Friday, 9 April 2010

lokma meets gecko meets kgb kontakts

april is the cruellest t.s.eliot put it...
but -
it is sunny and windy every day and every day the sea is flawlessly beautiful...
and i must say i feel great.
especially after a good run or an even better swim.

i know it kind of sounds like my priorities in life are comparable to the ones of a gecko.
but that might be actually a very good thing.

i admit it.
i use daily contact lenses.
every day.
that did not seem too much of a crime before coming to turkey.
but now...
oh boy... you would NOT believe the perils i have to go through to actually purchase my lenses.

every time i get told by the optician i need to book them in advance; then he always asks me bizarre questions.
every single time...he looks at me with worried eyes as i list the brand name and the power i need.
then -he always (ALWAYS) picks up his mobile and has a long, veeeery long and animated conversation with some person (far away seemingly. underground perhaps. living in a cave, i may assume - by the air of secrecy and conspiracy this implies) that needs him to repeat the infos about 28 times. this person on the other end of the line also seems in desperate need of explanations like: " is for a foreigner. yes. a lady. yes. no, not american. italian. but teaches english. lives round here. yes. has a baby. very cute baby. yes. teacher. no, husband not with nato".
all of this while i am standing with a face that is half imploring and half wondering what the heck can be wrong this time.

being well aware of this i dropped by the optician three days ago.
oddly, he precisely told me to come and fetch my lenses today, at 5 pm.
and so i did.
the optician looks like one of the guys from metallica (the one with the longer beard) and seems constantly in a good mood.
he is however nosey - like all people here - and appears to be more interested in my own business than in selling his products.
as usual our conversation today was as follows:
"hey, hi, how are you today? i came as you lenses". i started, already feeling ill at ease.
"lenses? but how come you are buying them again? you have already finished the others?" he replied, looking very concerned.
(jesus - why does he care? ... a voice said inside my head. why?)
so i confirmed that, indeed - i really needed the stuff. the pair i had on was my last one.
he responded in a bit of a belligerant tone...:
"yeah... but why tomorrow you don't wear glasses?????
i saw you two days ago. with frames. black frames. you look good. don't use lenses - use glasses".
i tried to say "i know...but i would like to get my lenses...anyway...if that is possible" and realised i was sounding like a heroine addict with severe withdrawal symptoms...
and then the best part came.
he explained the lenses were out of stock.
nowhere in the whole city i would find them.
(izmir, population: 4 million people, not exactly a village on some remote mountain)
nowhere, he repeated five times.
somebody was taking them for me (!!!) from istanbul, he added - lowering his voice, as if it was some kind of fbi detail.
(yeah. right. travelling on a donkey perhaps - the little voice inside my head commented...) he must have read my mind - because he gave me a big smile and then concluded, with the most fatherly of voices.
"i told you...
wear your glasses young lady"

have yet to figure out how i manage every month to spend 70% of my salary on frocks and dresses.
cant figure it out but do not intend to stop either.


have yet to figure out how locals manage to spend days on end sitting down for a chat sipping tea while chain smoking.
what surprises me the most is that you see this type of thing at every corner, in cafes, outside of shops, outside of schools, at the bus stop, at the taxi stand and even around chemists.
chemists are actually perhaps THE most poular venues for catching up. they put around the prescription counter two or three lines of chairs and people sit there for hours.

have yet to figure out if there is ANY expat life in town at all.
i was told the ecko pub / bar is THE place to go if you want to get together with other foreigners...
but if the place (two blocks from our home) looks seedy and sad during the day - it does even more so after dawn, with crowds of men only drinking beer with faces reminding you of some movie on vietnam vets.
not too promising, i guess.

tomorrow (saturday) i teach italian in the evening.
my italian students are an interesting bunch.
and the reasons why they joined the course are even more interesting.
for instance...
one of them is an opera singer who, after graduating from the conservatory here and finding no paying job now plays the guitar in a band ("we do weddings and salsa clubs") -
he studies hard and makes the most naive questions. whenever i see him his main worry is to buy me an espresso. if i decline he gives me a lost look under his mop of unruly, curly hair and says "...but you HAVE to!"

then there is a girl who wants to learn italian to write postings in italian on facebook.
which is rather wacky.
but she is always attending with amazing dedication.
she also knows by heart all the lyrics by tiziano ferro - a dreadful singer who well rivals eros ramazzotti over here in terms of sloshiness and predictability of his songs.

then there is an engineering student from the black sea. a goodlooking, quiet boy who wears a constant smile and seems half asleep all the time.
he explained that he wants to learn italian because he wants to be (brace yourself):
"like an italian man... sleek, charming, cool".
and - cherry on the already "peculiar" pie -
"i want to speak italian because my greatest dream is to work with FIAT".

which made the facebook motivation seem totally legitimate and appropriate.

when someone dies in turkey - families organise a stand in the street and call a catering team to fry on the spot hundreds of doughnuts that are distibuted for free to the people passing.
long queues wait to receive the sweet treat - a traditional way to share with the community about the loss, while asking god to look after everyone (i am told).

apart from living close to the dingy ecko pub - we live cose to the neighbourhood hospital.
and every day - outside of the hospital there are dozens of people lining up for their lokma plate...
as i zigzag through the crowd waiting for their doughnuts under a big sign with the name (or names) of the dead - i always see my optician standing on the door of his shop with his long, greying hair tied back and that usual smile.
"how are you?" he calls out.
"i am great - how are you?" i shoot back.
"i am great too" he says with his constantly amused voice.
and then i pass the baker with the monobrow.
"how are youuuuu?" he shouts.
"i am great - how are youuuuu?" is my reply.
"i am great toooooo" he says.
and then i walk past the guy who sold me one umbrella four months ago;
and then there is the man selling towels;
and then, before the crossroad, a guy looking like a siamese cat - pressing oranges in his bar;
then there are three men who get money to guard cars parked illegally around a building site;
then the whole lot of taxi drivers having tea around their station;
then there is the chemist who smokes inside her shop...
and i could go on forever.
"how are you - i am greaaaaaat - how are youuuuuu - i am great tooooooo"

truth is...
it's ok. i can say that all day.
besides priorities.
gecko has prerogatives too.
((but i will avoid the lokma queue for now...))

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