Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ex-Pat Questions: Number Two

From Nomad's post, Seven Questions For Expats in Turkey:

What are some things you found/find hardest to adapt to?

1) The noise. It's probably just the nature of Istanbul, but things are so freaking noisy here. Perhaps it's a combination of crowds, poorly insulated buildings, and too much concrete. Traffic. Other people's ideas of how loud it's appropriate to be and when. Even out in the 'burbs it's pretty freaking noisy, especially now that we're getting on summer so it seems like every other night there's some nearby event that involves fireworks or blasting obnoxious music. I, like most people, feel that any music I didn't choose is obnoxious so that's a purely subjective term. Now that we're leaving windows open, all the concrete makes people talking or laughing at even normal volume sound like they're right in the room with you.

And actually I'm exaggerating about the fireworks, for this year at least. Last year there were fireworks pretty much every other night. It turns out one of the reasons AKP wasn't re-elected for the district governorship or whatever you call it in English is because the guy spent something like a million dollars of public money on fireworks extravaganzas ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Apparently he wasn't notified how fireworks lose their appeal if they go off ALL THE FREAKING TIME. There must be some Disneyland employees who can attest to this. Oh, and also that AKP guy was unpopular for other acts of corruption he was busted for. One notable example is the public money he took to build a community center, but instead built a dershane with a grocery store and cafe (or Little Caesars or whatever it is this month) underneath. I went to the grocery store once and it sucked. I don't know why they're still in business. It had the narrowest, crookedest aisles ever, and the most nonsensical organization I've ever seen, plus all the vegetables were limp and warm.

Back to the noise. Another thing I can't adjust to is people's speaking volume, especially men. Mostly I don't think people are arguing anymore when they're just talking or even vehemently agreeing with each other, but sometimes I'm still not sure. It's not just me either. The other night in the taxi BE and the driver were vehemently agreeing about politics, and for the whole 15 minutes I was trying to convince LE they weren't mad at each other, with no success.

2) Education and medical care. My issues with doctors and education have been pretty well-covered on the blog. Well, education not so much but I have trouble thinking about it for long without getting extremely upset, especially now that I'm facing having to educate my son here. Or should I say "educate?"

Anyway, I have a theory that no matter where you're from, there are some things you will never find acceptable if they're even the slightest bit different from what you're used to. Medicine and education are some of those culturally ingrained things. It's not like I'm blind to the issues of American medical care or education, so I'm not necessarily endorsing them. It's just that the Turkish way sits so very, very wrong with me in a way the American way doesn't. There's no rational reason-- it just is.

Interestingly, I met several foreign women in the park in the US, and education and medicine were some of things they were having the hardest time dealing with, too. The German woman couldn't stand how doctors seemed so cold and single-minded and interventionist, while the Italian woman hated it that her son's preschool (actually pre-preschool) was spending a lot of time teaching the alphabet and numbers instead of letting the kids play. So there you go. Everyone is right in her way because there is no absolute right in these situations. There is and there isn't, I mean. Pragmatism doesn't matter much when I'm going to be pissed off about my son having to memorize and regurgitate a bunch of un-analysed crap while trying to be noticed and not noticed in his class of 60.

And I still don't get why Religion classes (Sunni religion in most state schools) are required or even allowed in a secular country. It never fails to interest me the different mad ways Americans and Turks contentiously define the separation of church and state. In America, they fight about prayer in schools while in Turkey they fight about religious dress. In America, a church group can meet in a school after hours and everyone is cool with that, but in Turkey I'm pretty sure that's frowned on. Stuff like that. I'm not saying one way is better than another. It's just interesting is all.

