Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flashcards and a Duck

Heat!  I have Heat! (So of course today was the warmest day in two weeks)

The heating repair guy came today - at long last - and my landlady (who lives in Switzerland) arranged for Beyhan, the old woman downstairs, to come up here as a translator.  She spoke as much English as the repair guy, which is to say none at all.  Fortunately, I made a couple of flashcards to explain the problems I didn't think I could explain with gestures:

The young repair guy and the old woman were both very nice, but when I didn't understand their Turkish spoken normally, they shouted Turkish slowly and gesticulated wildly.  Pretty much like typical Americans confronted with people who don't speak English, as though increased volume and larger movements will somehow make it all clear.
I actually understood most of what the guy wanted to tell me:  there was a plug of nasty muck in the water pipe and he had to snake it out with a long wire (a relief to me - that means I'm not a dummy unable to operate a water heater and some radiators, my hypothesis was correct, and I couldn't have fixed it myself - and I'm also relieved I wasn't the one pulling that slimy black eew-y muck out).  Also, I shouldn't turn on the bathroom water heater ever.  Well, okay, I can turn it on if the balcony water heater breaks again, but only then.  (So why is it even installed?  It's clearly brand new!)  And here's the number to call if the system breaks again.  Call the number, say "Amerikalıyım" and give my address, slowly, in Turkish, and they'll understand and send someone out.  (I think that's what his pantomime meant...)
While the fellow was fixing the water heater, Beyhan wandered my apartment, picking up things and pointing at things, and shouting Turkish words at me.  Many of my possessions were "ҫok güzel" - "very good", some were just güzel.  Others, like the wonderful Shy Monster in a Box from the inimitable Chris Little, were...puzzling?  weird?  I don't know what Beyhan was trying to say.  Probably "AWESOME!"
I moved Dcük off the top shelf so you can see him.  Beyhan was quite taken by the duck.  I got the feeling she was hoping I would gift it to her.  Sometimes, culture is as much a challenge as language.  I knew enough to welcome her and the repair guy with "Ho geldiniz", to which they replied "Ho bulduk".  They offered to take their shoes off, and I told them they could leave them on (my floor is super-cold, and I'll mop tomorrow) - that was really inappropriate of me, apparently - Beyhan clicked her tongue and shook her head; one does NOT wear shoes in a Turkish house.  Beyhan was wearing house shoes, so that was okay, but the guy carried his shoes to the balcony and put them back on there.  Should I have offered water or coffee?  Should I have tipped the guy?
She liked my knitting and crochet and wants us to hang out together because she makes socks.  Maybe over coffee.  Something like that.  There was definitely "kahve" involved somehow, and she was pantomiming either knitting or breaking pencils.  (Anyone remember "breaking up is hard voodoo"?  Name that show?  I used to watch it every night in college.)  She had me put on my shoes and follow her down to her apartment, then she waved me away.  Did we set a date and time?  I'm not sure.  I don't want to stand her up.  Maybe she should have shouted louder and more slowly, and waved her arms bigger.
This chapter is closed for now, but the story will continue when I can get an electrician over here.  When the circuit breakers last popped, two of my lights went out - the only light in the bathroom I always use, and the bedroom I rarely use.  I finally changed the bulbs today, only to discover I have no electricity in the sockets - the bulbs themselves are probably fine.  Never mind - the emergency flashlight I'm using when I take a shower is actually brighter than the bathroom light ever was.
This post brought to you by the feral dogs in the park howling to the call to prayer. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Radiator Porn for Uncle Tom

Well, Uncle Tom, in my pursuit of hot radiator porn for you, I made a discomforting discovery:  my balcony water heater, which had previously seemed to be functioning within acceptable operating parameters since I had hot water in my faucets, is now flashing a mysterious "27".

**If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll past the pictures for an explanation of this post. 

I don't know what it means, so I poked at all of the buttons on the digital control panel, systematically, of course. 

At one point, the enigmatic icons on the digital display switched to the picture of a radiator and the numerical readout rose incrementally from 41 to 70...whatever that meant (water temp, I assume)...then it switched back to the flashing 27.  (The radiator icon is really obvious...the other pictures on the digital display look like an umbrella and a light bulb; I don't know what the heck they mean.  It's a bit odd, since printed to the left of the digital display is the picture of a faucet, and to the right is the picture of a radiator.  Those pictures correspond directly to up and down arrow buttons on the panel.  They are obviously for control of faucet and radiator temperature.  So why isn't there a picture of a faucet on the digital display?)

