Friday, February 26, 2010

MIL and the Chinese Man

My MIL apparently really enjoys cleaning, and she's very nosy. She used to bring her cleaner over to my house and they'd make a fine old time of it, coming to me every 15 minutes with some interesting object to ask what it was. Or to ask if they could throw it away. A lot of times these things came from deep in drawers where those two really had no business being, but I just went with it. Sort of. More like gritting my teeth and asking myself, "Do they honestly think I don't know where the garbage can is or how to use it? Do they think I brought something all the way from America so I could throw it out here because our garbage cans there aren't good enough?"

The complete and abysmal failure of some people's logic systems never ceases to amaze me. Anyway.

While I was in the US, BE called the cleaner to come and tidy up the evidence of his two weeks alone here without me. He told MIL he'd done this. Naturally, MIL invited herself over to "help." I wasn't home to stop it, and BE admonished her to not rearrange, throw away or otherwise remove a single thing from the house. She's been bawled out about this enough times to get it, but it took a lot of times.

Note: My cleaner, BTW, is on my team on the MIL issue. She reports that MIL "helps" by ironing everything in the house, and making sure to get a good look at everything else. This explains why all the clothes in drawers are inside-out after MIL has been through.


I have this picture on my night-table:

I put the pen there to give you an idea of the size of this picture. It's very small. The picture came from an art history book (and no, I didn't cut it. I don't cut books). It's a photograph of a statue of some god of wisdom. I've had it around since college. It's actually the frame I like most.

Every time, *EVERY TIME* MIL has a chance to get into the bedroom, this picture disappears.

Or should I say gets misplaced? It's always somewhere weird, like behind the bed or face-down under the night-table or like last time, on the floor in the corner under the curtains.

Unlike the fish mystery of the previous post, this mystery is solved, but only partially. It's definitely MIL doing it. Don't blame poor LE on this one, because it started happening before he was born, and his interest in this picture waned months ago.

But the real question here is, why the hell does she do this? Does she just hate the picture? Does she think it's something bad or scary? Is it the long ears? Or the fact that it's a Chinese man? Maybe she thinks he's an old flame I flaunt at my husband by keeping a photo of him at my bedside? Goodness knows.

BE doesn't believe me that this happens when his mom comes through. I asked him if she used to throw away or hide stuff of his she didn't like when he was little, and he said "Yes," yet the idea she's been hiding the Chinese man is inconceivable. It's not just knee-jerk mother protection either, because BE said "I know she's nuts but she's not that nuts."

I, on the other hand, have some serious reservations.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Puzzling Conundrum of the Missing Goldfish

Have you seen this fish?

Well, a very similar fish in any case.

I think the title says it all. One of the fish is missing. It used to hide under a shell and now it's gone. I've looked everywhere. It's totally gone.

The facts of the case are as follows:
*The last time I'm sure I saw the goldfish was five days ago, on Saturday.
*Last night, he was gone. I lifted everything in the tank and wiggled it and looked under it and no fish.
*There are no fish bits in the tank to suggest an unprovoked attack and subsequent cannibalization from his tankmates, neither of which are large enough to have swallowed him whole. No one had been nipping at him, and he didn't have any obvious signs of illness when I saw him last.
*His tank is covered, so he probably didn't jump out. None of the fish has made any attempt to jump out, even when the tank was uncovered and my hand was in there scaring them half to death.
*He is not stuck to the lid of the tank.
*There is a slim possibility he managed to jump out, through a 1" x 3" door in the cover that we open to feed them. He would have cleared a distance of at least 1 foot. If it's what happened, somehow he did this with LE and I standing right there as we fed the fish. He somehow made no splashing, thumping, or flopping sounds.
*If he did jump out, he could have gotten vacuumed though if the cleaner had seen him I think she would have mentioned it.

