Monday, July 14, 2014

The Nature of Friendship

Last week, I needed to ship some NATO equipment from Turkey to Italy.  The system was going from one NATO site to another; you'd think this is the sort of thing that happens all the time and NATO people would have a process. Everyone acted like this had never been done before, no one knew what to do, and it was no one's job.  (It wasn't my job, either, but I had an interest in making sure it happened.)  Fortunately, a Turkish Master Sergeant, Mehmet,  whose job is to handle the customs paperwork, helped me out with the entire process - he called shipping brokers and airlines, forklift drivers and warehouse guys. 

We had a lot of time to chat about the English language, life in Turkey, his American friends from when Izmir was NATO HQ Air Command.  Mehmet described an American Captain as one of his best friends; the guy attended Mehmet's sister's wedding.  They stay in touch even now.  I like Mehmet, and had lunch with; stopped by his office - in another building - just to say hello.  I am friendly with Mehmet...but I'm not sure I'd call him my friend.  Typing that sentence makes me feels a little squishy, it feels like I'm being wrong.  But that word, to me, incurs a burden of responsibility.  And I don't think I'm alone with that feeling...

Mehmet and I were waiting for the delivery truck to pick up the system, and Ramazan, the forklift driver, waited with us.  Ramazan has worked at this Garrison for about 25 years.  He's seen Americans come and go.  Some worked with him in the motor pool, and a handful he regarded as his special friends.  They shared meals with him (in his own words).  They called upon him for extra help with their own vehicles, and they were his friends, so he helped them.  They exchanged addresses and phone numbers and promises to bring their families to meet him when they visited Turkey; they said if he were ever in their neck of the woods, look 'em up!  They'd be glad to see him again.

They moved on, and he's never heard from them again.  They don't write, they don't call.  They don't even email, or answer his Facebook friend request.  How could they call him their friends?

I tried to explain to Ramazan the transient nature of U.S. service people.  That we can sincerely mean our words of friendship in the moment, but time passes and we move on.  There are people I hold close in my mind - I think of them often.  I wonder how they're doing, and I'd love to see them again.  I know I would enjoy every minute I could spend with them, and I'd welcome them into my home in a heartbeat.  There are people I think of fondly - when I think of them.  Perhaps I'm reminded of them at a specific time of year or day, or in a certain place or circumstance.  I'd be happy to see them again, I would chat with them easily.  I wish them well.  But I wouldn't want them too close, or too often.  Do I still get to call them "friend"?  I want to.  It seems to diminish them not to, and I don't want to do that to them.


When I arrived in Turkey, my new Turkish co-workers gushed at me:  We have awaited your arrival as we await a goddess! (I am not kidding, this is not hyperbole.)  They called me "friend" and didn't even know me.  They declared themselves my friends, I would be their special guest.  It was too much for me, and I felt squeamish and suspicious. I thought them over-the-top and false; I still shudder to think of that first day, first encounter.  Maybe it's my fault we never got along, were never able to work together.  I did not embrace them as friends.


I work with a NATO civilian, and have socialized with him and his wife on a couple of occasions.  I like them; they're very nice people, and I get along well with them.  I could choose from a number of tables at the NATO Ball, and I was pleased to be able to sit with them.  They've lived in Turkey a long time, and they travel a lot, but not on the typical tours Americans take - they forge out on their own.  They tell stories of hiking across fields and having shepherds invite them into their modest one-room homes to share the family's midday meal.  They stop to photograph a mountain and find themselves the special guests at a wedding.  Their car breaks down in a tiny village, and a local takes them in overnight while a mechanic travels to get parts.  A forest ranger has them breakfast with his family.  These people are all their friends.  The couple recall them all fondly and enthusiastically.  They visited the forest ranger and the shepherd years later, and the tell of the ranger's and the shepherd's wives crying with joy to see them.  These people are all their friends.    


I feel a bit ashamed of myself.  I am a terrible friend.  I don't write, I don't call, I hardly email...  I love my parents very much, but I interact with them about as much as I do anyone I call a friend (so Mom and Dad, I really am sorry, and friends, don't think I dislike you).  I write a Christmas card to my English grandmother every year, but I send it perhaps one year in five...and I think of her nearly every other day...

