Saturday, December 19, 2009

Half-Assed Work, and the Great Tree Butchering

For what may be the first time in our marriage, BE hung up the bath mat the other day.

Look, I'm not any kind of perfectionist about housekeeping or anything, but seriously. Did he look at that and think he did a good job and that the towel would dry sometime in the same week? Or did he just not look at it?

I often wonder if men do this kind of thing because they don't know any better, or if they do a crap job on purpose so they won't be asked to do it anymore. My dad tells me it's the latter.

The other day in the kitchen, I looked up at the light. BE changed the bulb a few months back, but this was the first time I noticed it.

Here's a close-up in case you can't see the problem.

That's right. He neglected to replace the screws that hold the fixture on. So every time I cook, the Light Fixture of Damocles is hanging over my head, held on there with good intentions and, I suspect, a big dollop of İnşallah. İnşallah is something you can say when you don't want to take responsibility for your own behavior, and everyone just accepts that.

After discovering the light (which I just left that way, BTW, figuring if it's stayed this long it'll stay longer unless there's an earthquake or someone starts jumping around in their kitchen upstairs), I looked out the window and discovered they'd done this to our beautiful trees.

I know trees need to be pruned from time to time, but this? This is awful. To get an idea of what the trees used to look like, check out the smaller ones in the background.

All over the city are these shorn trees with thin stumps and scraggly tufts of growth on the top. Why? I have no idea. It's not like there are any telephone lines overhead, and the branches, even if they were in any danger of falling on a house or car, were not thick enough to do any damage.

And I wish I'd gotten a photo, but to clean up the branches the next day there was one man with a tiny little hatchet breaking them up to load onto a truck. I might be Damocles, but that poor fellow was Sisyphus. At least our trees will make good firewood, I suppose. Maybe that's all they were ever there for.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Catalogue of Sleep

Last night when I was screwing around with the Bluetooth loading the graffiti photo from my phone into the computer, I decided to just go ahead and load the rest.

It seems there's a running theme here.

This last one, taken a few months ago, is just really cute. Not asleep, but just woken up I think.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tempting, But No Thanks

This was written on some exercise equipment near our house (apologies for the quality-- I took it with my phone).

Graffiti in crappy English never fails to amuse. This says (I'm pretty sure), "I can saking your bush my penis."

So it's not just the English that's crap, it's the writer's apparent knowledge of sex and what his penis can and cannot do.

Good luck to you, fella, whoever you are.

Monday, November 30, 2009

WTF Is It?

A few weeks back, we noticed a strange smell coming from the toaster. This is what we found inside, no doubt placed there by LE:

We have no idea what this toaster nugget is. It's plastic, about the size of my thumb.

And thanks to all my dear readers for sympathizing with my crap mood last week.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Month Gone By...

Do you know why it's been almost a month since I've posted? It's because I freaking hate it here and I'm sick to death of everything. I want to leave and I have nothing good to say about Turkey, my husband, or my shit ass life. Clearly this is my problem and not Turkey's problem so it doesn't seem fair to bitch about Turkey.

Oh, and the other reason I haven't posted is because we've been a house of sickness. First LE woke in the middle of the night quietly sobbing "Ear hurt!" so we took him to the doctor where he was pointedly diagnosed with a bacterial infection, complete with the ears and the white shit on the back of his throat, poor fellow. I say 'pointedly' because the doctor was making it very clear it wasn't pig flu. Currently every asshole in Turkey with a sniffle thinks he has pig flu. Every child with the slightest sign of malaise has pig flu. I say 'asshole' because all these assholes are crowding into the doctors with their healthy selves and healthy kids making it so people who are actually ill have to wait. My poor cleaner nearly came to blows with some assholes in a state hospital who wouldn't let her cut the line with her baby who was passing out from fever while their children played happily on the floor.

While LE was sick, I got sick. Just a cold which promptly turned into a sinus infection. I never got sinus infections until I came to Turkey-- not all the time anyway-- which leads me to believe my body freaking hates it here too and is rebelling. I kind of liked the doctor we took LE to for his ear infection, and he was an ENT, and LE needed a checkup anyway so we scheduled our appointments for the same time. I just wanted a goddamned sinus infection diagnosis and a prescription for antibiotics because the pain in my face and head had kept me from sleeping properly for almost a week.

A word about appointments in Turkey. What a fucking waste of time. You make an appointment and wait an hour or more because every asshole who turns up an hour late for his own appointment gets to go ahead of you. And there seems to be an endemic inability to tell time here, which means stupid Westerners who take the trouble to show up on time for an appointment just get to sit there feeling stupid.

And now, the fucking doctor. First, the fucking doctor, who I'd mistakenly thought was an okay guy, started going on about LE's adenoids and chronic ear infections and deafness. He wanted to do some sort of test that cost 53 YTL. I didn't want the test. I insisted the ear infections weren't chronic because the last time LE has one was a year and half ago. The fucking doctor said that may be so, but LE could at this very moment be getting permanent damage to his ears which will make him go deaf. He reassured us that this damage would be painless and we wouldn't know until it was too late. BE caved and accepted the test. LE's ears were fine. The fucking doctor warned us that we'll have to have the test every month to make sure, and if there was any problem, surgery would be the only solution.

On to me. He got his fucking endoscopic booger cam and shoved it up my nose and started going on about my (slightly) deviated septum which has never caused me the slightest problem. I googled "deviated septum" later and found out that 80% of the human population has a deviated septum and it doesn't cause any problem. Nevertheless, the fucking doctor warned that I might need to have surgery on my deviated septum.

Then, failing to see my sinus infection with the 6 inch piece of metal he was poking around the inside of my face with, this brilliant fucking doctor said I needed to have a head X-ray before he was comfortable diagnosing me. The cost of this necessary test? 450YTL

Bravo. Bravo, Dr. Kunt, if that really is your name (it really is his name). In 20 minutes, you managed not only to order 500YTL of unnecessary tests, you managed to find the need for two unnecessary surgeries.

And that's Medicana Hospital now added my list of hospitals I will never go to again. That's another reason I have to leave Turkey. There aren't any more hospitals left that I will go to because they've all either terrified me with their filth, crowds, and squeaky gurneys out of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," or they've pissed me off with their fucking unnecessary tests and mercenary medical practices and "Your baby will die unless you have this induction which causes you to start and finish labor in 2 hours, the fact that it's Friday and I don't want my weekend interrupted has nothing to do with it" fucking doctors.

It must be another stupid Western notion that doctors are supposed to help people, and that you shouldn't need a medical license in order to know if they're just trying to fuck you out of more money.

The day after our visit with Dr. Kunt (no, really, it is his name-- I couldn't make shit like this up), I got sick for real. The flu, this time. I got all excited that I'd managed to pick up pig flu, the historic Crisis! flu of the famous pandemic we've all been hearing about, that I'd surely live to tell my children and grandchildren about. When we went to the hospital for a flu test (also I had a 104.3 fever that wouldn't go down with just ibuprofen), they told us that the government has declared all flu is pig flu so they're not doing tests anymore.

That's right. All the million billion variations of the flu virus are, by edict in Turkey, pig flu. Mind you, these are the same people who declared a Let's Sanitize the Schools holiday.

But that's just the doctors. Doctors are only one reason I hate it here. The other reasons are personal and boring and I think it's kind of tacky to describe one's shitty marriage or asshole husband on a blog, so there you go.

I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not Typical

I'm trying to keep up a mini-theme here. I keep adding to the list. This Typical/Not Typical thing was meant to be one brilliant and incisive post, but the contexts keep adding up, plus I have to rant, right? Or else who would bother reading?

I'll start, then, with something that isn't typical, but I guarantee it's going to turn into a rant wherein I marvel at the senselessness of something, then feel like an asshole because not fitting in is probably mostly my own fault anyway.

Not Typical
Not typical is this public service announcement about swine flu I saw on TV a few months back. In it was a dorky kid whom, if I'd been his age, I would have wanted to punch, much like I want to punch all the kids on Barney (which, thankfully, they don't have here as far as I know). The dorky kid said "I don't touch my my eyes, nose or mouth." The hell you don't. You're 8. You probably touch your butt a lot too.

Anyway, there were some other people in the PSA showing or telling the precautions they take to avoid illness, like washing hands after using the toilet, and not coughing on other people.

Then, the most wonderful thing happened. The final part of the commercial showed a woman, get this! OPENING HER WINDOW TO LET OUTSIDE AIR INTO THE HOUSE. The very house where she was living! With the air from the outside! Fearlessly! The voiceover said, "Air out your surroundings."

I nearly had a heart attack.

