Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Couple Days Off Work

Give me a couple of days off work, and I get really fucking productive. I humbly offer you my cartoon series, "If Turkish Words Were Used As Sound Effects In Primitive Comics."

#1: Zonguldak

It's a copy machine, okay? That's why I wrote "Xerox" on there. Zonguldak, a city name, is one of my favorite words in Turkish. It's also the word you use for "Z" when you're spelling something. Spelling things in Turkish, like my name, is a particular challenge for me here, because people rarely spell with letters. Instead, they spell by syllables. Turkish is phonetic enough for this. So, for example, if you have to spell "Zonguldak," you wouldn't say "ze o ne ge..." etc. You'd just say "zon gul dak," and give the person enough time to write it down. This syllable spelling method works for most Turkish words.

It sucks, however, for foreign words. Something like "Stranger" might be considered as 3 or 4 or 5 syllables depending on the person's ear and the rules of Turkish syllabification that I never did quite get. In any case, Turkish doesn't like consonant combinations. After a lot of confusion and negotiation, the person might come up with something like "sıtranger" or "stıranger" or "sıtıranger" or "sıtıranıger." If you're lucky, you'll have the opportunity to just write the foreign word yourself and safe the person the trouble of having to spell it.

Turkish's dislike of consonant combinations is also why I like making low-level students say "skiing." It comes out as "sik-ing," which sounds like "fuck" in Turkish with an English "-ing." It was especially fun making the covered girls say it at my old university. "I enjoy sik-ing." Hee!

One has to rely on low pleasures sometimes.

So if you have to spell your foreign name, you often have to rely on the letter-to-city system of spelling, especially over the phone where the aforementioned methods all fail. This involves using a city name to represent each letter. Mostly it's Turkish cities, except that P is Paris. I also know A is Adana and Z is Zonguldak, because those are in my name. But the rest I still haven't memorized, so when I have to spell my name, it's a super-double challenge of speaking Turkish and thinking of cities in Turkey. I suppose I could have memorized all the cities in my name, but trying to think of them is more fun.

Sivas Tarsus Rize Adana Niğde Gaziantep Edirne Rize. And that's just how I'd spell it over the phone today. The cities can change. Sometimes the person on the other end tries to help out by offering random Turkish cities when you get stuck. Sometimes it helps.

#2: Gül

Gül means rose. I've come to think of it as a mostly nice word, and a nice-sounding word. It's a particularly ubiquitous word, especially in women's names. You can just tack "gül" onto almost any name and make it prettier. Fatmagül, Elifgül, Strangergül... One of my favorite is "Songül," meaning "last rose," which, rather cruelly expresses a parent's wish not to have any more girls, or rather reasonably expresses a wish not to have any more children. Some more entertaining names in this vein are the boy's names "Yeter" (enough) and "Dursun" (let it stop.) 

But Gül is one of those names that's on the list of "Turkish Names That Don't Sound So Good In English," along with Peker, Ufuk, Fatih, and of course, Kunt, which is the most titter-worthy of all Turkish names.

#3: Hay hay

"Hay hay" is an expression I rarely hear but still hear sometimes. Hearing "hay hay" makes my day because it's so nice and I don't hear it often.

"May I have some ezogelin soup?"
"Hay hay!"

It's wonderful, having an expression you like hearing but rarely come across. I think the best translation for "hay hay" is one I saw on Sex and the City, when Kyle MacLachlan says, "Okey-dokey" a lot. It's kind of a cheerfully quaint expression that's a bit like saying, "Gee, that's swell!" and "Yes, of course" at the same time. I mostly hear it from workers, so I don't know if that means "hay hay" is regional or rural, or if it means something else entirely.

#4: Zarf 
"Zarf" means both "envelope" and "adverb." I'm forever confusing it with "harf."