I'm a bit concerned about this flashing 27 because maybe that's an error code, and I don't know what the error is, and it's a gas heater, and I don't have any sort of gas detection system.  I'm now quite leery of the "Reset" button, which I'm usually a fan of, because I don't want to inadvertently cut off some pilot light and ultimately cause a gas explosion.  (Yes, I looked around, I don't see a pilot light or any panel that might conceal a pilot light, but it's definitely a gas heater.)  Pulling the plug on the system, which is my favorite troubleshooting technique ("nothing else has worked, let's cut the power and see what happens when we plug it back in") is now right out.  (Have I mentioned I didn't use my stove for a solid week after moving in because it's a gas stove?)  But maybe the 27 is for under temperature, or overpressure, or...yeah, I just don't know.

Ultimately none of the buttons jabbed at individually or in combination caused any other visually observable change in the system.

And the radiator icon on the balcony water heater begs the question:  what the heck is the electric water heater in the bathroom for???  THAT water heater was unplugged, but I had hot faucet water, and when I turned on the radiators nothing happened, so I assumed the bathroom water heater must be for the radiators.

Anyhoo, back inside the house:  I've systematically bled all seven of the radiators, repeatedly.  Some hiss, others piddle, and one pees a frickin' river when I look at it funny. I've removed about two litres of cold water from that one (I was catching it in a bottle, so I've some idea of how much water, but then I got tired of catching radiator piss in a bottle and used every towel in the house to soak up the mess). 

I've had a very boring night.  My fingers are pruny, my towels are soaked with smelly water, the flashing code on the water heater is freaking me out, and the radiators remain stone cold.

Here's your radiator porn.  I'm going to start experimenting again in the morning, assuming I don't get blowed up while I'm sleeping.  Thanks for sticking with this.  Love you!

Bathroom electric water heater.  Plugged in, turned on, and hot water in the outflow hose.
 Piddling radiator. (Good pic, huh?  You can see the water drops and even the shadows of the water drops!)  Also, good bath towel that shouldn't be used to soak up stinky water.
  I don't know what these red knobs are for.  They're in the little bathroom I don't use.  When the radiators weren't warming up, I turned them all the way on and the one on the left leaked water all over the floor, but eventually stopped leaking.  I've left them in the open condition because why not?

 Bathroom radiator, with some of the tools of my trade.

  The knob at the top of each radiator.  I turn this to bleed off air and water.  (I really wasn't sure what you wanted pics of...)

The top of my kitchen door.  The door is closed and locked.  The black is the outside world.  The grey stuff is from the coal people burn to heat their houses; my floor is coated in it.

  Gas water heater on the balcony.

 Balcony water heater digital display.  Awesome photo, because that 27 is flashing!

For those of you new to the conversation:  Izmir, Turkey, after being miserably hot for months, is now quite chilly.  It's about 40 degrees Fahrenheit right now, which isn't bad, but my apartment is poorly insulated, so it's probably about 55 - 60 degrees in the apartment; nice in the summer, uncomfortable in the winter.  I'm wearing the fingerless gloves I knit for myself so that I can type without stuttering.  Oh, and I have to have my window open when I run my dryer, so it gets even colder inside.

I haven't been able to get my radiators working.  I have A/C units in my bedroom and living room that can blow hot, dry air, but they're noisy, and I have an only slightly terrifying portable radiator on wheels.  I don't like using it because when I unplug it, there's a bright flash of white light from the area between outlet and the wall - pretty much all of the wall outlets are loose and pulled slightly out of the wall.  I haven't caused an electrical fire in the wall yet, but every interaction with the outlets seems dicey.  Have I mentioned how much Turkish infrastructure sucks?  And I have a modern, remodeled apartment. 

I should mention that I used to be a Biomedical Maintenance Equipment Technician.  I could fix pretty much anything in the hospital - except the patients, of course.  Although it's been a while since I held that job, I consider myself a pretty smart gal and I have a handy tool bag (thanks, Mike!).  How hard can starting up radiators be?  I don't want to call a maintenance guy because I don't speak Turkish (and I'm having trouble using my Turkish cell phone...again) And I'm pretty stubborn, besides.  My Bulgarian neighbor has offered to help, and sure, I know a lot of people at work I could ask, but really, chatting with my uncle on Facebook is the closest I will come to asking a man for help with this damn problem.

So all that's left is this:  "Why oh ye gods of heat are you doing this to me?!  Is this punishment for teasing the Czech guys about their wimpy constitutions?  Seriously!  It is NOT cold in the office!"

