Tuesday, April 24, 2012

23 Nisan: Adventures in Neighborliness

Looking down on you kids. Benevolently.
 For us and the cats, 23 Nisan started the day before when they started testing the sound system at the stadium outside our balcony. "Test test test bir iki üç test test test..." Then it was all, "Çocuklar hoşgeldiniz. Bayramınızı kutlu olsun." That went on for awhile, and then with the music. The cats didn't care for it, not one bit. One of them gets all puffed up at the slightest oddity. The other just beats it.

For my part, I'm used to explosive noises. Not so much the screeching feedback, though. After a couple of hours, things were sorted out. They only paused for the midday ezan.

We won!
Then today, the kids started piling in, dressed in grouped colors with lots of sequins, arranged by height. The little stadium was more packed than it ever is for a football game. 23 Nisan is a fine day of marching and lock-step traditional and non-traditional dancing and (dare I say? Dare! Dare!) near-Fascist displays of nationalism, culminating in the kids marching out a giant Turkish flag with Atatürk's face on it. The one where he's wearing the cool fuzzy Hat of Victory.

Been drooling over you since I was 12.
LE had already declined to watch the festivities in favor of watching Iron Man. I am always supportive of watching Iron Man, even if it's just to hear Robert Downey Jr.'s voice from across the room. We were both in our jammies at 11am. LE had whipped his shirt off and I had some serious bedhead going on.

My friends! Can't you see this is fucking creepy?
But our Downey, doing-nothing bliss was not to be. The doorbell rang and there was a neighbor wanting to come up and watch the display from our balcony. Seeing that it was obvious we had nothing going on, I had no choice but to invite her in. At that point, the youngest group of kids outside was doing this weird ballroom dance thing, with the girls in slinky pink dresses and the boys in tuxes. If you live in Turkey you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, it's sort of a Jon Benet-Ramsey-lite thing because the kids that do this particular dance are usually about 6 or under.

I began to worry about having to turn up for this sort of event, and groom LE for it, in my near future when he starts school. I wondered if there's some way to rope his baba and the in-laws into doing it instead.

After the neighbor finished chiding us for not wearing slippers and telling me to go ahead and get back to my work, she asked if she could invite another neighbor up. Then she called like 3 friends to tell them she was the American's house. I wondered if  "İşinize bakın" was just something one says when one barges into someone's house under false pretenses, or if she meant I ought to clean up the fucking mess already.

We will kill you.
The other neighbor came up, a sweet girl who looks after my landlord's mom downstairs. I offered them tea and they said no. I was messaging with a friend at the time, and I asked if he thought it was a real refusal or a pro forma one. I can never tell the difference. He told me they actually did want tea so I set about making tea. He also told me they'd be expecting biscuits with that. All I had was some gummy bears, a package of Tutku that's been open for a few weeks, and some dried apricots. I figured the Tutku were so full of preservatives no one would notice, and the apricots were still soft. I don't do guests much, now that the MIL won't come into the house for fear the cat's hair will lodge in her throat and kill us all.

I'll give you people something to gossip about.
At a loss for anything to do while the tea was boiling, I went outside. At that point I learned the neighbor's real mission for coming to my house. She wanted to know about BE and why he's not around anymore, and all the dirty details of the failure of our marriage.

Now, given that the Family Yönetici and the landlord's sister or sister-in-law and Azeri Teyze all have asked and have all been informed about the disappearance of BE and the failure of our marriage and the pessimistic view of its future, I figured she just wanted the dirty details from the horse's mouth, because I'm pretty sure everyone on the block knows why BE doesn't come around much anymore. She asked first if he had another woman and I said no, but that I hoped he did by now because that would be good for him. Wrong answer. She asked if he beat me and I explained about that whole situation and where it seemed like it was going and then I ran away to deal with the tea and play with my phone some more.

At that point, I got the idea for the haiku for the last post, which I scribbled onto the back of a notice from LE's school which said that I was supposed to have sent him with some pictures and information about Norway by last Wednesday. Whoops.

LE, who had been putting on and taking off various slippers and pairs of shoes since the neighbor had arrived, came into the kitchen to ask for some popcorn. I gave him some in a bowl. He took the bowl out to the neighbor.

Hate these.
Then LE started stealing the cookies. The neighbors were delighted. So was he. I was less so. Mostly I was worrying about how they must think I'm a crap mom and a crap hostess. Which, for the latter at least, I definitely am and I don't give a shit. I just don't like it rubbed in my face. Because no one likes one's own crap rubbed in one's face.

