Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Week Back: A Bureacratic Success Story, The Cats Are Off The Island, and the Retard Report

This makes it all inspirational and shit.
This post is unnecessarily long because I really wanted to fit "The Cats Are Off The Island" and "The Retard Report" into a single title. It was purely out of vanity, I assure you.

Still, you might as well settle in because it'll be awhile. I'll try to put lots of pictures.

Chapter 1: A Bureaucratic Success Story

Oh, baby.
It's been a busy week full of busy things that never seem to end. For one, I went to the tax place to pay the money to get my new phone activated. If you buy a phone in a foreign country, you still have to pay the duties on it to get it turned on. So I did, because even with the extra 100tl, it was still cheaper to buy it over there.

Who thinks of these colors?
With the help of a minibus driver I located the tax office. It was one of those dismaying institutional places with bland, graying paint that's always kind of dirty. There are always multi-colored yet somehow colorless speckled floors, and windows and desks where a lot of people appear to be doing nothing very slowly. I asked a guy where I could pay the money to get the phone turned on, and he asked if I'd ever done any work there before. I happily misinterpreted the question and said "no," so he gave me directions for somewhere upstairs to go to get a tax number.

But I already have a tax number. It's just that I got it in Bakırköy a long time ago, not in the particular tax office where I was. He sent me off the Vezne. Having the tax number was just the first in a series of tax office successes.

Ready for anything.
I gave the Vezne guy my tax card and he eyed it suspiciously, turning it over and back a few times. I would have been suspicious too, since the tax number is simply handwritten onto a laminated card. But he accepted it. After that, it was like a challenge to see if he could want something I didn't have.

Passport? Had it. Residence permit? Had it. The phone? Had it. I offered the receipt for my phone, but he didn't want that. I also could have offered 4 passport sized photos, LE's and the cats' vaccination records, a box of crayons, four different shades of lip gloss, a marble, and a small bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer, had he asked for any of those things. I carry a lot of shit on me at all times.

He seemed faintly disappointed everything had gone so well, and with a grunt, waved me off to the fellow in the next window, who took my money. Which I also had, cash or credit, nasıl isterseniz.

As I walked out, I looked around and realized I probably should have been a lot more scared of this place. The new normal freaks me out sometimes, even if it's just because it's not freaking me out.

Chapter 2: The Cats Are Off The Island

Not missed. At all.
So for the last week, I've been deciding I can't live with the cats anymore. It's not just their wanton, needless destruction or their constant need to be into whatever I'm doing or their endless desire to sit in my lap and knead my tits with their claws. It's also their insane, ongoing quest for food, even if it's just to scatter it across the floor if I turn my back for a second, and the fact that I discovered I own cornmeal because they clawed the cornmeal and made it fall all over, along with some rice. Also there's the thing where I never want to do anything that involves entering a bedroom because it entails extracting a cat from the closet before anything else gets chewed to pieces and then tossing them both out the door and closing it before they run back in. I bar my bedroom door night while they keep me awake, flinging themselves at the door so they can come in and kill the laundry and my sweaters and attack my feet and knead my hair and tits with their claws. Plus their box is gross and they throw their litter and sometimes poo all over the place.

Good riddance, fucker.
And then they developed this maniacal obsession with tampons (unused ones), which they started stealing and running away with in triumph so that I had to corner the cat to take the tampon back. As soon as the bedroom door opened, a cat appeared to stick its head in the drawer and dig out a tampon. It was a trend I didn't care to continue with.

Enough, I thought. So I made arrangements with the neighbors to take Havuç and Spider to the cat farm where their mothers and siblings and half-siblings now live.

My neighbors like cats, so I'm inclined to believe them that the cat farm is a fine place for them. Maybe it isn't, but in any case it's better than the street and it's better than my house and it's better than me murdering them.
I'm sure it's like this.
The night before the cats were scheduled to go to the farm, they knocked their kitty carrier off a top shelf onto the floor and broke it a little. That morning, after a thrilling bout of tampon theft, they knocked over the garbage in the kitchen and scattered it all over the floor, then they walked in the wet bathtub and then walked all over the house with wet dirty feet. Havuç refused to leave the sink so I could brush my teeth, and Spider almost killed me by being underfoot between my legs. So they made getting rid of them really easy.

