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Two Weeks In Links

I’ve had a very lazy week, gang. A big class finished, and for one reason or another most of my one on one students cancelled so I’ve found myself at loose ends… and what is it about having nothing to do that makes it so hard to do anything?

Anyway, let’s get down to it.

First off, since I was a wee small bairn I’ve had a deep distrust of  the concept of heros in general. I hated writing those “Who is Your Hero?” papers in school because I knew, somehow, I just knew deep down everyone was kind of a jerk and I also knew intuitively and later confirmed that no one comes up with ideas on their own. They just don’t. You just don’t. Thomas Edison always seemed a little too much of a muchness character to me, (and it turns out he had about as much creative input in his brand as Calvin Klein, which is to say almost none) and I want to weep a little every time I think about how we don’t have free electricity because a few people would prefer to make money from it. So Nikola Tesla, I salute you. And I’m sorry you died alone and crazy and thank you. And thank you Oatmeal for this wonderful tribute. Geeks of the world, pour one out tonight.

Palate cleanser: Whale beached in the forests of Argentina! Man I get jealous of people who think of and do these things.

I like dumb jokes a LOT, (holla Tim Hallam! All y’all check out the link for Connections right there on the right) but I like stupidly overly-intellectual quips almost as much. This fantasy re-shuffling of Europe made me snort coffee out my nose a few times. “Bordello.” Ha!

No one really talks about money, which is weird, right? I mean, no one ever talked to me about money. Mom just figured I’d figure it out because somehow she had. And I was taught to balance a checkbook in school, and someone told me not to spend more than a quarter of your income on rent, but that’s bout it. No one really talks about money. It’s rude to bring it up with your friends. (Refreshing exception implicit in ex-pat life. “So where do you teach? Cool. How much do they pay?”) Not possessing many marketable skills myself, I escaped the American Economic crisis by moving 5000 miles away. It’s a common story here. But pals of mine who’ve stayed in America are dealing with it by going back to school. Which is really fricking expensive. And they’re getting into debt. And no one’s talking about it. So I find this series of exchanges really refreshing.

Speaking of America- this breakdown of gay-friendliness by state was making the rounds earlier this week, and it’s worth a look. I mean, no brainer in a way, (the coasts are more progressive?! Wha-?!) but interesting to see it all laid out.

Also speaking of America, here are some pictures I got all misty about. Camden Yards will never be Memorial Stadium, (“Let’s knock down this memorial we built to never forget something!” -Baltimore) but that big building on the right is where I had my prom, and I spent many pleasant evenings bored out of my mind there.

And finally, here’s the world in high res. Thanks, Russia.

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McDonalds

The passion of my mid-twenties was some high-minded ideal of sustainable, organic, slow food. Not foodie food- I squirmed and still squirm at that word, which feels smarmy to me. Something a certain kind of man who has an “eclectic” c.d. collection and enjoys “sensual” massages would say to impress a girl, “I’m really a foodie. On our next date you’ll have to come over so I can make you squab in a blood orange pomegranate reduction sauce with roasted asparagus with wasabi jus. I got the recipe from Gourmet, February 1988.” Bleh. Run. No, I was interested in plain home cooking, done well, with local, seasonal ingredients. I was interested in a time before strawberries were available year round, and one might know one’s farmers, and one canned food because it was the best way to make it last all winter, when waste was anethema, and even the scraps went to your pig to become your dinner later.

I read Karen Hesse and learned to hate white sauce. I read Michael Pollan and learned to despise Monsanto. I trawled the farmers markets for organic farmers who were actually local. I bought my pork from the heirloom pig guys and learned to do without beef. I waited weeks for the only truly free range chickens I could find and paid sixteen bucks for one. I stopped buying eggs from my egg man when I learned he fed his chickens soy. I grew food on my roof.

And I never, ever, ever ate fast food.

Well, maybe once a year when we all went on vacation because you canNOT go South without hitting Waffle House I don’t care how strong your principles are.

 

What happened to that passion? Well, work got in the way. And when you’re chronically single, making meals for yourself sucks the fun right out of cooking. So much easier to just heat up a bowl of soup and be done with it. Or stop for a sandwich somewhere on your way home. And then, I was a few years too early. When I left, Baltimore was becoming an urban farmers paradise. When I was 26, the sheer effort of cycling all around town to try to find food I deemed acceptable, and the cost of that food when I found it- it makes me feel tired and defeated just to think about it.

