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...


Jess said...

I've been lurking for a month! Glad you're back!

siobhan said...

I care and am glad you are back.

I was very obviously pregnant from about 5 months onwards first time round. I had to use public transport at least a couple of times a week and it was rare to be offered a seat.

Glad things are a bit more neighbourly on the lower levels. I, like you, can't help but be cynical when people suddenly start being nice. Eventually you realise that they are genuine but then there's still a part of you that holds back for some reason.

Stranger said...

Thanks for lurking, guys. I would have written a "This Blog Is Dying" post, except I've done that already.

I've decided to make a careful effort not to be snarky about people being nice. Whatever their reasons, I'm glad the doors are opening instead of them getting mad about the noise. At least it makes it easier to apologize about the noise. I know they're not real happy about it, but it's hard to harbor evil feelings about someone you talk to, so I feel better talking to them.

Which kind of means I have an ulterior motive, I guess. But maybe that's what good social interaction is all about. I'm not very adept at this stuff, in Turkey or at home.

I've even accepted an invitation to a neighbor women's tea on Tuesday. I'll keep my damn snarkiness to myself, even though I know our hostess has recently gotten into selling Avon products. Which is not all bad-- Avon's baby bubble bath is way cheaper than the newly released Dalın bubble bath. Bubble bath is the best way to entice the boy into the tub now, and our America stash has run out.

renai said...

I've been also waiting for an update so glad youre back.

At least you have an idea who lives above/below and next to you. I don't even know my neigbours, none of them. I think I clapped eyes on our neighbours who live directly opposite us maybe two or three times, and once was when an ambulance came to take the husband off to hospital as I poked my head out to see what the commotion was about.

Tuesday's tea party should be interesting. Go and drink tea and eat lots and find out all the neighbour gossip!

Rebecca said...

Wow, you have certainly had your share of unpleasantness. It must have really got you down at times. Pleased people are being nicer now. Makes me realise how lucky I am that my neighbours are pleasant. I live in a small block of 10 apartments so it is quite neighbourly although I keep my distance to some extent.
What are the neighbours like at your place, secular or conservative?
Turkish people have this unrealistic view of themselves as the warmest friendliest people on earth. I noticed when teaching adult classes that new members could be frozen out for the first few weeks. I find them fearful and suspicious of strangers on the whole.

Jess said...

I'm kind of surprised anyone complained about the noise at all, and from a baby! Children here are subjected to far fewer of what I might call "rules," as I think you've pointed out, Stranger. Even the high school students I work with are SO LOUD that I sometimes have trouble talking to one person at my desk when the class is in group work (you might think this is unusual, but experience/observation tells me it's not.) Being here made me consider that the Puritan strain in N. American is stronger than I ever would have thought, children being seen and not heard, being made to be "responsible," and so on.

Turks are so indulgent and adoring towards babies that I can't believe anyone would complain about crying, and the men I've encountered here over two years have generally been so polite that it shocked the HELL out of me when you said that the neighbor had insulted you by questioning paternity. I bet BE wanted to kick the living everything outta that guy!

Stranger said...

The neighbors are a mix of secular and conservative, I suppose. The ones that religious aren't political about it though. Mostly I don't see much of them because everyone works, and the ones that are home during the day are either retired or work odd hours.

Jess, I was shocked at the classroom behavior of the university kids I taught. They weren't just loud in class, but naughty. I spent as much time with discipline as anything else. And the noise coming from windows when you pass a school! With the teachers screaming over it! It's no wonder no one listens in class...

I couldn't believe those people complaining about the baby either. As you say, Turks are generally pretty relaxed about kids' obnoxiousness. And these people even have a kid! Maybe theirs never cried.

The weird thing was I don't know why they were so sensitive to it. The baby downstairs from us was/is very high strung, and when she cried it was always a full volume hysterical horrowshow scream. I could hear her crying at night, but it was never enough to keep me up and I'm the lightest sleeper ever! So it makes me think it was more against us than LE.

And yeah, BE showed incredible restraint. He told me after that the only reason he didn't punch the guy was that he ducked back into his house. He said that legally, if he had crossed the threshhold it would have made the difference between a well-deserved beating and assault with trespassing.

David V. said...

We all love you!!!

Stranger said...

Aw, shucks!

Nomad said...

Your post provoked me to write my own neighbor post. My experience has forced me to adopt an attitude that goes against everything my parents taught me about be neighborly. I just can't stand the hassles.

By the way, your "voice" in writing is perfect. I hope you write more and often.

Stranger said...


Your neighbor sounds truly mad. It's funny how people can fabricate a problem (a bad smell) just because they don't like something (the cats). Worse that they think it's any of their business. The worst thing about a bad neighbor though, is that you can't get away no matter how nuts and wrong the neighbor is, and you never really solve the problem-- everyone waits till it goes away so you can live in tacit civility. That idea of sitting down and trying to sort things out is so unpleasantly American for Turkish people, I think.

Even worse is if you're the renter and they're all owners. Then they expect that you will go away because they keep harassing everyone. Our shitty upstairs neighbors also called our landlord to yell at him about us, and they yelled at the yönetici too. Both landlord and yönetici told us about it, and said "But we love you so there's no problem. He's an ass and can just get over it and please don't think all Turkish people are like him."

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

That idea of sitting down and trying to sort things out is so unpleasantly American for Turkish people, I think.

It is more likely that -- for the kinds of problems you mention -- the problems are mere proxies for other stuff. Talking about them or sorting them out won't help because they are not the cause of the unpleasantness. (Think of the MIL and the problems between you. It is MIL-ness rather than the particular problems, so sorting out individual problems won't help and MIL-ness cannot be sorted out only dealt with in way to avoid it (ie move away, or go Turkish and manipulate the husband to keep them away etc.))

If there is a difference in cultures, it isn't about approaching problems but rather about the causes what underlie them. I, too, do think there's a difference but I can't pin it down. It may be about ways of resolving conflicts as you say, but the conflicts themselves seem different in character and hardly ever bear much resemblance to the symptoms they cause.

Stranger said...

Interesting, Bülent. I'll have to have a think on that one...