Murdered sweater: a special gift from the cats.
I took a tampon and tossed it into the cat carrier and they both ran in to get it. Then I snaked the tampon back out, locked the door, and taped the whole thing closed where they broke it so they wouldn't escape in the car. I dropped them off at the neighbor's, and that was the end of the cats. The neighbors returned the carrier to me when I came home that afternoon, with a big hole ripped in the tape and some of Spider's fur stuck to it. Apparently the cats were very eager to go to the farm and destroy whatever there is there.

When I got back to the house, I opened the front door wide because there weren't any cats there to stop from running downstairs. I opened all the windows because there weren't any cats to fall off the windowsills, and I opened all the bedroom doors because the contents of those rooms are now safe from cats. For good measure, I threw some clothes on the floor because there were no cats to chew and claw holes in them.

I told LE the cats were gone and his face crumpled like he was going to cry. So I reminded him about how they chew up his toys and knock over his castles. He thought about it for a moment and said, "Goodbye, cats."

And that was the end of that. LE mentioned this morning how nice it is being able to leave his crap lying around on the floor.

I must say, I completely agree.

Chapter 3: The Retard Report

So a big huge thing I've been long-term trying to deal with is the problem of LE and school. Back in March, the government announced that the school system should henceforth be the now-notorious 4+4+4 system. The short version is that it's been decided that schooling shall be broken into three phases-- 4 years of elementary, 4 years of middle, and 4 years of high school.

No one is ready.
On the face of it, the new system doesn't seem so bad. More school! What could be wrong with that? Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find that it's profoundly flawed both practically and politically, like so many other apparently straightforward issues in Turkey. But I'll spare you all of that because I've ranted endlessly about it for months virtually and in real life.

Instead, I'll go straight to the part of the new law that bothered me most in the concrete sense, which was that our good leaders declared children shall start first grade at 5 1/2, or 66 months. LE turned 66 months at the end of August.

So since March, I, like many parents of children my age, have been trying to work out a solution to this. Most people I know had been planning to send their kids to kindergarten. LE's preschool had even put together a really nice kindergarten curriculum.

At first, the media were saying you could write a dilekçi (like a petition or formal request) to keep your small kid out of school. Then they said they weren't taking dilekçi anymore. Then they decided Eğitim ve Beslenme shools (public schools that go all day and give your kids food) should be open to everyone in the district, not just the working families they'd been designed for, because it was unfair for working families to have some kind of advantage, like quality care for their kids.

At that point, I gave up and resigned myself to the winds of fate. There's fuck-all you can do about some things, except trying to force yourself into being accepting of the idea that LE will be in first grade this year. I was theoretically successful, but not really.

It was around this time that LE started saying, "Fucking government. Mama, what's the government?" Things have been really heavy around here.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago while I was in the States, I read on Facebook that schools or the government or whatever were accepting health reports saying it would be harmful for your child to enter first grade because he/she was mentally underdeveloped or whatever. I was all, "I need me one of those." And I became optimistic that LE might not have to go to school. This required a lot of sorting out because, having resigned myself to first grade, I hadn't worked out a plan for daycare for LE, other than planning to hire my cleaner to look after him in the mornings until noon, when it was time to start school. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best I can afford and I figured at least she'd clean every day and cook a little, so it would be like having a servant, which is kind of cool.

A useless website that doesn't work with Firefox.

Then the on-campus school he's been going to closed down and moved because they couldn't agree about their rent with the university. The new school had just opened, and I had no idea if there was a place for LE, or even if they were taking kids his age. Since I was in the States, there was nothing I could do but ask around a bit.

BE heard about the Retard Report, too. It was the only nice thing, the only full sentences really, that he spoke to me at the airport when we arrived home. It was agreed that I should sort out a preschool for LE, and then BE would get the health report.

My part of the agreement is still somewhat of an ongoing thing, but BE did a big scramble to get the Retard Report. He went to the place he'd heard about, only to be told that Ankara had issued an order that any doctor who wrote a health report to keep a younger child out of first grade would be fired.

I got this news while meeting in my office with a student. And I was all, "WTF, did we miss it by one day?" A friend of mine had, that morning, sent me a photo of the report they'd gotten the day before. The student got to learn some first-class swearing, as well as a lot more about my personal life than he was probably counting on.

So I told BE to call my friend's husband, the one who'd gotten the report the day before, and find out what he did. BE tends to give up awfully easily. He's also a bit of a fuckup, even though he does have it in him sometimes to get things right.

