Monday, February 27, 2012

Cultural differences and missing my baker

I said I will rant...and oh my, have I been saving up on some.

We just broke free of some record-breaking cold wave of February. All my dreams of a snow-less winter dashed to bits under dunes of snow drifts gathering around my new neighborhood in Umraniye. Still, mom has got to do what she gots to do... and strapping Falafal up in my trusty Olives&Applesauce buckle carrier, and Hanim Efendi (previously called Monster) left to fare for her own on the streets, we carried on with our daily excursions.

Our latest conquest at a trio, the local farmer's Pazaar that sets up every Thursday. One particularly cold Thursday morning, I was aching to juice up lots of apples and carrots and thought, why the hell not? I outfitted both kids in the warmest layers and headed out to the pazaar.

I should not have been surprised, that my kids were literally the only 2 feet and shorter variety out in the streets. That meant, tons of "aah yavrum, kiyamam! Annesi nasil cikardin bunlara bu soguk havada!!!?" (Oh my babies! Mom how *or why* did you bring the kids out in this cold weather?)

It also didn't quite surprise me, that out of the three of us, I am frequently the only one who does catch the occasional cold from the cold weather. Fortunately for those women, I have neither the breath, nor the Turkish capacity to explain this, probably strange to them, phenomenon. I merely answer, "they've gotten used to it" and move onwards.

I did however, find just enough Turkish to finally respond appropriately to another scenario that makes me pull my hair. Not too soon after moving to Istanbul, Wizard and I had started noticing that not many Turks use "thank you"s or "excuse me"s very much. If you hold a door open for someone behind you, they walk in brushing you off with a condescending look instead. What the what?

One taxi driver very frankly advised us: "If you appear humble, people will walk over you. That is the culture in Turkey, get used to it."

Just yesterday, I had to make a phone call to a famous home store in Kadikoy to ask about their returns or exchange policy. I had barely mentioned my dissatisfaction with the item that the customer service rep started yelling and scolding me for not liking the item because I don't know anything about bamboo fiber and I must be ignorant. Not able to get a word in, I essentially had to shout over her to tell her to shut up and listen. Had I talked like that to a rep in US, I would have gotten shitty service after that. Here in Turkey, it had the opposite effect.

The customer rep abandoned all her pissy attitude from the beginning of the call, and turned into a complacent little sheep trying to help me as best as she could.




Which made me think of my baker in Sunnyside and the snotty girls that worked there. After the first few visits that I had made there, my smiles started getting reciprocated and the croissants in my paper bag became fresher and fluffier. A little cookie hidden inside sometimes for the Hanim Efendi, or an extra packet of cream with my coffee...just because I was nice to them and took a little extra time to ask them how they were.

People, I have enough of a hard time keeping my wits' together at home, I need to keep my voice running to save for that necessary shout to make my kid pause before he slams the stolen wrench on the glass console...for me to shout at YOU TOO! When I sneak out of the house on the pretext of an errand, I'd rather talk to adults nicely and politely than be expected to treat them like shit to get half decent service.

I need to be able to teach my children common courtesy and charm and not how to yell store employees down if you need anything get done. I've seen those kids too, the ones who talk nastily to adults and then attach an "abla" at the end, as if it makes their words palatable.

Good job, Turkey. You've placed yourself quite close to Pakistan in the department of lacking manners as far as I am concerned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I've been emotionally black mailed into watching Pakistani Dramas

This picture is currently making the viral rounds on Facebook started by this dude
and it was funny enough to make me get curious finally to take a look. Never mind the fact that my SISTER has been asking me non stop "Have you seen Humsafar?" every time we talk on the phone, she just never was convincing enough.

So, I decided to watch the first episode and for the first several clips thought it was pretty stupid until the poor girl started crying while praying and I literally went HOLY F SHE LOOKS LIKE SALMA and then I got really sad because my last image of my sister from our last few minutes together she was bawling her eyes out as I was driving to the airport and that was the look I found the most familiar on the character in the drama. Of course, now I HAVE to watch the show out of the obligation that this chick looks like my sister.

THANK YOU Salma! You can gloat your face off, you brat!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The simple act of making a bed

When Wizard and I got married, I used to plan my hectic morning something like this: Get ready, make the bed, make breakfast, eat breakfast, grab books, college(for me)/work(for him). I had to time making the bed because it needed to be just right. The sheets needed to be firmly tucked around corners again, the comforters folded down at pillow height, a bed spread over the whole thing and a few accent pillows arranged carefully.

Wizard would laugh at me then. "You're not even going to see your bed again till bedtime. Why do you need to make it when it's going to get messed up again?" Ah, yes, the typical bachelor thinking. On days when he offered to make the bed, we'd come home to mysterious lumps under the spreads, my missing glasses under the pillow, a book by my feet, etc.