#5: Harf

"Harf" means "letter" (as in ABC, not the kind you mail). That's why I always confuse them when I want to buy an envelope. I think "letter" because of the envelope, but it's the wrong kind of letter, then I lose confidence in my "zarf" vs. "harf" decision. It's kind of like how I still confuse "güney" and "küzey" (North and nouth. Or south and north. Whatever-- I'm not committing either way), no matter what trick I try to use to learn them once and for all.

#6: Üzümüm

"Üzümüm" means "my grape." It's not a word one is called upon to say much, but it's theoretically amusing so credit to my friend B for saying it all the time. French gets all the credit for sounding sexy. And yes, it often sounds sexy. Turkish can also sound sexy, or, like any language, it can sound like dogs barking depending on who's speaking it, and to whom, and in what situation. Regardless of how it sounds, however, Turkish often requires an extremely sexy pursing of the lips. Seriously. I can be looking at the most hangdog, grizzliest, missingest brown tooth face on earth, but when that person smiles and says something like "üzümüm" at the same time, I go weak at the knees. It doesn't help that a lot of Turkish people have the most beautifully-shaped lips I've ever seen. And also Turks have thrillingly-colored eyes. I can't account for the eye thing, but maybe the lip thing comes from the workout from saying things like "üzümüm" since birth.

So that's my foray into cartoonin'.

Dear Hyperbole And A Half,

This post is a travesty. Please come back.


Friday, March 23, 2012

St. Patrick's Day: A Musical Interlude

Like most foreign holidays, St. Patrick's Day came and went. I realized I'd never told LE about any of the stuff Americans play with for this holiday when I was explaining that we were going to a St. Patrick's Day party. He doesn't know about four-leafed clovers or leprechauns or pots of gold under rainbows, let alone green beer. I told him he had to change into some green clothes or he might get pinched, as per elementary school tradition. I also told him we were having this holiday because St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland and now there are no snakes in Ireland.

Which I'm guessing isn't true. None of it. LE was all, "What's Ireland?" and I told him it's near England where his amca lives. And also that most Irish people don't do much for St. Patrick's Day, but Americans get all excited about it, especially ones that might have a drop or two of Irish blood, like we supposedly do.

He didn't care. He was more worried about getting pinched. Also, he's more into Superman right now, and wondered whether or not Superman was an alien when he was a baby. I explained that he indeed was.

The party was lovely. It was with the group of mama friends we used to have a weekly mama meeting and play day with when our kids were really small and I didn't live so far away. But now the kids are mostly in school and it takes ages for me to get over to that part of town, so we don't all get to meet up as much as we used to.

Seeing them used to be the only time I got out of the house each week. I miss them. And I love how they do so much to keep our yabancı holidays going by making them super fun for the kids.

And this time, as we sat around the kitchen table and snacked and snuck Kahlua and Bailey's into our coffee, we realized this was the first time we were all getting to hang out without dealing with kids in any way-- no fights, no diapers, no helping them eat, nothing but occasionally chasing them out of the kitchen and settling them down when they started getting too insane. It was bliss.

I'm cool with kids growing up, at least until they start getting all lippy and thinking they're smarter than me.

The next day, I talked to my parents, who had celebrated St. Paddy's with my favorite neighbor. My dad's music choice was a CD of old St. Patrick's Day songs, like Perry Como old. Apparently it made the night very merry.

I told him he should have gotten the Pogues. Our neighbor would have known about them, though perhaps the evening would have been less merry, it's hard to say. He was still against the Pogues, as he has been since I was a teenager and listened to the Pogues.

Thanks to technology, I was able to email him some Pogues.

And you know what? He liked them this time. Claimed it was nothing like what he thought I was listening to as a teenager. I suspect one is probably hard-wired to hate the music one's teenager listens to.

Which makes me wonder, what will LE listen to when he's a teenager that I absolutely will hate? Will music take the sort of turn I can never get my head around, like rock 'n' roll did for my grandparents, or punk or electronic has done for my parents? This peculiar possible future of music interests me greatly.

On the other hand, LE's tastes may just run to crappy Turkish and Western pop and maybe İbo, in which case my disliking his music will be perfectly justified.

This is his favorite song right now.