But then, everything goes back to:

Typical: A Crisis!
Typical is that swine flu is the latest Crisis! taking the lead over that boring old Economic Crisis! that's been clogging the airways for a few months now. According to the media, swine flu is everywhere. It's 100% fatal, and it's waiting to get you. I went to a woman tea party at my neighbor's house the other day (yeah, that's right. I bit the bullet and went. The gesture of inviting me was so sweet that I forced myself to stop mentally composing the post about how they talked about zayıflama [weight loss, or losing centimeters with the latest snake oil treatment that makes you thin without diet or exercise] for 2 hours and I'm not exaggerating), and everyone made a point of not kissing anyone else because of pig flu. Or rather, there were those who made a point of not kissing while others made a point of kissing while vocally throwing caution to the wind about pig flu. On Tuesday I got the surprise announcement from LE's school that Friday was cancelled in addition to the Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day) holiday on Thursday. They went ahead and had a surprise half day off on Wednesday too, just for shits and giggles.

The official reason given for the Friday holiday was because they needed to sanitize the schools. Eh? Is there some other pandemic going around? One caused by a virus that lives for longer than a few hours outside the human body?

My snarky take on all this is that Friday's "sanitizing" holiday is a crock of shit that is also a win-win edict for our politicians. They get to look like they're doing something decisive about the Certain Death From Unclean Western Pigs that's waiting to get us. They get to make lots of people happy by giving an extra day off without looking like they've caved to Communists or other workers' rights undesirables. They get to surprise everyone with their wonderfulness when in fact they probably had it in the works for weeks.

Yet, true to religious conservative form, they failed to take reality into account. Like, for example, all those people with jobs who had to arrange for sudden and surprising childcare. Every household here is from Leave It To Beaver in the government's eyes. Granted, I work at home but I usually plan my deadlines a week ahead and suddenly I've lost a full day and half of work time. And what about all the women women who have "real" jobs where they can't suddenly take time off for surprise school holidays? There are a lot more of them here than popular culture would have us believe. The profound, paternalistic stupidity of it has had me seething for days.

Gotta love a Crisis! BE is furious with me for not being swept up in the panic. His mother has all but forgotten the dangers of Nazar in favor of calling BE to tell him to tell me I shouldn't kiss my son because of swine flu. BE triumphantly came home the other night to tell me one of his barbers was hospitalized with swine flu. This sounds very dire, except in Turkey you don't go to your GP's office when you're sick, you go to the hospital. And both barbers were working today so I guess he lived through his ordeal.

I pretty much ignore the news, especially Turkish news. I'm sure people are dropping like flies all over the country. I'm sure every case of the sniffles is being reported as swine flu, and I'd hazard a guess that any remaining pig farmers who survived the "Let's tax pig farmers unreasonably and put them out of business, but really we're quite secular" sweep are being more vilified than ever before.

Yet, I'm sure we'll survive the latest Crisis! somehow. And anyway, it's getting cold enough for the heaters to go on, which means the next Snow Crisis! can't be far off and then everyone will forget about it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Typical Thing


I meant it when I said I've been keeping a list.

In the park a couple of months ago, some woman was hovering over LE as he climbed the stairs to the slide going "Careful! Careful! You'll fall! You'll fall!" as though I weren't standing right there and as though a 2 1/2 year old isn't perfectly capable of climbing stairs. Her hovering was actually causing him more problems than the stairs were because she kept kind of grabbing at him and knocking him about.

Then suddenly she took hold of the waistband of his pants and pulled, which made him lose his balance. She caught him and started tucking in his shirt. "Atlet yok," she chided me. "Rüzgar çarpar, hasta olur." ("He's not wearing an undershirt. The wind hits, he'll get sick.") The she went on to explain to me how she currently had a cold because of the wind and was just trying to save LE from the same terrible fate. Of having a cold. From the deadly wind.

Yeah, it was windy but it was also like 75 degrees outside. A lot of Turkish people seem to consider the temperature based on the date rather than actual heat. After September 1, it's FALL and it's COLD and therefore EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, even though the summer heat can hang on into November sometimes. Her own kid was wearing a coat, scarf, and woolly hat with fur-lined boots and the woman had a winter coat and sweater on. I was in a tank top and capris.

LE and I have been spending a lot of time in the park. The good park with the good sand. It seems to be the main hangout for the very small kids, though in the afternoon it fills up with bigger kids who play annoying games like Let's Kick the Football at the Play Structure Even When Some Small Kid is Teetering Up There or Let's Chase Each Other With Our Eyes Closed and Knock Small Kids Out Of Our Way.

When it's small kids though it's mostly okay, unless, heaven forbid, some kid has brought a toy, which immediately results in Toddler Dramas. As much as I love LE, he's definitely the turd in the punchbowl with the Toddler Dramas because he snatches things from other kids, even babies, and runs away. I quit bringing toys with us to the park ages ago because he quickly loses interest and I'm stuck carrying the damn thing around. But whenever some other kid has a toy, LE suddenly will simply die if he can't have it, even if it's a toy he never would have given a second thought about otherwise. So I dread the toys in the park.

This isn't special for Turkey. In America it was the same, though the drama played out differently. In Turkey, people tell their kids to share but don't force it, and then often produce another toy so that no child cries even for one second. In America, all the Park Mommies had to make a big show about how they were Teaching Their Kids To Share. So they'd give their kid a toy, and wait until another kid tried to take it, then try to force their kid to give up the beloved possession, and then all the kids would cry and the parents would start to offer elaborate excuses more or less designed to exonerate themselves from the guilt of being someone who Didn't Teach Their Kids To Share.

I was kind of the Park Asshole because LE always had this smelly Nerf basketball that he would never share (and I don't mean good smelly-- I mean smelly the way things get in Oregon because they stay damp for a long time). I never tried to make him share it, and would just politely tell the parent their kid had no chance at the smelly Nerf basketball. I know better than to try to take a ball from my kid. No Teachable Moment is worth upsetting him that much.

For the most part, the Park Mommies in America were a pretty scary bunch. I got along all right with the foreign mommies (thank goodness there were more of them than American Mommies), but there was only one American Mommy I really liked because she acknowledged this crappy sharing behavior and didn't really get into it. Her kid had this plastic lawnmower that blew bubbles when pushed. Their house was near the park and the kid would suddenly run off to fetch his mower and his mom would go, "Oh shit, the Drama Mower." And indeed it was. A cruel bit of gossip other Park Mommies talked about with furrowed eyebrows and voices dripping with silent indictment was that they'd gone and bought their kids their own Drama Mowers because that kid Wouldn't Share. Oh, the shame. I suppose when I wasn't there they harped on about the smelly Nerf basketballs they'd had to buy their kids.

I tried to write a post about the American Mommies when I was in America, but I couldn't reduce the rant to a post-able length, about all their tacit disapproval and judging and "I'm not being competitive but here's how my kid is so much better/smarter/nicer than yours and here's how I'm such a better parent than you are" ultra-competitiveness. It actually made me miss the Turkish Mommies when they do Typical things like tuck in my kid's shirt and look at me like I'm an idiot.

Even though it annoys the hell out me when people jump in and take care of my kid right in front of me as though I'm a neglectful parent because I don't know how to protect my kid from dangerous things like Air and Wind and Cold Things, I admit I appreciate that they're at least up front about it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Back By Popular Demand

Well, not that popular. One person over at David's English Teaching World mentioned that I haven't updated the blog in ages and after I got all squishy that someone cared, I decided to write something already.

I've actually been keeping a list of wee events in my somewhat solitary existence. Not that LE isn't company, he's just not grown-up company and all he ever really wants from me is candy and Danino and to be turned upside down. I also have a few photos in my camera I've meant to post about and I just haven't done it because every time I find a moment to post, I decide I'd rather watch TV or sleep. It's no coincidence that "Mama so lazy" is one of LE's sentences.

One photo is of another empty plate from some food my neighbor brought up. Since that second plate there's been a third. The plates have grown increasingly less daunting and I've been good and returned them filled both times. So, starting with the plates, I'll describe something Not Typical that's been going on around here. As usual, it requires a lengthy Context.

Not Typical
Not typical is this neighbor suddenly being nice. And not "Hello, you must come for tea okay my obligations with you are finished" nice, but genuinely nice. I'm surprised, given all the early morning (like 5am it's fucking dark outside early) scampering and dancing and screeching and banging of blocks and Hot Wheels on the floor that goes on right above their heads. Other neighbors are suddenly being nice too. Another woman passing by us in the park came and introduced herself and said I should come over anytime and if I ever had a problem with the baby or whatever to please call because her daughter is a nurse. She has the unfortunate position of living in the flat above us, and is thus also subject to the same wee-hour cacophony.

Look, we've lived in this building for just over 6 years. In that time, a few neighbors have been nice but no one has ever made any overtures to be my friend. When we first moved here, it was quite the opposite. The yönetici's wife used to sit on her first floor balcony and shoot witchy looks my way. Once, shortly after we moved in, I must have dropped a cigarette in the parking lot and she went to BE and told him to tell me not to throw my trash around anymore, and that maybe because I was foreign I didn't know any better because that's not what Turks do.

