Kareteci Kız

This got posted by a friend on Facebook and I nearly died laughing.


I enjoy the title because it sounds quite like the “Karate Kid” and I love me some Mr. Miyagi. I prefer the one with Hilary Swank, which works here since she’s a Kareteci Kız. Also, the thought of a Turkish version of the Karate Kid would probably be spectacular. It would also likely be very sad, and would end with the brutal murder of every main character.There would be  a lot of shots of Ataturk, who would be revealed at some pivotal point to have been an excellent Karate master, freshly inspiring the main character to follow through and prevail. But, like I said, he will die a cold death anyway.

After watching the clip above I was curious, so I googled the film and was brought to the IMDB page which reveals the following:

Zeynep lives with his old father. She has lost her ability to speak because of an accident. She needs an operation in order to be able to talk again. One day, five prison fugitives come to their house and kill Zeynep’s father. The fugitives take their money and attack Due to the shock, Zeynep regains her ability to speak. The fugitives are arrested but Zeynep wants to take revenge, therefore she says that the fugitives are not the ones who have attacked them. The police appoints Murat to make her give a statement. Murat teaches her how to use a gun and some karate, but she still doesn’t know he is a cop. They fall in love and decide to get married. On their wedding, the prisoners kill Murat. Nothing can stop Zeynep now from taking revenge. She becomes a policewoman and traces the fugitives one by one.

Gender confusion and comically short/incomplete sentences aside, this description is interesting. I have the following comments:

  1. Why does she need to lose the ability to speak?
  2. Under what circumstances would a presumably psychosomatic speech problem be curable through surgery?
  3. Yay extra-judicial justice!
  4. Why is a police officer teaching a crime victim how to use a gun?
  5. Why does he know karate?
  6. Of course they want to get married. Of course.
  7. What is on that guy’s face? Is this like that horrible shaved eyebrow craze? It kind of reminds me of Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games:


Right? Right?


Mişmiş or A case of double hearsay

Lately there has been one hell of a disturbance in my napping. I get home from work at 6, and I typically sprawl out on my couch after a day of sitting and staring at the wall, and pass out for a half hour to an hour while I listen to Martha Stewart explain how to butcher a pig or make a home-made leather apron for gardening (you can wipe them clean!)

Because its been hotter than hell, I like to crack the window, especially before the bugs get going. But, for the last month or so, my napping has been rudely interrupted by the incessant blaring music coming out of giant vans with huge speakers mounted on the roof: Electionmobiles. Shoot me. Please?

There is a national election here in Turkey on June 12, so now in addition to the call to prayer, I have the slogans of the AKP, CHP, MHP, BDP, HAS, the SDP, a marginalized socialist-leaning party with a blue flag with a dove–more like a girl-scout logo than a political slogan. All this campaigning is making me grouchy.

While discussing this yesterday with my friend Sasha, who worked in Bartin (near Zonguldak, though that’s probably not helpful either) she told me of this AKP ad with a super traditional song. She loved the music, and has been humming it to herself as she strolls around Istanbul. No, that’s normal, I told her.

The AKP is the ruling party that is expected to decimate the rest of the field, possibly giving them a 2/3 majority needed to push through any legislation desired. And, while this happens from time to time in the good ‘ole USA, its quite a rarity here, in a country with so many parties. And, it kind of sucks when one party tyrannizes another. The words translate roughly to: “In the same way we are history, we drank the same water, one part of a summer, we are the same mountain breeze. Got to give Erdo some credit, even if he is a loony toon (please don’t sue me?)

The CHP is the former ruling party, its a the slightly more liberal, and significantly less religious party. The Economist recently wrote an article that called on the CHP to get their shit together to protect a number of social freedoms currently being cut by the AKP. It slammed the AKP for their recent attack on journalists, and restored my faith in western perceptions of Turkey, especially after having read this vomit-inducing cotton candy piece from the NY Times. In the ad, you hear the word “yasak” which means forbidden. The government just passed legislation that forbids a number of names in internet website domain names which include both the words yasak (forbidden) and nefes (breath), which coincidentally is part of the CHP’s slogan “Rahat bir nefes alacak” Take a fresh breath.