It also occurred to me that part of the reason my dad chose the music he did was because it had a nostalgic quality for him, like maybe it was the music his parents listened to when he was a kid. Probably. I think my dad told me once his parents loved Perry Como. And maybe Don Ho but I'm not sure. Anyway, it made me wonder what music LE will play for his friends when he's in his 60s and feeling nostalgic for the  music I used to play in the kitchen.

With that, I'll leave you with one of our favorite lullabies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Balminess: Wherein I Suddenly Get All Heavy For No Apparent Reason

On Sunday morning I went out onto the balcony and was shocked to feel warmth in the air. Not just sunshine, or the spring-y smell that's been creeping around as the cat-fucking season gets into swing. Actual warmth. It was warmer outside than it was inside. It's not quite time yet for shorts and swimming pools, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Which means my excuse for not writing anything is now at an end. Not that I have much to write about if I'm writing about the weather, but there you go. Things are just carrying on, as they do. Work is work, and heeding my own advice, I've found an even lower place for my standards and left them there. The way I figure it, I'd better learn to love most of the students I have now because they're going to be with us for a very long, long time. Early spring is the perfect time for the Hazırlık Teachers' Existential Crisis. Why am I here? What's the point of me? Does anything I do matter in the slightest?

Short answers, in order: To babysit the Emerging "Adults." Nothing, unless you're LE, in which case I am a goddess on earth and even surprising me in the bathroom as I remove a tampon is a super-great though perhaps overly enlightening Learning Experience. No, it doesn't.

It's okay. Just hinting at spring makes everything seem okay. There are almond trees blooming all over and almond tree blooms are ticklishly joyful. They remind of the weird year LE was born, when they were blooming in January. The thrilling wildflowers are turning up, and they're different from last year's so that's cool. I've been checking the fields every morning for the storks or cranes or whatever leylek are, but no dice so far.

It's for false prophets, heretics, and flatterers.
Still. It makes it a lot easier to see the eighth circle of hell humor in all that I do, which makes it easier to deal with the kids, which in turn makes it easier to feel once again like I have a point on this earth outside of my newly cozy home with my most amazing and erudite little boy who says cool shit all the time and tells me he loves me and a couple of weeks ago when I was sick, only bothered me for food. The rest of the time he hung out and yelled at his toys and occasionally checked my forehead for a fever and patted my hair.

Guess my sickness!

Tried hard, never liked.

For awhile there I was all disenchanted with my failed marriage and love is bullshit and I was wallowing in this Smiths-like dark hole love-wise (plus you know what? I don't even like the Smiths so that made it suck even more), but I have to say it's mostly pure pleasure and privilege being able to love someone this much, even if it is only a biological imperative. Bring it on.

It's spring and I get love. I'm not getting any love, as it were, but for now I get love. It's when you will do anything for someone, drop everything and give all your money and inconvenience yourself terribly just because you were asked. You don't even have to like that person because love is something else.

It's hard to be cynical and have feelings at the same time.

It's a good thing I also like LE. But even if he grows up and turns into a complete dick, I'll still love him. And there are a lot of people I know who I love who probably don't even know I'd drop everything and give them at least most of my money and inconvenience myself extraordinarily just because I love them and there's no other way I can see of dealing with the situation but doing that.

He draws on his face then sleeps like this.
Here's a parable about love: Last Sunday night I was Skyping with my parents and I couldn't get the little plastic container holding the toy inside LE's chocolate egg to open. I went at it with my teeth, as you do. My mom was all, "No, stop it! You'll break your teeth!" and I was like (in my mind), "Jeez Mom, I'm like 40 almost. I'm pretty sure I know how not to break my teeth." Plus I'm old and have realized the advantages of this one ceramic bicuspid I have. But then LE wanted to have a go at the plastic thingy with his teeth, and I was all, "No, stop it! You'll break your teeth!"
Surprisingly challenging.

And I didn't realize the irony of that until about 5 minutes ago.

