Sunday, November 28, 2010


I'm totally loving autumn this year. It's my favorite season anyway, but this year it seems especially nice. Maybe that's just because of some shift that's happened in my frame of mind.

It smells really good, and the light is nostalgia orange for much of the day. People burn a lot of coal out here, and I guess I've been here long enough for the smell to evoke good memories, or any memories at all. I'll probably be less pleased when it gets colder and my nose is full of black shit. At least it smells good.

LE has discovered the goodness of crunching through leaves. I try not be worried that there might be dog poo or fish guts under them, since those things were often on the sidewalk before the leaves fell down. I just really don't want to be the kind of mom who would interfere with the pure bliss of crunching through leaves even though I know there's a good chance of dog poo or fish guts or goodness knows what else. I refrain from crunching through them myself.

And it's probably because I like it where we are now, that I like autumn so much this year. We have neighbors who pop out and talk to us and try to kiss LE or pinch his cheeks. There are people shouting all over, and street animals, and farm animals and rides on minibuses, all of which LE finds delightful except when the minibuses are crowded and he gets squished. The closest market to us is Şok, a kind of discount outlet for a bigger supermarket, where the overstock and close-dated items come. Şok sucks for vegetables most of the time, and I wouldn't eat the meat there, but they're fine for other stuff. The two employees there know us, since LE and I stop there on the way home from school several nights a week.

Of course, they love LE. Not just because he's extremely cute and bilingual, but also because he's three and little. Every time we go there, LE and I have several arguments about candy and toys that he's not going to have. For a month and a half, he's been fixated on these cheap Power Ranger knockoff toys. I don't even know how he knows what a Power Ranger is, but he can't get these toys out of his mind, even when I show him how they're crappy imitations with their heads coming apart. So every time we go to Şok, there's a noisy bilingual argument about the Power Rangers, where all the other shoppers stand around watching in amusement. It always ends with LE throwing himself on the floor.

And no matter what, a teyze always materializes to inform me that the floor is cold, or dirty, or both, or that LE will get cold, or sick, or both. Where these teyzes come from I'll never know, but there always seems to be an abundance of them just out of sight, especially when a child does one of the myriad things that can make him sick. Even if the kid just runs, someone always pops out of nowhere to say, "Don't sweat!" It's insane. Once, I told him in English, "You hear that? Teyze says your going to get sick and die," to which he stopped crying and replied, "Şaka yapıyorsun! (You're joking)" That's pretty much what he says to me anytime I try to repeat something Turkish people are always telling him.

So the other night, BE and LE were having a Man Night while I was at Turkish lessons. They went to Şok, where LE took BE by the hand and led him straight to the Power Rangers. "Mama said you can buy me these," he told BE, who feels guilty for never being around and pretty much buys LE whatever crap he wants, and then some. So BE bought him two Power Rangers and a huge bag of gummi bears. The cashier, witness to the Power Rangers issue several times a week, said to LE, "So you finally got them," and BE had no idea what she was talking about.

Naturally, the imitation Power Ranger broke shortly after LE got it home. Its leg fell off and wouldn't go back on. A few days later I had to take LE to Şok again. Outside, he stated telling me about the sorts of Power Rangers he hoped to purchase this time. When he included the red one in the list, I reminded him he already had a red one. His lip started to tremble, and he said the red one was broken. I tried a lame-ass mom response like, "So? Now that one's the coolest, because he's a one-legged Power Ranger." No dice. I started telling him about the drummer for Def Lepard, but he didn't give a shit about that, not that I blame him. The bouncing into jumping into full-fledged tears started, and because he was tired he let me cuddle him. For a few minutes, he just sobbed "Two legs! Two legs! Mama, I want two legs! Mama!" I reassured him by promising to make the Power Ranger some super special tape underpants.

Conversations with kids are really weird. I still didn't buy him more Power Rangers, though.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cem Bebek

This doll is hilarious. It probably came with a tank of gas from whatever company did the series of commercials starring Cem Yilmaz, a talented comedian who's funny for me even though I can only understand about half of what he says. The doll, which thankfully is not anatomically correct (given Cem Yilmaz's sense of humor, it wouldn't have surprised me), says things like, "Quit tugging on my arms and legs," and "Put on my jacket, I'm cold ya."