The MHP is the party I least understand, and their election song does nothing to help me understand them better. They’re the nationalist party, and were recently hit with a sex scandal (yes, they have those here too–though not as aptly named as Wienergate.) There is all kinds of speculation over who is responsible, but the fact of the matter is, the MHP was hit hard. And, while I am loath to support an ultra-nationalist party (especially as a foreign resident in this country), here’s an interesting article that makes a case for some support for the party if only to prevent said expected 2/3 majority that would be held by the AKP if MHP fails to secure the requisite 10% vote to keep their seats in parliament (their voters are most likely to swing to the AKP rather than other parties.)

What I love about the song though, is that its a mix of bad metal with rap. It sounds more like the background music to some summer thrasher movie than a campaign song for this guy:

No he's not at an Ozzie show, the devil horns are actually for his elite group within the MHP called the Grey Wolves.

In any case, Sasha and I were talking about this whole mess, and she sent me an article, where she was misquoted, after double hearsay brought news of her love for the AKP song to a less-than-thorough journalist (c’mon Turkey, its just sad really.) This is not the first time that Fulbrighters have ended up in the Turkish paper.

Back in November, a local lunatic in Karabuk published an article claiming that the 54 Fulbright teachers were actually… wait for it… CIA! She based this information on nothing more than the knowledge that there were 54 of us in small cities. The two Fulbrighters in Karabuk were hounded by locals who, in true Turkish fashion, latched onto the absurd conspiracy theory, and socially alienated them. Things only got worse when Milliyet, a national daily, picked up the story, and ran it. And, while the story was slightly better weighted, asking at least for the Rector’s input, it was a stupid, stupid article.

With the help of google translate (plus my own Turkish) this is more or less what the second half of the article said:

“Turkish people are hospitible, warm, loving and tolerant, I knew that, I also discovered that by living here. The 8th International Turkish Olypics official song “New World” song fascinated me. The emphasis on a new world based on love and peace was appealing. The AK Part’s fascinated and integrated advertisements said it again, “Love, unity and togetherness, nothing else. If I could vote in Turkey, this message would compel me to vote for AKP.”

Then there was something about slogans that I couldn’t figure out. I just love that she was quoted in this article, and while she may have said those thoughts about Turks for the paper, she specifically told her colleague that she would not like to be quoted in anything regarding politics, but as it turned out, it was too late. Since there doesn’t seem to be any kind of fact-checking department, Sasha officially supports the AKP…

Ode to T-dag.

Most people take care when choosing where to live, we’re inclined to take several issues into account: the size of the city, the city’s reputation, the cultural scene, any current acquaintances we could rely on. For expats, perhaps this list is a little longer and would include the language barrier, the presence/absence of war, the presence/absence of domestic terrorism, the new nation’s level of like/dislike of foreigners.

For me, however, I had no choice of home when I came to Turkey.

This creates an awkward situation whenever I meet new people, particularly Turks.

“Why Tekirdağ?”

“Well”, I stumble, “uh, see I work for YÖK [the Turkish Ministry of Higher Education], and, well, they chose Tekirdağ for me.”

To distract my new acquaintance from this less than flattering explanation, I typically start rattling off a litany of frightening cities throughout the nation where my less-fortunate colleagues were placed: a Jewish man who lives in Bayburt, home to the MHP (nationalist party); or Iğdır, a tiny village nestled up against the closed border with Armenia and the wide-open border with Iran; Ağrı, whose name literally means “pain” in Turkish; or the number of blonde ladies situated on the Black Sea coast who are frequently propositioned as Nataşa or hookers (one actually took a harasser to court and got him jail time.)

After this, I typically explain that, despite the fetid air (blackened by a city heated entirely with coal), the polluted waters (where Istanbul, the city of over 20 million, flushes its filth), the constant smell of fermenting rakı that hangs over our neighborhood, that despite the little roma children who cruise around on their horse drawn carriages, the feral dogs, the cats in heat, the burning trash, that Tekirdağ, really, in the grand scheme of things, is not so bad.

Perhaps I should say, I’m currently afflicted with a sense of nostalgia. One week from today, gidiyorum. I’m out. And, while my current plans have me hopping between the US and Turkey through the fall, it is certainly the end of an era.

My roommate moved out this morning. She packed her Turkish life in to five bags (yes, FIVE) wedged herself into a taxi and set off with her father for Istanbul.