People here tell me they will miss me when I'm gone...their faces suggest they want to hear me say I'll miss them too, but I don't say it unless I mean it.  There are people I'll recall fondly, people I will remember, people I've enjoyed working with and would be happy to work with again.  But I won't miss them.  I don't feel our relationship carries that weight, incurs that responsibility.  Are we friends?

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Day at the Bank

Okay, not a day, but a few hours.  Definitely way longer than I ever plan to spend in a bank.  American banks are mostly boring, tedious during Girl Scout Cookie Sales, and terrifying when signing a loan.  But Turkish banks...Turkish banks are awful.  

My first experience was the day after I arrived.  I went to the bank on the Garrison to open a Euro account to receive my travel payments.  I was the only customer, but I still had to take a number.  The two tellers and the three ladies at desks ignored me like I didn't exist - customers are clearly socially inferior to staff.  The electronic number counter ticked thru several numbers evidently taken by people who either left or died waiting.  I tried approaching the tellers, but they gave me a look - the kind that transcends spoken language and sent me back to my seat until my number came up and they were ready to help me.

That experience formed the foundation of every future Turkish bank trip. Later visits to both the bank on Garrison to pay my gas bill and the bank outside my apartment to pay the rent were just like that....

The staff at the bank where I pay my rent speak not a lick of English.  When I walk in, I say hello to the guard, who raises his eyebrows at me and punches a button on the ticket machine.  My ticket number will get me to the right teller's desk with the maximum wait time possible.  Of course, the bank is often full, so I join the queue to get a ticket, but many Turks don't line up the way we Americans do...if I'm not physically pressed against the person in front of me, I'm not in line, and someone will step right in front of me - even on me, if I'm close enough to almost touch the person in front, but not close enough that there's no daylight showing between us.

There is no air conditioning in the bank, and the heat was on thru May (dear dog, that is not hyperbole, the heat was seriously on in the bank when I paid my rent in May; I was drenched in sweat in shorts and a t-shirt, and everyone else wore hats and scarves).  The wait in the heat is miserable...  And I don't understand the wait.  I have waited nearly two hours to pay my rent.  My transaction takes a few minutes - everyone else's seems to take forever, and people go up to the counter whenever they feel like it, interrupting whoever is already there.  And a trip to the bank seems to be a family affair:  one number pops up on the display, and a gaggle of people shuffle to the counter, bags everywhere, money everywhere, every adult talking to the teller at once.

When I finally get to a teller, I always get the same one - which is a good thing, because he knows me.  For my first eight months here, we went thru the same routine:  I tell him in Turkish that I want to pay my rent, he doesn't understand me, I show him my little book with the sentence written out, he asks me a bunch of questions that I don't understand, I shove money at him - insistent that he take it, I point to the bank account number and my landlady's name, he shakes his head at me and counts the money, and I sign the form and walk away hoping I didn't just give a stranger $1000.  Now, we mostly go thru the same routine, but we start with him waving me over to him, regardless of which teller my number says I should go to.  He still asks me a bunch of questions, and I still don't know what he's asking.  I don't know why he's asking...what's there to talk about?  Here's money and a bank account.  Put the money there!  But he smiles at me now, and tells me to have a good day.

The ladies at the Garrison bank still treat me like a mangy cat wandered in from the street...I can't wait to say goodbye to them!

UPDATE:  Today I paid my last rent payment.  I squeaked into the bank with nine minutes to spare, so it wasn't crowded...I still waited half an hour.

So teller #2's customer finished her business and left, and teller #2 pushed the button for the next customer:  the bell chimed, the number changed, and an old man with a cast stood and shuffled to the counter...and he was not quite at the counter when teller #2 pushed the button again, the bell chimed, the number changed, and a middle age woman launched herself at the counter, pushing aside the old man's money and shoving her money at the teller...who pushed the button and the bell chimed, the number changed, and a twentysomething guy charged the counter.  The middle age woman won the tussle, and the two men ambled aimless orbits about each other, awaiting teller #2's attention.