3) Being a woman here. I'll never take to that. I don't like what it means to be a woman, or a married woman and I don't like all the tacit limitations on behavior. A "girls' night out" for me will never involve tea and cakes, but the few times I've tried to have a proper one since getting married, there was such petulant resistance from my husband he managed to ruin the fun with his endless phone calls and bitching. It's not like all husbands are this way, but enough are that it's not outside of the norm. I don't like it that BE and his family frown on my having male friends, even gay ones. I don't like it that BE will probably never get his head around why I will never think it's my job to iron his shirts, especially when he's way better and faster at ironing than I am. I don't like it that LE already says to his grandmother, "Don't come to the park with Dede and I. Stay home and make food and tea." I don't like it that BE and the ILs found this delightful (granted, LE said it in a way cuter way than I wrote it, but still). I'll never get used to being the "weaker" sex, requiring men's guidance and protection from the world and from the silly whims of my own mind. Istanbul is way less shitty for women than a lot of other places, but some things are still so ingrained. When I watch "Mad Men," I'm like "I wonder if Turkish people get this?"

4) Living in an apartment building. Hate it. I think it must be the most unnatural human state with people all piled on top of each other like this. It's not a Turkey issue-- it's my issue. I've pretty much always lived in houses with yards. Once I lived in a flat that was one floor of a two-story building, but there was still a yard. And once I lived in an apartment in a converted two-story motel, but at least the insulation was good. I just can't get used to having to be quiet all the time (here after I complained about the noise), like stopping LE from playing loudly in the morning knowing the people downstairs can clearly hear a coin drop on the floor, not to mention a Hot Wheels or a plastic guitar thrown in anger, or a fit of echoing rage in the bathroom at not being allowed to remove the caulking from the shower.
I don't like the glowers I'm sure I'm getting from neighbors who don't approve of me disciplining my son, and I don't like that our neighbors know how often BE and I fight or how upset I get when we do. It bothers me to think about what sort of woman they must think I am in light of Number 3, above. And then I get mad that I even have to worry about this shit.

5) Class issues. I think I've covered this elsewhere, but I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of "servants," or that people inherently matter more or less than I do because of how much money they make. I don't like this idea of "the peasantry," which refers to that great mass of people who are considered too mentally feeble to decide even how to vote properly. I know I get really frustrated with the rural folk and how they contend with city stuff like elevators, and yes, I'm guilty of poking fun at them, but deep down I find the whole thing tragic because they had to leave their bucolic lives for this. Like the Oakies chasing the ephemeral California dream, they went from "regular poor" to "fucking poor" with just a geographical shift, and suddenly they were in a place where no one liked them and no one wanted them.

The government can't take care of them properly and nor does it seem to want to except for political lip service and the occasional crumb of charity. The lack of social services here astounds me, and I don't get how it can be lack of money. How much did they spend on flowers along the Sahil Yolu from the airport? How was there so much money to re-pave İstiklal Caddesi not once, but twice? Where do all these mosques keep coming from, especially when we consider the overcrowding of schools? How come the poor only need to get fed for Ramazan and Kurban Bayram? Where did all that earthquake aid money go?

One way that Turkey has it way over America is that the social safety net is much stronger, I think. Americans tend to rely on services while Turks tend to rely on each other. I don't know if Americans relied on each other before there were services, but that doesn't sound very American to me, Teabaggers be damned because I'm sure they'd be the first with their hands out bitching about the services if a tornado hit their town. When I worked in social services, we often talked about people who "fell through the cracks." These were people who couldn't access services for whatever reason, or people who the services couldn't find. That notion was always chilling to me. Here, it seems like it's all cracks. Like, how on earth do the working poor take care of their old and sick people? If I'm poor and you're poor and you come to "visit" me for a week, how should I feed you and your family? And what of the abused women and children?

It's not like I'm such a bleeding heart, but I do spend an awful lot of time wondering how the hell people get by. BE is forever getting mad at me because I keep giving the cleaner raises, plus I give her as much stuff as I can, like extra food and medicine and clothing and toys. It's just that I feel so deeply ashamed of all our stuff every time she comes here, when they're forever running out of bread and cooking fuel. BE doesn't share my shame (though he does feel sorry for them)-- to him it's just that way and there's nothing to be done. He's not particularly religious but I sense a bit of that Allah büyük so what are you gonna do? fatalism of religious countries It's not indolence or stupidity that makes people like my cleaner struggle-- it's a system that decided their fates at birth. Poverty is the same anywhere, of course, but here, the number of poor people and the depth of the poverty really get to me, plus the apparent callousness of the "haves" towards the "have nots." Also it seems to me that class lines are much more rigid than at home, both in terms of people moving up or down, and the extent to which people from different social classes mix with each other.