With that in mind, LE decided to totally upstage me on the host front by going off and getting his photo album of baby pictures. Seriously? How the fuck does he already know that's what people do when you have an uncomfortable visiting situation on your hands? I was totally proud and consternated at the same moment. I never thought my kid would be greasing my social wheels at the tender age of 5. And he was doing it cutely and well, bare feet and all.

In the end, they really didn't want the tea. Seriously, my friends. How do you know if it's a real refusal or a fake one? I'm thinking it had to do with the state of my kitchen. In any case, the neighbors left before the glorious trotting out of the giant flag amid great fanfare at the stadium. Teacups half full, the neighbors apparently were satisfied with their information and bid us good day.

Did you notice, despite everything, I said it was half full?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spectacularly Bad Mom: A Foray Into Haiku

I want to be a
spectacularly bad mom
raise my kid up right.

Not like Joan Crawford.
Perhaps like Susan Sontag,
cool before he's 12.

 I'll teach him to mix
his mama a martini.
"That's my boy!" I'll say.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Divorce Step Two: A Bureaucratic Fuckup With A Happy Ending

Wedded bliss. The paperwork is just the first challenge.
When I wrote the first post about my upcoming divorce, I'd assumed it was going to be a series of steps, like getting married was. Go to this place for that paper, go to another place for a different paper, drive across town to another place for further paper, then take all the paper to a fourth place only to be told someone at the second place made a mistake and you have to start all over. But the guy at the second place didn't make a mistake after all, so you take everything back to the fourth place where a different guy says nothing about the alleged mistake and dourly stamps the hell out of everything and then gets money for it.

Waiting for...
Those are the kind of steps I can deal with. Instead, after the notary there was no need to go anywhere. There was just a lot of waiting. And the waiting was pretty much down to the lawyer, who clearly doesn't feel the same sense of urgency about all this that I do. Every day, I'm just waiting for BE to change his mind about the whole thing and then make me put up with his bullshit for another year until he changes his mind back. He did his part to make it all take longer by getting nitpicky about stuff he had agreed to and trying to get more stuff. I was like, "Fuck you. Take whatever you want and how about you pay me some fucking money already." Anyway, all he really wanted was more time with LE and I'm not into making a fight about that at all.

The agreement was done ages ago but it took forever to write and translate. I mean, I know my lawyer has a new baby and everything and I'm trying to be sympathetic about that. But at the same time, I borrowed a shitload of money from my parents to give her and while babies are extraordinarily time-consuming, I know from Facebook when my lawyer goes to Antalya or does some other fabulous, not-dealing-with-my divorce sort of thing.

My lawyer, despite everything...
The fact that I like my lawyer makes it hard to get annoyed with her. She's still my champion in all of this. And the fact that I can say something like "my lawyer" makes me feel super-cool, like Tony fucking Soprano.

But still...

The only place I had to go was to a very nice and civilized cafe in Nışantaşı to deliver the signed agreements and power of attorney forms. So that was all right. I had coffee and my lawyer had tea.

A couple of weeks ago, my lawyer (my lawyer!) sent me a message that she was trying to file the papers at the court, but there was a problem about my name. Fuck. The name problem chose this time to come and bite me in the ass.

I think I've mentioned before how I have 3 official names in Turkey. The first is the name I came here with. That's the name on the front page of my passport and in my residence permit: Unused First Name Stranger Maiden Name.

This question gives me pause.
After I got married, I had the passport amended to show the name change, with the amendment on the back page because they don't give you a new passport when you change your name, not until the old one expires. My official name in America is this one: Unused First Name Stranger Maiden Name Married Name.

When I got married, the law was still that women were required to take their husbands' names. That law has since changed. If women wanted to hyphenate or keep their old names, they had to petition the Nüfüs Mürdüğülü Something Something office with lots of diacritics. Except this office doesn't have any jurisdiction over foreigners, so...

So in my marriage certificate, I'm Unused First Name Stranger Married name. We tried to get the guy who did the certificate to just go ahead and include my maiden name in there as a second middle name, but he didn't care for that idea, not one bit.

When it came time to renew my residence permit after getting married, we tried to get them to change the name to match the on my passport. But the foreign police will only use the name on the front page of the passport, and refused to accept the back page amendment. We tried for 7 years of renewals to get them to change it, but they were having none of it. Even after they got all computerized and my name was probably turning up as something else in their computers, they wouldn't change it.