Though I often wonder what the hell LE is thinking about when he plays with his toys.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkish Man Walk

It's not just Turkish men who walk this way. I've seen men in lots of Mediterranean countries walking this way.

I love it that the guy way in the background is doing the Turkish Man Walk too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Refrigerator Magnet That Should Not Be

This refrigerator magnet, and ad for a local water company that was left on our door, is so very wrong in so many ways I don't even know where to start.

The least of this company's problems is its name. Aqua-Net was the brand of hairspray my grandmothers used for their immovable helmets of hairstyling. That shit was strong!

It reminded me of a brand of underarm deodorant spray my old office mates shared among themselves called Taft. WTF? Is there a reason it's named for America's fattest president? I thought onomatopoeia, but there could be something else there. There's probably something else going on with "Negro" cookies, the range of "Lezzi" products, and any number of things with "Titiz" in the name.

And yes, I looked up how to spell "onomatopoeia" on Google.

In any case, I saved the magnet for the creepy picture. I would never buy their water, mostly on principle. Somehow I fear there are a lot of truck drivers with this magnet on their dashboards. Ew, ew, and ew.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


On the first morning of Bayram, LE was staying with the in-laws and my late morning dreams were infiltrated by a cow mooing. At first I didn't wake up all the way because I'm kind of getting used to the sound of cows outside. There are a few who live outside my office who tend to escape and run down the road, mooing loudly and looking for trash bins to dig in. I'm not sure what compels them to suddenly run, because I've never seen a cow do much of anything unless provoked.

Then I woke up all the way and was all, "WTF? Why is there a cow outside?" but then I remembered it was Bayram and just felt kind of pleased that we live in the sort of neighborhood where people can still cut their kurban in their gardens. Sometimes the lack of regulation is okay.

And after awhile the cow wasn't mooing anymore.

Later, BE called me over to the balcony railing to see what was going on down there, where a few men were joyfully butchering the cow on a plastic tarp. It was such a jolly time, with lots of happy shouting from what sounded like dozens of people in the house below. BE expected me to get all upset, but they were making a very neat job of it, and anything that might have upset me such as a head, fur, or rivers of blood, was nowhere to be seen.

Not that I'm the kind of hypocrite that eats meat and objects to violent animal death. It's just that it was a very small cow, and if I had seen its baby face I might have been kind of sad.

Later, we went to the in-laws', where LE was just on his way to the park with Dede, so when he saw us he thought that meant he didn't get to go to the park anymore. He started doing that really funny thing 3-year-olds do when they get mad or something appears to not be going their way. It starts with a fake-cry wail and bouncing up and down at the knees. As it progresses, the real tears come and the bouncing gets higher and higher until the child gets some air and is jumping up and down really fast, his wail going "uhh-uhh-uhh-uhh." We just kind of ignored him, since he wasn't listening to our assurances that he still got to go to the park. Once we were safely over the threshold of the flat, the wailing stopped and LE said something cheerful and completely unrelated to the tearful tantrum of only seconds before.

3-year-olds are very mercurial people.

Later in the afternoon, Uncle, Ukrainian Aunt, and their 5-year-old turned up. The boys went completely batshit with the obnoxious, noisy guns MIL keep buying for LE despite (or because of) our repeated requests to stop it. I went into the kitchen to smoke with Ukrainian Aunt. BE later joined us shamefully because Baba and Uncle were hogging the balcony, which meant BE was demoted to child status and forced to smoke in the kitchen with the womenfolk. Ha! Not that he gets why I resent it that women and children get lumped together in the first place, because he rarely seems to get why I might get upset with the same sorts of things he gets upset about. He seems totally immune to irony. Anyway.

With just a bit of underhanded pressure and avoidance of the underhanded resistance, I managed to get LE and I allowed to join the trip to the cemetery. Usually it's just the menfolk who go. This year, they tried to bring LE and 5-year-old cousin along, and still dump me in the house with the women. No way. Trapped in the house with MIL waiting for the men to return from some manly adventure is akin to an outer circle of Dante's hell. Not actually painful, but intensely annoying, and filled with a deep longing to get out of there yet no matter what time it is, the menfolk are always "on the way," and will always be back within a half an hour.

