i will never be a fan of turkish pop, i am afraid. to me it all sounds the same. and the music videos? oh well, if the singer is a guy - the scene is always the same. his beardy, manly face appears in between two women (both with super long hair, both dressed up to the nines) fiercely fighting to get him. he turns his face to the left, he turns his face to the right...with the pained expression of somebody experiencing extreme sea sickness. and somehow never manages to make up his mind.
it seems that the only up to date (and actually nice) international music is played in the "all american" outlets like gap, starbucks or burger king. i was recently almost moved to tears when i overheard "watching the wheels" by john lennon coming from one store. however -- starbucks did fail me yesterday. "frosty the snowman" - was the poor (seasonal!) musical choice...and (in line with the despair xmas prompts me) i could not help but cringe and duck my head down.
some of my students quotes kind of stick with me. two from last week are:
1. (one guy in one essay): "i think that the women who work are only those who lack self esteem. only women who do not have enough self esteem NEED to work. i also think that women, if they work...they should only decide to do USEFUL jobs. like doctor or teacher".
2. "my teacher, sometimes i feel I LOVE YOU ALL OF A SUDDEN..." a girl in one of my weekend classes said, enthusiastically.
so i kind of try to reply... "...right, i might get embaressed here..."
and she concluded "you should not. nothing to worry. i say that because i am young, you know".
went for a job interview today. on the way in...as i was asked to present a document - i unzipped my bag and started rummaging for my passport. nearly had a heart attack as, digging deep with my hand i discovered... a loaded SPIDERMAN GUN, complete with two bullets and a swirling trigger.
can i get more professional than that?
on my way out of the house - our landlady decided to play mrs. Wisdom and proffered the following immortal statement "good luck. but please remember that you have kids. so it is either kids or career. cant have them both". that somehow cracked me up "nothing to worry" i reassured her " i have never had a career for starters!" -
reaching the private university where the interview was taking place was a 45 minutes affair. on the bus. on a windy, cold, cloudy day. the bus was packed with people and it slowly skirted the entire gulf - elbowing its long red body through traffic.
it was the first time i ventured onto a bus after two years here and i would sum the experience up as "something lacking any form of compromise".
in terms of olfactory, visual and anthropological inputs.
in terms of...
colourful headscarves; huge bosoms; walrus bismarckian moustaches stained by decades of tobacco; bushy ears; monobrows; hungry eyes; high school uniforms.
there was an infant in the seat by one of the doors and i could not help thinking he looked uncannily like roman polanski.
trying to keep myself occupied with less cruel mental extravaganzas - i focused on the sea outside...a limitless sequence of grey waves.
and i felt mellow (happily so) - telling myself that the sea on cold, winter-like days is so beautiful...unfolding in its untamed darkness and irregular, sudden creases.
and that interviews are easy, too easy really - especially when deep down. in truth. you never care. really care i mean.
had i been jim morrison - i would have written some pretentious lyrics to render this state of mind. perhaps with teenage-like intensity. perhaps something cornily pretentious. perhaps:
it was a hazy, rainy day and as the tv sent us images of breathtaking views of the endless vastitude of housing blocks and roads; monumental palaces, bridges and traffic A.K.A. istanbul - an overexcited commentator was trying to interrupt participants doing their routine warming up, minutes before the start. a while before he had been praising the essence of the sporting event as "east embracing west -- europe reaching out to asia and vice versa" and he was now trying to ask elaborate questions. in english.
it will never cease to surprise me. the duly sense of heroicism turkish people attach to certain events. whenever they talk about their family, country, history - they never produce anything short of epic. try to smile and you will cause major offence. they are proud to speak up about their patriotism and express child-like disappointment if they are confronted with any kind of criticism (let alone critical approach) to one's own land / family / background of origin.
so the journalist approached a black, skinny man in red shorts - one of those marathon runners from northern africa you always expect to make it in the first 10 - and asked him in the loudest voice he had.
HOW DO YOU... FEEL? NOW?
NOW THAT. YOU FEEL? WHAT DO YOU FEEL HERE?
ABOUT... THIS.. CON-NEC-TIOoooOOON OF ASIA AND EUROPE?"
The poor runner kept on smiling, shaking his head - half in terror, half in embarassment
"i do not understand" he replied in french
"i do not understand!".
and this is generally the type of situation that encourages a turkish interlocutor to repeat the question twice - screaming even louder. which, punctually happened. prompting the main images on the screen to quickly go back to the bosphorous draped in grey, low clouds.
i will never get the way people here use the verb "to love". they overdose on it. really. how nice many might say. not really, i shall remark. especially when you hear it at work.
imagine starting a meeting with your manager / principal - sitting down, expecting to talk about schedule issues and hearing first instead.
"you know we love you very much.
we love you. i love you. very much. very much".
imagine wiping off a whiteboard and turning to the sound of "teacher. we love you" - uttered in the sternest voice. and with the sternest face. point blank.
imagine being delivered your coffee - accompanied by the sentence
"if you EVER leave. remember we love you. we love you soooo much. we love you. and we love your children. really" -- and always with the same, very resolute --- kind of homicidally serious face.
and you nod and mutter "thank you". and look up. look away. look somewhere else. like. to the side. like. behind them. behind all of these "i love you's". only to meet the most heroic faces of all. the constantly present portrayt of the Man himself: i.e. ataturk... looking at you surrounded by some god-like halo, his lips tight under a thick moustache.
and this vision - somehow - always manages to conjure the feeling that everything does make much sense. even the overdose on the L-word.
i am sometimes puzzled at the peculiar and peculiarly evolving situation of women in turkey. and while there is a reknown (absolute) gap between the condition of women in the west and the east...in general terms - the perception of women in turkish society and the way younger generations of women here are changing their awareness and mentality is something unusual for any european observer. the way i see the broader picture here - in terms of equal opportunities is a mix of signals blending a huge variety of scenarios: still unglobalised patterns, sometimes surprisingly modern trends, sometimes surprisingly clueless attitudes, sometimes odd habits, sometimes plain naive opinions, with young women expressing at times unrealistic expectations about life and relationships.
in this sense - i found enlightening the documentary "we want roses too" (vogliamo anche le rose) - by italian director alina marazzi. the movie gives a very interesting portrayt of what women experienced in italy (through the sixties and seventies) to get their "emancipation" - and while considering myself no feminist...i could not help but smile. turkey in fact reminds me so much of italy at times. a certain sexism is innate in both countries - not to mention the laughable macho / bravado culture that is typical of both turkish and italian men - despite the latter ones prefering to think of themselves as trendy and wordly.
on youtube - these are the links to watch "we want roses too" with english subtitles.