caught a glimpse of my son's "drama class" at his kindergarden yesterday. at school they have one weekly "art class" with a very patient, elderly lady and a little acting activity every wednesday - with a younger, incredibly energetic teacher. i loved watching my boy miming and moving along to the directions given - it did make me smile. whenever i think about things i wish for my little one' s future - i seem always to focus on sports, free time and outdoors. somehow i always seem to hope he will make good, happy use of his own "real" time - with a real passion for it. i hardly ever worry about things like his education - perhaps as that was the main focus given to my upbringing. while deep down i truly hated school and had major attention deficit bouts... come to think of it...at the end of the day i never seemed to get the point of discipline altogether - something i only seem to associate (even now) to exercising or keeping a healthy fitness routine.
as to drama - i do not think i have much talent for it, but i have always loved it. there is a quality to acting that brings together empathy, psychology and creativity and the few times i have seen somebody truly gifted on stage i was swept off my feet to say the least. what power, what intensity there can be in a certain tone of voice, a sequence of facial expressions, a change of posture, a different outfit. plus - some of the literature written for the stage is absolutely stunning - with every single scene creating the perfect balance between short story and poetry.
it is however funny how some feelings stick with you for a long time... as i was watching the mini-thespians yesterday, i noticed that in the little gym next door a group of girls were doing some ballet routine, all dressed up in pink and fluffy tutu skirts. i cannot help it -- but whenever i see a ballet class i get overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and sadness. to me - it just looks unbearably depressing. i have heard it described as "very feminine" and "elegant" and "sweet", but maybe because of some indelible childhood trauma... i always cringe whenever i think of it. interestingly, and also because of the recent oscar nominations' frenzy -- there has been quite a bit of debate around ballet, mainly in connection with darren aronofsky's ballet-based drama "black swan"...have been reading "the daily telegraph" for the past couple of weeks and a number of articles claim the movie is yet another "unrealistic" portrayt of ballet, setting back its public's perception 50 years. one article even analysed what ambitions ballet triggers in pushy parents.
"...As the Natalie Portman ballet film Black Swan opens this week, controversially lifting the veil on the dark underbelly of an art form premised on seemingly effortless perfection, ballet mothers come off rather badly. Portman’s unhealthy relationship with her infantilising, over-controlling parent, is a crucial component of her mental fragility. It makes for a melodramatic storyline, but is it a fair reflection of the mothers whose self-sacrifice and tenacity is instrumental in propelling their daughters to the peak of their profession?..."
i read on with interest (by the way, the daily telegraph has probably one of the best and more entertaining online lifestyle and culture sections - with topics ranging from family to travels, fashion and expat life...) and, sure, parental expectations have deeper and more complex roots and you cannot stigmatise things like ballet only... but somehow... it does look like some kind of allergy i must have. the allergy to be kept en pointe...i figure!
got hold of about a hundred vintage pictures (dating from 1880 to approx 1950) of izmir. i had seen images of the old city before and always found them amazingly fascinating. the bunch i managed to gather speaks of places like: the german post office, the french hospital, the hunting club, the sporting club, the greek neighbourhood, the cafe' de paris, the grand hotel kraemer, the bank of greece, the stock exchange, the american embassy, the british hospital, ... displaying images of incredible grandeur and outstanding architecture. no wonder they used to call it "the pearl of the aegean"!
i love to see images of this kind - showing you how places used to be in the past. however, i must admit that in the case of izmir i also find it rather disheartening... just because... if you look at the city today... where is any trace of its old splendor? today's urban landscape is ugly to say the least - with neither care nor bother to actually save and protect whatever is left of beautiful buildings and monuments. i remember experiencing the same frustrating feeling when i visited the history museum in macau. my jaw dropped in discovering that, under portugal, macau had been the prettiest place... a sort of asian lisbon - whereas today...macau is one of the ugliest, messiest and appaling cities one could ever visit; a kind of bad taste replica of the seediest side of las vegas.
both in the case of izmir and in the (more extreme) case of macau -- at times i think it may be fitting to say some places are often forcibly transformed in non-places... easy to trace on a map, but deprived of their personality and beauty.
(i) spent the morning swimming. the pool i usually go to is a stunning indoor facility with one side overlooking (through an amazing ceiling window) a perfectly kept park. what i love about swimming is that it puts me in the most peaceful place and kind of seems to make me think very straight. some years ago i considered swimming exhausting and tedious -- and somehow lonely too... i just feel the opposite way now and could not live without it. the best about this pool i go to now is that it is hardly ever crowded. the only people who take an interest in swimming, it seems, are a group of elderly ladies - who are too sweet and funny for words. they are all enrolled in these bizarre "aqua gym" classes - taking place every thursday afternoon. about a dozen of these ladies join in, looking like proud, oversized testudines ready for a migration across the ocean. guided by this over enthusiastic pint-seized girl who jumps around for an hour or so, they keep going like a pack of cheerleaders training for the super bowl. from the back of the pool, where i keep to myself... it always looks like a crazy routine...with a dozen of puffy, old-fashioned swimming bonnets bobbing around the water to the rythm of music pumping in the air. and when i say music...well, no chopin or new agey calming tunes... i mean stuff like lady gaga and black eyed peas... which is comedy, to say the least.