It's quite the mystery. I haven't told LE yet. I'm not sure he notices things like that though he does tend to notice the oddest things.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Okay, so I'm way behind on everything since we got back to Turkey. The dust bunnies are big enough to need names, I'm thinking the laundry might need to be sedated soon for our safety, and I've only once met my (self set) deadlines for this little writing gig I do to justify staying at home while my kid's at school.

But here's what happened not 2 minutes from my house a couple of weeks ago.

I'd love to know what was going through that driver's head as he approached that bridge. And that poor guy on the left who sees the truck coming, stops, probably thinks, "No way, that's not really going to happen."

Normally when Turks stop their cars and get out of them in the middle of the freeway, it makes me anywhere from extremely nervous to extremely pissed off. But in this case I can't help feeling it's really great how many people dropped whatever they were doing to run over and help.

Fortunately no one was killed, though a few people were pretty badly hurt. Fortunately schools were on vacation, plus the snow was keeping a lot of folks indoors so the bridge was relatively empty.

Also I just figured out how to post videos! Cool, man.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Americans are often accused of being Puritanical. We have weird laws about alcohol and sex, we like to heavily tax or over-regulate things we think of as "sins," and bad words are bleeped off network TV. Of course, all countries have their weird laws and regulations and taxes on various sins and vices, but there's something more pervasive about puritanism in America than there seems to be in, say, Britain. One small example I can think of offhand is that British women can get away with showing a lot more cleavage than American women can. I'm sure there are other, more important examples.

As you would expect, Turkey has its whole Puritan thing going on too. But it's quite different than the way I'm used to, and sometimes it's surprising and contradictory. For example, gambling is forbidden but there are state-run whorehouses. Pornography is strictly illegal, and like gambling, it's one of their many excuses for blocking websites. Newspapers always sport a scantily-clad woman on the front and back pages and several months back, Radikal newspaper (which isn't really all that radical) had a fully nude, tits-and-bush photo of Madonna from one of her teenaged photo shoots on the front page. Even LE had the good sense to like that. It gentled him out of a "I don't want to get in the car" tantrum because he still really likes boobs. But the newspaper thing is weird when I think that I once got yelled at by some covered girls at my old job for changing my gym clothes in the women's locker room instead of waiting my turn to go into a private cabin. Or when I think that my MIL gets mad at me for wearing tank tops in front of FIL.

Until recently, swearing was allowed on Turkish TV. Not the *really* bad words, but worse words than Americans are allowed to use. American regulation of swearing is funny actually. When I was a kid, you couldn't even say "butt" on TV. I think now you can "shit," "ass," and "bitch." Also "asshole" and maybe "dick," but only in reference to people. And only after certain times a day, like you can't say "ass" until after 6pm and no "bitch" until after 9. Of course, anything goes on cable. But it's still weird. And in the US it's the FCC that voluntarily regulates TV while in Turkey it's the state and cable TV isn't exempted.

With the recent smoking ban in public places, the Turkish government in all its wisdom has also decided to ban smoking on TV. This means that whenever someone is smoking, the hand holding the cigarette, pipe, or cigar is blurred out. It look ridiculous and actually draws more attention to the fact that someone is smoking. I wonder what it's supposed to accomplish. Is it so kids don't think smoking is cool? Here's a conversation I thought of that might happen in a Turkish sitting room, translated into English.

Child: "Mommy, what's that man doing and why is his face all blurry and why is there smoke coming from his hand?"
Mother: "It's nothing, sweetheart." (puff puff) "Don't give it another thought."


Last night, we tuned into the middle of a film called "Powder Blue." It had this stripper scene in it:

No need to watch more than the first 30 seconds unless you want to see a pretty good strip scene. There's a part where she goes down the pole reeeeallly slooowly, upside down and grinding. Anyway.

Anyway, you'll notice that in the beginning of the scene she's smoking. In Turkey, presumably for the safety and moral protection of children, the cigarette was blurred out. Granted there was that thing she did with the pole, and then later in the scene after she's got the bra off she starts pouring hot wax all over her body and breasts, with lots of hot wax and breasty close-ups. But for the love of God, don't let anyone see she's smoking.