Anyway, that's probably enough for now. I'm looking forward to your comments, as I'm sure I've missed some stuff and there's probably some other stuff I've gotten completely wrong.


toastytoasty said...

It is weird the things kids pick up on and say. For example last month my 5 year old said to me in Turkish `you are not successful.`

1 The way anyone has the right to bother others with noise pollution. The way sound travels in apartment buildings astonishes me.

2 I actually think my wife has Baron Munchousen by proxy syndrom. It is as if Turks are never happier when there is illness around. I very nearly came with my wife to the doctors and planned to tell the doctor that my son has had antibiotics at least 40 times by now but that would be too `hain.`
Working in the Turkish education sector has made me very cynical about all education.

3 Women seem to live through their kids and do Turkish couples have any fun? MIL the rightous martyr who will no doubt get her reward in paradise coz she certainly has had little reward on earth. Last month the family come over-the house is ripped apart as shifts of meals have to be prepared. Go out-no way-stay in howl moan discuss the price of tomatoes inflation unamed foreign powers keeping Turkey down-sly innuendoes that we have money and they are all days away from the balifs. FIL does not come because he is at home drinking but of course nobody can say anything-what is it about money that they cannot understand. DONT SPEND ALL DAY ON THE PHONE AND THEN MOAN WHEN THE PHONE IS CUT OFF STOP USING CREDIT CARDS AND MY FAVOURITE STOP BORROWING FROM EACH OTHER For pitys sake why dont they just keep their money to themselves and stop lending it.

4 The way everyone has to be so solicitous to their neighbours. And the gossip-our next door neighbour Fulya who is very glamorous but her husband insists on sex every night -she told my wife in confidence but no doubt the kapici knows as he know everything else Every night I mean I wish I could insist on it every week. Of course we hear everything from next door as the vent in our bathroom amplifies the sound from their living room. Why is it that Turkish women cannot just have sex and then go to sleep-no they have to shower do their hair use the hairdryer.....

5 I used to feel sorry but I find it hard to now.

6 The fake formality of meals-my son asked me recently why English people dont sit at the table-either they taught him that at school or he has observed me eating in front of the telly. He said it as it it was an outrageous thing to do.
Stupid health cures-actibreast which is advertised on a pharmacy in Buyukcekmece-you rub actibreast on your breasts and you increase the size by 300 per cent only 348 YTL a tube-my son has to eat a mix of pekmez ginger and honey-but funnily he gets every cold going.


Nomad said...

Thanks so much for your answers! I will definitely link this post from my own site.
Comments on your post.
1. It didn't take me long to realize that Turks equate happiness with noise. The more noise, the more happy. It's the same as the concept of being alone and loneliness are interchangeable ideas (and words actually.) I first came to this conclusion sitting in my favorite bar, after work, making notes alone at a table. People I hardly knew kept wanting to sit with me and talk to me as if I were distressed or depressed. Solitude, as well as intellect and creativity, are not highly prized here, very generally speaking.

2. Education. I recall talking with a high school student about his school curriculum. And I asked the same thing you did. How can you call it a "secular" education if religion classes are mandatory? And his answer was absolutely classic. He said,"Oh, we learn about all religions." That sort of calmed me for a moment. Then I asked,"What did you learn about Christianity?"
"Well," he paused," We learned that Christians worship three gods. And.. and..We learned why Islam was more advanced than Christianity." Secularism apparently has its limits.

So often I find that education in Turkey has been skewed on two fronts. One, the reliance on theoretical, rather than the practical. I've heard this time and time again from students. Two, the system becomes more important than the results. Obedience to a system, no matter how illogical or ineffective, is key to success rather than attaining the expected goal. But then, that is something you tend to see everywhere, and all around the world now.
3. I don't know how many times I thought the same thing while watching MAD MEN. I kept thinking.. but I see THAT kind of behavior every day. That's why the show is so clever. It is our world but it is not quite our world. Those changes to attitudes has made a world of difference. Now you see people wanting to roll them back too!

