty garbage truck on the freeway to which someone had tied a bouquet of fake flowers up near the top of the compactor. To make it pretty, I guess.

5) On the news, more running amok: People tend to do sünnet (circumcision) of their boys in August, before the start of the school year. Hospitals offer sünnet deals around this time. In some village, they'd rounded up all the 4-7 year old boys for circumcision. Most the boys weren't really sure what was about to happen, but word got out that it was nothing good, and the boys all escaped and ran amok in the village. A TV interviewer asked a little boy, about 5 years old, why he was running away, and he said he didn't know, but some bigger boys told him he'd better get away, so he did.

6) Again on the news: Gypsy wars. These happen from time to time. One was in an area of Istanbul called Dolapdere, which is mostly a gypsy neighborhood. There was a demonstration of some sort in nearby Taksim Square-- I can't remember, but it was either Communists or Anti-Kurdish terrorism-- which spilled over into the Dolapdere, angering the gypsies and causing them to attack the protesters with rocks and sticks. Another was in a village, where a long-standing feud between 2 gypsy families broke out. Even the old women had hatchets or pitchforks and got in on the action. A man went on a roof with a large stick, completely enraged and screaming down curses at the police and others, all the while punching himself in the face and hitting himself with the stick.

There are others, but perhaps let's leave it for another post.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Blog Entry Ever

It's not without trepidation that I type into the ether and wait to see what happens. And I fear even getting into it all that much; though the boy LE is asleep at the moment, there's no guarantee it will last even until the next second, when the wail I try to ignore first rattles me, then sends me in a huff to his cribside, where I see his crumpled face and mussed hair and feel really bad for getting huffy and trying to ignore it. LE is 6 1/2 months old. Today is the day his first tooth made it's appearance. I'm stunned by this. Every time he laughs or cries with his mouth wide open and I can see that sliver of white in there (surprisingly sharp, too!), I'm completely awestruck. When one spends all of one's waking hours next to an infant, small things take on greater import.

It's getting late. It's the second day of Ramazan. The ezan (call to prayer), due in 8 minutes, is sure to wake up the little one. The mosque is about 2 blocks away, and our good imam thinks it's necessary to turn the loudspeaker up a little higher each month, so it sounds like he's singing from the bathroom. I live in a residential neighborhood of rather drab and industrial-looking concrete high-rises, and the acoustics here are fantastic. From the 7th floor, I can hear my husband cough from the parking lot if the windows are open. Though our neighbors prefer to bellow down to their children, and the children to scream upwards for their mothers all day every day, it's actually possible to speak in a normal voice to someone outside on the ground and be heard. Nonetheless, our good imam keeps up with the volume. Maybe he has a PA system that goes to 11 and wants to show it off. Some people tried to complain about the volume, not the ezan, and were accused of being dinsiz (religion-less), and so the complaining stopped. I wanted to complain because the ezan wakes the baby, but BE, my husband, didn't want to get into it. Perhaps name-calling is more effective here, who knows? I'm not against the ezan at all. Just the increasing volume of it. I'm against the waking of my baby because sleep, however long, is precious and hard to come by. I thought of going to plead with the imam myself, but then figured he'd just think I was some kafir yabancı (infidel foreigner) and abandoned the idea. Not that I mind being called kafir or yabancı-- both are true. I just realized I'm too chicken to confront the imam.

2 minutes before sunset. I better get going, and be prepared for some baby-cuddling. He has a new tooth. He's been hardly disturbed at all by its arrival (none of this teething drama I'd heard so much about-- the womenfolk in my life here are ever so disappointed baby care hasn't been harder on me) so he definitely deserves all the love he wants.