 

Fast forward half a dozen years and here I am in Istanbul, which is a paradise for fresh fruit and veg. It ‘s ridiculously cheap- I swear I just paid 4 lira for a pound of early cherries which comes out to less than two bucks- and it’s trucked im daily. And if you want to support a local farmer, they rig up markets in almost every neighborhood on almost every day of the week. Just found one in Cengelkoy at the Su Dolap stop, by the way, that’s ridiculously cheap, but, fair warning, crawling with gypsy kids. (Unexpected side effect of Istanbul ex-pat life, I find myself saying things a racist from 80-odd years ago would say. But seriously, watch your pockets around the gypsy kids.) It’s not organic of course. Istanbul’s selection of organic food is pathetic, and so expensive it makes Whole Paycheck, er, Whole Foods look like Sav-a-Lot. No joke. (Any Isty’s wanna put in two cents proving me wrong here, please do.) But it’s local? Lower carbon footprint? That’s good, right? No? No. 26 year old Sarah is weeping and gnashing her teeth in fury. I’ve let down the revolution.

 

And then I’m surrounded here by really good, cheap abundant food. It’s EVERYWHERE. Other bloggers are better about waxing rhapsodic about it and I’ll let them. But trust me- the fish is fresh, the iceberg lettuce is invariably crisp, the stews are savory… yeah. Other people do that better. But the problem I keep having, the problem I always come back to is that Turkish food is pretty much all you can get here. There are Chinese restaurants, sure, but they’re kind of crappy. THere’s a vegetarian Indian restaurant, I’ve heard. There’s even some approximation of sushi. But I grew up in America, where even a relatively uncosmopolitan city like Baltimore was in the nineties had decent Chinese takeouts on every corner, (even fancy Chinese restaurants! Anyone remember Uncle Lee’s? Holla?) and Indian, (what was the name of that Indian joint that opened on Frederick Road? Marc and I used to go there ALL THE TIME. Mmmmm. Samosas.) and Greek and Afghani and Thai and Mexican and El Salvadoran and okay, if we get into taco territory I’ll start crying and never stop, but you get the idea. It was not only available, it was convenient. I’m just not used to living in a mono-cuisine culture, yet here I am.

I rarely eat for pleasure anymore.

 

So to sum it up, my relationship with food has unravelled because of latent hippie-guilt, laziness, and boredom.

 

Which brings me back to fast food.

 

In my early, dark days here, on a morning when I was feeling particularly beaten up by Istanbul and homesickish, I passed a Burger King, and the door opened and the smell hit me full in the face and suddenly I was in Snowpea, my white Nissan Stanza, in the drive-thru of the Burger King on Rt. 40, in 1998, and Marc was probably there too, and I was ordering a Big King Meal with onion rings instead of fries and a diet pepsi. I found myself walking into the Burger King on Bahariye and ordering a meal. And even without the bacon-product topping, it was the most perfect thing I’ve ever eaten. The patty was cardboardy, and the ideal balance between salty and savory and totally bland. The cheese-product was rubbery and poorly melted. The ketchup was too vinegary. The bun managed to be soggy and sawdusty at the same time. The fries were limp and underseasoned. You might judge me, reader. You might call me an ugly American. You might, rightly, point out that there was a doner bufe right next door and doner is, by any subjective or objective measure, better than Burger King. And yet it my mouth it was so much more than the sum of its poor parts. It was sunshine streaming through a car window. It was easy companionship and brittle jokes. It was road trips and beach toys, all the time in the world, the perfect mixtape. It was youth and the weight of the world. It was everything I’ve ever lost, and everything I ever wanted. That burger, reader, was love.

Nevertheless when I finished and was licking my fingers and noticing that the other patrons were Turkish teenagers and tourists, I was ashamed of myself.

 

It became a regular thing, after that. A payday treat. I found my footing eventually. Made friends, took and discarded or was discarded by lovers, found the perfect apartment, became good at my job, stopped being homesick, and ate less fast food.