My feelings- perhaps because I am a man- shift back and forth on woman's issues in Turkey. That's probably a good sign. Often I seem to see many women in Turkey are raised to think their ultimate goal in life is ONLY to make babies and make a home for a man. In exchange, she expects security and no great reason to complain. That's the price they feel they have to pay for security. (back to Mad Men and Betty!)
On the other hand, many times I am impressed at how clearly defined the role women play in keeping society running by merely being the center of the home. I hadn't thought about it much when I was back home. Being a mother and housewife is such an underrated thing in society generally but I think it is probably the most important job.

Nomad said...

3. Back when I was in the states, I found living in an apartment just as bad. I remember one time listening to my neighbors "gettin' it on" upstairs. Quite enthusiastically too! I could hear- no, sense-every nuance and I was starting to feel like a perv or something. Every other night too. (At one point, my frustration took over and I shouted,"IS THAT IT??!")
And the first thing you think is.. "How rude! Jeez, don't they realize that.. and then the second thing you think is.."Gosh, if I can hear THEM.. then.." It puts a damper on the voyeuristic thrill somewhat.

5. Related somewhat. After watching "Twelve Angry Men" with a Turkish friend, I was espousing the benefits of a trial by jury. My friend was not convinced AT ALL. He said, "I wouldn't want other Turkish people judging me in any way and on any subject.Some villager from out EAST?? Are you kidding?"
When I asked why and added all the liberal platitudes, he said,"Those people are not qualified to make those decisions. They are not educated. They would be too easily swayed by all the wrong factors. They would get confused by the details." He actually gave a list in that manner and I was rather shocked. Of course, over time, I have come - if not to agree with him, to at least see his point. Perhaps this is one reason why the authority figure predominates in Turkey.

Thanks again for your ideas. Super duper post. I have a lot of friends who ask me about Turkey so I will be heading them to your blog at every opportunity!

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Let me just point out that religion classes became mandatory here after the coup of '80. We had an optional one before that. The parents had to fill out a request form for the kids to take it. It wasn't a perfect system back then either but it was a more reasonable compromise. (And, no, I don't think it would have happened w/o the coup. This is not lost on people like Fethullah Gulen, who speculate Kenan Evren might have secured himself a place in cennet by that act alone.)

There's a lot of stuff like this that changed after the coup including the election system and parts of the political parties law. I know of no properly-written history book that has all this in it. Perhaps one exists but if it does it doesn't appear to have been a success. Now that I am checking out foreigners' blogs, I noticed that even foreigners with claimed academic expertise in Turkey frequently just relay what apparently had been fed to them by third-rate pundits who happen produce OK English.

Nomad said...

@ Bulent
You have discovered a niche in the market!! We await your book of this subject. Turkey can be such a complicated country-but deceptively simple from the outside- that more mainstream books really need to be written about Turkish society. There is absolutely no other country like Turkey. That's the starting point, of course.

There are so many books written by foreigners who come to Turkey and make the same pithy observations- not wrong but rather superficial. It would be great to see something a bit more focused or in-depth. Is it possible to be objective about this country, I wonder?

toastytoasty said...

I lived in Turkey for 6 years before reading Ataturks biography by Andrew Mango and it astonished me how just by reading that book I understood more about Turkey than by just living there.

Aral Eren said...

What do you think about the US, which is supposedly a secular country, writing "In God We Trust" on its money, and forcing its presidents to take oath on a bible (especially if this president is a person who is "accused" of being a muslim by americans)? How about the fact that the American universities discriminate over religion and race?

Mandatory religious classes and the religion section on id cards are things that violate secularism in Turkey. In fact there is a court decision which rules against the mandatory religious classes as it explicitly violates the constitution. That decision, however, will not be enforced until AKP gets out of charge.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Hah I agree, Nomad, except I cannot be the one to write it. I was just born and raised here and merely remember a bunch of simple facts that many seem to have forgotten (I think they are faking it, to be honest). I have no expertise or any aptitude for perceiving much beyond that. I volunteer Stranger for that task. Not now, but in a decade or so if she sticks around.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Hmm. We get the inevitable US comparison. While comparing, perhaps one could find parallels. Getting 'God' into things is easy given the right kind of circumstances but in a democracy with a somewhat pious populace reversing such things tend to be hard. It turns out the mention of 'God' found its way to the pledge of allegiance and paper money only in the 50s in the US[1]. I don't know how much the fear of "Godless communists" had to do with this, but I wouldn't be surprised, given what we've seen here in Turkey, if it were actually so. At least superficially -- and especially after the coup -- religion and religious organizations here were supported as prophylactic measures against the leftist tendencies of the youth.