I had the misfortune of completing my business at this bank with teller #2, who spoke not a lick of English and maintained a steady stream of Turkish dialogue at me, shaking his head and clicking his tongue at my inability to understand him.  My personal teller nodded and smiled and helped when he could, and when I finally managed to complete my transaction, he called out a cheerful "Görüürüz!"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the privvy

Turkish toilets are something a wee bit different...  I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do in there, so when I have a choice, I avoid them.  At the airport, for example, each restroom generally has a couple of stalls of "normal" toilets, and a couple of stalls of traditional Turkish toilets.  Often, I can tell as soon as I walk into a restroom whether there will be Turkish toilets, because there is usually an unpleasant funk in the air, even when the room has just been cleaned.  
I do have some Turkish friends I could ask, but I'm not really sure how to ask politely.  I don't want to offend anyone, or confirm their opinion that I'm a weirdo, by letting them know I don't know how to properly use their toilets.  I also don't want to offend anyone using the toilet after me...

What you find in there is a porcelain hole in the floor, with grooved space to either side, probably for your feet.  There's a faucet close to the floor, and a watering can or measuring cup looking thing...for pouring water down the hole?  So, I'm assuming you squat over the hole, like peeing in the woods.  But when you pee in the woods, you're already out in the wild, and who cares if maybe a little dribble gets on your clothes?

While I did find the Turkish toilets in the woods outside Istanbul, I also find them in the mall, the airport, pretty much everywhere.  The Turkish ladies are generally well-dressed, particularly the more conservative-looking ones who look like they follow traditions and might choose a traditional toilet.  How do the pee in their pretty clothes, with their fancy shoes?  Don't their nice trousers pool around their feet, which are resting on the wet grooves to either side of the toilet hole?

Also, apparently you're not supposed to wash your feet in the bathroom.  Before or after you pee?

I have other questions, but I'll leave you with pictures.  Yes, I'm the kind of gal who takes photos of toilets.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Worry, We're Professionals

Notes and vignettes of life in NATO.  

At least once a week, my office hosts an update briefing for the senior leadership.  Our responsibility is primarily administrative:  we organize everyone's contributions into a single presentation, and we set up the computers and the broadcast to geographically separated participants.  It should be a routine task, but we experience new and different technical problems every session.  We often have a technician on hand to help us, so there are two or three of us clustered around one computer while the briefers address the Generals.  One time, one guy was typing a message to an out-station, and another guy grabbed the mouse and clicked elsewhere on the computer...

This week, we had a mysterious hot-mic in our room - but every microphone was turned off.  Turns out a camera in the room had a microphone that had never been activated before this week.  We don't know how that microphone was activated; we didn't even know there was a microphone on the camera...

When I go to work each morning, a team of middle aged men is cleaning the compound.  I don't know whether they're contractors, conscripts, or convicts.  Each morning, the same guys are sweeping the very same spots.  What with cats and birds and trees, there's always something to be swept up, but I just can't imagine sweeping the same spot, the same path every single day.  I feel sorry for them.  But then, how different is it from sitting at the same computer every day, checking my email?  At least they're outside in the sunlight and fresh air....and then I feel sorry for myself.

These are my experiences, and my truths.  They will not be true of everyone, nor of every situation.

A German Lt Colonel, whose ordinary conversation is sprinkled with swear words, paused, and told me, "You know, we don't swear like this when we are speaking in German.  It's unprofessional, and rarely happens in the workplace.  We pick this up in NATO, working with the British."

I'm no longer Major Tomlinson or Major T, I'm Sacha.  Major Sacha, if I'm very lucky.  Pretty much everyone calls pretty much everyone else by the first name, except the most senior of Colonels, and of course the Generals.  I hate it.

There is no order, task, or assignment so important that it cannot be discussed in NATO until it just goes away and doesn't matter any more.

