Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where You End Up

In Hollywood movies, a charming and hapless protagonist sometimes ends up in the middle of a situation - in a basket floating down a wild river, in a large crowd of people during a panic, surrounded by friendly or unfriendly natives, or in the middle of a car chase, but in the back seat. The protagonist hunkers down, using their hands over their head to show the audience that they're keeping their head low, mashing a well-chosen hat (thanks to the costume department) stylishly over their dome.

I guess I've felt this way on a few occasions - and enjoyed being in some pretty weird territory, but my hat is ugly (just 5 TL), and no one was there to film it. Sometimes it's hard just to order a burger, and instead of hunkering down and being hapless, you need to try and employ interpersonal skills and keep others around you from feeling inconvenienced by your lack of language skills.

The first step: Smile. It helps. Really.

Friday, July 16, 2010

İzmir Gypsy Street

To a simple midwestern American searching for something to compare this place to, maybe it looked like a renaissance fair... a purpose-built, festival grounds, but without the costumed re-enactment fetishists and their false British accents. The action was real, the crowds real.... no false fronts on the buildings or the people, just winding narrow streets lined with neat, colorful little concrete/brick homes and shops that looked too make-believe to be beleived. There was also a whole lot more shouting and life on the street than a fesival - five fights and one wedding while we were there, lots of cars and scooters, kids playing and getting into trouble, and business being conducted.

We sat with our host and his family on plastic chairs drinking tea for most of the evening, and the night hadn't even started when we left at about 10:30. Our hosts were extremely gracious; gypsy hospitality must be the finest in the world.

We thought the wedding was starting when a '64 Chevy Impala convertible, decorated with rows of lights and carrying a mother, father, and two children dressed in white satin, came tearing through the main street to celebrate the boy's circumcisions.

I was cursing myself all night for not having a camera, but that moment really made me feel the misery of my failure.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I rode the Turkish minibus for the first time by myself - OK, I find them intimidating. Anyone in their right mind would. Hey, at least I rode in the front (OK, so the driver told me to sit up there because he was feeling helpful). Such is the life of a foreigner - a very fine line between the joy of freedom and independence and occasional total dependance on others. One minute you feel like Indiana Jones, the next minute you're a helpless infant.

Anyway, while bouncing around up front, I hear the driver talking on his cell phone (while counting money and negotiating some of the world's meanest traffic with a bus filled with people) ordering food. I assumed he was making a call to the garage, but after a few blocks, he suddenly stopped the bus. Then a man from a small stand ran across five lanes of traffic to bring him his sandwich.

Lunch service in Turkey is truly heroic.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


(this is not where I'm staying)

To move or not to move? For that question, there is no choice... I simply can't stay here no matter how comfortable it is. For one thing, this is someone else's bedroom. Whatever the sleeping arrangements are when there are no guests in the house, someone probably wants to sleep in the bed I'm occupying.

Also, wherever I go, I hope it is quieter than this place. Even a relatively lazy street like ours is filled with noise.

The night before last, we were ready to leave at a moment's notice. My bags were packed and we collected a list of phone numbers for a new apartment. Last night, there was talk about having me paint the kitchen (my wife said that I love painting) and I had to unpack part of my suitcase to have clothes today. This is getting silly. We need to go.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Some Photos

This is a Tofaş Şahin, a typical Turkish car. These things are everywhere. They're relatively cheap, so it's the kind of car kids might trick out with rims, neon lights, and Cadillac emblems, then drive around playing obnoxious club music. Despite this and the fact that I'm going to get tired of seeing them around, and that driving in Turkey is a dangerous pain in the ass, and that if I owned a car, it would get banged up in no time at all, I want one of these things in the worst way.

This is the view from our roof... by all accounts, it's a pretty busted up part of town, but I love it. It's charming. It's starting to feel like home.

Nine Days in Turkey

I've only been here nine days? During that time, I've probably learned four whole words. Learning a new language is not easy, and not many people here speak English.
Soon, my wife isn't going to be around to translate for me, so it's definitely time to step up and start actively learning to speak Turkish. In Japan, it's possible for a foreigner to function without having to learn the language, but in Turkey the bureaucracy is too thick, the city too hectic. There is a feeling that you have to be "on" at all times when you're out and moving around.

In other news, Bilgi University throws a nice party. Armağan's graduation ceremony was followed by a cocktail party that was held in a very beautiful space that used to house an old factory. Whether the campus was beautiful or ugly was something that we didn't agree on (I liked the old factory buildings), but the view of the city rising up around it gave it a feeling of being at the heart of things, of serving a necessary function. I was immediately envious and wished I had gone to University there.

Today's mission: learn to use the tramway.