[1] I am too lazy to link, but Google is your friend if you wish to verify these things.

Nomad said...

Aral, the topic was Turkey and I live here so I was speaking about this country. Anyway, I am by no means the proper person to ask to justify every American custom. But since you asked and I assume you ask because you want to learn and not because you feel defensive, I will gladly inform you that I feel strongly about that subject too. Practically every day, I wage my online war at comment sections of Huffington Post!
Not so much about "In God We Trust" because I think it was more of a tradition than an article of faith. After all, if citizens actually believed that then what would be the sense of any protest on any subject. Same thing with the hand on the Bible. It is apparent that swearing on the Holy book hasn't kept most of the politicians particularly honest. Discrimination on the basis of race or religion is- at least, for the moment- formally illegal in the US and universities who indulge in this can expect public condemnation and more. So it isn't quite fair to include that as an example of hypocrisy.
Having said that, I was upset back when Reagan introduced prayer in schools- silent meditative time, whatever you want to call it. What I object to most of all is the religious indoctrination of the youth or children using tax-payers money. We have plenty of private institutions for this and I feel it is inappropriate to make use of these funds in this way, whether it takes place in the US or in Turkey. (Please don't think I am singling out Turkey, by any means. Look at Texas and the text book controversy-a real cause for shame.)
Defending secularist principles is an international mission and thinking of it on a nation by nation basis is probably counter productive. No offense was meant to Turkey specifically, Aral.

Aral Eren said...

In fact a google search reveals that this phrase dates back to the 19th century, so I think it has nothing to do with the fear of communism.

"In the United States, the motto first appeared on a coin in 1864 during strong Christian sentiment emerging during the Civil War, but In God We Trust did not become the official U.S. national motto until after the passage of an Act of Congress in 1956"

I don`t know if the religious institutions in the US received some sort of state support during the cold war, but I don`t think the regulation of religious institutions by the government increases the religiosity of people anyway.

maybe you would want to check out this paper published by a Turkish economist which argues that the government`s supporting a particular religion creates a monopoly structure, increasing the price of religion and decreasing the religiosity of consumers in the religion market ;

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Aral, I am not sure. 1956 (as Wikipedia says) for it becoming official (addition to paper money after that) and 1954 addition of "under God" to the pledge do seem to indicate a pattern. Of course, if you search, you see all manner of claims along the lines I have outlined but I haven't studied the subject and don't want to mislead anyone. (See here and here for example.)

State support can be tacit too, it doesn't need to be direct. For example, even in Bogazici Univeristy, shortly after 1980 and under martial law, and even though somewhat wealthy families were screaming bloody murder, Adnan Hoca was able to organize pretty much unimpeded. In the same period any -- even mildly -- leftist (or perhaps any other kind of) organization would get you in trouble with martial law authorities. People say the same thing about the Nurcu organizations not getting broken up, while everything else was etc. (And, in the same vein, some people talk about the indirect help of the coup for PKK's rise to prominence provided by demolishing any other viable (and moderate) Kurdish organization.) Another example would be CYDD getting into all kinds of trouble for their paperwork and donation practices, while other -- more religious -- organizations' books are left alone.

Prevention of direct tax funding and legal support is clearly necessary for secularism in the legalistic sense, but a determined holder of gov't power can still affect things immensely and if this kind of thing is done over a long period of time it can transform the culture.

The rough converse of this argument is also persuasive. Some religious people claim -- I believe rightly -- that the gov't support for religion here actually works to tame religiosity by making it very hard for independent organizations to compete with whatever it is the Directorate of Religious Affairs does. So an action of government that wouldn't fit the US notion of secularism actually might be a way to ensure secularizing influences have some chance. By establishing a powerful middle-of-way religious establishment, the kind of religiosity that'd be stricter and far more rigid is given less room.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Oh and, Aral, thanks for that link. I haven't had a chance to go through the 48 pages, but what they seem to be saying does make some sense.