NATO:  Nothing After Three O'clock.
A typical day for some of our co-workers:
(Duty day starts at 0800)
0815:  Show up, change clothes, start computer
0830 - 0900:  Coffee break
0900 - 1030:  Work
1030 - 1100:  Coffee break
1100 - 1130:  Work
1130 - 1230:  Tennis
1230 - 1330:  Lunch
1330 - 1430:  Work
1430 - 1500:  Coffee Break
1500 - 1645:  Work
1645:  Shut down computer, change clothes and leave
(Duty day ends at 1700)

A French officer I work with is actually in a civilian billet. So he's in the French Army, but is coded as a civilian and works in a suit and tie.  He says there are many benefits, but it becomes a problem when he goes into war zones and is not permitted to handle a weapon because he is a civilian, but simultaneously required to handle weapons because he's a military officer; a bizarre French Catch-22. Anyhoo, this French officer has an outrageous, Python-esque accent; I love listening to him talk.  He's incredibly strict and treats his contractors like dirt: "Faysal! Click on the f*#king link, or I will cut off your bloody fingers!"  

Some nationalities will spend 20 minutes explaining why they will not do a 5 minute task.  This explanation usual comes right after they agree to do the task.  "Of course, Major Sacha, it would give me great pleasure to do that!"

I've mentioned before how impressed I am with all of these people going about their jobs in a foreign language - I could never do it.  On the other hand, I find some days terribly taxing, working with people for whom English is a second language.  Trying to explain concepts when people don't understand the words I'm using; reviewing emails and explaining that something should be written one way and not another; them explaining that when I use a word or phrase it sounds to them that I mean something completely different - mostly because they deal in the purest definitions of words, and we Americans and Brits don't use our own words properly.  Some of them think Americans are very rude because we don't pepper our conversation and email with polite nothing words (would you be so very kind as to...?  Thank you very much indeed!) It all makes my head hurt, it makes their heads hurt, and we all go home with headaches and not much done.

But sometimes very funny things come from the language differences:  One dour Croatian published a Rooster for all of us to update with our vacation days.  (So I drew a chicken on the board...) Another guy was telling us about the Army Corpse.  (So I drew a dead body on the board...)  A German was describing something he saw in the Angel of his Eye.  Took me a long time to understand that wasn't a German expression, but merely a mispronunciation.

When Czechs have multiple responsibilities, they "sit on two chairs"

The Polish have a saying that I've adopted as my personal motto; I use it as often as possible, and you wouldn't believe how much of my workday it applies to:  Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Between the Russians and the Riots...

....I haven't had a lot of personal time for the last few weeks.  I'd love to tell you more, but I don't want to be impolitic, nor do I wish to upset or offend my host nation friends.  I saw a friend's daughter's schedule for spring break, and I thought perhaps you'd like to here my plans for spring break - well, this weekend, at least.  Times are approximations - I'm not as organized or disciplined as some kids.  I'd love to hear how you spend the weekend, too!

1000-1200  Wake up, get a Starbucks mocha frappuccino and a Leibniz pick-up! cookie from the fridge, and back to bed to play on my tablet for an hour or two (check Facebook - look for new photos of my kids!, Scramble with Friends, Words with Friends, Juice Cubes, Candy Crush, email, watch a couple of YouTube videos.  Read ALL about a horror movie the Bloggess watched but I will never watch because I don't like much of that sort of thing, but think it sounds really interesting, so maybe Mike should watch it and tell me about it.)

1200-1400  Decide I really like the spring break schedule I saw on Facebook and will blog one of my own.  Determine I'll do a couple of chores before I treat myself to a shower, then a cup of tea and a book.  Crawl out of bed, grab some laundry to hand wash, head into the kitchen where I realize I'll have to wash dishes before I can wash the laundry.  

Wash the dishes, realize my kitchen floor is filthy again, then (do my hand washing, scrub the floor Cinderella-style using the left-over hand wash water, empty the fridge and freezer of old food, wash those dishes, lift weights, re-wind some yarn, do some ab work, and gather up all the trash and recycling in the house.  Wonder whether, if I put my big bottle of water out with my trash and recycling, my kapici will arrange to have my water replaced.).  