The Retard Report.
The next part, the part where BE gets the Retard Report, was relayed to me secondhand by his parents, because BE isn't talking to me now. Apparently, there was one good and upright Cumhuriyetçi psychologist somewhere deep in the interminable bowels of Bakırköy Hospital. Finding this doctor took some doing. I imagined a small group of frustrated parents running hither and yon together, clamoring for Retard Reports for their kids. The doctor didn't even need a bribe, apparently.

So it's official. My kid is a retard. This is not by my accounting. It's according our good Tayyip. According to the various statements he's released in the past few weeks, not only are kids who get reports to stay out of school for a year retards, they are also traitors and they support the PKK.

I couldn't find the one with Erdoğan dancing, singing "You're a retard!" to a little kid.
It's an awfully heavy load for a small kid. As soon as mine knows what "traitor" and "PKK" and "retard" mean, I'll be sure and let him know the government says he's all of those things. For now, he's just happy he can play with his gun with the sponge bullets the cats were insane about chewing up before they discovered tampons.

Bonus Chapter 4: The Retard Report Wrap-Up

At the end of the week, I took the Retard Report to the elementary school LE had been automatically registered at. The security guard sent me to whatever office, but he had given me the wrong name and I couldn't find the office. I went up and down four floors, wandering the halls looking.

They all kind of look the same.
The school was being painted with a fresh coat of institutional blah. The new paint was hard to distinguish from the graying paint underneath. The floors were from the same Institutional Standard Issue Speckle as the ones in the tax office. Tiny orange and green footprints had been painted on the stairs to show the kids which side to walk on for going up or down. I saw something that looked like animal poo on the floor. The rooms had beaten-up desks and cupboards carelessly stacked in the center, and they had interesting names like "Science Lab" and "Art," but the insides were the same as the other classrooms.

Everything's gonna be fine.
I wanted to cry, seeing that place. The only positive thing is that I have a year to get used to the idea of sending my kid to that unbearable place.

With the help of a cleaner, I finally found the right office. The assistant principal (a different guy from the one I'd talked to before) had also come from the same Standard Issue as the guys in the tax office, with a big thick mustache and dyed black hair and graying skin. I told him what I was there for and he took my stuff and gave me someone else's dilekçi to copy because I have no idea what you're supposed to write in those things, but they have to be either typed or written in your own hand. While I was copying it, he talked to a few other visitors, doing everything very slowly, endlessly shuffling papers and opening and closing the same drawer. His answers to them were short and vague and final-sounding. Then he asked me if, in America, they make kids start first grade at 5 and a half. I said they don't, usually. He muttered something bitter about our good leaders and the state of things in Turkey.

Then he asked me about my husband and I told him I was divorced, which probably wasn't such a good idea because then, get this, he started flirting with me. "Bekarlık çok zor, değil mi?" (It's hard being single, isn't it?) I began getting concerned it might take a blowjob to bring the school matter to rest, because, I don't know. It's just the sort of thing one worries about in the back of one's mind. So I asked him if he had kids, and he said they're all grown and have no use for him anymore. He's been apart from his wife for 20 years.

So I wrote the dilekçi as fast as I could, made a mistake, scribbled it out and fixed it. The assistant principal shuffled papers and talked about how glad he was I'd come to his office. When I finished writing, I gave him the papers. He looked them over several times, then shuffled them around a bit. Then he put them in the drawer and closed it. Then he took them back out again and shuffled them some more. I pressed my knees together and subtly tried to pull my skirt even farther down over them. His phone kept ringing and he kept hitting the button to shut it off. Then he complained about how busy he was.

Um, no thanks.
I seriously felt like saying, "May I go now, sir?" Instead, I tried to be like a fellow educator and said how difficult things are in September. He said that he was feeling tired and bored, but since I had come to his office, he was feeling much better. So I asked him if everything was in order. He offered me tea. I declined and said I had a lot of work to do. He wondered what sort of work that might be. So I stood up and said something vague and thanked him and bid him good day, offering a handshake because that seemed to be about the least feminine thing I could do in the situation. Then I got the fuck out of there as quick as I could without looking like I was scurrying.

So it seems to be done, this school thing. I'm going to go again tomorrow and check with the woman in the other building, the one he was talking on the phone with, just to make sure everything has been properly data-entered and accepted and accounted for.

And with a week's worth of taking care of shit officially out of the way, I went home, showered, changed into a far more interesting skirt than the one I'd been wearing, and headed off into my next big misadventure.

It's the new new-normal. And it mostly doesn't suck except sometimes it sucks.


Bill said...


Erika said...

"and they throw their litter and sometimes poo all over the place." Those mofos would have been gone a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Loved. This. Post!