I came home the other morning to find RM and JP in the living room.

“We’re ordering McDonald’s breakfast,” RM announced. “You want the standard?”

“Yes ma’am!” I said. And settled happily into the couch. While we waited for the McDonald’s delivery man (oh yes, that’s a thing here) to come on his scooter we post-mortemed our various adventures from the night before and settled into an easy companionship. JP started reading a book. RM disappeared to fuss with her hair or something. I fiddled with the i-pod. We got hungrier and hungrier. RM called McDonalds again to confirm it was coming. I gave up on getting to work ontime by public transportation and decided to take a cab (MORE ON THAT LATER. Now that’s a story.) We danced a little and restlessly stalked around the apartment. I leaned out the window and squealed “Oh my god he just pulled up!” A moment later we were in the kitchen, fluffing our McDonald’s coffees (remember when I wouldn’t drink anything but fair trade organic shade grown?) with milk and sugar.

The hashbrowns were salty, tasteless, and weirdly over-starchy. The McMuffin, (which FYI in Turkey are made with “Hindi” which is a fake ham product resembling canadian bacon that you don’t want to think about too closely) was half cold, texturally suspicious, and gooey.

“Oh my God,” I said, with my mouth full. “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“Agreed,” JP said.

“Agreed,” RM said.

 

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Bir Mayis II

Here are some pictures I took from the web of Bir Mayis in Taksim.

Here are a bunch of socialists marching:

Here are a bunch of people sitting on a McDonalds

This is what a million people look like from a helicopter:

This is what a million people look like when you’re in them:

WHen you’re there it’s just overwhelmingly hot and crowded and shovey, and you the sun beats down on your head and there are songs that everyone else knows all the words to but you can only shout along with the chorus, “Bir Mayis! Bir Mayis! Something something something something something something!” or “Ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao ciao!” and there are impassioned speeches that you can’t understand and you shake your fist at the sky when everyone else does and do your best to shout “shoulder to shoulder we fight facism!” in Turkish with the rest of them but it isn’t your fight, really, not your country. You haven’t lived through the injustices your friends have. You’ve never run from tear gas. But it is your fight in a way, you think, as you shake your fist and hum along to the Internationale, because you too despise injustice, fascism, Americal Imperialism, capitalism.

But you are very tired and hot, you can feel your fair skin frying in the sun, and you’re not convinced this government-sanctioned, police “protected” display does anything to fight any of that.

This is what a million people look like when you finally give in to your aching joints and sit on the ground.

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The Week In Links

So today is my birthday, which I’m celebrating by wearing a pretty frock, eating obscene amounts of food, chirping “it’s my birthday!” to every single human being or cat that comes within chirping distance, and of course teaching a grueling nine lesson-hour day.  Hooray!

But don’t fret- I’m getting my fun in this week. Yesterday a fellow Baltimorean came into town. First off I took her to tea at the Galata Tower so we could sit and discuss our options for the day- sightseeing or general chilling?- and that’s where we were when the windstorm hit. We’ve had a pretty windy spring already. Last week there were a few nights when even with all the windows in the apartment closed, the wind was strong enough to slam doors. Which isn’t unnerving at all. At two in the morning. When RM was away and I was alone. So when my Baltimore bud asked, “Is this normal?” I shrugged in a way I hoped was relaxed and conveyed that we were TOTALLY not going to die, and said, “Yeah! Happens all the time!” and suggested we scurry down the hill to the Halic bridge for lunch. While we were catching up on Baltimore Ravens gossip over fried anchovies and mussels, 300 houses were losing their roofs, 5 people were dying, some building was falling over in Nisantisi, and a yacht was on fire. By the time we paid the bill, the seas were calm again. We opted for more chilling than sight seeing.

So between the birthday, the visitor, and my general laziness, there are no links this week. I do apologize. I’ll be back with a vengeance and more lovely pictures next week. In the meantime, I would like to warmly wish you all a very very happy my birthday.

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Why I Get Out of Bed In The Morning

Student: Teacher, what is your real job? 

Me; This is my real job. 

Student: No, what is your REAL job? 

Me: THIS is my real job. 

Student: So… you don’t have a real job? 