I can’t say I’ll miss the apartment terribly. Our university, I should say, made every effort to make us feel at home. We have satellite TV with over 800 channels, though so far, I’ve only found five with consistant English language programming: Al-Jazeera English, BBC, E2, CNBC-e, and a creepy though soothing English-language Japanese culture channel. I did find ARTE, my favorite French/German culture channel which I use to keep my French from disintegrating. Then there’s the internet, without a proxy server we couldn’t access gmail, Facebook, twitter, or any site that required a form submission (airline websites, bus websites, etc.) There’s the light in the bathroom which blew sometime in January when we discovered the light fixture had been plastered onto the ceiling, so we’ve peed in the dark since then. About a month ago the hot water was cut, leaving us with icy showers. Though I have mastered the bucket shower: with the help of my electric kettle, I’ve got the whole thing down to 10 minutes and only about 5 liters of water. In the kitchen you can’t have the oven, refrigerator and TV going at once. And, the vacuum can be the only appliance running or it trips the fuse.

At work, things are only marginally better. Despite the fact that our building is only several months old (or perhaps because of it) things don’t work well. Apparently the plan was to include A/C, a revelation here in Turkey only very rarely experienced. It seems this plan was scrapped, but our floor-to-ceiling windows that don’t open were never redesigned. The eastern-facing classrooms roast the students in the morning sun, while the afternoon and evening classes gasp for air in the western-facing rooms. It would be nice if we could open a door at least, into the hall, but the whole building is made of uninsulated and exposed concrete (surprise surprise) which naturally causes sound to bounce and clamor from one room to the next, multiplying in strength as it travels. Our offices were hastily built with something that looks like an office do-it-yourself kit. The walls don’t reach the ceiling which makes for next-to-no privacy, leaving us all at the mercy of a poorly chosen ring tone, a professional spat, or for me, a complaining Skype date with a friend from home. Ultimately we’re all reduced to talking in code, whispering or not talking at all.

I was going to say I won’t miss my students terribly, but then this happened the other day:

IO-A, the best class ever, showed up to our last class wearing these.

And, a close up of a photo of me they sniped from Facebook.

So, perhaps this nostalgia got its start here. With a t-shirt with my face on it.

Then I went into the city yesterday to get some food for dinner. I missed the Thursday market, so I decided to wander down the main stretch and see what struck my fancy. In the end, and about 7 kilos of produce later, I had picked up strawberries from the district next to ours, fresh cherries being harvested for next week’s cherry festival (!!!!), apricots, a bundle of mint the size of my head, scallions, parsley, Israeli couscous, homemade beyaz peynir (white cheese, like feta), and a rotisserie chicken. In the piliç market, where I got the chicken, the vendor remembered me from November when I came in trying to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. My Turkish was significantly less-developed and he understood that I was trying to sell a turkey, after which hilarity ensued. He genially chatted me up as he prepared the succulent little bird in paper for me to cart it home. Come back sooner, he said as I left.

And, after weeks of sifting through idiotic taxi drivers in Tekirdağ, Sherri stumbled upon a kindly old man who is based out of the bus station. The dear man chatted genially as he drove us around the city this week. And, on Tuesday when we went to a café across town, as he waited for us to come out and meet him, he plucked two roses from a nearby bush and offered them to us with a flourish and a bow. She enlisted his help for her epic trek to Istanbul. This morning as he hurled suitcase after suitcase into his compact car, securing the trunk with several bungee cords, and as he helped Sherri wedge herself in between a duffel and a little black Samsonite, I realized it was the end of something.

Perhaps its only when leaving a place that we give thought to the idea of home. I haven’t felt attached to Tekirdağ until recently. It was a place I needed to be during the week, and it was a place to be left behind when the weekend came. As the weather has gotten nicer, as my Turkish has improved, and as I have cemented friendships, I’m not sure what comes next.

I’m not overly sentimental, like I said, the coal-filled air will be of no loss to me, the stench of burning trash, the peeing in the dark, the cold showers, I will not miss these things. But, the human connections have been lovely and will be greatly and deeply missed. I’m not sure I would ever choose to live here again, but its been a good run Tekirdağ, and despite all your flaws, you’ll be missed.