Monday, February 27, 2012

Turning 5. It's Fucking Tremendous!

Last week, LE turned 5.

5 is huge. 5 is tremendous. Fucking tremendous. After half a day of being 5, he was already saying stuff like, "The other kids in my school do such-and-such stupid things because they're mostly only 4 and they're little."

So I've kind of been reeling from 5, which is why I haven't managed to post about it until now. That, and some other stuff, both mundane and interesting that I won't go into for now.

Only with lemon. Limes are expensive and hard to come by.
The other reason is because I left some notes-to-self-in a saved post about what I wanted to write about LE turning 5, later when I felt more write-y. But when I was feeling all write-y a couple of days later, I understood part of the notes but not others. I'd written, "Either he's very old or very young, it's hard to say," and I don't have the faintest clue where I was going with that because it doesn't make any damn sense.

When LE and I woke up at still-dark and fucking cold 5:45am to get ready for work and school, I kissed LE and wished him happy birthday, and he said, "Thank you, Mama." And I was all a-burst at how fantastic 5 was going to be.

So we went to his room I'd done up all birthday-wise the night before (it's still all there, by the way-- I'm good about doing up but not doing down and I'm still pretty damned grateful my mom cleaned up Christmas while they were here), and he was all, "Is that it? But Mama, where is my big present? Calliou got a big present."

And I thought maybe 5 wasn't too terribly different from 4, just more articulate. "Dude, don't be the kid who complains about his presents," I told him. "Birthdays aren't Christmas. Just smile so I can take a picture for Grandma and Grandpa."

He kind of managed to smile, the poor deprived little dear.

And then I reminded LE that Calliou is only 4 and will always be 4. "Why, Mama?" he asked.

"Because he's a cartoon." I told him.

"That's why he has no hair," said LE.

"Exactly," I told him. "But the reason his parents never get mad at him is because they're Canadian."

"I know."

Just so I wouldn't have any anonymous commentors accusing me of neglect, I aimed low with the cake and decorated within my weight class. A big pink five and some stars and some frosting flowers and a heart, plus some candles I'd found in a drawer but have no idea where they came from. There are starting to be a lot of things in my house I have no idea where they came from. Like this one scarf I have, and these weird but strangely delicious candy-like cookies in the cupboard. Anyway.

Mommies call first dibs.
I used homemade chocolate buttercream frosting, oh yeah. I saved the extra in the freezer in case I feel compelled to eat even more of it, which I probably will. And since it was a breakfast birthday cake (LE's birthday fell on the day his Baba gets him from school), I just used one of the banana breads we made a couple of weeks ago and froze for emergencies. Plus I busted out the last bit of bacon from my parents' visit. And a bit of fruit because that's the kind of people we are. The fucking healthy kind of people who have breakfast when it's still dark out.

I'd call him Pee-Pee. Also he sucks worse than Calliou.
LE's Babaanne, by the way, got him a Pepe cake from the bakery because she loves him more. So please, no one worry he's feeling unloved. The afternoon was extremely sad for me, but I'm pretty sure LE had a fantastic day so that made me feel a little bit better.

Just a little bit though. Mostly I was sad and then I drank a bit too much, which is probably why I couldn't interpret the notes-to-self. Damn you, Past Tense Stranger! It's cool how you always leave our keys and wallet and cell phone in the same place and stuff, but it sucks when you leave me cryptic notes.

I remember when I turned 5. I remember a lot of stuff from early childhood and very little of my 20s. I was walking with my cousin J.K. and my step-cousin Jason and I told them I was going to be 5 and 5 was super big. J.K. said something sweet and agree-ing about the big-ness of 5, because that's the kind of guy he was. Jason said something mean because that's the kind of guy he was.

And maybe that whole conversation didn't actually happen, though I'm pretty sure it did only maybe it was about one of my brothers turning 5 and not me.

In any case it doesn't matter because both of those cousins are dead now. But it's one of the things I think about when I think about 5. And also this one really big roly-poly bug that has nothing whatsoever to do with this story.