It took several years, but I can now claim that he must have felt infinitely better relaxing in the made (by me) bed at the end of the day because now, he too takes care to perfect the little things before he leaves for work.

Our new routine now also includes airing the rooms because it just makes the room a lot more fresh than any air freshener. Occasionally, on a sunny day I'll even sun the comforters and pillows to sanitize the fillings.

The best part about a nicely made bed is that rare five minute break when both kids are asleep, or busy so I can escape for a bit and go to my bedroom. The clean room, free of clutter not only gives me space to breathe, but also helps me clear my mind of clutter and noises. Everyday when I make our bed, I'm actually looking forward to stepping back inside the room, just to take one more peek at the organized scene. It's like a reminder, that with a little bit effort, I can also organize and de-clutter my mind.

If you're reading this, please share in the comments a daily routine that you practice that helps you find peace and balance during the day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking around corners: Summing up one Heck of a Year- Part 4

So the first three parts sound like a huge suck fest, don’t they? I apologize for going on and on about random crap that happened over the year…here is some good news.

For our past six’ish years of marriage, Wizard and I lived under the assumption that eventually we’ll leave US and live in Turkey until kids want to come back. We’d never actually planned for it, or maybe it was that we figured that we’ll have time to plan it the way we see fit.

Life takes over, the universe takes a not so familiar path and the best thing to do is jump right into the worm hole and let the Universe take over. Amazingly it just happened without us even realizing it. At first it felt like we were being ripped away from our friends and family kicking and screaming, and then just like that we were in our new home, feeling slightly richer because of the ridiculously high dollar rate and it looked like it will all work out.

While I was getting cautiously excited over the prospect of setting up a beautiful home, Halloween came around and I got sucked in watching all the festive photos being shared on Facebook. Among the pictures, an older picture of me and Monster in her Angelina Ballerina costume, walking down a Sunnyside street, popped up. A huge wave of emotion rushed over me and I wanted to scream, I can go back to my small Sunnyside home and give up everything just so I can be among my family and friends.

The next few days I was miserable, touchy and ready to explode any minute. Wizard and I were already tense because he wanted me to start working and I wanted to stay home. I called him names and belittled him for wanting to make me work and wanting to stay at home himself. It was a horrible time, knowing I am being unfair to him and yet continuing to attack him just so I could get it out of my system. I kept going back to Facebook to fuel my anger and resentment. Why were some people so much better at life than us? How come even though we had the same immigration status, they were living life so much gracefully than us? Why do they get to be close to their family while I have been forced to live thousands of miles apart?

I blamed Wizard for everything. For bringing us here, for making us take public transport, he was responsible for our friend-less life in Istanbul. In all that mud flinging, I was very aware of everything good that he was also responsible for. For loving me through my temper tantrums and depressive spirals, for holding my hand and never leaving me during my anxiety attacks, for always reminding me that we were together in good times and in bad. When I was particularly sad one time and beginning to doubt myself for bringing the bad luck in his life, he looked me in the eyes and said “I’ve been with you for six years and I want to be with you for sixty more.”

The next day I deactivated my Facebook account and decided to live in the moment with the people who are next to me and stop comparing my life with others’. I also started to look for a job.

With this job search came a drastic change, not just in my mental state but also in my physical appearance. Wizard didn’t want me to wear a headscarf to job applications. Not feeling like myself, I insisted on wrapping my hair up in a way that looked professional and also kept to my personal preference of attire. I never had the interview and instead had an eye opening chat with someone. Following that appointment, I found myself stuck at a place I never envisioned myself to be in. If I kept the scarf, I was willingly limiting myself to job prospects and from supporting my family. If I took the scarf off, I was saying “Yes sir” to The Man and putting my relationship with my Creator in jeopardy.

I had to look very deep inside to find out what I wanted and also, How will I explain this to Allah? I WANTED to keep my scarf, to make people see the truth; that hijab does not make a covered Muslim woman uneducated---that keeping a woman away from education because she’s covered leaves her uneducated. Now was not the time for debates though. I had to start somewhere and I had to start right away. For the next interview, I went without a scarf. I also got that job but I turned it down.

I did start working as an English teacher though. It was shaky in the beginning with the students doubting my credibility because of the way I looked. Apparently, as a friend pointed out, I looked younger without a head scarf. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t: this was Allah’s little revenge on me. I now had people thinking I must have been a child bride.

Slowly, the tide turned. We started shopping for the requirements for setting up our next home and nearing the end of the year, even as we reminisced about all the holiday traditions our family has missed now that we’re in Turkey, the stars were moving. It took a lot of patience for us to acclimatize to the ride of the Universe, but we’ve done it. We rode out that worm hole, we’re in a new Universe and starting this January 1st, we have seen what’s behind the brick walls that faced us in the middle of last year.

More Windows.

Happy New Year, Wizard. Without you this ride wouldn’t have been worth it.