Gulay said...

It seems to me that the further East you go the noisier things become. Certainly there is less concept of personal space, in Turkey you start to see the Asian influence more than in any other European country, if you think Turkey is noisy you should try a Hong Kong restaurant at lunch time.....I also have a theory that warm countries are noisier, people live their lives on the streets in front of others, maybe?

Stranger said...

Whoa. I post on a Saturday evening then spend Sunday away from the computer, and look what happens. Not to worry. I was gleefully monitoring comments with the iPhone all day Sunday. BE probably thinks I'm having an affair.

So. First thing's first:

Welcome, Aral. Nice to see a new virtual face. I've not heard that first name before-- it's nice!

@toasty: I'm not sure LE realizes he's learning English at school because their English isn't very good. The other morning he kept coming up to me saying, "Mama! Mama! Vat ees your nem?" in a perfect Turkish accent.

1) Noise and happiness. Very true. They used to have "exercise time" (maybe Animasyon?) here, with joyfully blasting music and a bunch of lackluster housewives shuffling through aerobics in the basketball court outside, but it sounded happy at least. Or these yearly dance shows they have our toddlers do, with happy loud music and some bewildered-looking little kids trying to remember their routines, a few of them just standing there crying with their fingers in their mouths. Priceless! It was fully a year before I could get the Turkish national anthem and that other nationalist tune (I don't know the name) out of my head because they were blasted repeatedly everywhere you went during and after the 2002 World Cup.

Gülay, you're right too-- Western notions of personal space are very different, including measurable things like how comfortable different cultures' speaking distances are. Americans and Brits like at least an arm's length between people and it gets closer and closer as you move East. When a Turk and a Westerner are talking, especially intimately or happily, you will notice the Westerner keeps creeping backwards while the Turk keeps creeping towards him.

@ Nomad re: alone and lonely. Did you ever notice how many foreigners in films and TV shows are portrayed sitting alone reading a book? And how he's often portrayed as rude because he doesn't want to be interrupted? I had to stay with the ILs for awhile when our house was getting set up, and one thing that drove me MAD was MILs inability to leave me alone for more than 10 minutes (especially because I was trying to plan lessons for the first week of teaching at a new job). This included while I was trying to sleep. I know she was just trying to keep me from getting sad, but grrr.

Oops, the boy's servis will be here soon. I'll have to get into the meatier stuff later. Thanks all, for a fascinating discussion.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Oh, Nomad (and others) just to get a sense of some of the complexity here check out devinim. (You'll need a reasonable knowledge of spoken Turkish.)

Stranger said...

I brought it upon myself. Tonight, the place whence noisy music comes from has been blasting that nationalistic song whose name I don't know all night, at least 5 times in the last 2 hours. The crowd's cheering makes an eerie hum off the concrete. Wish I knew why this has to be happening at 10pm on a school night...

To continue:

2) @toasty, I'm not overly confident of any education system either. It's again that cultural thing, that I'm somehow more comfortable with the American failure of education than the Turkish failure. In fact, Turkey has a small advantage that a lot of the true ignoramuses here didn't complete school, whereas most idiots in America have college degrees. So that's something.

@Nomad, I've heard this kind of rubbish too about the religion classes here. Somehow, it doesn't surprise me much. On the other hand, I've also heard some surprising things, like that private schools have a certain amount of freedom in what they teach in religion class. A friend of a friend's daughter is learning stuff like Native American songs and world mythology. And actually, I've heard LE is technically exempt from religion classes because his father is Alevi and his mother is a heathen. At first, I thought, "Of course he won't go!" But then I thought, I'll tell him what's what and let him decide if he wants to be ostracized from his peers. It wouldn't be right of me to make my issues be his issues and for him to suffer as a result, and attending religious classes won't make him religious. It'll just make him smarter about Islam than a lot of people are. All kids have to contend with religion in some way or another.