In conclusion, it's only a few short months away that I'll be drinking Setcard beer next to the swimming pool. How can one not wax philosophical about love in a case like this? Happy Atheist Week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Turkey Expat Forum: My Big Interview

So I was contacted a couple of weeks ago for an interview with Ricky Carbis, creator of the Turkey Expat Forum. It took me forever to get around to it because I was busy and then sick and then busy again, but I found a spare moment and obliged him. It's so rare I get emails about sharing links or doing some blog crossover thing that isn't spam. And Ricky's site looks like it has a lot of potential, so I'm happy to support him.

Anyway, you can read the interview here.

I leave you with a promise to post soon, though it might have to wait till the doldrums of winter are over and I feel a spark of life or something.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Story Of How I Made Turkcell My Bitch

I can't stop talking about how I made Turkcell my bitch the other day. Anyone who knows me in real life is probably like, "Stranger, yaa, stop talking about making Turkcell your bitch already."

But I can't get over it. I'm like a new Stranger over here. Every time I think about it, I just about explode. And then start thinking about all the other things I can make my bitch.

We all have our own ways of fucking the world.
Fuck you, world. I hope you're ready to be my bitch.

It starts off with a boring tale of telephone contracts and bureaucratic bullshit. I tried to renew my Turkcell contract when the time came, only to be told I couldn't until the billing period was over. To add an extra challenge to a mundane life detail, I have to involve BE in anything Turkcell-contract-related because it's in his name. We tried to change the account to my name, only to be told we would have to pay to do so, and that I would be started off from zero as a customer and no longer entitled to getting swindled in style by Turkcell.

Holding out for this one.
So BE and I decided to keep it this way. The following week, Turkcell pretty much gave FIL an iPad because he's been a customer for like 20 years, so even if I don't actually end up with the futuristic foldable iPad 5000 we eventually may be entitled to, it seemed silly to start from zero and pay Turkcell for the privilege.

When we tried to renew the contract, one thing among many important things Turkcell failed to mention was that, after the billing date had passed, I had a window of about 5 minutes to set up a new contract before they automatically put me on a new magic shit contract wherein Internet costs around a lira per KB. Okay, the window was more than 5 minutes, and also I failed to remind BE the requisite 50,000 times to get his ass out of bed and out from in front of his dad's new iPad to walk 5 minutes to the Turkcell shop to arrange a new contract when the billing period ended.

A year's worth of unemployment and living with his mama can apparently keep a fellow not only busy, but preoccupied. And I forgot to remind BE to go deal with Turkcell because I was working and then going out and having loads of fun with other people. Having a life also tends to keep one busy and preoccupied.

So on Saturday night while I was out having loads of fun, we suddenly HAD to know who the candidates were in the 2000, or maybe 2004 presidential elections. That's how I roll, when I'm out having fun. Suck it up.

I didn't have to look up Alan Hale, either.
It's a problem with the iPhone, how it changes thought processes and conversations. Rather than having to remember some important fact, like Gilligan's real name, or spending all night arguing about it, like whether it was Jennifer Jason Lee or Ally Sheedy in Single White Female, you just look it up and carry on.

Bob Denver. Jennifer Jason Lee. I don't even have to look that shit up. I just didn't want you to get distracted with your phone in the middle of a post.

But just as we were about to answer a very important question about recent-we-were-alive-for-it-and-voting American history, a stream of messages appeared from Turkcell telling me I'd exceeded my 25 KB Internet limit and how much it would cost. In the time it took to not quite download a Wikipedia page, I'd been charged 12 TRY.
Conversations without iPhone get hung. No one quite knows where to go without the precious, precious information. Even my internal conversations weren't working so well, plus I was having a hard time not being able to check the weather report all the time.

By Sunday, my charges were around 30 TRY, just for having the fucker turned on, because I hadn't thought to turn off all the stuff that uses Internet when you're asleep. By all accounts, Turkcell was totally fucking me dry.