So we all got to go. LE was thrilled, as his obsession with death continues, intensified by waiting near a gorgeous old cemetery every day for our service bus to school. The cemetery where BE's paternal grandparents are buried is also old, and so very cool. The graves are so packed in there's nowhere to walk except to balance along the sometimes crumbling marble edging of family gravesites. LE kept asking where all the dead people were, and I kept telling him they were under the ground and to be careful not to step on them. For the boys, it was all a big fun obstacle course. It was for BE and I too, as we surreptitiously passed a cigarette back and forth and tried to avoid his mother, who insists on physically helping everyone along, which doesn't work because she's so short and she just ends up pulling everyone over.

At his grandparents' grave, BE pointed out some bones sitting on a nearby grave. People bones for sure-- part of a jaw, an ulna, and what may have been a broken scapula. The way BE pointed them out made me think those bones have been coming up from that grave as long as he can remember. I had to resist an urge to take one of them, because I really like creepy things like that. I told BE this, and he gave me an extremely dirty look. He's very superstitious about anything death-related, and I suppose the dead man's family would appreciate my swiping a bone even less than they do the dogs that probably got to the bones a long time ago.

The family got a guy to clear off the family grave while they said a quick prayer. As he took off the inch-thick pile of leaves and put them aside, I started worrying that BE's grandparents' bones might also come up someday if there's no mulch to sit there and make new soil. I hoped the guy would replace the leaves after we'd left. Or maybe they should put down new soil. I'd bring up the helpful suggestion with BE if I thought he'd even answer me, which he wouldn't because he's so averse to talking about anything death-related.

When the guy started turning up the soil on the cleared graves, a smell came up that must only exist in places where people are buried without embalming or coffins. It was a sweet organic rot smell that's just ever so slightly different from the sweet-rot smells of compost or worm-castings or manure. I started thinking some Victorian thoughts about grave dirt making death seem so close, and that was okay because the smell wasn't really bad, just noticeable and different and I like having creepy Victorian thoughts anyway. Then I wondered what it would be like to be the grave-clearing guy, and smell that soil every day.

On the way out, we passed a grave where three brothers were buried. The first grave said "Veteran of the Korean War" under the name, and gave the military information about him. The second grave said "Professor Expert of Anesthesiology." Under the name of the third one, it said "Best Husband and Father in the World."

Guess which one was my favorite?

After the cemetery, we went to a shopping mall to blow the kids' minds in a play place with video games and rides and flashing, moving lights in different colors all over. My kid held out as well as could be expected, but he totally crumbled a couple hours later at dinner. He needed lots of cuddling and then he fell asleep before the car had even left the parking space, thus bringing his busy day, and the first day of Bayram, to an end.

I really like Kurban Bayram, by the way. Everyone seems much merrier than they do at Şeker Bayram. Even though it's a religious holiday, it lacks the dreary pall of piousness that lingers into Şeker Bayram. This Kurban Bayram was one of the nicest yet, because we just had a good long family day the way normal people are supposed to do, and most of the day I felt like a normal person.

The next few days passed more or less uneventfully. We just enjoyed the long stretch of empty days before us.

Yesterday morning, on the last day of Bayram, I was dozing while LE was having his morning pee. I heard some thumping on the window and I popped awake immediately, already asking LE what the hell he was up to even before my eyes had opened all the way, because we are on the 5th floor so what else could it be but something horrible? But he had already thrown his (lucky for me) dry diaper on my face as his way of letting me know it was dry again, and was headed downstairs to get his dad to make him breakfast. I looked out the window and there was a huge seagull standing on the sill outside tapping on the window with its beak.

Or maybe it was an albatross, I wouldn't know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Update On the Minutiae of Stranger's World

Everything is fine. Our new house is fine. I'm in love with it despite its obvious problems, like roof leaks and an there is an ongoing stinkiness under the kitchen cupboards (caused by BE improperly connecting the hose to the dishwasher, where it leaked and gathered there for days, undealt with because I thought the water was coming from the dishwasher and I wouldn't have been able to deal with it before the weekend, but fortunately I discovered the leaky connection and fixed it before it completely destroyed the cupboards. Goodness knows what's growing under there right now). Whereas most houses with these sorts of issues would make me want to move, this house just makes me want to love it and make it right.