Remember this? I do.
To complicate things further, about 5 years ago, the yabancı kimlik numarası (foreigner ID number) was introduced. So older official things of mine, like my original SSK account or my tax ID number, are attached to a number they don't use anymore, either my passport number or my residence permit number. My new SSK account is in what I think of as my "real" name (the one with both my maiden and married names), attached to the yabancı kimlik numarası. I'm not sure what my residence permit is attached to. Anyway, the number thing plus the name thing makes me understand why I ended up with two SSK accounts, though I still think it's a crock of shit no one over there noticed it. What are databases and computers for, after all?

Anyway, when the judge went to file the divorce stuff, he or she (probably he) discovered the thing about my names. I knew it would bite me in the ass sometime, and I was really hoping that this wouldn't be the time. The lawyer was sending me emails all day trying to figure it out, and I was sending her emails back, explaining the individual acts of stupidity and stubbornness, none of which were my fault exactly, that resulted in my name problem. By the end of the day I was just asking her to tell the judge to give me whatever name he wanted. I just don't care that much anymore.

Anyone can navigate it, seriously.

Back to the waiting. My lawyer, bless her, never got back to me about the result of the name issue. I waited for another week on tenterhooks, wondering what sort of bureaucratic triplicates were churning through the Byzantine underground. I started thinking I would never get divorced.

So I sent her another one of my politely passive-aggressive emails asking if any progress had been made. And a few days later, she replied telling me the case had been filed a week ago, with a lengthy docket number, and that a petition had been mailed to BE. The judge was busy that week, she said, but she will get back to me with a court date soon enough.

Just trust this guy, okay?
And with that, Divorce Step Two, filing the case, is complete. I admit I'm a little nervous about the part where a petition is being mailed-- Turkish mail is such that I once received a letter from my grandmother three months after she had died. But things always have a way of working out, so I'm hoping for the best.

Maybe they'll use a courier service.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Emirgan Park: A Day of Tulips

But no Triffids, sadly for us. Or maybe that's okay.

So today we went to Emirgan Park to take a gander at the tulips.

Don't worry. More tulips are forthcoming.
Everyone else in Istanbul had the same idea so it was fucking crowded. Also a lot of people were getting married because people in Turkey get married all the time. It was a good day, not too hot but nice, with a big group of us and LE was the only kid there so everyone was happy to pay attention to him. That's pretty much all he asks from the world.

One nice thing that happened was when LE had to pee. The line for the women's was 8 people long. Something I've never figured out in Turkey is what the hell women here do in the toilets that takes so long, but they take fucking forever which means we were looking at like half an hour in that line. So I brought him over to the gents and told him he could just go by himself. He was cool with that. The other fellows in the line were as nice as could be, even though we all felt a little embarrassed about me being in the man line. They even let LE cut the line, and gave him a hand with the paper towels and stuff. So that was cool.

It's nice being able to not feel the American Stranger Danger about the whole bathroom thing. And yeah, I just split the hell out of that infinitive because that's how I roll. And I live in a place where you can let a strange man help your kid in the toilet and that's cool.

With that, let nothing else get in the way of the tulips. Because tulips are fucking amazing, seriously.

LE with tulips. 
Tulips with grape hyacinth. Which grows wild here, by the way.
LE with grape hyacinth.
Grape hyacinth extreme close up!
White tulips!
Pink tulips!
White tulips with some other tulips!
A slightly different shade of pink tulips!
More pink tulips that LE took a picture of!
Cool tulips!
A cunning arrangement of tulips!
From a slightly different angle!
Extreme close up!
Pointy red tulips!
The same ones, but closer!
LE riding a pretend tulip!
Pink tulips with charming white flowers!
Variegated orange tulips with charming white flowers!
A fabulous view!
Here it is!
Here it is again, only slightly different!
Here it is again all close up!
I'm speechless!
Tulips that look like İznik tiles.
Tulips that kill me.
An array of tulips.
The same array, but without the pink ones in the foreground.
Sexy tulip close up.
More white tulips!
Oh no! White tulips, watch out for the red tulips!
Tulips that look like fire.
Pinkish tulips with a scary yellow yabancı tulip lurking amongst them...
Tulips that look like a different kind of fire!
Tulips so red the human eye can't quite process them.
Extreme sexy dirty close up of ultra red tulips! I invaded their tulip-y privacy! Hah!
These are nice tulips.
Another sweet view. This sort of thing happens all the time in Istanbul.

And with that, I'll say nothing else because I have no business upstaging the tulips further... I love saying tulips now!