And I thought the Tea Party was bad…

I know they “hate” each other, but I’m constantly astonished how similar Greece and Turkey can be. They both seem to breed mercurial politicians, a bureaucratic maze so complex that even the designers themselves become lost, and a national pride that is so misplaced, and so, honestly, comical, that it really is surprising they don’t get along better.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the recent Greek election, even if it was slightly overshadowed by the ouster of Monsieur Sarkozy. The whole Greek crisis really sounds like a farce. The disorganized, high-inflation prone country of Greece somehow convinces the rest of Europe to let them piggy back on their currency. Nobody checks up on anything… for a decade. NPR’s Planet Money did a great couple of podcasts on the Greek debt crisis and the concept of a Greek default, I can’t help but laugh.

And then I see this. The Golden Dawn has gotten some headlines recently, but I didn’t take it too seriously. This guy has me taking him seriously. He is seriously delusional, but he’s seriously committed to his delusions. Isn’t that the hallmark of lunacy? Not being able to decipher delusion from reality? If so, several hundred thousand Greeks just voted for a lunatic.

I am particularly fond of his, ehem, loose translation of “Veni, vidi, vici.”

Fancy shmancy

Today, we’re going a little off the beaten path. Recently, due primarily to my Pinterest addiction, I’ve been seeing a lot of Turkish-inspired design. It seems kılıms are about as hip as you can get (unless you count the Hudson Bay Blanket and those damn “Keep Calm” signs.) It was fun to see a new take on traditional typical Turkish housewares:

I love my cezve, apart from my kılım, it is my favorite thing that I picked up in Turkey. Though, mine is the more traditional copper-plated one (picked it up in Edirne for 2TL… what what!) I ran out of coffee not too long ago, but luckily stumbled on Turkuaz, my friendly Turkish grocer, located just around the corner from the Gulen culture center. (He his wife makes fresh yaprak sarma, kısır, and borek… but that’s another story entirely.)

I was curious who thought it was a good idea to re-invent the wheel, and, as it turns out, these folks are pretty damn creative. Here are some çay bardaklar.

And some rakı bardaklar

… though I wonder if the creators get the Jesus fish reference (I’m sure it’s meant to refer to the fish eaten with rakı…) I do love the afiyet olsun though.

It seems this is a little shop run out of Ayvalık, the creative pair Tulya and Fırat are designers, and do this on the side. So, if any of you find yourself in Ayvalık any time soon, please pick me up a few of these!

Avrupalilastirabildiklerimizdenmisiniz?

I usually don’t find these things that people post on Facebook terribly interesting, rather, I tend to “unfollow” people who abuse the posting-of-crap possibilities offered by most social networking sites (no I don’t want to see pictures of every meal you have eaten, and if I see one more variation of “Keep Calm and Carry On” I’ll put my fist through a wall.)

This, however was pretty comical.

When I try to explain why Turkish is difficult to learn for a westerner (or really anyone who is not from a Turkic-language speaking nation) I explain that the whole thing is like a giant mathematical equation:

Right? Right?

And, I’m back… in Boston.

So, I miss this.

I miss writing in a blog that I care about, and that people actually read. I’ve been trying to come up with some outlet in the form of several incarnations of other blogs, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m just not creative enough to top Death by Dolmus, because hot damn, it’s a pretty awesome name amiright?

So this marks a turning point. This is the new Death by Dolmus. It will include musings about my current life, living/surviving in Allston, an undergrad-infested enclave of Boston, while continuing to work in higher ed. My life is still dominated by public transportation. While Boston is sadly devoid of dolmus, it is chock full of terrible and outdated trams, subways and busses.

Additions to my life:

  • My roommates Steve (the bureaucrat) and Ryan (the nurse)
  • Hulu & Netflix
  • Harvard University’s library (yay!)
  • Moderately priced alcoholic beverages 
  • A job for an employer that actually cares about my mental health (YOK, take note)

I hope you’ll keep reading, even if my life in Boston bears little semblance to my former life in T-Dag, I hope you’ll find this blog at least as fun and as entertaining as I hope you found it before.

 

If Santa Were Decent He Would Come through the Door.

So I’ve been back stateside for a while, but Turkey has remained in my heart and on my mind. Though, I will say, this holiday season I was extremely excited to be in the Land of Unrestrained Holiday Excitement, and for the first time in years, I was secretly psyched when I heard the first holiday song of the season… in October.

As the weather got (slightly) cooler, I became progressively more excited. I moved into my new apartment on December 1,  we had a Christmas tree before we had a shower curtain. At my new job I got to know my colleagues through the typical series of holiday events. First our lunch where we had a Secret Santa (I got a wine glass), and then at our holiday party at our department head’s home. All the lights and wine and cheesy foods had me quite in the mood.