Ahem. That's right my friends, Turks don't litter, ever.

Then there was this awful woman on the 5th floor who started screaming at me because water from my planters was dripping onto her windows. She kept telling me I was over-watering my plants, which I wasn't but what the hell did she know about anything anyway? Then her husband screamed at me. Then BE went down to sort them out and the husband pushed his screeching wife into the house and they had one of those, "Look, abi, I'm sorry but my wife is making me crazy" conversations and he and BE made friends. After that, the husband started being nice to me but only when his wife wasn't around. It turned out one of my planters had a hole in the bottom I didn't know about which was why the water was dripping.

Fast forward to two years later, when I was about 8 months pregnant. The yönetici's wife popped out of her house all aglow and suddenly started being nice to me. I had no idea why but I figured she noticed I was pregnant and thought it was cute or whatever. I also noticed she'd had her hair done differently and was wearing make-up, so who knows, maybe she had been depressed and started some new meds. Or maybe she had assumed I was a prostitute or some other type of undesirable (there are a quite few Eastern European prostitutes around here, and homeowners in this neighborhood don't seem to take kindly to renters in any case) but since I was pregnant it meant we were actually married after all. Except later when she saw me with newly-born LE, she said she didn't even know I was pregnant. It's true, I didn't show much except for that last month and the two weeks I went overdue. Anyway she's been nice ever since. She even took my side in the Asshole Upstairs issue, mentioned below.

As for the 5th floor water lady, there were no water issues for two years, and then one day when LE was about four days old she came banging on our door and ringing the bell just as I was dropping off to sleep after recently getting rid of MIL and sleeping for the first time since the birth. I tried to ignore it but she continued to bang and ring until I answered the door, then proceeded to bawl me out for washing my balcony and dripping water onto hers. What? I just had a fucking baby and you think I'm out washing the balcony? I blinked at her until she went away. The next day she saw us with LE in the parking lot and was all, "Where'd you get that baby?" So maybe she really did think I was washing my balcony, as though I'd actually do such a thing.

And apparently I really didn't show much when I was pregnant which explains why no one ever gave me seat on the bus and why that fuckwit honked at me for falling down on the ice in front of his car at 8 1/2 months instead of helping me up.

So that about covers my previous interactions with neighbors. I'm skipping the asshole who used to live upstairs from us who would bang our ceiling and ring our bell every time LE cried at night. One night BE went up to him at 3am to tell him to go fuck himself, meanwhile his idiot wife was screeching "Pick up the baby! Pick up the baby!" as though I were too stupid to do that and their banging and ringing had nothing to do with his extended crying, not to mention mine. The asshole neighbor said that BE must not be LE's real father if he cries at night, then he ducked behind his wife and fortunately someone called security before that got too ugly. Anyway.

Anyway, fast forward to now. Suddenly, neighbors are going out of their way to be friendly. Bringing food. Extending invitations. Real invitations, not just being-nice invitations. I feel bad for being suspicious it was all about trying to get cheap English lessons, but honestly, can you blame me?

I don't know what to make of any of it. BE says we've just moved to a friendlier part of the building, but I find that a little facile. Why would floors 1 through 4 contain nice people while floors 5 through 8 contain shitheads with the exception of the lovely old man who gave us those perfect apples from the village and the sweet old people who used to live across from us? It defies logic.

Then again, lots of things do, so what do I know?

More typical and not-so-typical things to follow...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We're Fine

In response to Rebecca's comment, we're all fine. Our house is up on a hill. BE tried to go to work and couldn't, but then he couldn't get back either so he just had a fun Man Day somewhere in between. Men here sure enjoy each other's company an awful lot. Anyway.

The worst thing that happened was a one hour power cut yesterday, shorter than the last power cut we had, which lasted all day. So Flood & Disaster= 1 hour power cut. Non-Flood & No Discernible Reason= 8 hours off and on but mostly off power cut.

This is sounding awfully smug and I don't mean it to be. Here I was getting all pissed off the other day about the crappy building in our house. Now a whole bunch of people have died because of crappy building, so the fact that our curtains fell down hardly seems to matter.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Plate: A Source of Worry and Potential Obligation

For a day and a half now, this plate has been sitting on top of my oven:
It's a nice enough plate. Plain, unassuming, and fairly innocuous.

Yet, the plate is a source of some distress for me, and I've been putting off dealing with it. It all started a couple of days ago when my cleaner went to wash the windows (dangling terrifyingly outside with LE shouting "Fall down! Fall down! LE outside?"). She noticed on the balcony downstairs there were some sweets or fruits or something out there drying, and so she dispatched me downstairs to ask the woman if she could move it inside for a bit so dirt from the window wouldn't fall on the food.

Off I went, rehearsing in my mind how I should open this interaction and explain myself in Turkish, which was a mistake because I promptly bungled it on arrival. Nevertheless, I got the message across.

Then the woman from downstairs popped upstairs to see if my cleaner would come work for her too, which made everyone happy because with the new baby and all, the cleaner needs more work and there's only so much extra I can slip into her pay without feeling like a chump or making her feel like a charity case. When the cleaner gave her price, the I could see certain bargaining wheels turning in the neighbor's head which made me remember she's the woman who came up during dinner one night to ask me to give English lessons to her kid and help him pass some exam. I gave a rate well over what I would ever expect, hoping it would make her go away, but instead she just started bargaining and not going away as my dinner was getting cold.

Then later in the afternoon the woman returned with a plate of kısır (a nice, spicy-ish bulgar salad), the universal Turkish offer of friendship that she just happened to have lying around. LE and I ate the kısır, and the plate began to weigh on me.

Returning the plate is an obligation. First, the neighbor will want to have me in for tea or coffee. This in itself is sweet and while I don't want to be a jerk about someone's hospitality, I find it worrying. A stiff conversation I'm not sure how to get out of, while chasing LE around and trying to keep him from breaking things. I've been working on excuses about why I can't stay for tea or coffee, but I know whatever excuse I gave will be immediately shot down. I even considered running down while LE was asleep so I'd need to run back up immediately, but I thought that would be too obvious. So I'm thinking I'll go down while I have something on the stove, something slow-cooking like soup, and see how that goes.

So that's part of my problem with the plate. The other problem with the plate is that I've accepted the kısır, meaning we're all friends now. And now that we're friends, it means there's no reason I shouldn't give her kid English lessons at cut-rate prices. It's not that I would mind the low rate-- it's that I would mind giving private lessons, which I seriously hate doing. And I really don't want to get into some situation where someone thinks that by paying for private lessons, their kid will pass whatever exam, because if the kid doesn't pass, it means I've cheated them somehow.

Do you see why this plate is such a problem? Do you see why I miss low-context cultures? On top of that, I've probably already let way too much time elapse before returning the plate. I should have done it yesterday. I'm not sure what the appropriate time-frame is for plate return, but I think I'm pushing it.

So that's my plate problem. I won't even go into the problem of someone's dish towel that fell into our balcony because I really don't have the faintest clue what to do about that either (am I supposed to go knocking at every flat in the 5 floors above us asking if it's theirs?), and the plate is enough to worry about.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dear Turkish Courts

Dear Turkish Courts,

I know you guys don't seem to get this whole Internet thingy very well, but I think, after two years, it's time to lift the ban on You Tube. This ban has accomplished, well, nothing. Everyone, including Erdogan, knows how to get around it. Last I heard, even Erdogan is telling everyone to get around it. In fact, Turkey remains one of the top You Tube looky-loos in the world. The offending videos were removed ages ago (before I had a chance to see them, unfortunately, but from what I hear it was all very sophomoric), so there's no excuse except being bullheaded and stupid.

Oops, did I really just say that?

Yes, I did. And I'll also say that you people are making it awfully easy for the Greeks to take the piss and get one over on you. Greek teenagers at that, from the sound of it, with very limited movie-making skills and a rather tiresome sense of humor. You know, because most people eventually grow out of insulting other people by calling them gay. And most people grow out of being insulted when someone calls them gay. Not that anyone is oversensitive or anything.

Oops, did I just say that too? And put in those hyperlinks?

I did. And then I snickered because it's just so Turkey. Just like this is.

Also I started wondering if Ataturk would really have gotten his nose all out of joint and maybe even cried if he saw the You Tube videos that made you guys block it. Because I don't think he would have. I think he was a bigger man than that. Then I wondered if he would have believed stupid, immature video teases posed a danger to his people, but I decided he probably had bigger things on his mind.

And then I thought about other countries that ban or have banned You Tube, like China, Iran, and Pakistan. I got to wondering, does Turkey want to be in the EU club with all the cool-kid countries (which Turkey keeps sucking up to, not me), or in the scary club, with all the "We Are the Powerful Great Country Whose Citizens Have Complete Freedom Unless They Are Influenced By Decadent Western Ideas Or Killed By Our Security Forces" countries.

