Meeting new people comes pretty easily for me. I will talk to anyone. I have held conversations with homeless people on the streets of Philadelphia. I have started conversations about my wedding plans with lawyers in the midst of multi-million dollar settlement talks. I have spent time playing pool with bikers in dark seedy bars. I even started a conversation with Walter Cronkite in a Washington DC elevator once. I can talk to anyone. I make friends easily with all walks of life.
As you all know, I still haven’t learned Turkish. My classes are scheduled for August. In the meantime, I have been spending my days writing this blog, playing house, and learning my neighborhood. The blog has become a good thing. I once walked into a gathering of Turks and Americans and within two minutes, a woman approached me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Terry? The woman who writes the blog?” What an awesome feeling! I felt a bit like a celebrity. I immediately whipped out my camera and started shooting pics of everyone.
The blog also connected me with my new BFF, an American teaching in Turkey and engaged to a Turk. She has introduced me to “things I need to know” that my Turkish husband would never have thought about teaching me. She knows where to buy English language books (D&R), where to get a good cup of American-style coffee – that isn’t Starbucks (on Tunali), where to get bagels (in GOP), what cheese to substitute for cream cheese (labna), where and when to get a great price on excellent Chinese and sushi buffet (at “Quick China”), and where to get a good waxing (in Kavaklidere).
There’s also a few new acquaintances that I chat with from time to time. There is the couple who live behind us. The husband pops out to the balcony in the mornings about the same time I do. He waves and says hello. With a few words of broken English, he has told me that his son lived in the States. His wife offers a big warm greeting when she sees me in the halls. It’s really great. We know just enough of each other’s language to be friendly, but not enough to be nosey.
My husband introduced me to the man next door. Apparently he had spent some time living in Germany. A couple of evenings ago, we ran into him on the street. He greeted my husband, “iyi akşamlar” and then practiced his German on me, “guten Abend.” Now I know if I am ever in desperate situation, I have options. My German is much better than my Turkish!
This week, I finally made friends with some Turks. A couple of day ago, I went to the muhtar, an elected civil servant for each village or neighborhood in larger cities, whose duties include registering the residents of the neighborhood and providing official copies of birth certificates and ID cards etc. In our case, the muhtar of Aşağı Ayrancı completes these duties from his own private business, a corner liquor store. (Smile).
I followed the lead of my new BFF, who is trying to do everything herself without the assistance of her Turkish fiance. (Congrats to her on calling technical assistance and speaking completely in Turkish!) I went to the muhtar unaccompanied, attempting to register myself. He understood what I needed, but we ran into some language diffiulties when he tried to explain that I was missing yet another official piece of paper. He asked the ladies sitting in front of the pastry shop next door to help translate.
These ladies quickly became my new friends. One ran the pastry shop (pastane) and the other was a lawyer (avukat). In the gracious style of all Turks, they sat me down, asked me a few questions, and served me tea and pastries. About two hours later, I had smoked a few cigarettes, drank a few glasses of tea, and met many of my neighbors. I was having a blast.
The next day, I went to the kuaför for a quick trim and a blow dry. (25 TL, less than $17). On this second visit, I engaged my hair stylist in a bit of conversation. It didn’t go far, but I was enjoying it. On my way home, I stopped for a quick bite to eat at the local pide locanta (a restaurant that serves pide, kabobs, and so on). I ordered lamacun and sparkling water. Lamacun is a Turkish specialty, a paper- thin bread baked in something like a brick oven, topped with finely ground beef and spicy tomato sauce. It was served with a side salad and the total cost was about 5TL, or $3.50.
But I digress . . .
On the walk back to the apartment, I passed by the pastry shop again. Sitting at the same sidewalk table were the two women I had met the day before. I sat down and enjoyed a tea with them. Long story, short: five hours later I had drank about 4 glasses of tea, (thank goodness they are tiny), one espresso-sized cup Turkish coffee, eaten some cookies, smoked one too many cigarettes, and learned quite a bit of Turkish. The shop owner insisted we teach each other Turkish and English. We even had a notebook and a map!
The best part of this second day was that I now know many neighbors! There is the lady who talks a bit too loudly while tending to her young twins. The older lady who dresses like she belongs in Las Vegas. Sadly, it’s the one place she didn’t visit on her many trips to the States. The other bakery worker who knows quite a bit of English. And one who lost not one but two sons in a tragic motorcycle accident. There are two older gentlemen who are happy to lend a hand should I need them. And one younger man who refuses to speak English with me because as he puts it, “I am learning Turkish!” Finally, there was the lady who repeated things several times, in Turkish, until she made me understand! She also invited me for dinner that very night!
Aşağı Ayrancı is an awesome place to live! And soooooo friendly! I think I have some free time on my hands this afternoon. If you need me, “hit my cell” or even better, stop by the pastane for a glass of tea!!