Then over wine one ehem afternoon ehem at work… (are you sensing a pattern?) I learned the depth of one colleague’s hatred for Santa Claus. I had thought it strange that she had a “Le Père Noel est une Ordure” film poster on her door… in September (loose film name translation: Santa Claus Sucks). Everyone had alluded to how this fun, young, happy colleague harbored a deep seated hatred for Father Christmas. I thought back to my classes last year in Turkey, where I spent time explaining our celebrations to my students. One group of students was appalled when I told them Christmas was indeed a Christian holiday. The horror!

“No, my teacher.” they responded, “this is not true, we have Christmas.”

“No,” I would respond, “you have New Year.”

“Yes, that’s what we said, Christmas.”

We went in this circle for a few minutes until I realized that they had co-opted our Christmas celebrations for their New Year. It all had made sense. This was why Santa Claus and his holiday village had appeared the week leading up to the New Year outside the Carrefour in our Maxi Center.

So the last day before breaking for Christmas, we all sat around my desk sipping wine when she started up about Santa. “It’s a cultural conspiracy to brainwash our youth, and not just about the holiday, which should be about the birth of a religious figure, but also about physics. We mislead children into believing the impossible. No person could possibly visit every Christian child’s house in one night. And what about the kids that get nothing, because their parents can’t afford it. Is that fair? We give them a complex. Even the news teams are in on it, tracking Santa as he flies across the globe.”

Well, I thought, she is the real deal. We tried for a while to get her to confess to some traumatic experience with a shopping mall Santa, or divulge what exactly it was that made her come to the traumatic realization that Santa does not, in fact, exist. But, to no avail, she wouldn’t give it up. I went home from work that day laughing to myself about this hatred to find this article sitting in my inbox, forwarded by a glorious friend:

Thank you SO MUCH Hurriyet for continuing to be a beacon of journalistic integrity and the epitome of quality in reporting. Without you, I would have never found the only person in the world who harbors a hatred of Santa as deep and as firm as that of my colleague. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

Why indeed? The conspiracy continues.

Turks and Tampons

I recently sent a piece over to Perking the Pansies blogger Jack Scott. He’s on holiday and was looking for other Turkey-based bloggers to fill the gaping hole left by his absence.

 

My third Guest blogger is Alexandra from Death by Dolmuş. Alexandra is a Yankee lass who teaches in Istanbul. She writes about the quirky side of life in the ancient city and has a mild obsession with public transport. Alexandra also publishes an amazing photoblog. If you don’t like discussions about women’s itty bitty parts, don’t read the following (oh, go on).

Alexandra

There are strange things that occur in Turkey. I am pretty on top of most of it, but from time to time things do catch me off guard. I’m unfazed when a man brings a 12 foot (4 meter) ladder into an over-packed dolmuş(roughly 5 meters long itself.) I’m unfazed when my bank calls to ask permission of my employer when I wish to close my account (obviously a mere mortal like me can’t be trusted with such a serious decision.)

I was caught off guard when my colleague, a punk, riot-grrrl feminist with red hair (not Irish red, but like, the color red) and combat boots, moans to me, doubled over in pain, ‘Gahh, I wish I hadn’t left the window open last night.’ It had been a sweltering 80 degrees (25 C) and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with her abdominal pain. ‘The wind, the night air, you know, it gives me cramps.’ Efendim?

Now, I’m fairly certain that cramps are caused by your uterine walls contracting to expel the lining. But, you know, who can say for certain…

I was constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge these university educated women displayed about their own bodies and the science contained in them. I know Freud thought that hysteria (that vague, female-ish complaint) was caused by a ‘disturbance’ to the uterus, but I’m pretty sure somewhere in my 6th grade sex-ed class, I remember learning something different…

As I was moving out, I had an enormous amount of tampons that my roommate and I had hoarded like we were preparing for the apocalypse. God knows when we would be able to find tampons again, so every time we ventured out of the Islamic Republic of Turkey, we bought up the store like they were going out of style.

Not having space in my luggage for 47 boxes of Tampax Pearls, and with the confidence that I could pick some up any time nature called at my nearest pharmacy (that’s a chemist’s for you Brits), when back in the US, I decided to give them away. Because honestly, who doesn’t like free tampons? Apparently, Turkish women.

So that’s how I found myself, on my last day of work, sitting in a locked office with my colleague, demonstrating how to use a tampon. I unwrapped it, showed how the applicator worked, as she dissected the tampon I had handed her, checking that the string was in fact well secured at the center. I extolled the tampon’s virtues: you can go swimming! (Her face lit up, what do you mean? She asked in disbelief.) You can wear white pants with no fear! Thinking back to all those tampon commercials of my youth, you can go shopping with your fresh-faced friends and laugh to your heart’s desire while spinning around in circles to demonstrate your new-found freedom!