Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some Stuff, and a Headscarf Tangent

This time of a rare, silent house with no one demanding my presence is drawing to a close. BE has taken LE off to see his parents, which is a nice arrangement because it means the in-laws (who are suddenly interested in seeing LE all the time now that he does stuff) can lay off of BE for a few days with their endless wheedling about how much they miss the baby and implications about how we never let them see the baby, as though it's a conscious effort on our part to have other things to do besides drive across town sitting in traffic to go sit stiffly in their salon with our legs uncrossed (it's considered rude to cross our legs in front of BE's father) answering the same old questions about what LE eats, the quantity and nature of his feces, if he goes outside (a trick question for me, as I'm never sure if BE's mother thinks going outside is good for the baby or if it will make him sick), if he sleeps, and if he knows his grandma (another dig about how we never let them see the baby). It's also nice because I don't have to go, as in-law visits cause me a disproportionate amount of stress, and aside from wondering about the cleanliness of my house, they're not very interested in me anymore now that I've produced the requisite male heir. This arrangement will only last as long as BE stays with LE at his parents and doesn't sneak off somewhere. I don't trust the in-laws alone with LE, because as soon as one of us isn't watching, they're apt to start feeding him sugary tea, or stop him from sleeping so they can play with him, or give him things like pens and lighters to play with, and once I had to snatch LE away from BE's father because he was trying to give LE some black-pepper encrusted beef jerky and continued doing so even though I asked him not to several times.

So for now I'll enjoy this bit of free time, really the only time I have all week that no one wants me to do anything for them. I've filled out most of my income tax forms, loaded the pictures and movies from the camera into Photobucket (an hours-long process given the very slow Internet), played some time-wasting computer games, caught up on my friends' blogs, had a cup of coffee, and brushed my teeth. I've learned how to fill my free time more wisely, I think.

I need to start taking notes for things to post about. I should allow myself shorter, less planned-out posts. I had all these things I wanted to mention, but I've forgotten them one by one. Probably a lot of it was complaining, so perhaps it's best. LE still doesn't nap, though he's started sleeping if he's on my chest. This works fine if I want a little nap too, or if I feel like reading for an hour or more, but it's not ideal if I have to pee or if I don't want to spend up to three hours a day lying down. Even though I've baby-proofed a large portion of the house so that he's free to scamper around unsupervised (sort of), LE only wants to be next to me, with his hands in whatever I'm doing. All day. So blog posting is needlessly challenging.

On to other things. One of my regular commentors (who I don't know in person but who always has interesting things to add) challenged me to find out why the türban is called that, and why they're tied in the way that they are. So I set off to learn this, bit by bit, in whatever snatches of time I had. Last weekend when BE and LE were off at the in-laws, I searched the Internet the entire two hours looking for an explanation in English (I found a lot of references in Turkish, though most were in language too colloquial for me to understand well). I was interested anyway, because the word türban in Turkish has to be a borrowing (from French, I guess?), and in English 'turban' refers to something completely different, like what Sikhs wear or what I do with my towel after a shower.

So even though I read all kinds of interesting, enlightening, annoying, and downright righteous commentary and information about headscarves in Turkey, headscarves in general, Islamic dress codes, and Islam, I couldn't find much about the history of the türban in Turkey. And I can't remember the web address, but some of the most interesting and cogent discussion about headscarves was on the Turkey thread of a football forum. So I gave up and asked BE. Asking BE about anything to do with religion in Turkey is always a risk because he's in a constant state of nationalist fury about how the Muslims and the Americans are working on destroying his country, and it's sometimes hard to get the information I want without a two-day diatribe about something else.

But he obliged. As it turns out, Hürriyet (a newspaper) had an article on just this topic about a month ago. It's in Turkish, but the story BE told me (and I'm telling it here as he did) is sort of an abridged version. Apparently, the whole style of türban can be attributed to one woman, named Şule Yüksel Şenler. Her brother left the village and got religion while he was away. He came back home and tried to push his family to become more strictly observant as he had, but none of them listened except for Şule. So she decided to start covering her head, but being young, she found the existing style of headscarves ugly. Instead, she went with a more fashionable look based on that of Hollywood film hotties like Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, so something like this...

...became something like this...

... though I don't think Audrey Hepburn ever looked like a character from Alien Nation in profile.

There's a lot more to be said on Şule and her life, but I'm not going to be the one to say it. Still, the word şulebaş (şule-head) exists in Turkish describing the style of headscarf she helped to popularize.

After telling his story, my husband said, "Guess where Şule is today?"

"Vakko?" I asked.

"Nope," he said, sitting back in his chair with a satisfied smile. "Bakırköy Mental Hospital. She went crazy."

You learn something every day.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Hate Everything

Not everything. But almost. LE is great. He's learning how to walk. I could probably learn something from his attitude towards this, which is that it's a new thing to do, and so it's a big fun game. I don't think it's clear to him that walking on his own is an eventual goal. He just seems to like letting go, taking a few steps, then falling down tremendously and finding it all hilarious. Perhaps if he thought walking was the goal, he'd find it frustrating. If it were me, I'd say 'Screw this, crawling works just fine and I'll stick with it until my kneecaps grow in and I'm forced to do something else.' And apparently this was my attitude at an early age, as my mother says I didn't really walk until I was around 18 months old.