I do the things in brackets not consecutively, but rather in little bites depending on where I am in the apartment.  For example, as I move my kitchen weights (5-lb and 10-lb) to the hallway so I can clean the floor, I do some bicep curls and triceps work.  When I go to get the trash from the bathroom, I also switch out the soap and soap dishes and stop in my workout room for some ab work and more weight-lifting.  When I take the hand-wash to the laundry room to lay out to dry, I realize I'm never going to finish the project on top of my yarn stash, so I unravel it and wind the yarn back into the ball.  
This makes me want to crochet a bear for the Mother Bear Project, so I head into the living room to find the pattern; wonder whether the colours matter to the African children, and whether they'll like my bear, which won't have anything fancy about it.  

I can't find the pattern, but when I move my books around, I notice some professional reading I've neglected and a Christmas card I never sent and lament my lack of discipline.  I feel so badly about myself, I need chocolate to cheer up, and that's when I realize the fridge needs emptying.  And the chocolate didn't help, so maybe a little glass of vodka tonight.  Ooh!  The vodka bottle looks pretty in the sunlight!  I'll photograph it!  

1400-1600  A nice long shower with St Yves apricot face scrub and their body wash.  Contemplate the article I read last night about microbeads trashing the environment and poisoning critters, because the beads leach toxins from the water - which is good for the water, but bad for the critters that eat the beads.  Think it would be a really cool project for high school or college kids to work on, and wonder whether there are creative kids out there right now working on a solution, and whether our current bureaucratic and politic environment will let their solution work.  And wonder why it will take until 2017 for businesses to stop using microbeads - why can't they stop right now?

I finally get to have my special loose-leaf vanilla tea and cookie, and the tea pot stand needs polishing, so I polish my duck, too, and my dining table, and I decide the teapot looks so pretty, I'll photograph it.  I read a bit of Nicci French's Blue Monday, recommended by my Scottish boss, but then I need a tea refill, and I think maybe I'll get started blogging.  While my computer boots up, I prepare to boil a couple of eggs, so I have to find my cookbook (yes, I can't boil eggs without a recipe.  Don't laugh, it's my problem, not yours.) and I realize I still have Martha Stewart and Real Simple magazines from Christmas, so I stand at the dining table and flip thru them, tearing out everything interesting and putting the pages into a folder to be ignored for a few months.

1600-?  When I get back to my computer, I realize the Turkish-viral-crap I inadvertently downloaded to my computer last night - but I thought I had fixed - is still on there, so I swear very loudly and profusely, ordering my computer to do things it just wasn't designed to do and only William S. Burroughs could imagine, except I saw Naked Lunch and wish I hadn't...

And then I blog for a bit, and wonder whether you'll like this...  

Tonight I'll watch some Downton Abbey while I knit and drink my vodka.  I expect I'll do this all again tomorrow, without the blogging, and it will be my living room floor I mop and the sheets I'll wash.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Turkish Bath

I didn’t enjoy the movie Taken 2 nearly as much as Taken, but the setting certainly caught my attention, and I spent a lot of today thinking about the fight scene in the hamam, because that’s where I spent most of my day.  Not the same hamam, of course, and there was no fighting, but my day was certainly a “significant emotional event,” as one of my bosses used to say.

A hamam is a traditional Turkish bath house, and today I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and let it not fail, and stepped WAAAAY out of my comfort zone to visit a hamam with a few girlfriends.  The ringleader was Bahar, a lovely, lovely Turkish woman; the purveyor of Persian carpets and friendship at the concessionaires outside the little Base Exchange in downtown Izmir.  She is a community fixture mothering all of us Americans – and dozens of feral dogs.  Like most Turks, she goes to the hamam quite regularly; she brings us Americans along whenever she can.  She set up this visit as a last hamam trip for one of our gals heading back to the U.S.  Along with Bahar and the nearly departed, we had another U.S. NATO officer – a hardened veteran of the hamam – and a civilian wife visiting her husband here in Turkey; the wife and I were the only ones who hadn’t been to the hamam before.
I told Bahar that I wanted the full hamam experience, and I made sure she knew I was quite worried about this experience, so she could tell the ladies to treat me well.  The ladies were all very nice, but not a one of them spoke a lick of English.  