The job is fine, too. The students aren't giving me much to poke fun about because they're clever and sweet, and the work is all right too. I'm wondering if being a mom has made me a slightly nicer teacher or if the kids really are extra nice. This is my first year of teaching where none of the students asked me how old I am on the first day of class, which means I've crossed an aging line of some sort. That's okay. It keeps them from expecting to be my friend. It also makes them seem childlike and cute, instead of like stunted adults. Then I realized most of them were born the same year I graduated from high school, and I was all "Yeah, I'm pretty fucking old," and then I was surprisingly okay with that. My friends are old too, so it's just normal. I'm sure I'll be less calm when the incontinence begins. I'm hoping by then I'll be too doddering to care.

I'm still on a little bit of Social Overload after those years of not getting out much. I've always considered myself a misanthrope and seemed to get along fine without much human contact, but now I'm all sort of stunned with the human contact, and I'm probably freaking people out by going around with this obvious Will You Be My Friend behavior.

LE and I adjusted to all the changes just fine. I'm a little tired all the time and LE gets a bit clingy, but that's all. BE is the one freaking out, steadfastly refusing to do much around the house and also refusing my dirty money. So I got a cleaner for once a week which solved much of the house problem, and I'm waiting for BE to come around on the money problem. Apparently my big fat salary is an assault on his manhood. At the same time, he is no longer asking for money from his dad (apparently getting parental handouts when you're in your 30s doesn't affect manhood at all). Which means when he manfully takes all the bills like he's going to pay them, he has no money so he lets the bills stew along with his ego. I only found out about this recently, when the second round of bills came and they were double because they were two months' worth.

I offered to pay them and got a classic BE reply, "I don't want your fucking money." Okay, then. It must be hard having your manhood rest on such tenuous scaffolding and tacit agreements about economic relationships. I, for one, have no patience for this shit, and I still haven't figured out how to get the bills paid. It'll probably require some sort of deft woman behavior that I also have no patience for.

Never mind. Soon enough BE will realize that he can go out and buy shoes whenever he wants. His soft spot for shoes is bigger than mine, though I've been being a clothes whore lately, and paying full price rather than waiting for the twice-yearly trips to US outlet malls and Nordstrom Rack. I lost loads of weight when I started working, plus some shops have added L and XL sizes that I can get into. Nice. I'm only slightly freakishly enormous now.

And I love love love our new neighborhood. It's so neighborhood-y, and such a welcome change from Beylikdüzü. Aside from the sea and small towniness, I adore the Atatürk statue in the square.

He's totally puttin' on the ritz.

Speaking of Atatürk, few weeks ago, during the tail end of the referendum campaign, there was an AKP rally in the square around the Atatürk statue. Sarıyer seems to be pretty firmly CHP (there's that special blend of religious/social conservatism and rabid nationalism here, which I expect is more common than we're led to believe in either the Turkish or foreign press). Erdoğan made an appearance and in the restaurant where we were eating, it was funny watching the waiters and BE tiptoe around feeling out each others' political and religious leanings before they happily (though quietly) launched into how much they despise our good leaders. Meanwhile, a few older guys scattered at the edges of the crowd made rude gestures to the speakers, or called out something critical, and they were quickly swarmed upon and disappeared by police, while clumps of scarved heads bobbed and politely shifted out of the way.

So actually that has nothing to do with Atatürk at all. I meant it as ironic, but then I got bored with hammering the point home. I was also going to say something about democracy, which would be both pointless and predictable, and anyway, I realized it would come out all wrong because people would assume I'm comparing Turkey to America in terms of democracy, which I'm not-- I'm just sick of AKP bandying the word around like they thought of it, or like they own it. Which at the moment, they kind of do.

So that's all I have to say about that, for the moment.