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The Week In Links

It’s getting warmer and lovelier and flowerier here in Istanbul, and so much less conducive to sitting with a laptop reading whole articles and so much more conducive to daydreaming about having a bright yellow scooter to match the forsythia. Which reminds me- did I ever tell you about my grandmother and the forsythia bush? We had a forsythia on the side lawn that she spent my whole childhood doing great and terrible battle with. Every other spring or so she’d start grumbling about it, and one day I’d come home from school to find she’d have spent all day hacking it down into a stump. Of course, you can’t kill forsythia so easily, and within a week there’d be a half dozen cheery yellow shoots sticking out, which I believe she took to be a great “Fuck You” from the bush. I don’t know why she didn’t just have the stump removed. I think she enjoyed hating it.

Speaking of nana, she sent me an e-mail this week, subject line, “Good Morning Istanbut!”  Every morning when I go out onto the porch with my coffee and my bowl of yogurt I say, “Good morning, Istanbutt!” and giggle a little. I kind of want to change the name of my blog now. Thoughts?

Without further ado about nothing: Links!

I know some people don’t care for him, but I love Kurt Vonnegut, especially his essays. I love his brand of dry, common sense humanism. I love how he sees the world. I loved A Man Without a Country, and I love this collection of interviews with him.

Kurt gives good writing advice, and so does this guy. Thanks to Paul for sending this my way! It might be the best, funniest, truest piece of advice to writers I’ve read.

Apropos of nothing, this is a cool wind map of the US. Mesmerizing.

And these are pictures of the world’s largest mechanical elephant. So cool!

This article on how to eat in Istanbul on a student budget made me roll my eyes. Restaurants? On a backpackers budget? Seriously? The least you pay in a restaurant is, like, ten lira. STREET FOOD, Istanbul Eats. STREET FOOD. Not everyone has a trust fund. Cig Kofte durum and an ayran is healthy, filling, and clocks in at three lira at the joint up the street from my house. Tavuk doner, a huge grilled chicken sandwich, is two lira by the Iskelesi. Peynirli simit (simit and cheese) is a reasonably filling breakfast a/o lunch and it’s 1.50 at any simit vendor’s cart. Two if you throw in a bottle of water. Restaurants. Good lord.

This just made me sad. I love the crowded, unpassable streets in Beyoglu. On a Saturday evening it’s so lovely to park yourself outside one of the restaurants, and drink beer with your date, and just watch people flow by. Okay, so it’s a huge fire hazard and public safety issue but c’mon, Istanbul. Your whole city is kind of a death trap, between the sidewalks and the dolmuses and the traffic and all the ways around building codes and the general lack of safety precautions and the impending earthquake. Where’s the fun in being able to let firetrucks through? Bring back the illegal outdoor seating!

Here’s a sad article about proving you’re gay in the Turkish Army.

A long time ago at a different school I had a real shit of a student, pardon my french. Did’t want to learn English. Was constantly working to make sure I couldn’t possibly misunderstand how little she wanted to learn English. Super spoiled. She kept insisting she was Ottoman, and I kept insisting that the Ottomans are dead, sweetheart. Or, My, you look very well for your age. Turns out I was mistaken. The last Ottoman just died. My apologies.

And that’s that. Now get off the computer and go outside!

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The Week In Links

There’s a joke that an Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman are all marooned on a desert island together. One day they discover a magic lamp, and when they rub it a genie pops out. “Oh my GOD I was in the lamp a long time!” the genie exclaims, cricking his neck. “Thank you for freeing me! Normally I give out three wishes, and since there are three of you, you can each have one wish. Go!”  he says, pointing at the Frenchman. “Sacre-bleu!” the Frenchman says. “I so long for my ‘omeland! I mees ze bread and ze cheese and ze legs of ze frogs.. I mees drinking champagne in the evenings wis my dearest Francoise while our poodle plays on ze floor at our feet. Please, my weesh ees to go ‘ome!” A moment later he was gone. “Oh how I yearn for the dear rolling hills of Albion!” cried the Englishman when the genie turned to him, “the gentle streams, the woodland dells and the vales full of violets in the spring. How I yearn for spotted dick, and pubs that close at 10 in the evening! Please, my wish is to go home!”And just like that, he was gone. “And now for you,” the genie said to the Irishman. “What is your wish?” “Well now,” the Irishman said, scratching the back of his head. “I miss Ireland fro’ time to time, but it’s not railly so great there when you get to think of it. Just a bunch of rotten potatoes and grinding poverty and class warfare. There’s a reason for the diaspora, you know. I actually kind of like it here. There’s coconuts and, um, sand. And it’s nice to lie on the beach and do nothing all day instead of breakin me back for the English dogs. Only problem is, it’s a bit lonely wi’ those other two gone, now, isn’t it? I wish those guys could come back and be here with me again.” (I may have taken some liberties with it.) For some reason that joke popped into my head when I read about how there’s a moon rock worth millions of dollars lying somewhere in a dump outside of Dublin.