And then I got kind of nervous because the You Tube ban is actually a pretty innocuous thing compared to some other crap happening in Turkey, and I have a kid that needs me and I'd really rather not go to, ahem, Turkish Prison (and no, I've never seen Midnight Express) indefinitely and without formal charges for outright stating on my blog what these other non-innocuous things are. I was way braver before I reproduced. I feel like a schmuck for leaving these things alone-- they eat at me, seriously-- but in the end I justify it to myself by thinking it's not my battle to fight.

So back to You Tube. It's not my battle either, but it's a light-hearted little problem that affects me directly. Even I know how to get around the ban and that's saying something, because I'm a techno-loser. The thing is, though, is that free online proxy servers are really slow and full of annoying ads and other crap.

Here's my problem. While visiting the US, I made the mistake of finally letting my son in on the Big Secret that the computer contains really cool things to watch. Up until now, we'd mostly managed to convince LE that the computer is boring. But one afternoon it was too blazing hot outside to go to the park, and too late for the pool, and we were still 45 minutes away from the pre-prandial snacks and cocktail hour, and the poor boy was going stir crazy. Plus he'd recently killed the DVD player and was jonesing for some Wiggles.

So I showed him some Wiggles on You Tube, and the cat's out of the bag. He now knows the computer contains the Wiggles. Fortunately, he's kind of over them again, and is much more interested in robots. And monkeys. And cats. And this one clip with a robot fish. He also likes the video where a monkey sticks its finger into its butt and smells it, then falls over. And any video that shows a housepet coming to terms with a toy robot. I'll tell you what, he's going to be one sad little boy when we get back to Turkey and You Tube is slow, glitchy, and sometimes not even possible to access even with the proxy servers.

Clearly, you guys are not listening to the many voices that are telling you to lift this pointless, idiotic ban already. Reporters Without Borders. Sansure Sansur. A whole bunch of other people with much more intelligence and clout than I have.

But one thing I happen to know is that a lot of Turkish people really like looking at pictures of babies for some reason. These pictures turn up in my Facebook all the time from Turkish Facebook friends, followed by many comments about how cute and wonderful the babies are. In the past I've had to block emails from former students and other Turkish acquaintances because I got sick of all the pictures of babies clogging up my inbox. What makes it especially weird is that usually, the pictures are not even of the senders' babies. They're just random babies someone decided just had to be shared with everyone in their address book. I just don't get it.

But maybe you do. So I'm bringing out the big guns, and I hope you'll listen and understand what you're doing to us.

This is LE watching a video on You Tube. See how happy he is?

And this is what LE does when he can't watch You Tube.

That's right. It makes him cry.

So I'm here to tell you, figure out a way to get You Tube back. Not having You Tube makes babies cry.

Please don't make poor Baby LE cry.




What would adolescence have been without John Hughes?


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let It Be Known...

... that when Naked Sprinkler Tee-Ball is the Ultimate Frisbee Golf of 2025, LE and I thought of it first, right here in Oregon.

You know, just in case someone gives out lots of money for thinking of a really cool sport...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Will He Get Back at Me?

I'm sure he'll find a way.

I totally deserve it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Conversation

In front of the Portland Modern Art Museum, I'm clipping the lit tip off a half cigarette before going in (Yes, I smoke, okay? Just shut up) because I'm the sort of cheapskate who saves half cigarettes for later since I can rarely finish a whole one and the fuckers are like six bucks a pack. A guy walks up to me, rather clean-cut looking and not the usual smelly hippie type:

Guy: Can you spare an extra cigarrette?
Me: (holding up clipped half cigarrette) Nope, this is it. (I'm also the sort of asshole that doesn't give cigarrettes to people who ask on the street because one 20th of six bucks is too much to spare on losers)
Guy: (pointing to clipped half cigarette) Can I have that then?
Me: No.
Guy: I'll give you a hit of crack. (holds up crack pipe-- at least I'm pretty sure that's what it was because I've never seen one in real life)
Me: No, thanks.

The scary thing is that guy wanted a cigarette more than he wanted crack. Maybe I should have just given it to him.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Titter titter.
Yeah, that's right. We're real freaking grown up around here.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The Wiggles were becoming a very fraught issue around here. LE has four Wiggles DVDs, and choosing which one to watch has turned into a 20 minute argument. First he wants one called "Getting Strong," which he requests by sqinching up his arms in a sort of strongman pose and saying "Tong?" So I get out "Getting Strong" and the screeching and stomping begins because he really wanted to watch "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" (and yes, Leo Sayers makes a guest appearance in that one). "Dance! Dance!" So I get out "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" and LE realizes he didn't want that one after all because the case looks all crappy since he ripped up the cover and chewed on the plastic a little. "Pop! Pop!" he screams, because "Pop Go the Wiggles" was the only possible choice all along.

By now I'm starting to get a little frustrated because the only reason I started screwing around with these annoying DVDs in the first place was so I could go cook dinner or do something else without LE's input. I know for sure that he won't really want to watch "Pop Go the Wiggles" but I have to continue with the whole rigmarole before we return to "Getting Strong." He never wants to watch "Sing a Song of Wiggles" which I think shows a bit of good taste since that one pretty much just seems like the ones they rejected when they made "Pop Go the Wiggles." Anyway.

We finally manage to negotiate the opening of the DVD player and the gentle placing of the disc in the correct place and the closing of the DVD player and a few promises that he won't screw around with the machine anymore, which is mostly me promising and LE having totally other plans. I used to skip past the commercials but now he won't let me do that anymore. I used to start the DVD for him, but I can't do that anymore either because his favorite song is in the root menu. It plays a part of the song once or twice before starting on its own. So LE runs on the spot when they sing "running on the spot, run run run" and jumps up and down when they sing "jumping up and down, jump jump jump" and squinches up when they sing "getting strong getting strong getting strong" and then the movie starts by itself and so does the tantrum. Even if I'm in another room he'll run in and hit me because it's ALL MY FAULT that the movie started. And there's no fixing it except to leave him crying on the floor and to go about my business.

How people deal with more than one little kid I'll never know.

As an aside, the Wiggles are coming to Portland soon. We looked into getting tickets and the cheapest ones were, get this, $65! That's SIXTY-FIVE FREAKING DOLLARS. For seats that are off to the side and slightly behind the stage. In a freaking 20,000 capacity arena. Are they seriously going to fill that with 20,000 kids and their parents for two shows in one day? At a minimum of $65? Good seats were closer to $120. Do they hand out lighters for the kids to wave around for the Wiggles' hello and goodbye anthems? Can you imagine the mayhem in the women's toilets at such a show? For $120 fucking dollars I want the Wiggles in my goddamn living room. Hell, I'd even offer them a snack.

But the other day I went with my mom to Target to see if we could find "Old School Sesame Street Volume 1" (it's for LE and not me, okay? Even if I am the only one who watches "Old School Sesame Street Volume 2" and knows all the songs). Instead, LE's and my eyes caught another interesting-looking movie called "Yo Gabba Gabba." I don't know what appealed to him about it, but for me it was the apparent low-budget goodness of some foam characters and a guy dressed in an orange leotard with a fuzzy Jamiroquai disco hat. It felt like Pee-Wee's Playhouse meets the Electric Company. How could it possibly be bad?

It isn't. It totally lives up to its promise. It's weird and a little bit creepy and low-budget and hipper than a kids' show is supposed to be and also it has a song called "You Can't Always Get What You Want So It Doesn't Help to Keep Asking" or something to that effect, which I think is a valuable message for my son. It also has a song called "I Like Fish" which goes "I like fish I like fish I like fish (etc.)" and I can't say who's more enthralled with the whole thing, me or LE.

So it's officially my new babysitter, but it's one I don't mind listening to over and over and okay, yeah, I admit I spend more time than I ought to watching it with the boy.

But seriously, how many places in the world are there where you can watch Jack Black doing this*?

My cruel Mommy heart swells with pleasure to see LE working on that particular dance.

*That video is not You Tube, BTW, for my dear friends trapped behind the Turkish Firewall of Pure Stupidity. I don't know about you, but I've been having some trouble with Ktunnel lately and I don't know of any other proxy servers that are as easy to use.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Notes From the American Front and Reverse Culture Shock: A Backwards Account

It keeps happening that I stumble over what I'm going to say to people because I seize up for a moment thinking it has to be in Turkish. Then I remember it doesn't and become altogether too talkative with strangers because it's so easy.

And I was being terribly rude in the not-very-crowded crowded Saturday Market today because I keep forgetting you don't have to push or sidle to get where you want because most people are more than happy to make way, and also that there are lines that people wait in and they don't like it when someone misses the whole line thing. That's right. I no longer recognize certain types of lines. I also keep forgetting that people can understand me when I mutter rude things at passersby who are doing something stupid like standing in the middle of the aisle talking on their cell phones.