We were the first customers in the hamam – here’s the website:  Check out the “Galerie” for pictures of inside the building.  The pictures only show male customers and staff; the hamam is gender-segregated by business hours and days, so there were absolutely no males anywhere in the vicinity during our visit.  I try not to think about my butt sitting where some guy’s butt had been sitting just a few hours before.

The lobby area is a rough decagon with a central coal-burning stove for kahve/coffee and ҫay/tea and just to keep the place warm.  The room was ringed by changing rooms on the main floor and up at least one more floor, perhaps two.  Everything was dark old wood and marble, and clotheslines hung with tartan bath sheets crisscrossed the open space between the gallery balconies on the floor(s) above.  We were to have brought shampoo and body wash, and shower shoes and spare underwear or bikini bottoms.  One gal forgot her shower shoes, so the attendants, dressed in plaid lumberjack-style button-up shirts and seemingly nothing else, issued her traditional wood and leather sandals, along with the tartan bath sheets issued to each of us.

There was no easing into this experience:  we crossed over my threshold for personal comfort upon arrival, when we were assigned changing rooms to store our stuff in.  Not in the hamam 5 minutes, and already I’m stripping to my underwear with a relative stranger.  I’m not too talented with a bath sheet, so when the thing kept slipping down, my companion happily grabbed it for me, tugging and tucking to make it stay in place.

Next stop was the waxing room, two of us at a time.  Many Middle Easterners feel cleaner and more comfortable after a good waxing with honey or sugar wax.  While I found the entire experience horribly embarrassing, the ladies just absolutely do not care.  It’s all business as usual, nothing they haven’t seen before.  I felt like a chicken being prepped for Sunday dinner.  I laughed hysterically the entire time; it was dreadful.  At least we were early enough for a room.  When we left, ladies were being waxed while sitting in the lobby, one arm in the air and then the other – or standing on a chair, turning this way and that to get their legs done.

After the humiliations of the waxing room, my attendant grabbed me by the shoulders and steered me into the main room of the hamam.  Another decagon, completely of marble, with a high domed ceiling set with small panes of colored glass above large marble platform.  The room was steamy and filled with nearly naked girls and women of all ages, shapes, sizes.  My attendant yanked off my tartan, folded it into a pad for me to sit on, and set me up next to a basin of hot water with a bowl.  The rest of my little group was there, too, all chatting away and sluicing themselves with hot water.  One by one we were taken to the platform, where we spread out our bath sheet and lay down on it so the attendants, wearing only bikinis now, first scrubbed us with a loofah mitt evidently made of the coarsest grit sandpaper available.  Did I mention the waxing first?  I did.  And the sandpaper?  Ah, yes.  They scrubbed everywhere…everywhere.

After scrubbing vigorously to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and the last shreds of dignity, the attendants washed us down with a different sort of scrubby cloth and lots of body wash.  Again, they washed just everywhere.  I swear, I must have the cleanest butt cheeks on the planet.  What a weird experience.  And yet completely impersonal, nothing at all intimate or inappropriate.  The receptionist at the fancy Swissotel Spa said the hamam attendants wash you down like a baby.  Actually, I felt more like a dog at the groomers – being scrubbed and shampooed; prodded to turn over, turn around, stand up, sit down; rinsed off with bowlfuls of hot water splashing down my face, into my eyes and ears and up my nose; nothing in my control.  Taken on the whole, though, honestly, it wasn’t a bad experience.

After “having a wash”, as Bahar called it, we were wrapped in fresh dry towels and taken thru the lobby and up a tight marble staircase to the next floor for oil massages.  One gal had her massage on the balcony, overlooking the lobby.  Two of us were massaged in a room together.  It all sounds very decadent and intimate, evoking images of 1001 Arabian Nights, but really, it was all just business and body care, no more intimate than a shampoo and haircut.  Once we felt up to it, we wandered back down the marble stairs, changed into our clothes, paid, and left.  Lots of ladies hang out and chat over kahve and ҫay in the lobby among the customers getting their legs and armpits waxed, but our little group was starving and ready to head out to lunch.

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.