Actually, I imagined watching this movie with LE a few years in the future (okay, so I haven't decided when and what kind of TV to censor because I'm just not into that kind of thing unless it's something scary that gives him nightmares, like Spiderman), and the blurred-out cigarette could in fact save me from this loaded and challenging conversation:

LE: "Mommy, why is that lady dancing naked and putting hot wax on her boobs?"
Me: "Because it's her job?"
LE: "Why is it her job?
Me: "Ummmm... Hey guess what! It's bedtime!"

..and instead we can have this conversation:

LE: "Mommy, why is that naked lady's hand all blurry with smoke coming out of it?"
Me: "Because she's smoking a cigarette."
LE: "Why?"
Me: "Because she's naughty. Now be quiet and let mommy watch."

Aren't contradictions grand?

Monday, February 1, 2010

An Insanely Atypical Thing

In most of my Istanbul houses, there's been central heating. I hate central heating. The reason I hate it is because in the winter, you're stuck with whatever indoor temperatures your neighbors think are good. I think anyone who lives in Turkey might see where I'm going with this.

Most Turks are like my grandma. They seem to think it's nice to keep the house at a sweltering 80 degrees or so all year around. Most people don't have A/C in their homes, so in summer this can't be helped (though not enough people believe it won't kill you to open a window or two), but in winter, the solution is to blast the hell out of the central heat. In winter, I'm at home barefoot in T-shirts with most of the windows cracked and all the radiators closed, sweating in the heat generated just by the radiator pipes. The other reason I hate central heating is that no matter how I feel about the temperature, no matter how much heat I let out the open windows, we still have to pay for it.

I'm very much of the "Put on a sweater if you're cold" school of thought. Like most good liberals of my generation, I have the bizarre, almost religious behaviors associated with going green. I've quit using fabric softener, paper towels (unless it's really gross), and paper napkins. I save jars and breadcrumbs and magazines and Ziploc bags and bits of string and buttons. I clean the floors with vinegar when the cleaner's not around. I water my plants from the aquarium. I only conceded failure on my kitchen scraps composting project when my balcony plants sprouted tomatoes and potatoes from seeds that managed to live. I'm totally the household "Turn off the lights and don't leave the water running and LE, goddammit quit flushing the toilet money doesn't grow on trees and when you grow up we'll be at war for the water shortages" natural resources Nazi. So the idea of how much oil is being wasted on my behalf causes me to lose sleep at night.

A lot of other things cause me to lose sleep at night too. That's just one of them.

So the other night when the kapıcı came around with a petition about maybe turning the heat down, I stood there agape for so long he asked BE, "Is she okay?" Then I got all excited and started jumping around with LE, who was jumping around because every time the doorbell rings he thinks it's either the water guy or the French fry guy and he gets to give them the money. The petition had to go to all the neighbors, and it had a few choices, like "I'm happy with the heat the way it is," "It's much too hot," "It's much too cold," and "Turn the boiler off at night and start it again in the morning."

Amazing. I don't know if the motivation behind the petition was cost, the environment, or the temperature, but it was truly one of the last things I ever expected to see in Turkey.

And even though BE hates to put on a sweater and he runs water the whole time he's brushing his teeth and he's forever bitching at me about the open windows and my bare feet, he knows what's good for him and checked "It's much too hot."

Oh, the anticipation! It wasn't just our building surveyed, it was all the ones in our block-- 62 flats altogether.

But then, yesterday the results were posted. 62% in favor of tropical indoor temperatures and the other 58% in favor of other stuff.

Still, it's a start. Maybe next year heating will get expensive enough that everyone will learn just to put on a freaking sweater. The environment is one thing, a 200 YTL monthly heating bill is another.

Sigh. Time to crack some windows.