Thanks to Nomad for saving me from having to think up a bunch of posts. This is from his post, "Seven Questions For Expats In Turkey."
Feel free to add your own answers in the comments.
What are a few things you like most about living in Turkey?
I've been mulling over this question for days now. Not counting the days since Nomad first posted-- just the days since I started this post. My problem is everything I think of that I like, there's some big fat downside that begs to be moaned about. For example, I thought of the food culture in Turkey. The food culture is nice, especially in the summer. Long, languid meals outdoors with 40 different dishes and drinks and conversation. Sunday and vacation breakfasts go on for hours-- well into lunch and partway into the afternoon snack and Turkish breakfast food is wonderful. The food alone keeps LE entertained for a long time. There's the people-watching that goes on in a crowded restaurant or the easy comraderie between tables at a picnic place. Sometimes there are passing musicians that you don't even want to pay to go away, and some restaurants round off the night with music and singing and dancing. So that's cool.
But one big fat downside is that for regular, non-celebratory meals in restaurants, there is nothing like dining going on, even in nice restaurants. It all seems very rushed to me, and you have to always keep an eye cocked on your food and glass to make sure they don't disappear before you're done. Few restaurant staff get it that you don't want your main dish when you're only halfway through the appetizers, and I've forgotten that you're supposed to put your napkin in your lap when you sit down-- waiters in restaurants with cloth napkins get all confused because they want to clear away the napkins when people sit.
The other big fat downside is the food culture in people's houses. While I appreciate the enthusiastic hospitality, and I'm amused and maybe slightly annoyed at the insistence to eat more than is humanly possible, I hate the gender division of it all, with the women jumping up and down to fetch things, never having a warm bite themselves while the men sit back and pick their teeth and belch under their breath and don't offer to help. And I don't like these kinds of events that immediately become gender-segregated, with the women in the kitchen sneaking cigarettes (because it's not respectful to smoke in front of the menfolk-- the grown kids have to smoke in the kitchen too) and having inane discussions about illness and miracle herbal cures and which vegetables have been reported in the newspaper to be good for you and why and ways to lose weight. Meanwhile the men get to sprawl in the salon and smoke as much as they want, having water and coffee and tea brought to them by attentive women, talking about cool stuff like things that happen in other countries and politics. Even though I get it that it's totally in the women's comfort level to serve men like that, and I get it that they become horribly upset when the men try to help, I still don't like it. Getting it doesn't mean I'm okay with it, but that's true for a lot of things. Plus, it also pisses me off that I can't drink anything more than a glass or two of white wine when BE's family are around. This includes at my own freaking wedding.
So. I've been rolling over in my mind some things that I like in Turkey that don't bring on something to bitch about. Here they are:
I love Turkish. I love the sound of it and the fluidity and elasticity of it. I love its creepy veneer of mathematically precise regularity that falls apart when it wants to. I love that it's not Turkish without the context and the gestures and the tone of voice. I love how my son speaks Turkish-- he's already doing that identity thing where he's a different person depending on what language he's speaking and in Turkish he's a ham. He's more of a professor in English, probably due to the fact that I'm the only native speaker he hears on a regular basis. I feel bad that I consistently butcher this wonderful language every day, but that's not exactly a downside, is it?
I love it that the newly-opened ekolojik pazar in my neighborhood sells wildcrafted weeds with their other produce. I mean, I'm guessing they don't deliberately cultivate stinging nettle, right? I haven't had the guts to bring nettle home (there are loads of recipes for it on the Internet, with food recipes mostly from Turks) since LE stung his hand on some, but I've brought home all this other stuff that I have no idea what it is. Or rather, I can say "this is a legume of some sort" but that's about it, then I experiment with it. They also sell green garlic. I know about green garlic from my days on the organic farm, when the owners insisted on eating seasonally which meant no garlic once the winter stores ran out. The other apprentices and I discovered garlic growing in the compost heap, or in the grass around the fields from dropped bulbs and seed, and we spent many hours after work hunting for green garlic which is almost as pungent as grown garlic but a little bit different. We carried on like this until one of the apprentices hooked up with a fellow from a nearby farm in a slightly different micro-climate that had garlic earlier than we did. So anyway, last night I mixed ground beef, green garlic and some parsley-like sort of weedy herb, and it tasted exactly like lahmacun topping. That was cool.
I like it that on TV, before commercial breaks they still have the equivalent of "Stay tuned! We'll be right back after these messages." I remember they had that when I was a kid but now they don't, and I don't even remember when they stopped. But I like it that TV is still thought of as some sort of theater here, and the intermissions should be announced. And speaking of TV, there are still lots of Looney Toons here, which have mostly disappeared in the US either due to lack of interest or PC issues. But I've recovered the rare pleasure of Saturday morning cartoons via LE, who's still very impressionable so he likes Looney Toons because I do.
Bakkal deliveries. How cool is that? The other night, LE wanted some milk and we were out and I needed some for dinner. I called the bakkal and the nice kid brought it up within five minutes. Since I couldn't find any small bills (I'd forgotten to warn them to bring change), I told him to put it on our tab. Now that's some old-fashioned goodness I'd only read about in books before coming to Turkey.
Bootleg DVDs. Right now, I'm watching "Sopranos," starting from the first episode. It was on TV here, but I missed a lot of them and they were heavily edited. I'm ever so pleased.
So that's probably enough, though I've surely forgotten some things.
I've just noticed I have all these followers (well, 14, but many of them are people I don't know). So in addition to thanking all of you for bothering to read me, I'll put the question out there: What do you like about the place where you now find yourself?
And I'll deal with Nomad's remaining questions in other posts.