(Thanks, P!nk, for keeping me company while I spent four hours bleeding radiators.  Now all of the neighbors know I'm a slut like you.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I spent the weekend in Europe

You know Turkey is mostly on the continent of Asia, with a bit in Europe, right?  I knew that, but I didn't know it know it until I spent the weekend in Istanbul with Andrea.  Realizing I was spending the weekend in Europe - without leaving Turkey - is one of those silly things that just tickles me pink.

Anyhoo, I joined Andrea in Istanbul - in Europe - for my first orienteering experience and we squeezed in a little sightseeing, too.  We flew in Friday night, stayed in a fantastic hotel, very posh with a lovely breakfast, and quite close to the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque; orienteered Saturday and took a little boat ride Saturday night; orienteered Sunday morning and did some touristy stuff Sunday afternoon, and flew home Sunday night.  This is the orienteering event we participated in; we only did days 4 and 5.

First, orienteering.  Consult Wikipedia for a professional description, or read my own haphazard description here.  This really is a sport for nerds:  it's a race, but the course isn't set.  You have a compass and a map and a list of points - "controls" - you have to get to in order.  How far you run and how long the race takes depends entirely on the path you choose for yourself.  The race might include dozens of participants, but you're not all on the course at the same time; three or four people start at a time, in intervals spaced perhaps a minute to five minutes apart.  You start out with your compass and acquire a clue sheet - the list of your controls in order, with symbols indicating geographic features to help you find your controls.  When the clock starts for your little group, you run forward and grab the map for your division (gender & age), then you orient yourself to the map and figure out where your first control is and how you plan to get to it.  While you're running.  I hadn't realized that part.  I had a basic understanding of the sport, and I can use a map and compass, but this was nothing like I thought it would be.  Fortunately, I didn't register myself as a participant - I was Andrea's shadow for this event.  She tried to get me to do some navigating, but I chickened out.  I'll tell you, I'm quite in awe of her mad map skillz.

The first day of orienteering was in the Belgrad Forest, here:
We left around 0830 to be bused to the site, which was some sort of national park.  The assembly area - a couple of kilometers from the race start point - had a festival air, with a Red Bull Humvee providing modern music, a couple of vendors selling gear, a hut with snacks, and naked bottoms.  This was a multinational event, and there were people everywhere, many more than I was expecting.  They set themselves up by club or family group at various picnic tables in the woods, and we were treated to the sight of a number of them changing their clothes before or after running.

During the race itself, we ran thru the woods, generally choosing an "as the crow flies" path - a straight line from point a to point b.  The photos here are official photos from the race site. 
  Look at this lovely, innocuous forest.  You can't even see murder vines running thru the leaf litter.
  This is the race start line.
  These grey bins hold the maps, sorted by division.
  Random guy at full run - and he's only just picked up his map.
  Kids participate, too. The orange and white thing is a control, and the widget on the boy's finger plugs into an electronic reader atop the control.
  Not all of the terrain had murder vines.  There were boggy streams, too.
  Sprint to the finish.
  I was so happy to see the finish line, even knowing it was a 2 km walk to the assembly point (and bathroom).

The forest looked beautiful and easy to run thru.  It lied.  It was an evil, evil forest, full of vines as thick as my thumb and armed with inch-long thorns.  Notice the runners in the pictures above?  They have long pants or gaiters to protect their legs.  Not Andrea and me.  We started like this:
  Andrea, smiling and happy.  She doesn't know about the murder vines.

  Me, sporting my nifty multi-purpose headgear - around my neck.

And ended up like this:
 Not shown: the blood running down the back of each of our legs.

 I thought my legs couldn't look any worse.  Then I met murder vines.  They left bruises, too.

There was a lot of swearing involved (on my behalf, anyway;  I think Andrea is too nice to swear), particularly when my right ankle would hook a vine and drag it into the back of my left leg.  It wasn't long before my scratches had scratches; the photos really don't do the damage justice.  We looked like we'd stood in the midst of a cat fight.

We showered and snoozed Saturday afternoon, then joined other orienteers for a "party boat ride" on the Bosphorus.  That is to say, we circled round and round the same area on the water, drinking cheap wine and eating boring sandwiches.  We did meet an interesting Finnish fellow who played his harmonica while we waited to cast off, and there was dancing on the bottom deck.  The dancing was interesting to watch; the music was a mix of modern Western party-type music and Turkish music - I've no idea whether it was traditional or modern.  There was one song all the Turkish women knew all the moves to, it was quite lively and fun; and a particular song all the Turkish guys - young and old alike - strutted to. 