Have you ever wondered what happens when you search “shepherds on stilts” in Google images? Magic.

This is bad.

But I’d sure rather be imprisoned in Turkey than held by Syrian Intelligence. Everyone say a little prayer for these guys.

I find this “competition” absolutely endearing on two levels: 1. It’s a Sandwich tournament!!! 2. They have stripped almost all the fun sportsy competetiveness out of it. Where’s the smack talk? Notice it’s not “Which sandwich kicks the other sandwich’s butt?” or “Which sandwich rules harder?” or even “Which sandwich is better?” It’s “Which sandwich do you prefer?” That’s just so… adorably …. earnestly… milquetoasty.

I like how hair-trigger viral op-ed pieces, reactions, counter reactions, counter-counter reactions are these days. So Goldman Sachs is the Kony of this week, I guess. And of all the anti-Greg Smith articles/blogposts/tweets/status updates I’ve read, (full disclosure, not many. I yawned, filed this under “privileged white people problems,” and went back to fretting about how I couldn’t figure out which shade of red nail polish I liked so much last spring. It’s definitely NOT Flormar 385, 341, or 325. The search continues.)this list by Slate is my favorite, not only because it says what I sort or thought in the back of my head while I was reading Smith’s piece (but didn’t bother to articulate. Dang it, that red was, like, the perfect shade of dark cherry!) but Slate did McSweeny’s better than McSweeny’s has been doing lately.

Speaking of McSweeny’s, this list is obsolete by modern standards but still funny. And it mentions Turkey, so it’s topical? (Gimme a break, it’s been a slow news week.)

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Chapter 1 – The Police

On Friday I got all dressed up in that red dress with the white piping- the one I like so much from Double Dutch– to go out with my lady friends, and somehow, between when I hopped on the bus and when I skipped off it 40 minutes later, all the plans had fallen apart. I was wearing my favorite summer dress. I had carefully layered powder eyeliner over pencil, and pulled off the trick where I wear my hair curly but don’t look like a poodle. I had painted my nails to go with my dress. The weather was perfect. I was NOT about to let the night die.  So I wandered off to see what kind of trouble I could get into by myself.

A few beers, and one shot of tequilla later, I bade farewell to my new friends, who were headed off to go clubbing. It was almost 12, then. “Come clubbing!” One of them whined. “Gotta teach tomorrow,” I said. “Eight hours.”  That thought suddenly depressed me. But not for long- My belly was nicely warm with booze, I had spent the night chit-chatting (which is my favorite thing to do), the air was perfect, and I still looked cute.  I was in a pretty good mood when I headed home.

In Mecediyeköy I remembered that the only thing I’d had for dinner was potates, so I stopped at one of the awesome food trucks that pop up at night and grabbed a kofte sandvich, which was SO perfectly greasy and delicious.

“Where are you from?” a fella asked. “England?” I looked up at him, a bit of pickle hanging fro my mouth, and said, “America.” “Oh,” he looked impressed, as Turks always do for some reason, like American citizenship comes with a freebie Nobel Prize or something, and said, “I’ve always wanted to go to America.”

This is a conversation I’ve had so many times in transit stations I can say my lines in my sleep. I was talking to this man, but I was thinking of something else.