So BE and I marched into Turkcell on Sunday to sort shit out. I was all, "Let's be like your dad and threaten to fake-angrily stomp off to Avea across the street if they don't do what I want." FIL is a master of pazarlama and I totally want to be him someday. Except Turkcell doesn't have the right type of employee working on Sunday so there was nothing we could do. "Just don't use Internet," BE advised helpfully.

Must be nice.
The next day BE finally managed to get himself out of bed around noon and by 3, he'd made it to Turkcell. New contract, no problem, he assured me.

But then I got a message from Turkcell saying my new contract would start on March 10, when the billing cycle started.

So naturally, I completely flipped out. And then I got all grouchy. And then I bawled out the cats a lot for being annoying and I was totally in one of those scary Joan Crawford "LE, don't talk to me right now" moods as we got home and I sorted out laundry and dinner and catshit and a bath for the boy and finding the two-year-old Turkcell contract and then reading it, sort of. I called BE to find out if I'd understood Turkcell's message correctly. I had. Then I asked if he'd managed to get rid of those bullshit charges. He hadn't. Then I wondered why he hadn't mentioned any of this to me, about how I would continue to be charged per KB of Internet for another two weeks. He suggested not using the Internet. He's full of ideas, that one. I wondered what the point was in having a fucking iPhone without Internet. Then he got crabby and bitched at me for getting upset and went into a "N'yapıyım? Yapacak birşey yok" shrugfest (okay, it was over the phone but it surely involved a lot of shrugging), so, totally enraged, I was all, "Fine. I'll fucking sort it out myself," and he was like, "Pshaw, good luck with that," and he hung up on me as per the usual endings of our phone conversations.

And then, in a nice voice, I reminded LE that I love him and that Turkcell sucked and that he probably still shouldn't talk to me during dinner while I was still sort of reading the contract. LE only talked to me to point out the most important things in "Puss In Boots," which we've watched about 30 times in the last 2 weeks. That movie is either growing on me or wearing on me. I can't tell with these things anymore.

Hee! It's funny because it's stupid.
After getting LE to sleep, I called Turkcell. They didn't offer an English speaker, which can be very good or very bad, depending on the English speaker. I ended up with a fellow who was ever so nice but talked a mile a minute and my Turkish tends to break more than usual in these kinds of situations, especially over the phone. This happens even after I've mentally rehearsed some choice bits of Turkish I might need to use. But I said a lot of stuff about how it was unfair that no one told me I was going to be charged for any of this and that it wasn't in the contract (I hoped) and the guy said a lot of stuff that meant I was getting nowhere and I said some more stuff then he said some stuff and then we were both saying stuff at the same time when he started saying something that sounded like it was about getting my money back.


He offered to call BE, the contract holder, to confirm it all with him. I explained that I was foreign and don't give good phone (in case he hadn't noticed, which I'm sure he had but at least was nice about it), so this was probably a good idea. So I waited 10 minutes and called BE and he was all, "How the fuck did you do that?" and I was all, "I don't know, but it sounded good, right?" Hah! Whatever it was I did got the extra charges erased, a cheap short-term solution to the Internet problem until the new contract starts, and a possible refund on the cheap Internet solution. "Bravo," said BE.

It's all my fault.
And in my mind I was all, "Fuck you and your skewed locus of control. Just get a fucking job already." In reality, I was nice and only gloated a little bit. I told him to be sure and tell his dad how I made Turkcell my bitch. He managed a sort of goodbye before he hung up.

So that's how I made Turkcell my bitch. I'm suspecting it was the claim that I'd read my contract that did it, because my infallible logic about how it was wrong of them to charge me has never worked on anyone before, either here or in the US. My mom is like this too-- she won't give up with the call centers when someone tries to screw her. So she taught me well. I'm just glad I didn't have to ask for a manager, as per my motherly training. Managers usually speak faster than regular phone guys, if that's even possible.

And I'm completely unable to get over myself and this bit of greatness I've accomplished. Until something comes along and kicks me in the ass, I'm on top of the world.

And by on top I mean On Top. As in, the world is now my bitch and we're doing it doggy style.