Sunday was the day I was really looking forward to.  We got to run thru the Grand Bazaar like heroines in a James Bond flick - sprinting down the wide aisles, dashing into narrow passageways, and charging up and down stairs in search of controls.  Unfortunately, the Grand Bazaar was closed, so we couldn't go crashing thru stands, knocking over fezzes and indignant chickens.  We had 30 controls, and we finished in 28 minutes.  There was one section that was a little artificial maze with maybe ten controls.  At one point, I just refused to do any more stairs - hey, I wasn't even registered!
I stood in a small courtyard and watched Andrea and five or so other people running up and down stairs and in and out of doorways like characters in a Warner Bros cartoon.  Wish I had a camera with me!  Here are some photos from Andrea's camera and from the official site: 
 Andrea grabs her map.

 Random guy running.  He's wearing a headlamp.  I was a little worried about the instruction to bring headlamps, but we didn't really need them.

 Kids competing.

 Bazaar is closed today.

 This is an entrance to the Grand Bazaar.

 The maze of controls.

 These are the maps for the Grand Bazaar.

 Me, ready to run.


 Seriously, people who've never heard of orienteering:  it's a big deal!
We finished our trip to Istanbul with a visit to the Topkapi Palace (we picked up a geocache in the Palace's Gulhane Garden), followed by the Blue Mosque.  The Palace was quite interesting; there was a whole little building for the sultan's turbans.  I liked that hat room; see if you can pick it out from the pictures below.  Lots of history there, and it was such a beautiful place. 
This was my first time in a mosque; the building was extraordinary.  We were required to place our shoes in plastic baggies and carry them around the mosque, and we ladies had to cover our hair with either our own scarf or one provided by the site.  The mosque was full of both tourists and worshippers; I felt like I was intruding.
I've put a bunch of pictures below; before you get to them, here are two little vignettes:
1.  The streetcar from the hotel to the airport - with our suitcases - was insanely crowded.  Like viral Japanese subway video crowded.  We didn't think we'd be able to get off at our stop, but a group of college-age guys behind us also needed off at the same stop, and they just shoved like...guys in a viral Japanese subway video. The doors kept trying to close, and door alarms kept going off, and finally Andrea and I and these guys popped off the streetcar and onto the platform like a cork from a champagne bottle.  It was a horrible experience.  I'll pay good money not to ever do that again.
2.  While waiting for the subway/metro to the airport (after the streetcar incident), we literally saw the blind leading the blind.  No joke.  I'm putting my camera away in my backpack and not paying attention and Andrea grabs my arm as a little old man with a blind cane, arm-in-arm with a little old lady with a blind cane, stumbles over my suitcase.  The pair of them toddled across the platform and nearly off the other side.  I was too astonished to retrieve my camera, and it felt like a rude thing to do, anyway.  A couple of bewildered-looking guys took each of them by the arm and helped them onto the escalator.  Afraid to know what happened to them at the top; I had trouble navigating the area, and I've got all my faculties.

 A mosque at night from the boat.

 One of the two bridges we kept passing on our boat ride.

 Dancing at the boat party.

 Under the bridge.

 The Hagia Sofia from our hotel. It was a grey weekend.

 A corn and chestnut roasting stand. We see a lot of them in Izmir, too.

 Random street corner with interesting architecture.  I liked the juxtaposition of Western and Eastern architecture and art throughout Istanbul; truly a cultural crossroad.

  Our lunch companion.

 Andrea with our yummy lunch.

 Ladies making the Turkish bread.

 Blue Mosque.

 Gate near the Palace.

 Entrance to the Palace grounds.

 Armed guard.  Not sure what he and his compadres were guarding, but they looked quite serious, and weren't at all moved by the adorable puppies frolicking at their feet.

 Entrance to the Sultan's Palace. (It looks like it belongs in Disneyland...)

 Gorgeous old tree.  Imagine all of the history it's seen.

 Other side of the tree.



 Andrea and I thought this room was perfect and peaceful for tea and reading.


 Those are turban shaped cubby holes.


 This building had something to do with circumcision.  A nice enough building, but it's purpose seems a little off.

 I love what they do with black and white pebbles around here and in Rhodes.  Must take forever to pave the streets like this.  (This was just one small section; Rhodes had a lot of it)

 I don't know what this symbol means, but I love it.  Hope it means something nice.

 Such a variety of architectural styles just within the one Palace, spanning hundreds of years.

 They put a lot of effort into the ceilings.


  The Blue Mosque

 Inside the Blue Mosque.  Very difficult for the average person to get a decent photo showing the majesty, scale, intricacy and beauty of the building.




 Look, kids!  Nutella!

 We walked up and down this street quite a bit; I liked the architecture.

 Love the city symbol.


This blog brought to you by Dave Matthews Band and a funny smell in the apartment.