:Oh yeah? Where in America?” (He said New York or possibly Los Angeles.) “Oh, that’s a great place. I hope you get to go.” He asked me what I was doing in Istanbul. “I teach.”  Where. “Taksim.” And where did I live. “Şişli.” I finished every last shred of meat and pickle flavored bread and said goodnight and wandered down to the metrobus platform. Between the sandwich and the tequilla I was really starting to feel very, very sleepy. I was staring at nothing in particular in the middle distance when he came up quietly and stood next to me. He asked me what was in my bag. “Diet Coke.” All Americans like diet coke. “So true.” The bus came, and he held my elbow as I boarded, which I did not particularly like, but lots of Turkish men do this 1940’s style chivalry thing, like lighting ladies’ cigarettes and putting them into taxis, and my mind was on my bed- the softness of my pillow, the smoothness of the sheets, what I’d watch on my laptop as I fell asleep- and my alarm bells simply failed to go off.  They didn’t go off when he asked me which station was mine. They didn’t go off when  he followed me off the bus at said station. I started to think something was weird when I stumbled while walking up the stairs and he grabbed my elbow (again) and said, “I will help you.”

“I’m good,” I said.

“No no. I will help you.”

“No, I’m good.”

“I will help you.”

“You will not help me. You need to stand over there, got it? There. Bu. Git. Now.”

We were just out of sight of the platform at that moment, on a quiet stretch of road. There was no one around. I felt genuinely frightened for the first time.

He grabbed my arm hard enough to leave bruises, and lent down, (he was very tall) and kissed me all sloppy and fiddled with the snaps and straps of my top. I wriggled away a step and slapped him. He reeled, is face twisted up and he punched me in the jaw. I stopped being frightened and got really, really, really mad, then.  I punched him as hard as I could in the face and started screaming at him. He ran away, back the way we’d come, and I stood there for a moment, still full of fight, and then ran after him. I don’t know where the shit that was coming out of my mouth was coming from- maybe all the Breaking Bad I’ve been watching recently- but as he ran away I screamed the most ridiculous things at him-

“I know you can understand me- I know you speak English! I will find you! I will find your family! I will find your mother! I will find your sisters! And I WILL KILL THEM ALL!!!!!”

???

Anyway, one thing you should know about Istanbul Polis, ladies, is they aren’t very helpful. The security guard looked perplexed and didn’t move when he saw a man running as fast as he could away from an angry, howling woman. “I thought he was your boyfriend.” Ahh. Of course.  Half a dozen or so cops were there withina few minutes and they found one who spoke English to talk to me. I  told him what had happened. He didn’t write any of it down. I handed him my passport. He looked at it politely and handed it back to me, and offered me a ride home. I kept rubbing my punching hand in the car- it was starting to swell and it hurt like a bitch, and before I got out he said, “If you have a friend at home, she should take you to the hospital.”

Oh. Thank you.

Inside, I fell apart. I paced around. I had an unnecessary glass of wine. I called America. I cried some. Or a lot.

“Sarah, you need to  wake up your roommate and have her take you to the hospital,” Lou said.

“I can’t wake her up,” I said. “It’s three in the morning!”

“Wake her up. Go to the hospital.”

There was a lump on my hand the size of a large egg, now, and I could feel the bones grinding.

“Maybe I should go to the hospital,” I said, dreamily, in the manner of someone who has just had a completely original thought rather than been arguing against it for twenty solid minutes. Lou, bless im, never shows his irritation when I do this.

“Thata girl. Call me when you get back, okay?”

Next… the hospital!

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Residents Permit

I’m writing this from an internet cafe in Taksim, where everyone who passes by feels the need to point out to me how the Turkish keyboards work. I KNOW where the “i” is NOW, folks. Where were you a month ago?
Anyway, the computer will not live without some organ transplants from Dell, and all the zeros and ones that make up my files dispersed into the ether. Or so I understand it. Between the cost of the internet cafes and the slowness and ınaccuracy wıth whıch I type on these ınfernal foeign keyboards, (who knew moving a few keys would cause my typing brain to completely melt down?) it’ll be a bit until I’m updating frequently.
But it ain’t all bad.