I am again un-used to the fatness of American fat people. Jesus Christ. I try not to stare but it's like trying not to stare at someone who's been horribly burned or who has a cleft lip or a palsy or something. It's even worse when there's a whole family of them eating stinky-assed bright orange Cheetos and I find myself wondering if they wouldn't just be better off giving those poor kids cigarettes-- at least the other kids at school might think they were cool or something. Or Kool.

I also find myself having curmudgeonly thoughts about beggars, especially the ones who act like they're entitled to your spare change because they asked you for it and more especially the ones who don't even bother to ask and just write a sign asking for money. Seriously, millions of years of evolution of the human intellect and creativity and that's the best you can up with? Get a fucking job. Curmudgeon is a great word and I love how it's spelled.

My folks had some workmen out this week. The workmen were all taller than me. They looked me directly in the eye and talked and joked with me and it goes without saying I could understand them even if their accents were different. The painters came equipped with drop cloths, and they didn't get any paint on the floor or leave paint rinsings in the bathtub and toilet for me to scrub out. The guys who sawed things swept up when they were done. They were all licensed and bonded and accountable to someone and had professional training. Take everything I've said in this paragraph and make it opposite to get what Turkish workmen are usually like. In America, they don't assume there is a woman who is happy to go along behind them and clean up their shitty little messes. Not one single workman wanted me to get on the phone and call abi to repeat everything I'd just told him because my crazy accent and blatant female-ness made it impossible for him to interpret my words. I even offered one workman to call my dad because he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with the fridge, but he just said "no thanks" and sorted it out all by himself.

I should say, though, that the guy BE had out to put in our lights in the new house was very clean. He had BE stand under him with the vacuum nozzle next to where he was drilling so shavings wouldn't go all over. It reminded me of what the hygienist does when you're getting a filling.

Contrary to what many Turks believe, most Americans don't think Turks are all terrorists or barbarians or religious fanatics. What most Americans want to know is to what extent and in what ways Turks treat their women like shit. It's not always easy to give a balanced answer to that question. I try to preface my answers with nice information, like that I don't have to wear a burkha or walk ten paces behind my husband, but after that it's not good. For Turkey, I mean.

When we landed, I was extremely grouchy. LE was so bad on the plane, whacking and kicking and head-butting me for a full 7 hours because I wouldn't let him bang the tray or slam the window open and closed or poke the guy in front of us, that I came the closest I ever have come to beating him. He split my lip and did I mention I was about 24 hours with no sleep? Then he suddenly became sweet and kissy and fell asleep shortly before the plane landed. Portland Airport conspired, as usual, to insure that I was the very last person to reach the arrivals hall. This time it was because they made all the parents with strollers wait until 20 or so old people had been loaded into wheelchairs before bringing out the strollers. Naturally our stroller was last. We were last in line in passport control after being one of the first off the plane. I was pissed off.

The powerdrunk border guard barked at me, "Why did you leave the United States of America?" in that faintly hick accent that border guards, soldiers, and pilots all seem to have. I'm pretty sure this was none of her damn business. Let's just say, for example, she did have a legitimate security reason for asking me this. Am I going to say "I left because I was about to be arrested for giving cocaine to children?" or "I left because the shoe bomb guy took my idea and I got fed up?" I came scarily close to telling her what I thought of her bullshit question and her "I live 3,000 miles from New York so I have a reason to be extra afraid of terrorists" post 9/11 "I look hot in my Immigrations and Border Control uniform" attitude, but fortunately I held my tongue and gave her the usual limp answer about why I live in Turkey. Maybe she really was just curious and tends to bark at people because that's her job and she does have the accent, after all. She asked the usual questions about agricultural products I was importing and she asked if I was bringing in more than $10,000 and I said "I wish" and she didn't get mad that I made a wee joke, so perhaps she was okay after all.

And she did look hot in the uniform.

These are some of my early impressions of this place I used to call home. Oh, and my jeans are woefully out of style and most people look a lot cooler than I do.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nazar According to My Husband

So I questioned BE last night about what exactly Nazar is. He wasn't 100% sure, but he told me in all seriousness he believes in it. Not as much as his mom, he pointed out, but he definitely thinks it's a concern in life. When I questioned him about specific ways that he believes in it, he got mad. I asked, for example, if our house is protected at all times from Nazar because of the boncuk sticker the previous tenants left on the doorstep and he said "Yes." Then he said "No." Then he said "Mostly." I asked him what kinds of Nazar could get us even with the boncuk sticker and he got mad. A lot of our conversations go this way. I feel like Mr. Spock, all coolly logical but clearly missing the point.

Anyway, the salient points about Nazar according to BE are as follows:

1) Nazar gets you when someone talks a lot about how much they like something you have. Even if they're not jealous, it can get you. This is the kind of Nazar that's brought about unintentionally, because the person giving the compliment isn't harboring any bad feelings towards you. I asked if this means Nazar is always listening for someone complimenting things and BE got mad.

2) Nazar gets you when someone compliments something you have and they harbor bad feelings in their heart. They can be jealous of you for another reason, like your money, but give your baby Nazar from saying he's cute. Again, this Nazar is pretty much unintentional. I asked if someone can give it on purpose by giving lots of compliments knowing it could draw Nazar, and BE said yes, probably, though he'd never known anyone that did that. I asked if this was why MIL didn't want LE to go to the funeral dinner, because there would be people there who are jealous of BE's branch of the family because of money or their seemingly blissful existence, and he said, yes, that was definitely the reason. I think this says a lot more about MIL and certain of BE's family members than it does about Nazar.

3) Nazar can be given on purpose by people with magic powers who know how to give Nazar. These people are considered evil. I asked how they give it, and BE said they do it with their eye. "Like this?" I asked, closing one eye and opening the other really wide, trying to look evil. "Not like that," said BE, because my open eye was inadvertently fluttering. "More like this," he said, opening both eyes really wide and staring intently. If that's Nazar, I thought to myself, then Turkish men have been giving it to me on a daily basis every day since I moved here. I didn't tell BE that, however, because that gets him all riled up and there's no one specific for him to go manfully bump chests with and shout at.

And here's another thing. Since LE and I are going to the States tomorrow, we sent him to spend the night with MIL. The ILs are convinced that, besides my cavalier attitute towards Nazar, I also don't care if LE gets sick. I don't take enough pains to prevent illness, and I don't rush him to emergency room or fill him up with medicine for every sniffle. A couple of weeks ago, FIL started harranguing me that we have to change doctors because ours wasn't fixing LE's cough. "Have we taken him to the doctor for his cough?" I asked BE, because he doesn't always keep me adequately informed about the bullshit he tells his parents. "Three or four times," he said. News to me. Anyway, the ILs are certain that LE has had a serious lung infection for like 3 months, because every sniffle he gets at school dribbles into his throat from time to time and makes a noise when he breathes. It doesn't matter how many times we tell them it's not his lungs, or that he's clearly thriving and not in the least bit sick beyond the sniffle.

So LE was coughing again at the ILs this weekend. Without asking us, they took him to the doctor. This was not the kind of doctor to let two fretful grandparents go home with a simple "He has a wee sniffle" diagnosis. Oh my, no. We have pus in the throat and an ear infection and a near case of bronchitis. Wow! All without symptoms beyond the sniffle. Naturally he prescribed antibiotics, pediatric pseudoephedrine, and antibacterial throat spray. And here's me about to get on a long-haul flight thinking, "Is he sick for real? I don't know. I wasn't there. Is he going to get sick for real? Have I mentioned on my blog yet that I have some serious fucking issues with doctors in Turkey? Because I don't think I can stress that enough." So I'm giving him the goddamned antibiotics, all right? I don't want us to fail any swine flu screening.

But the way this all relates to Nazar is this: BE said his mom thinks, no, KNOWS that LE got sick because of Nazar. I asked him if she had a guess which Nazar it might have been-- the funeral dinner or the neighbor or what, and he didn't know. And then he got mad because he's the only one who's allowed to make fun of his mom's Nazar thing.

For my part, it reminds me of dogs marking territory. Whenever I send LE to MIL, he comes back in different clothes than the ones I sent. It's only because I don't like her that I read a shitty motive into this, like "He's my territory too, you ignorant yabancı." More often than not, he's wearing a sweater or sweatshirt tucked into his trousers (Ew. Does anyone actually think this looks good? Even on a baby?) and lately, a vest. So now it's like "You don't take care of our grandson, you ignorant yabancı, so we'll do it for you and take him to the doctor and get him all the medicine we think he should have." If MIL were nicer, I'd think they were trying to help and save us some money, but there you go. I'm trying but I can't.

It's always about trying to solve the bullshit behind the bullshit and never quite getting it right.

So when the ILs roll in about an hour from now, requiring me to stop packing our suitcases and not wear pajamas and also wear a bra and get bitched at for being barefoot with more than one window open in my own goddamned house, the person giving the Evil Eye will be me. So take that, Nazar.