LE, for his part, is doing everything he can to make 5 the grandest year yet. I wonder if he's trying hard or if he's just like that. I suppose it's a bit of both. Tonight I was grouchy and I yelled at the cats a lot and was short with LE for no reason. Then I apologized to him for being an asshole and told him it was nothing to do with him, it was something else entirely (Turkcell-related. Note to self: tell the story of how I made Turkcell my bitch some other time), and he was all, "That's because I'm a sweet little boy."

Indeed you are, my man.

Best baby ever.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Divorce Step One: A Trip To The Noter

The title is kind of bullshit. The trip to the noter isn't really Step 1 of the divorce. It's more like Step 45,000.

45,000 very, very tiny steps. A whole lot of them steps backwards but a few of them steps forward. There was that step I made in my mind a very long time ago, and even that was another series of spiralling backwards and forward steps on a narrow staircase where the lights don't always go on when they should. Then there was that huge step I took, an into-the-abyss gambling step not unlike all the other big steps I've taken in life, like quitting my job to go work on a farm, like applying for a MA program, like moving to Turkey, like getting married, like getting pregnant, like going ahead and pushing that big old hurty baby head out of me against all reason.

Sometimes when you look at your life as the sum of all the decisions you've made, it occurs to you that you've gotten off pretty fucking lucky for most of them because it's not like they were all that well thought-out. They were more like, "Hey, that's a cool idea! I wonder what it would be like if I just..." and then you jumped and there was only bellyflop air under your feet but in the end it was all right. Mostly.

Then I decided to bundle up my kid way past bedtime and scuttle off to BE's parents' house to get away from what was to be the last big all-night screaming shit of a fight I no longer cared enough to participate in. And I told BE's parents I was done, and didn't spare them any details about why. Also I didn't cry, not even once.

I hadn't thought that fucker out at all, about going to his parents. It could have backfired in so many ways.

But it turned out to be a good one. The only thing that made me stop telling them everything that was going wrong was that they went from being worried about me and LE, to being angry at BE for completely sucking so much, to being so upset about the self-destructive road their boy was on, and I thought about my boy and how that must feel and I decided to call it a night.

It's all versions of this fucking movie.
After that, it was just heels dug in waiting. BE's endgame for the better part of a year has been to threaten me back to him. It occurs to me that even my dumbass decision-making skills are better than other people's. He's threatened to take the boy and threatened to not divorce me. He's threatened to pay off judges and to tell the most incredible lies. To my discredit, this shit was working on me the last few years we've been together, all the same threats. We've all heard the stories of the yabancı women who've lost their kids, or had to abscond with them, and the terror of that alone was enough to make me stay. I figured there was no way I could unravel Byzantine bureaucracy to work in my favor. I'd pretty much resigned myself to 14 more years of it, just to keep my boy.

But then I realized that the boy was no longer a baby, and that he was totally a person. A sweet, sensitive, loving, wonderful little person who didn't deserve to be dragged through my bullshit, or my crappy decisions, or my being cowed by the scary threats of an asshole. He deserved way better. And if it didn't work out, at least I tried. Not that I could wash my hands of it if it hadn't worked, but he deserved at least one heroic act. And I definitely felt like a hero in the nighttime taxi ride to BE's parents, with him wrapped in a blanket and me still wearing slippers because I'd forgotten my shoes, pretending to LE that it was a big super fun thing we were doing, suddenly taking off to Babaanne's right at bedtime because she wanted to see him so much, stroking his head to sleep and not even getting upset with the taxi driver when we got lost because I always get lost in taxis in that neighborhood. The driver knew something was up but was cool enough not to ask.

So all of that, plus finding the lawyer, plus a lot of talking and arguing and hanging up and not talking and finally, finally we reach a real step one. Official Step 1, a trip to the notary public to sign the power of attorney to open the goddamned case already.

At last, the part about the noter...

It was nothing like this.
The noter is a little bit scary. At least, it's usually scary. It's usually the height of incomprehensible in-triplicate carbon copy bureaucracy and people who don't give a shit about how hard life is for you. But maybe I've just gotten used to a lot of things, or maybe my Turkish is better, or maybe we just happen to have one of the fuzziest, nicest noters in Istanbul. But I marched myself in there, and waited in line, then decided an appropriate time to cut the line, and gave them my stuff.