Not that this way is exactly right either. I'm all for abolishing this ridiculous practice down to every local level. But American parents who have sued schools where they pray in class have probably caused immense problems for their kids, who don't care about or especially understand these larger issues. It's one of those things that's hard to decide what's more important. I'd feel just as bad telling LE to keep his head down and think about baseball while the other kids were praying. And I'd hardly expect him to stand up and walk out of a Turkish classroom where Sunni prayer was being taught (though I'd be proud as punch if he did).

Also, I was trying to figure out who the three gods are. Jesus, Mary and Joseph? The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (and what on earth is the holy ghost anyway?). God, Jesus and Mary maybe? It's rather confusing.

Your other comments about education are apt. In fact, if a Turkish person can swallow the system, or at least learn how to deal with it, his chances of success with the Turkish system overall are greater, no? Even for crap like calling the electric company.

Stranger said...

A bit more before bedtime:

@Nomad, there's a part of me that feels a nostalgia for the way things never were, with the working man and happy housewife of the 1950s. When I watch American movies from those periods it all seems so nice and easy-- everyone has clearly defined roles (men and women both actually, because I think a lot of men must feel constricted in different ways), and they know what's expected of them, and all that needs doing gets done efficiently and with lots of starch.

But it's women like me who needed Mommy's Little Helper. The ones who just can't keep it together and are always wondering isn't there something else? And can I do it without all the neighbors pointing and calling me a freak and a slut? There must be Turkish women who think the same, and there must be a lot of them but their choices are so limited... People like my MIL have clearly internalized this crap and perhaps lack creativity. Fine. I think she's perfectly happy with her life. But some of her sisters, and other middle-aged women I've come across from time to time... I really wonder what they would say if they weren't so busy being polite. My Turkish isn't great but sometimes I think we are all staring at the big pink elephant in the living room, and their sly looks and surprising turns of phrase probably mean what I think they do, that this is all a big fucking put-on to keep everyone happy.

What a drag it is getting old. And anyway, if you look at statistics for America in terms of hours spent on housework and child-rearing for men and women, women still bear the brunt of it. It's just in America, the job has become even more thankless than here, and the women are doing it on top of their full-time jobs. Here too, actually-- the only women who don't work are in the tiny middle and upper classes though Turkey is still quite keen on the myth of the happy housewife. At least here, there's a lot of superficial reverence for mothers and housewives. In America, most people would think the woman who made such a choice was an idiot even though, as you say, the world wouldn't really function if women didn't do what they do.

Still, I wish my husband wouldn't persist in thinking it would be a threat to his manhood if he picked up his socks once in awhile.

On another topic, ew. Bathroom vents. In our old house, you could smell it when one of the neighbors did a really big job.

It's late and my laptop battery is dying. I'll have to leave secularism for tomorrow and just shut up for awhile. I do hate leaving good comments un-answered though...

toastytoasty said...

With my MIL it is the sheer learned helplessness of it all and the way she is treated like a martyr by all and sundry.

She is illiterate although can read and write a tiny bit. Not her fault coz she had to leave school at 10 to look after a relative. Why has she not learnt?

Has scrimped and scraped been beaten to a pulp had a gun put to her head brought up 5 kids on nothing yet the house is in her name Why has she not left FIL?

Has no money and never had any Why has she never worked when her youngest is 26? FIL did not want her so what?

She is a raving nationalist to the point of absurdity Why what has Turkey done for her?

Nomad said...

You cracked me up about the three gods thing because I did exactly the same thing. Three? I thought they might have invented something new while I was abroad. But no, it was the Trinity! I think I actually said something like, "Oh THAT!" But then my religious training came to an abrupt halt near its inception with that whole "original sin" business. It stuck in my craw.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Stranger I wonder what nationalistic song you are talking about? Is it like this one? (That is the new-ish version somebody apparently revived while I was gone. They took some of the somewhat more extreme verses out too. The original is form '33. Oh and, assuming the footage is from the period, check out what the state wished women to be like back then -- voting, violin-playing, crowd-addressing, professionals. It did work to some extent, but you guys don't seem to know those women.)

Do you live close to the local hq. for some political party or something like that?

