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.