If there's one thing I've learned in Turkey, it's to bring your official paper stuff, no matter how dog-eared, carefully bundled in a plastic sheath or notebook as a way of showing penitence or supplication or something. And my bundle of stuff was as neat as a pin.

One reason the noter was less scary was that they were all women there, and normal women. Not at all implacable battle axes. Plus all the papers in the office were tidily done up in binders lined up on shelves. And the office was clean.

Looks like shit.
First off, the woman behind the counter wanted a translation of my passport. A regular translation or a notarized one, I wondered? I've done this kind of thing before. Where shall I get it translated, I wondered? She didn't know. I gave her my residence permit, which she didn't seem inclined to accept as proper ID. I didn't blame her. I could knock off a Turkish residence permit in my living room in about 2 hours, and do a better job laminating it. She asked the woman next to her if they could accept my residence permit. The other woman asked what it was for. Then the first woman read over the thing I wanted notarized, which was a power of attorney form. "It's for a divorce," she said softly to the woman next to her. That woman turned out to be the actual notary. "A divorce?" she replied softly. They both looked at each other, and at me, and then they looked sad and smiled a little. The notary stopped whatever she was doing and said, "I'm going to have to research this." And she got up from the counter and went into the office and got out a big notebook and started reading. I sat in a chair and folded my hands and tried to look sad and nice and a little bit helpless.

And that's a thing that has been surprising all along the way about getting divorced. From MIL's breast-ripping dramatics and sobbing, you would think divorce is the most shameful, embarrassing, gawd-awful thing that could happen to someone here. You would think they were firing up the brand for the capital-letter B they were going to scar on my forehead as some sort of fallen woman. And then do the whole family afterwards, plus the tar and the feathers.

But instead, there's a lot of quiet and sad and exuberant support from the people around me. "Please, don't be alone, let us know if you need anything," said my landlord's sister-in-law, the one who deals with our flat, when I finally broke the news. "You're our little sister, let us know if we can help you with anything," said the yönetici and his wife when they had LE and I over for dinner. "Good riddance, good for you, no one needs that crap, Allah belanı versin," gold-toothed Azeri Teyze shouted out the window. Even my cleaner showed me the right way to leave the key in the inside lock so it can't be opened from the outside, once she found out my husband still has a key. Apparently, even the most errant of husbands will force their way back into the house before the 6 month legal abandonment period is up, just to avoid paying a few hundred lira a month for a wife's upkeep.

Makes me think I'm not the first one who's dealt with this shit.

So the notary dug around in her book awhile, stopping only to bang stamps on other people's stuff. She flipped through every page of my residence permit, and then flipped through again, and then finally agreed to let me do the flipping because there are an awful lot of cancellations and renewals in there. We managed to get everything filled out and data-entered and printed and checked over for mistakes. "It's a good thing you speak Turkish," she said. "Because we don't speak your language." Which was sweet but it also made me a little bit sad because why on earth should she be expected to know my language? English sometimes brings out those evil forces at work in the world, some of which decide regular people's lives for them and we don't even know about it.

After about an hour, it was all printed out in duplicate, photos affixed, and signed and signed and signed. The noter's assistant banged at least 8 stamps onto each one and passed them off the notary for a final round of signatures. "Is it fun?" I asked the assistant. She looked at me quizzically. "With the stamps, "I said. "Tak tak tak tak tak!"

She peeked to either side and passed me my papers with my receipt. "Yes," she said, smiling. "It's fun."

I tapped my papers neatly into their folder while she watched, and then thanked everyone a whole bunch of times, wishing them good day and kolay gelsin. They all waved goodbye, even some of the people waiting in line, and I was off on my merry way to get the ball rolling.

May the rest of it come as easy for us, too.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Great Turkish Firewall: It's New! And Improved!

So after all the hoo-hah about Internet censorship earlier last year, everyone mostly quit talking about it and it seemed like nothing had happened and business as usual.