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Here you go, some atheist family apparently sued and secured an injunction against the local authorities, barring them from forcing their kid to take the mandatory religion class.

Stranger said...

Turkey is way too complex for me to ever attempt proper writing about it, even 10 years from now. The history is even more confusing because, while everyone seems to know the dates really well, the facts keep changing (and much faster than the way I'm used to facts changing back home). But thanks for the vote of confidence.

@Bülent, yep, that's the song. It gets stuck in my head because I find it strangely alluring, especially that key change. I like the Turkish national anthem too. It's really fun to play with one finger on the bottom octave of a piano. I'm surprised it hasn't been picked up for a movie soundtrack that involves medieval battles with lots of clanking metal and dirty guys going "Yaaaaaa!" If an opposing army were coming at me with that tune, I'd be quaking in my boots.

@Nomad re: juries. I think the same could be said about American juries. I'm not sure I'd want an ignorant Teabagger (of the Tea Party variety) judging me. Or worse, if one of them were the loudest and most charismatic member of a jury. I think in reality most people have a rather charming way of taking jury duty seriously, and attempting to realize the weight of their decision-making.

In Turkey, if some uneducated villager were on a jury with a doctor and a teacher, I think they'd they'd be more likely to follow the doctor and teacher (or the loudest person) than let their decisions be swayed by their own ignorance or the sentimental details. Honestly, I suspect American juries aren't much different. And of course juries are susceptible to zeitgeist and prejudice and whatever else. The Rosebergs. Emmett Till. Or Dialo Amadu... Still, I'm much more wary of judges who have been appointed by whatever political party than I am of regular people, in either country.

@Aral re: American secularism. Those are more examples of the strange way secularism plays out in America. Another is swearing on a (King James) bible in court, which people here see on TV and movies (which in reality you don't have to do if you're not Christian).

In America, the debate seems centered around having the freedom to be whatever religion you want and whether or not the public should be responsible for funding all of this. A sub-argument (but often a louder one) is about freedom from religion, and whether the non-religious have the right to make the religious shut up in certain public spheres.

In Turkey, the debate seems to be more about the freedom from (Sunni) religion and certain attempts to curtail it while at the same time asking the public to fund Sunni goals, but not other sects'/religions' goals. So, given the American debate about separation of church and state that I'm used to, the Turkish debate seems baffling to me.

My boy keeps waking up which means it's time for me to shut up now.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...


The history is even more confusing because, while everyone seems to know the dates really well, the facts keep changing (and much faster than the way I'm used to facts changing back home).

Hah, that's one of the advantages of growing up here, I suppose. Such things as fact-changing are done so obviously that you develop an instinctive revulsion toward many kinds of punditry and the visible political classes in general. Once you know those people tend to behave in such ways, it is relatively easy to transfer the skepticism to places/environments where it is done far more skilfully and insidiously.

The state and seekers of power here educate people in more ways than one. I, for one, am grateful to our rulers and ruler-wannabes for the great lessons taught.

Stranger said...

I like that way of looking at it. Americans must seem so incredibly naive to some Turkish people. I never thought they were particularly naive until lived here...

Rebecca said...

1) Yes I agree, I think my hearing has actually deteriorated here.
2)Fortunately, these issues have not greatly affected me - yet.
3) Luckily I live in a fairly liberal part of the city. The main annoyance for me is if I am shopping with my husband and I pay the male vendor and he gives the change to my husband grrr that really ticks me off!
4)I have lived in apartment buildings before. I admit it is not ideal but currently I live in a small block (10 apartments) with mighty thick walls. Not too bad overall.
5) Yes I agree. I thought the UK was class conscious but I am astounded by the huge divisions here. So polarised. A Turkish friend of mine, currently living in the UK says she loves the fact that she can go to a restaurant and find herself by chance eating at the next table to her manager.

Other things I can't get used to: nosy questions and knuckle cracking.

Other than that I am fairly content here most of the time.

toastytoasty said...

funny about the restaurant. When I worked in Ist there was a cheap pide place near the uni but the Turkish teachers would not eat there on the grounds-what if a student saw. We were ok to go to kebab restaurants though