Speaking of democracy, I took a moment out of my busy day to learn the American election results, and it was kind of a relief. I mean yes, the bad guys won, but not many very of the worst of the bad guys. So that's fine. I'm so out of the American loop I didn't even know Jerry Brown was running for governor of California again, until after he'd won. Then for days I had "California Uber Alles" by the Dead Kennedys stuck in my head. After I finished wondering why Jello Biafra hated Jerry Brown so much (I decided it's probably because he pretty much hated everyone, especially anyone with power wearing a suit), I started thinking about how the Dead Kennedys are still really fucking good to listen to, and their punk-ass message still rings true.

Then it occurred to me that this is all because I'm getting old, and turning into a dinosaur of sorts. And that's okay too, because I get to listen to the Dead Kennedys, among other bands who were big before my students were born, and I'm not even talking about the Beatles this time. One of my students wrote a paragraph about how she loves Johnny Depp and I was all, "Oh, yeah! I've been in love with Johnny Depp since like 1984," and she was like, *blink blink*. So I didn't even get into "21 Jump Street," which I'm fairly sure TRT never aired anyway, no matter how long it was before the girl was born.

AKP and Jerry Brown aside, it's almost 5pm, which means it's time for a frosty glass of white wine, now 30% more expensive because AKP cares so deeply about our health. I'll have to remind them of that next time they want to raze a forest for another nepotistic project, or when all the corn and beets here become contaminated with Monsanto genes, not to mention the Round-Up itself getting everywhere else.


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Post That Needed a Title

I used to think there was never enough time for anything, but since starting work, there really is no time for anything, not even for all the stuff I have to do at work. I really do intend to keep up the dear blog, but I admit it falls pretty low on the list of things that need doing right away.

So today I have the first real day off in awhile. The boy is having a Man Day at the office with Baba, and there's really nothing that needs my attention. I even watched part of "Breakdance," a movie that is such crap I kind of liked it, though eventually the dialogue just hurt too much. Apparently it was Ice-T's film debut. He was little and skinny, and billed as "Rapper DJ." Indeed.

On the yellow sticky pad program on my computer, I have a long list of blog posts topics that I've been meaning to write. Some are so old I no longer remember what they're about, or I've already done the idea to death in my mind. At first I was planning to do one long post of little ideas, but then I decided to pack as many separate posts as I could into one day and schedule them to go up in the future. I thought that might make me look cooler somehow.

And I noticed a couple of weeks ago that dozens of comments appear to have disappeared from several old posts. I didn't do it, for what it's worth. They're just gone. I looked around on the Blogger forums, mostly for reassurance that this is just Something That Happens. Which it is. I never bothered finding out why, or how to fix it because eventually I just got into reading the forums (which are annoying and crap), then I realized I'd wasted several minutes of my life doing this, and decided to laundry or something.

In unrelated news, this was the first year I really missed Halloween, probably because LE would have liked it so much. He apparently is at the peak time of Cuteness in his life-- right before turning into a weird little 4 year old boy, but still kind of a baby. There's a trash bin near our house that attracts scavenging animals (and people) from far and wide. Sometimes the scavenging kids are cute in a sad and troubling way, but the families of kittens are way cute and much less troubling. The other day I rescued one from a tree (it didn't really need rescuing-- it was just nervous about getting down and its mom was curled up above having a nap, so I decided to give her a break), and its sibling appeared when I set it on the ground. They scampered after us for a little while, and seriously, the cuteness synergy created by LE and two kittens all hopping along was almost enough to make my head explode.

And he got a low-budget Halloween anyway.

Though he wanted to make most of his pumpkins sad.

Nevertheless, they suited his tendency towards the Picasso-esque in his artwork.

Plus he got to wear lipstick, which he's totally into, and because it was Halloween his father hardly grumbled at all about what lipstick on little boys leads to.

Another bit of unrelated news is that last weekend, I had a bacon cheeseburger. It was so freaking good and totally worth the 22 lira. Made my day. Apparently, there's pork scattered all over this town, but they're hiding it among the rich people. Or a certain type of rich people, I should say. I wonder if they actually eat it, or if it's for the foreigners who turn up. Whatever. I'm glad it was there, even if it was just on principle.

The post went long anyway. I'd better start on some others before the menfolk get home.