Istanbul on 110 lira/wk

So one of the first things I did upon accepting this position was to make a budget. To go the long way to work (two transfers) costs 45TL/wk with my Akbil. (Hey everyone who’s planning on staying awhile in Istanbul: getcherself an Akbil! There are little stalls at the major tram transfers. You put 6TL down, and refill it with money as needed. When you pay for one fare, say, the ferry from Kadiköy to Karaköy, your transfers to, say, the tram from Karaköy to Kabataş and then to the funicular from Kabataş to Taksim are both half price. And when you return your Akbil when you leave Istanbul, you get your 6TL back!) I figure 30TL/week food/groceries if I live mostly on chick peas and avoid doing anything that might up my grocery bill, like run out of pepper, or menstruate. And then when I factored in the cost of a daily cup of tea at the cafe where I check my internet and that came to 35TL/week.
So:
45TL
30TL
35TL=
110TL, and if I want anything extra, like a beer, I have to walk instead of take the funicular all week or cut down on my apple consumption.
Easy!
Then I thought about it, and did some simple addition, (never so simple when I do it) and figured out that over 6 weeks it’ll actually save me 50TL to buy a 3G internet gizmo from Turkcell.
So yesterday Susan and I trekked to the Turkcell store in Karaköy, where I’d already verified that they have an English speaker on staff at all times. We presented our passports and they gave us little 4GB 3G gizmos, and SIM cards. (Note to travelers: if you are in Turkey, you don’t qualify for a lot of things if you aren’t a national, like certain phone plans and internet plans. Because we aren’t nationals, we had to pay full price, 100TL, for our gizmos, when they were advertised at 39TL with year long contract.) She went merrily home, I went merrily to work.
When I came home I ripped the gizmo out of its packaging, looked over the completely incomprehensible Turkish instructions, and shoved it in my USB port. The software installed itself, no problem. But no internet. I sat there helplessly, quite certain that if I could just read the instructions it would be clear what to do. I bet myself that if I could just access the internet, I could find the instructions in English on there somewhere.
Oh, cruel irony.
I had been looking forward to streaming Dating in the Dark, too.

I got up this morning and called the free Turkcell number. I got a recording that said,
“(Something something in Turkish) For English press sed sid. (Pause.) (Something somehting in Turkish.)”
I hung up and redialed, and turned up the volume and listened carefully. I heard,
“(Something something in Turkish) For English press sed sid. (Pause.) (Something somehting in Turkish.)”
I looked at the keypad, wondering what the hell a sed was, or a sid.
I redialed.
“(Something something in Turkish) For English press sed sid. (Pause.) (Something somehting in Turkish.)”
I started pressing random numbers until I finally got an operator on the phone, at which point I said, in a tone of slight panic which seems to get things done,
“English? English?” until I got transferred to someone who spoke English.

I hate playing the dumb American card far more than I’ve ever hated playing the dumb girl card. Unfortunately, both are very effective, and one is true.

Turkish and English are very, very different languages. The grammars are different. The words bear no relation to one another. The sounds are foreign. So even a Turkish person with a high degree of fluency can have trouble making themselves understood to a native English speaker, and vice versa. The lady on the phone was clearly very good at speaking English, but perhaps not up to the task of producing all the descriptive, figurative and metaphorical language needed to guide someone like me, who is hopelessly technologically, um, differently-abled, through the process of connecting her 3G gizmo to her computer-whatsit through the USB thingum.
To make matters worse, there wasn’t an English speaking technician available, so my English speaking call center triage lady was translating what the Turkish speaking technician man was saying, in some grisly game of telephone.
After 33 minutes of back and forth:
“Please remove an iron bar from your Vinn modem and check to see that the phone line is connected.”
“Wait, what?”
“Please remove. An iron bar. From the side. Of your Vinn modem…” etc. etc. etc.
we figured out that one of the problems was that the SIM card wasn’t in the modem. I put it in, but still no internet.
“You need to go to the store, then,” said the lady cheerfully, “and check to see that the phone line is activated.”
Okey-doke.

So back to Karaköy.
Was it me or did everyone sigh when I walked in?

The nice men in their blue Turkcell polo shirts pointed me back to a desk, where a man looked up impatiently and said,
“Hello.”
“Hi,” I said, and fumbled in my purse for the widget and all the attendant paperwork.
“Hi, do you speak English?” I asked.
“I’m speaking English,” he said. Rather sardonically.
“Oh. Right. I bought this yesterday-”
“Yes.” Sigh. “I remember.”
“Oh, right, so I bought this yesterday, but I can’t get it to work.”
He held out his hand and I gave him the gizmo.
“Your SIM card is upside down,” he said, and set about righting it. “May I see your notebook?” he asked. I fumbled around in my purse and found the SIM card information and handed it to him. “May. I. See. Your. Notebook?”
“Oh! Sorry!” I pulled my Dell out of its bag and handed it to him. He sat plugged it into the machine and waited a moment while I sat there, deeply embarrassed.
“It works,” he said. And handed my computer back to me.
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

2 responses to “Istanbul on 110 lira/wk

  1. LOl. That is just the kind of thing that I would do!!

  2. Caner

    That was so funny!

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