This week was get Sarah’s resident’s permit week.
To get a resıdent’s permit in Turkey, all you have to do is make an appointment months in advance to buy the permit, (138TL) pay a fee for every month you plan on staying, and prove that you have $300 in cash for every month the permit covers. That last bit is the trickiest bit. Some jobs will provide the requisite paperwork, but I hadn’t gotten around to asking at DILKO, so we went wıth plan A, not entirely certain it work.
We’d discussed it the night before. I have very lıttle money right now and payday is very far away. We looked to see if my appointment could be moved, but the next available slot was days after my Tourist Visa expired.
“Yeah. They’ll deport you,” someone observed.
So L. looked at her funds and we decided that if we just got 2 months, I wouldn’t have to worry about renewing it until well after payday.
L. and I left the house on a cold grey day and walked down into Kadiköy. She went to the bank machine that gives out dollars and took out $600 American. That’s $300/month for two months. We took it to a bank, but at that branch they wouldn’t change my money unless I had an account- or something. The woman looked at us like we were kind of crazy, (it wouldn’t be the last time that day someone looked at us like that) and toldus to go to one of the many currency exchagne bureaus that litter the streets down by the water.
Except they don’t gıve receıpts, and we needed a receıpt wıth my name on it.
We ran across the street to another branch, but it was closed. (Most banks in Istanbul close for an hour or two for lunch every day.)
We hopped on a ferry, and then a tram and then a metro and then there we were at the Bıg Polis Station(-cum government beaurocratic nıghtmare.) We scrambled around for a bank andeventually found one that changed Leyla’s money and issued a receipt that had the amount in dollars, the exchange rate, the amount in Lira, the date, and a ghostly carbon of my signature.
“It doesn’t have your name on it,” L. said, frustrated. “I don,t know if it’s going to work.”
Then we went into the Big Polis Station (-cum government beaurocratıc nıghtmare) and sat. And sat. And sat in a room. The most unnerving thing about it for me was that it wasn’t clear what was going on. We were just in a room sitting and waiting while mınutes ticked us further and further away from my appointment time. There weren’t helpful signs that said anything like, “This is wehre you sit and wait if you’re trying to get a resident’s permit!” There wasn’t anyone official sitting in there with us. There was no one to ask. Just a bunch of chairs and some people nervously looking around whispering among themselves in French or heavily accented English. If L. hadn’t continually reassured me that we were right where we were supposed to be, thus making it impossible for me to show that I didn’t fully belıeve her without hurting her feelings, I would have taken to the halls, rattling my papers around and shrieking “English?! English?! Can anybody tell me where I’m supposed to be?!!!”
But then a fella in a uniform came in and gathered our papers and told us which lines to stand in. Then we stood. And stood. And stood in a line. People who had come in after us left before us.
“I always get the slowest line,” I said at one point. “When I finally got through my visa line, coming here, my bags were the last on the rack and a woman was ın the process of taking them off to put with the unclaimed luggage.”
But then it was our turn! The exhausted looking man took my passport and papers and looked over them. He was handsome. I might cast him as “Irish thug” in a movie. He looked up at us and explained, in broken English, that did we know we were applying for a permit that would expire a week after my Visa, which I had already paid for?
We nodded gravely. He sighed and stood up then and bent over the papers with us, clearly and reasonably assuming we hadn’t understood him.
He wrote a date.
“Visa expires here.”
We nodded.
He wrote another date, for a week after the first date.
“Resident’s permit, 250 Lira, expires here.”
Again we nodded.
“Why?” he asked, clearly exasperated. “Why do you want this permit?!”
L. tried to explain about how we planned on renewing it before then but the language gap was too great and he waved his hand at her to stop.
Fınally he finagled something so that the RP would begin to cover me when the Visa expired, which is not typical, but which means I won’t have to worry about anything until April.
The sun was setting then, and the offices where you pay your fees had long closed, (because why would they be open at the same time as the offices that go through your paperwork?) so we left and spent the trip home marvelling that the receipt from the bank had worked, and that I would be covered until April.

Today I went back by myself to pay the fees. I only got a little bit lost on the way there. I got lost inside teh building, but as ı was spinning around looking for someone to ask, not quite panicking yet but close, there appeared my Irish Thug walking down the hall with a mug of tea, looking far less happy to see me than I was to see him.
He poınted out the counter where I was to pay, and when I was done I found him again, he stamped everything and gave me an appointment to come back to pick up my booklet.

All in all I thought that would be a lot harder.

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