It's probably a good time for me to go home for awhile.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Evil! Evil!

Look, I'm not a big fan of religion. I'll just say it right out. I think it's daft to alter your behavior based on the fact that there might be a supernatural being watching your every move, who punishes and rewards you according to some secret plan which you can't find out about until after you're dead. BE is not comfortable with my atheism, though he's not big on religion either. He's kind of like an agnostic who's afraid of God. He figures it's a win-win situation. He doesn't have to do religious things like forgo alcohol and pray all the time, but he believes in God just in case there's a God. He doesn't want God booting him out of Heaven on a technicality.

"Right," I told him. "Like God isn't onto that trick."

Now, superstition I'm a little funnier about. I'm not comfortable with umbrellas being opened indoors. I trace this to the time I was like 6 and my mom told me it was bad luck to open an umbrella indoors, and I was all "We'll see about that," and opened an umbrella indoors and knocked something off the table and broke it an got into trouble. So it's true that opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck, and I have some empirical truth to back it up. Turks, by the way, open umbrellas indoors like it's going out of style.

I also don't walk under ladders. Especially here, where guys on ladders are pretty slaphappy about letting things drop. I'm not scared of Friday the 13th but I do have some feelings about it. And I don't quite think karma is a crock of shit either. Today, though, I stepped in gum. I try to keep my Gum Karma good by never throwing gum on the ground, but sometimes I still step in gum anyway. I admit to altering my behavior because of karma by always throwing my gum somewhere that someone else won't step in it.

So for me, that's enough to worry about. But according to my MIL, I'm definitely irresponsible in the area of Evil Eye protection. The Evil Eye is Nazar in Turkish. I'm not 100% clear on what the evil eye is. It has to do with jealousy, I think, and bad things happening to you if someone is jealous of you or something you have. The Evil Eye is sometimes related to blue eyes, at least according to the occasional villager who snatches her child away if I'm looking at it. I've been told that my blue eyes are evil for some people, and will bring them bad luck. So I'm very sorry to all those people I've given bad luck to because of my eyes. I'm very powerful, apparently. If only I could wrinkle my nose like Samantha and have the house be clean and the laundry folded and put away.

But even if you're unclear on the Evil Eye and how it works, you can still prevent it. One way to prevent it is with a Nazar boncuk, which is a pretty blue bead that kind of looks like an eye. You can put a Nazar boncuk at your front door, or hang one from your rear-view mirror, or wear them as clothing and jewelry.

This, for example, is our nazar boncuk. I haven't hung it yet because I haven't worked out which walls are soft enough to pound a nail into in our new house.

Our Nazar boncuk has Ali because BE is Alevi. Those two things on either side of the boncuk are Ali's special swords. In movies, you're not allowed to show guys like Ali or Muhammed (I'm not clear why it's okay for Ali to be on our Nazar boncuk but it's not okay for him to be in a movie). I don't know how they do Muhammed, but when Ali is in a movie he's signified by the tip of his special sword wiggling at the side of the screen.

We also have this in our house:

From the left, it's Ali, Atatürk, and Haci Bektaş. I'm amazed that somebody invented something like this that pleased BE from every direction. And yes, that's my bible in the background. I have to look things up sometimes when I'm reading. The bible was found in a food donation bin at my old job. It clearly was previously owned by a crazy person who highlighted hundreds of pages line by line with red marker. He or she also seems to have used certain passages for rolling paper.

Anyway, you're also supposed to pin a Nazar boncuk on a baby when you take it out. That's because all the people coming up to tell you what a beautiful baby it is can bring Nazar. Again, I don't get this. Is it because every person who compliments a baby is jealous? Or is it just in case they're jealous? I don't know. But even I'm not so impolite as to compliment someone's baby without saying "Maşallah" (sort of like God bless or God protect), which is supposed to protect the baby from the Evil Eye. People get really uncomfortable if you don't say "Maşallah." The good thing about "Maşallah" is that if someone's baby is all mono-brow and pinched and ugly with a snotty upper lip, you can just say "Maşallah," which will be considered a compliment and you don't actually have to come up with anything nice to say about the baby. It means "I'm not even going to tempt the Evil Eye by saying all the nice things I had in mind about that baby, and I'm going to say "Maşallah" just in case my thoughts might have provoked the Evil Eye."

The Evil Eye, apparently, is a very serious concern.

Very serious indeed. My MIL has lately become weirdly fanatic about Nazar. She's always gone on about Nazar in a folksy way which never really bothered anyone, and I found it mildly interesting, like something you'd read about in National Geographic. But in the last few months, she's even started to piss off FIL and BE with her Nazar madness. I mentioned in a previous post how she muttered to everyone it was my fault LE fell and hit his mouth on the corner of a coffee table because I don't pin his Nazar boncuk on him when we go out. I'm so coldly logical in that I think the pin coming open and stabbing someone is a more pressing concern than Nazar. But I also have insane beliefs about germs according to her, because I don't believe that dangerous germs continue to live in your underpants if you don't iron them after washing. I'm just unpredictable and zany like that. All that education and book-learning and I don't know a damn thing about anything.

MIL has always taken care to call LE "ugly" as much as anything nice. There's always "Maşallah"-ing and other muttered "Allah"-ing that I can't understand, but it sounds ancient and serious. And if we talk about him for too long, she invariably cuts into the conversation with "Nazar demesin," which I think isn't spelled exactly right but I've always understood it as "Let Nazar not be said" which I think isn't exactly right either but you get the idea.

In the last few weeks, MIL has taken to calling BE 3-4 times a week to tell him something he should or shouldn't do to avoid nazar for LE. He gets mad and hangs up on her, which just causes her to press the issue more. MIL loves nothing more than to find something that pisses someone off, and keep doing it until they get mad for real so she can accuse them of being unreasonable. A lot of times she calls to tell us to do something with salt or whatever and to be extra careful because one of the neighbors had said that day that LE was cute. BE says she stops herself playing with LE all the time because she doesn't want to cause Nazar.

Last weekend, she didn't want BE to bring LE to a funeral dinner because everyone there would love LE and give him Nazar. It makes me think she may not care about that side of the family much, if she thinks their compliments are the Nazar-bringing type. When BE insisted that LE would be going despite any nazar-related peril, she called several times to tell him to make sure LE had some sort of Nazar boncuk on him no matter what I said, and also that I shouldn't dress him in shorts because he falls down and skins his knees. In addition to being crazy, I am also sadistic and apparently enjoy dressing my son so that he skins his knees when he falls down, so it's a good thing she reminded me about that. Since it's gotten hot, she's also gotten nuts about LE wearing an undershirt, so she reminded us several times about that too. Sweat, you see, is as dangerous as Nazar, and most kinds of air, and post-laundering underwear djinn oops I mean germs. Only she knows what a good idea it is to layer up a child when it's 30C outside.

What she and BE don't know and will never know is that I've been letting LE go wading at the seaside in Yeşilköy. It's nice when the jellyfish aren't there. And a couple of those times LE got totally wet and it was windy. So there. It's our dirty little secret. I'm not saying anything and LE doesn't do sentences yet. If he shouted "Deniz!" to BE, BE would just think he was talking about the nasty little boy who lives next door to MIL. "Deniz" means "sea" but is also, conveniently, a name.

Less of a secret is that I think it's better to adore my kid unreservedly without worrying about the Evil Eye, especially when I'm still unclear on what it is, and to think you have to do otherwise is, in my opinion, a shame.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sleeping Alone

We recently moved to a larger flat (three floors down from our old flat). One of the many advantages of this new house (an extra half bath, parquet floors instead of nasty white carpeting, a kitchen faucet that moves back and forth) is that LE gets his own room.

He's never had his own room. A few months before I got pregnant with LE, BE and I went to Cyprus and BE actually managed to win some money (after our first Cyprus visit, I learned to take all of BE's cash and credit cards and hide them except for an agreed upon amount to gamble away. BE can be a, let's just say compulsive, all right?). We used his winnings (which I also hid) to furnish a room in our house as an office. Then LE arrived, but we liked the office too much to give it up, so LE has always been in our room. He got kicked out of our bed for good when he was about a year old because he's a lousy sleep buddy who thrashes and kicks and does things to your lips and eyes while you're asleep.

Here I thought he'd be all traumatized from having to spend the whole night all by himself in his own room with no one to awaken every 2 hours to tell him to go back to sleep. Selfishly, I dreaded the whole thing, figuring he'd just get up all the time and find me so I could tell him to go back to sleep which would be a pain in the ass in the middle of the night and eventually I'd be sleeping on his bedroom floor.

But, like weaning, he's just taken it into stride and worked out a way to deal with it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Plug: I Was In Turkey

Check out this new website about traveling and living in Turkey, featuring some of my posts and a lot of other really useful information for people thinking about traveling or living in Turkey, most of it first-hand experience from other travelers and expats.