LE also enjoys repetitive things, as babies do. He's happy to spend hours handing me two Legos to put together for him (his little hands can't quite manage this even though they're big, baby-sized Legos), then he takes them apart and gives them back to me to reassemble. His patience with this is astounding. I guess I should be glad he's not one of those kids who's bored with everything after five minutes. On the other hand, I'm not overly fond of reassembling the Legos 400,000 times a day. If he weren't so delighted with it I wouldn't bother, just as I wouldn't bother pretending to answer his baby cell phone for an hour a day, or pretending to take pictures of him with his baby camera. But he's totally thrilled to bits with these things, every time. And it's not like I have much else going on.

Maybe that's the rub, the feeling that there's nothing going on and everything will continue exactly the same forever and ever. I blame spring. There are definitely spring-y things happening here. Trees are budding, including the lovely ones with the white flowers, and the stupid birds who've chosen a hole right outside my bedroom window for their nest are back, complete with their pre-sunrise screeching and scrabbling. Lucky for them this year, LE usually has me up by this time anyway so I haven't once tried to discourage their nest placement by chucking slippers at the window. But the early days of spring have such promise. In that first week, the saps are rising outside and in me and I get a definite feeling that Something is going to happen.

But nothing is happening. I'm completely, absolutely sick to death of living here, and the future days hours minutes of having to live here are suddenly pressing down on me, as they do from time to time. Turkish politics are a circus, as are American. Every night, I give LE a bath in water that keeps running orange for some reason and it pisses me off. My in-laws continue to be an alternately whining, alternately authoritative presence that just won't go away no matter how much I wish they would. Strangers keep giving me stupid advice about how I do everything wrong with my son then try to touch his mouth. Prices keep shooting up, even for the orange water. I'm sick to death of the same fruits and vegetables I've been eating since November. And spring just makes me think that it will be summer soon, with long sweltering days that I've never quite adjusted to, in which all the windows will have to be kept open to fully let in the sound of the mosque that keeps getting louder (I realized yesterday as I was passing next to the mosque that it's the same volume right next to it as several blocks away, I guess due to an echo effect of all the identical, ugly, luridly colored buildings), as well as the grime from outside and the occasional pigeon. Last year a pigeon came in (and it's always the nastiest, mangiest, sickest-looking ones that come in) and flew straight into the back bedroom where I was on the computer. It scared me half to death with the sudden sound and I managed to trap it in the bathroom before calling my husband at work in a panicked rage, telling him to do something about the pigeon right away. I must have been hating living in Turkey on that day as well, because I remember the sub-text of that conversation was 'Your damn country has sent one of your damn greasy, lice-infested flying rats through these damn Turkish windows that swing open like doors and can't be opened partially and I'm stuck out here alone with the baby in these damn suburbs of this polluted shithole city...' You get the point. My poor husband takes the brunt of these I-hate-living-in-Turkey times, partly because he's the only living representative that I have close by to vent on, but also it's because of him that I'm stuck here and can't go home. So sometimes everything is all his fault. Even pigeons.

In his defence, he dealt with the pigeon quite effectively by sending the barber from the downstairs shop up with a bag and a broom, who neatly dispatched of said pigeon without even waking the baby. I almost forgave the barber for failing to acknowledge my existence with more than a shy nod when passing on the street even though he knows damn well who I am and even though my husband spends hours with him in his shop, not to mention the occasional man-nights-out, from which I'm automatically excluded because, by Turkish Man Law, guys like the barber are forbidden from looking at or speaking to me out of respect for my husband. And that's another damn thing I'm sick of about living here, that I should just be happy staying at home day after day, night after night, while my husband is free to relieve himself of being a father whenever he wants to go out with the guys, who are all presumably abandoning their wives at home as well, and whose wives are presumably okay with this as their lot in life forever and ever. Of course, I'm not overly keen to leave LE for a night on the toot, and I know those days are over for a long, long while. Still, I can't help but resent having my face rubbed in the fact that a bit of outside, alcohol-fueled fun is not even a possibility, that I'm tied to home, that I'd better learn to like it, and perhaps I should learn to love ironing and endless börek-making while I'm at it, because there's fuck-all else to do.

Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch. That's why I haven't been posting lately, because any post I start to compose in my head goes the way this one is going, on an endless expanding loop of why everything sucks and why I'm sick of it here and why it's all Turkey's fault, as though I'm the first mother in the world to get a bit resentful missing her old life, or the first foreigner in the world to get homesick. As though to prove the point, LE is crying for me again because I've been away from him for an entire 30 minutes, and even though his father is with him and eager to play, it simply will not do for a small fellow who has to have at least visual contact, if not continuous physical contact of some sort with his mommy approximately 21 hours a day. Also he's probably hungry and since I seem to be the only one around here who knows what he eats, I'd better get going.