Of course, that wasn't the case. It was only about pretending it was business as usual. And also doing whatever needed to be done to engage in Futuristic Stealth Censorship 5000.

I remember an exchange I had with Bulent Mürtezaoğlu (see comments in the link above, if you care) about how Turkish censorship was at least somehow more transparent than American censorship. True that. You used to get a page stating that the site was closed due to whatever bullshit court order from whatever backwater court assigned to closing down websites.

No more. Emre Kızılkaya over at the Istanbullian points out that Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone?! Are you serious? Because that shit has been nothing but innocuous since the late 70s...) and Venus swimwear are now blocked from our gentle, pious eyes.


Only this time, there's not even a bullshit court order. It's way more opaque. Now I get what Bülent was talking about with the American-style error messages that you don't even think twice about. You just think you made a mistake or someone else did or maybe there's some sort of kink in the Internet.

The filth you're missing at Venus.
It's a stupid show! Don't read!

He's bi! Don't read!
But in Turkey, especially when it comes to the Internet, there are a lot of things that make you think twice.

Fortunately, a healthy supply of T & A can always be seen in the newspaper, and on Turkey's top newspaper websites.

Thank goodness for Vatan.
Ah, good old Millyet-- never misses a frikik!
God bless America, land of the free, home of the brave. Why did Turkey have to choose this particular Western thing to copy and get it right? Why not hamburgers and polite use of roundabouts?

There now. Isn't that nice?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Escalators And Moving Walkways

My friends! It's not for standing!
One thing that used to drive me absolutely batshit in Turkey was people's complete failure at being able to use escalators and moving walkways properly. To me, the point of both of these amazing mechanisms is to be able to get where you want to go, only faster. To acomplish this, you walk as the thing is taking you up or down or across or whatever.

But a lot of Turkish people seem to think these marvels of the 20th century are just really fun rides. So they get on them and stand there, then oooff at you if you want to pass by.

I say that it used to drive me batshit not because it doesn't drive me batshit anymore, but because overall, in Istanbul at least, people have gotten a lot better about using moving walkways and escalators to get where they want to go, only faster. Okay, in malls they still kind of suck (and don't even get me started on mall elevators or any other elevators because those still completely fuck me and I hate them), but in places where people tend to want to hustle, like metro stations and airports, the standers know enough to move to one side so the walkers can walk, and people rarely oooff at you. Unless they're busy socializing on there, in which case you're shit out of luck.

Madam! It's not that difficult!
And it hardly ever happens anymore that you almost die because of some stupid woman at the top or bottom of the escalotor freaking out about how to get off the thing. This used to happen a lot, where a woman would screech or a shopping cart or baby carriage would tip over, then everyone behind would calmly walk up or down backwards until 18 or 20 family members and bystanders calmed the poor panicked woman and got her to the safe part of the world where the floor doesn't move, thus clearing the blockage at the exit point.

But this used to happen a lot, especially in Bakırköy, where crazy 1920's World's Fair technologies were just some kind of insane fad to many mall gawkers.

Bloody useful.
LE, for his part, is super well-trained on escalators and moving walkways. Since I don't drive and the stroller was a tremendous inconvenience (except for carrying groceries-- then it rocked), the boy has been walking rather long distances for a child since he was about 2. He can usually go a couple of hours without seriously bitching. Not to say he doesn't bitch because he most certainly does, but much of the bitching is a matter of form rather than an actual problem. His gorgeous perfect little legs are like steel flagpoles, and it really fucking hurts when he kicks me in the face.
Please, sir! Not in the face!

 That's my own fault, for teaching him about Bruce Lee, who always eats his vegetables and never bitches.

Still, whether it's because he's almost 5 or because he's Turkish, he's suddenly become fascinated with standing on escalators and moving walkways. Maybe it's because everyone else is doing it. Or maybe it's because he's a kid and it really is a super fun ride.

I remember thinking they were a super fun ride, back in the day when the only moving walkways I ever got to ride were in Las Vegas airport, where we used to go to visit my grandparents.

And yes, I totally showed him how cool it is to walk backwards on the moving walkway. I'm sure that'll bite me in the ass someday, but it was fucking fun so who cares?