And thanks to Onur for putting together this incredible resource.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I'm weaning the boy. Or maybe he's weaned. It's hard to say.

The last time I nursed him, it was less than stellar. There was a lot of squirming and twisting and teeth-scraping and pulling a bit of "If you bite me one more time you're going to bed with no milk." The last time BE saw me nursing LE, he said, "You know, it is starting to look a little weird," and I said, "Yeah, but his face when he's nursing looks exactly the same as it did when he was a month old. He doesn't know it's weird to be 2½ and still nursing."

I was toying with the idea of weaning him, but not too seriously. I kept putting it off, thinking I'd like to have him still nursing for one more long-haul flight to the States which I hope will be happening in the next month. I'm kind of putting off finishing potty training him too until after the trip (he's 100% poop trained but not at all pee trained), but this weaning thing is making me re-think the potty training thing.

Here's what happened. I've been sick for almost 5 months, with something like a bad cold or a mild flu. It just will.not.go.away. I hate it. I hate being sick. I get sick maybe twice a year normally, so I'm not handling it well. I've been to the doctor once, about 6 weeks ago. She said it was a sinus infection and gave me antibiotics which did nothing. I was mildly sick until the pills finished and just got sick again. Plus my ear has been ringing this whole time, but she didn't seem to think that was important. Stupid cheap hospital.

So last Wednesday, after developing a nasty dry cough and having both sides of my nose completely closed and some white shit on my throat we went to an expensive hospital. That doctor also said sinus infection, and prescribed some serious, hardcore super-mega-ultra-multi-spectrum antibiotics that can't be taken while breastfeeding. I gave up. I don't want to be sick anymore. LE's only nursing once or twice a day. It's time to kill whatever I have, and I figured even if the doctor was wrong about the sinus infection, the monster antibiotics are bound to kill every disease I harbor, plus a few future ones.

Instead, the antibiotics just make me feel nauseated and dizzy on top of everything else. On day four of the antibiotics the yellow green snot is gone, but the cough is still there and I'm still pretty congested. The ear is still ringing. I'm supposed to be moving house which is really fun when I have to sit every 10 minutes because it feels like the ground is shifting under my feet. Stupid expensive hospital.

Have I mentioned how much I fucking hate dealing with Turkish doctors? I think I have.

I thought LE would really freak out about getting weaned. He pretty much only nurses to go to sleep, plus he has a little milk snack after school but he's usually very insistent about having milk when he thinks of milk. I wasn't sure if I could make him sleep without the milk (he has always sacked out on the breast) or convince him that he doesn't need it.

So I've resorted to lying. I'm so ashamed, but I didn't think he'd get it about the antibiotics. When he asks for milk, I tell him it's all gone. "All gone" is a concept he can handle.

And you know what? He's totally handling it. Unless there's some deep emotional scarring he can't express, he seems fine. Milk is all gone? Okay, then can I have some candy? No candy? Okay, then I would like to climb the shelf to those bleach bottles if you don't mind. It's a world of 'no' in this house. When bedtime rolled around on Wednesday night I gave him some milk in his sippy cup and read him some stories and we had a nice long cuddle and he got into bed and I sang him a song then read my book next to him until he fell right to sleep. Same thing Thursday and Friday night. Can it really have been this easy?

I think he knows I'm kind of sad about the milk. He keeps lifting his shirt to expose his nipples saying, "Mama, milk?" so I pretend to drink his milk. BE is scandalized. LE also gives milk to his doll and his stuffed monkey he sleeps with.

I thought weaning would be hard and require lots of tantrums and long discussions about being a big boy. Instead, "all gone" seems to suffice. LE isn't sad. He isn't devastated or traumatized or bereft or forlorn or anxious or feeling abandoned.

Me, on the other hand...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Songs in English

I've had a few responses sharing my amusement at old headscarf ladies rocking out to dirty songs in the supermarket, and it reminded me of this commercial someone sent me a few years back.

Apologies to my readers outside the Turkish firewall for the complicated KTunnel link, but YouTube is still banned here. So is geocities and a few others. I'm so glad they're protecting my morality here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Mealtime Chat

LE and I are eating dinner and BE is washing his hands again.

LE: Poon!
Me: Yes, that's your spoon.
LE: Shoop!
Me: Yeah, you're having soup for dinner.
LE: Bwead! (He still speaks in exclamations)
Me: Uh-huh. There's bread in your soup.
LE: Juice?
Me: Oops, I forgot your juice. Hey, BE. Will you bring LE's sippy cup? It's probably in the living room.
LE: Apple juice?
BE: I can't find it.
Me: Look in the washing machine.
BE: (Looks in the washing machine) I found it!
LE: Juice! Wash! Baba.

The washing machine is a very good place for juice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ufak Lothario

In LE's class at baby school, there are 6 boys and one girl. I feel sorry for the teachers. Anyway, out of all the boys, this girl has taken a shine to LE. According to her mother, she constantly annoys him by kissing him, pinching his cheeks, and petting his hair. Apparently she talks about him a great deal at home too.

Our little Ladykiller. We're kind of proud.

The other night, BE and I were talking about LE's girlfriend (he's taken to singing her name absently while he races around destroying things and bumping his head). I suddenly wondered what LE does when she showers him with her attentions. Does he run away? Reciprocate? Just sit there and take it? All of these are possible.

Then it occurred to me that whatever he does, it means LE has this whole social life we know nothing about.

It begins.

Some Things I Will Miss If I Ever Manage to Leave Turkey

At times, there are some things I find really nice about living here.

1) Fast food restaurants like McDonalds and KFC deliver. For free.

2) Bakkals (corner markets) also deliver for free. This means that, in some cases, you can have beer and cigarettes brought to your door at one o'clock in the morning. Not that that's come up for me lately, but I like having options.

3) LE's preschool has a ball pool.

4) Though people might annoy you with unsolicited advice about how to care for your child, they rarely get annoyed and give you dirty looks if he's acting up in a public place.

5) Whether you need help or not, people always offer to help you.

6) Service in restaurants is usually outstanding. You'll have like 12 guys in charge of your table, and they're all polite. They are able to convincingly behave as though nothing gives them greater pleasure than serving you. I'm afraid to tell them if something is wrong for fear they'll cry.

7) If restaurant workers aren't very busy, they'll be happy to take your kid away and play with him or show him the kitchen, even if you don't ask. Once LE was playing alone in a restaurant playroom (more and more restaurants have these), and some bored busboys joined him. At one point I looked in and two guys were fiddling with the TV trying to get cartoons, while two others were sitting on one end of a seesaw with LE on the other, all of them giggling and squealing.

8) Cheap pomegranates and mandarin oranges.

9) The food people bring you when they come back from visiting the village.

10) The availability of pirated movies and software. It's harder to find pirated music on the street than it used to be, and the movies and software are mostly in shops now.

11) Sometimes it's annoying to have to find a guy who knows a guy to get anything done, but sometimes it's so much easier. And cheaper.

12) Walking around with no destination or sitting somewhere and doing nothing but drink tea for a long time is not frowned upon here.

13) Prescription drugs are damn cheap here, unless they're American imports.

14) The wildly incongruous foreign music blasting in supermarkets. I do love to see covered women shuffling their bags of beans around to "Sex Bomb" or "Motherfucking P.I.M.P."

15) Daily garbage collection. In most buildings, the kapıcı comes around every evening to take your trash. In our building he doesn't even have to knock on the door-- we just leave the trash in this little room in the hall where the water/electric meters are. This became especially wonderful when diapers entered our life.

16) After they know you, you can borrow money from the bakkal and they'll just add it to your tab.

17) Okay, it's trite but I'll admit it. The tea. Not just the tea itself but the whole culture around tea. The always-open offer of tea. The need for tea-related moments. After sitting in traffic for an hour to visit someone you'd rather not spend your Saturday afternoon visiting, tea cures what ails you. I got used to the tea really fast. On my first visa run to Greece after I'd been here three months, I was very disappointed the sweet old teyze (or whatever they're called in Greek) who ran the hostel didn't offer me tea after the six-hour bus trip. Sometimes it's annoying, like when you HAVE to drink tea for some reason when in fact you'd rather leave, but on the whole, if people are all going to make a really big fuss over something, tea is a fine thing to fuss about.

18) It's also trite to like the ezan (call to prayer) but I do, sometimes. Ezan gives you a rough reminder of what time it is. It starts far away and echoes towards you and away again, as each mosque supposedly times it to the minute on the lunar clock. If you live in a concrete jungle like I do, the conflicting ezans echoing off the buildings make really interesting harmonics. I still think they could stand to turn it down a little though. We get the idea.

