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?


Rebecca said...

You are a hostess after my own heart! I never have anything to offer because if I buy in or bake cookies, my husband just eats all of them more or less at once (with a bit of help from me).
I totally dread Turkish visitors because like you, I never know whether to believe their refusals and I'm sure I'm not up to the mark hostess wise. They also show a marked reluctance to drink my tea.
It's all part of the reason I've become a near hermit in this country and prefer to stay indoors with my cats.

Stranger said...

The mundane becomes the terrifying. I'll never get it right... And if I do get it right, I hope someone like you just takes me out back and shoots me.

vicky bursa said...

my neighbours and mil don't seem to like my tea either, even though I now buy the brand my mil buys. i also never have anything in foodwise, and get into a blind panic if people drop by unannounced as my place is never up to turkish housewife standards, even when clean. my furniture doesn't match, we need to paint over Deniz's scribbles on the walls and we use the salon as our main sitting room so everything's a bit lived in. sigh. sounds like you did a great job though, but so sorry your lovely day off was intruded upon.

Stranger said...

It's okay. I think I'm their new project now. Yesterday (Sunday), the landlord's sister-in-law turned up with another relative who had a son who needed "help" on his English homework. Assuming they just wanted me to translate what he'd written in Turkish, I settled in. But in fact they wanted further information about the state of my marriage, and the boy's mom left because her terror of kittens was too intense.

In fact, the boy's English was just fine for what he needed to do. He hadn't even written the Turkish yet. I prodded him into thinking of enough sentences for his project and he was ever so careful to do them right. Then he hardly needed my help at all after that.

When I offered them tea and they said no, I just didn't force the issue because all I really wanted was for them to go away.