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?


Boys to men

Two young boys, maybe 11 or 12 years old greeted each other on the dolmuş the way men do: they shook hands and leaned their cheeks in bumping first right-to-right then left-to-left. They sat there across from one another, when one reached his hand behind the other boy’s head, holding the back of his neck as the dolmuş engine revved, drowning out their intimate conversation. It’s something that strikes me; the transition from youth to semi-adulthood here is something I still haven’t been able to understand.

Working in a university, I have been witness to an appalling lack of maturity displayed by a number of my students. They show up ten minutes late, without pens, paper or books. They interrupt grammar lessons with questions like, “Teacher, how old are you?” “Teacher, are you married?” or perhaps some less grammatically correct version of these. They scribble on desks, use cell phones to text friends, talk over both their fellow students and me.

This is perhaps why I am always struck by the formality of greetings, by the mature displays of affection that young boys display for each other. They seem out of synch with other displays of immaturity. And, even as boys mature into men, these physical interactions continue. On the servis last week, the bus was particularly packed. One man stood in the aisle and another in the stairwell by the sliding door. The man in the stairwell made some comment about the other’s suit jacket.

His jacket was a bluish gray corduroy blazer. His friend in the stairwell grabbed both lapels of the jacket, stroking the fabric between his fingers. And, while I couldn’t hear the conversation, not that I would necessarily understood even if I had, I imagine the discussion was about this choice of jacket. And, while this seemingly mundane interaction continued, it’s familiarity struck me. These men, in close proximity to one another had no physical boundaries.

Another common scene I’ve encountered is that of two men strolling together, arm in arm. Something solely reserved for sweethearts or a combination of the elderly and the young, typically of opposite sex in the west, the physicality of it all was something that I couldn’t let go of. It’s something that I have still not acclimated to either. I think about the conversation that leads up to that interaction, “Mehmet, would you like to go for a stroll with me down on the waterfront, its such a lovely day.” “Sure Ali, I’d love to. Meet you in five by the Liman Çay Bahçesi.”

As I’ve mentioned before, not being a man limits my ability to understand these interactions, but I can’t imagine most men of my acquaintance having such a conversation. In my experience, male interaction in the west is circled around some activity: fishing, camping, food or beverage consumption, sports spectation to name a few. Here, there is a significantly calmer attitude toward activities, there is a lot of strolling, a lot of tea consumption. A lot of lounging. A lot of touching.

Kiraathanesi Corner

Taking the number 2 to the Tekira shopping mall, we go through a pretty seedy part of town. The buildings are old, waiting only for one last earthquake to bring them to their knees. Some have already succombed to the trials of time, they are littred with plasic Migros bags, empty Efes Pilsen cans, old roofing bricks left to decay. Some still have half of a wall standing; the sun weathered, wooden door is still hung on its hinges, the little blue house number firmly attached to the bricks.

The bus bumps and slams over the dirt-cobbled roads, it lumbers up a steep incline, you can hear the engine strain. We round corners quickly, narrowly missing children, stray dogs and elderly men. They don’t flinch. We bomb down the hills, passing  what I think of as Kiraathanesi Corner.

The flickering, harsh light of the overhead incandescent bulbs illuminates the yellowing rooms, the faces obscured by the smoke wafts up from cigarettes. Men huddle around tavla boards, sipping tea gingerly from the curved glasses. One man reajusts his hat, another beckens to the çayci.

This particular part of town has a disproportionate number of kiraathanesis, all-male teahouses. Their popularity still evades my understanding. They are dingy, overly lit, filthy places. They have small tables with cheap uncomfortable chairs.

Men seem to have a loyalty to these places that resembles those of the village pub. Each group of kankas considers that spot his and rarely does a man stray from his particular dive. Sons, as they come of age, are brought up to respect the importance and authority of that particular café, it seems these places also represent the lines drawn by followers of particular political parties. A place where like-minded men can sit, sip their tea and for the evening and congratulate one another for being masters of the universe.Really, all of this is a figment of my imagination. Women can’t go to these places, or rather, we aren’t barred from entry but, we are certainly not welcome. One would draw suspicious looks and there is absolutely no mistaking: this is the man’s domain.

Turks seem to be big fans of bright lights. They love neon light shows, go to any city in Turkey and you will quickly see what I mean, even Ataturk, the revered Turkish leader’s tomb isn’t safe from the gaudy flash of brightly colored lights. Restaurants are so brightly lit, that rather than reaching for your reading glasses to make out the entrees, you reach in your bag for sunglasses to protect your corneas from the glare on the laminated menu. The kiraathanesis are no exception. Light pours out brightening the typically unlit streets. The average Turk, as far as I can tell, has no desire to implement mood lighting.

All the better, however, for these aging men to see their microscopic cups of tea and the dark wooden pieces they move around their backgammon boards as they sit, nearly squatting in their miniature chairs. Why futz with mood lighting, when this is a place for men? There is no need for mood. There is a need for practicality, and visibility. And cigarettes.