19) The way LE comes home from baby school smelling like he's been in a whorehouse. He reeks of at least 5 strong perfumes, plus the kolonya they douse him with at the end of the day. This is because any passing woman at the school scoops up whatever kid is nearest and showers him or her with kisses. Teachers, cleaners, administrators, all of them are quite free with their affection. Even the security guard and the gardeners get in on the action. I hated all this grabbing and kissing when LE was small, I know, but now it makes me kind of glad to know he gets almost as much cuddling at school as he does at home, from people who don't have tofear lawsuits or ugly accusations.

20) These cookies:
Cookie outside, orange gel in the middle with chocolate sprinkles. Nice.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


LE is learning how to count. We're all amazed. Okay, I know he doesn't really know what the numbers mean, but he's really into saying them, in both languages, with vehement preferences for one or the other language at any given moment.

Along with learning how to count has been the instatement of the Most Annoying Parental Trick in the World, the one-two-three approach to discipline. It's annoying because when you see other parents doing it, you think, "You damn idiot. Just yank the spoiled brat out of whatever he's doing and be done with it, quit annoying the rest of us."

But when the kid needs to be yanked out of somewhere gross, or forced to do something like rinse his hands, or things have be snatched from him about 40,000 times a day, and each of these times results in a fit and a sulk and making friends but still being oversensitive for the next two hours, you think about trying something else. Also at some point I got sick of wrenching my back every time LE had to be bodily removed from somewhere or something and he objected to this.

I was surprised how fast he caught on the one-two-three punishment. You think when someone can't talk they don't get much either, but sometimes they do. I explained it to LE once, that I would count to three and if he didn't cut it out he would be forced against his will to do so and Mommy would be mad. After the second time he got it. The one-two-three punishment is about 90% effective and there's a lot less screaming around here.

Yesterday at the produce market LE decided to do a silent sprawled-on-the-floor protest because I wouldn't let him rearrange the gum or get candy and by then he was already eating an apple he had stolen. It would have been a noisy protest but he had an audience and was feeling shy. The guys in his audience thought it was funny he was lying on the floor like that. I had my hands full of stuff and decided to try the one-two-three thing before dragging him out of there. I went, "One... two..." and the guy behind the counter went, "Tree four seven eight..." and LE went "Üç... altı... yedi..."

So that just totally didn't work at all.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breast-Feeding Nazis, Don't Read This!

A wonderful article, courtesy of my dad:

The Case Against Breast-Feeding

Breast-feeding and feminism collide once again, and it's totally ass-backward from the last time. Before, it was the formula keeping us from being Real Women and now it's the breastmilk. Will our breasts and wombs ever stop keeping us down?

I do love the dynamic tension between feminism and women's bodies, how no one can quite decide which part's a beautiful gift and which part's a limitation, and when, and in which context. And I appreciate the writer's honesty about being a nurser, which is also a gift and a limitation. Nursing is nice and also it really pisses me off sometimes. Nursing always sucks and it often bites. Hee! That was a little nipple joke. As I've said before, it's mainly due to my intense laziness that LE still nurses, and I probably won't try another way until this way stops working.

My dad told me about this article over the phone, and I told him I think LE is so darned healthy because he still nurses. He rightly pointed out that this is anecdotal. However, assuming it's really true that the benefits of breastmilk are exaggerated, this pleases me even more because that means LE is damned healthy all by his little tough-assed self. Good boy!

And fuck you to the Dr. Sears Empire with all your half-baked, spuriously-researched baby- rearing methods. I'd wager the Dr. Sears Empire has done more to make a lot of mothers feel really, horribly guilty for wanting to detach the screaming, poopy little succubus from time to time than it has improved anyone's "attachment" to their kid.

But man, my nipples hurt sometimes. And I think BE is pretty pissed off that they're off-limits most of the time because they're sore.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Family Visit, or, A Short Litany of Minor Slights

It couldn't be put off any longer. The Teyzes (aunts on BE's mother's side) were dying to see LE. For some reason, we see the Amcas (uncles on BE's father's side-- no aunts there except by marriage) all the time, but we rarely see the maternal family. They're nice people, actually. It's not them that I dread because they're very dear, it's the visits themselves. For my MIL, these events are a big drama party. She loves drama. She loves creating drama. It's like we all become stars in her own personal reality show, and the dramas she creates are about as intellectually stimulating.

It was already getting bad on the car ride over. She kept niggling at BE and going 'What? What? I didn't do anything!' when he got annoyed. He finally snapped as we were parking and she was wittering on how we should park in front of the house even though it was obvious that there weren't any spots. He started shouting at her when she began lecturing him about controlling his anger, as you would a naughty child. LE said 'Mad! Baba! Mad!' LE tends to speak in exclamations.

Once LE got over being shy and hiding between my legs, he realized that this was a House Of No Rules. The first time I tried to stop him bouncing off the furniture the horde of women all went, "No, let him bounce, he's just fine!" LE took this as his cue to begin acting like an insane monkey on crank.

MIL started saying how he never does stuff like this, and that he must have learned it at school. I wondered if somehow she had confused him with another child, since her house is also a No-Rule Insane Crank Monkey zone.

I took someone's cell phone from LE's hand right before he threw it and he whacked me on the leg. Despite the clucking about how his behavior was just fine, he got a wee talking to about hitting, with his arms pinned down to prevent him hitting me in the face. LE is a hitter. He has been since he was about 8 months old. It comes and goes, but has gotten worse since he started hanging out with that nasty boy Deniz who lives next door to MIL. Now he hits with his face scrunched up in anger just like Deniz does. The face-scrunching gives you a chance to get out of the way.

Nonetheless, MIL claimed he'd learned hitting from someone at school. BE and I said it was from Deniz but she just talked over us, talking about the bad kids at school as though she knows all about that, as though she knows anything about LE's schoolmates or his bouts of frustrated violence.

I tried not to take this as some kind of subtle indictment for sending LE to pre-school and we carried on. I refrained mentioning how PIL laughs and praises when LE hits.

Later, in front of a room full of people male and female, MIL decided to ask me if LE is still breastfeeding. She knows damn well the answer to this because she'd asked me earlier, in the car. The way she asks is this: "Hala şey veriyor musun?" (Are you still giving him the you-know-what?) while patting her chest above her breast. I thought, "You know what, if you're going to discuss my tits in front of everyone, you can just bloody well mention my tits." I said sweetly, "Efendim?" and pretended I had no idea what what she was talking about. "Are you still giving him the breast?" she pressed on. "Of course," I sighed.

LE ran out of the room and she chased after him going, "Çok ayıp! Çok ayıp sana! Meme something something, meme! Çok ayıp!" This means "Shame on you! Shame on you breast something something, breast! Shame on you." She then went to loudly report to everyone in the kitchen LE's shameful boob-related habits.

This required both a jaw clench and an eye roll from me. BE assures me when she says crap like this it's meant to be cute. Perhaps I'm just missing something, but I just think it's mean. It's mean to me and I don't like anyone telling LE "Shame on you," for some baby thing he does. Before breastfeeding became shameful, she used to tell him "Shame on you" for crying and soiling himself.

An aside: Another thing that's considered cute is when people say, "Pipini yiyeceğim." This means "I'm going to eat your weiner." I've gotten to be okay with, "I'm going to eat you/your nose/your eyebrows/your pants/etc." but I'm not cool with someone saying they're going to eat my son's pipi. They even have a pipi recipe, which seems to involve frying up the pipi and eating it with pilav. My husband assures me it's adorable. I asked him if there was an equivalent thing they say about eating girls' genitalia and he was shocked but failed to understand why I'm shocked about eating boys' genitalia.

Anyway, after my tits became a topic of public rumination once again, LE was going mad chasing a balloon, and he managed to fall and bash his mouth on the corner of a coffee table. Two fat lips and a source of much blood I couldn't identify right away which later turned out to be a nasty cut on his gums, the kind where one debates the necessity of stitches. I was so glad his teeth were all in place. When he first cried, MIL more or less elbowed me aside and rushed to get to him first. While she held him back from trying to run to me, she shot me a dirty look, presumably for not watching him and failing to rush to him quickly enough. He escaped by punching her in the mouth mid-flail and was so quickly attended to by such an enormous flutter of women and tissues that he forgot to cry.

As I mopped the fourth mouthful of blood from his teeth, MIL decided this was a good time to tell everyone that, although she'd given me several nazar boncuk (evil-eye-keeper-awayer beads), I never pinned them on him and wouldn't you know it that very day one of the neighbors was saying how handsome LE is.

That's right.You cannot argue with the power of the nazar boncuk or the evil eye. LE's poor bashed mouth was All My Fault. I might as well have smashed his head into the table myself, leaving him completely vulnerable and unprotected like that. My fear of LE getting stabbed with a cheap safety pin coming open in his shirt is beans next to the damage nazar can do.

Funnily enough, MIL gave me very cuddly and sincerely affectionate goodbye when all this was over. I guess I'd done my part, playing the idiot next to her superstar, to make this drama party one of the most stunning successes yet.

I can't wait for the next one.