(ii) the weather has been very rainy and wet for the past three days...with darker afternoons. perhaps because of this i have been busier in the kitchen - especially baking. i love the way the house smells when there is something roasting or baking in the oven. i have been learning a couple of new "turkish tricks" by eating out in some traditional eateries in town and always try to replicate at home the incredible way turkish recipes make use of any herb, veggie, leftover or simple ingredient. have grown especially fond of Mücver...that is to say a kind of zucchini fritters with a signature, unbelievable aftertaste of mint.
they are easily made mixing together the flesh of some zucchini + parsley, dill, onions, mint and some flour combined with feta cheese.
heading downtown for some errands now. tried to do this yesterday - but a sudden shower got me stuck in a cafe for half an hour or so. ordered some tea to kill time and realised the delay, the change of plan did not bother me in the slightest. i kind of smiled as - one year or so ago - a mishap of the same (innocent) kind would have looked like a bit of a bummer, if not a spoiler. after one year in turkey something has changed in that sense. i have somehow learnt how to wait without minding much about delays, inconveniences, malfunctions, setbacks, frustrating cohincidences, hindering circumstances... as someone brought up and kind of "trained" (/educated) to "do" and function and act promptly, independently... i now sense i am less prone to feel discouraged or annoyed if something "gets in the way". perhaps since a place like turkey teaches you nothing can be expected and nothing can be demanded as your own, innate right. i am no believer in destiny and will always be far from the very turkish talent of always adding a touch of slacky fatalism to things... however i must confess that waiting without fretting about it is a good quality, especially if you have a small something on the side...like a cup of tea...that you actually truly, intimately enjoy and relish as precious.
am not getting much sleep these days. a friend, working as a naturopathist - explained with dead certain eyes that in the final weeks of pregnancy your body tries to "train" you for the major sleep deprivation of the early stages of living with a newborn. i nodded on as she was saying this -- trying to figure out whether it did make any sense at all. "we are not aware of it" she added, very solemnly "but nature is much stronger than we are... do you know that, in case of natural labour, the time of your baby's birth will actually be about the same as the time he or she was actually conceived?" ... - right...- i kind of mumbled, looking a bit confused - that's a very fascinating theory. i guess... - with my eyes kind of dropping somewhere else. checking my hardly manicured hands in fact. with naturopathy suddenly giving way to other immortal reflections...
"blast. i am 32. i should really quit biting my nails".
anyway, wacky theories aside. these days my motto seems to be like that quote from r.e.m. ... "i do not sleep, i dream" - with every night becoming busier and more entertaining than the previous one.
"what do you dream about?" was one of my favourite conversation starters with my students - and, had i now to answer something like that i would list (taking inspiration just from the past two nights):
1. we got relocated to asmara, erithrea - where, for some extremely impractical reason my mother decided to join us to look for a house;
2. a friend from naples tried to involve me in a rather dodgy online betting and poker business. quite rightly...i did look very worried all throughout the dream;
3. i was on holiday in my favourite bay here in turkey, walking under the sun towards the pebble beach - when, to my shock - i realised i was not pregnant anymore. i had a bikini on, a lovely tan and a flat tummy. "fuck. i am not pregnant anymore!" i heard myself saying in disbelief - which may not be very lady-like...but is kind of credible, me being me...
4. i had to walk around town with a white rabbit under my arm. i had no clue about the purpose of the chore. he was quite chubby too!
find it intriguing to compare turkish and non-turkish responses to the fact my second child will be a girl. european / italian / western friends all come up with comments like: "girls are one step ahead!" or "even when they are very little - they are so much smarter than boys!" or "girls are terrible! they get their way whenever they want" or "you will see how crafty and cheeky they are...they always get their way" or "they have a special gear girls, they do...boys are simple in comparison" --
which...if you notice...are all references to how (seemingly) girls are now portrayed as cunning, high-flying, manipulative and merciless little machines.
a family friend (mother to one teenage boy and one 10 year old girl) - phrased it even more bluntly "from the very start - you will realise girls are total bitches compared to boys" which i found a bit sad...really.
her remark kind of made me think it might be all down to mothers...at the end of the day. meaning, perhaps it is mothers who hope their female offsprings will show early signs of competitiveness, ambition, ruthlessness and (ok, there you go) bitchiness.
strange - if you ask me. since i am perhaps one of the few women left who actually admire men and believe some men have exceptional, outstanding qualities... i believe gender does not implicate any innate superiority or better temper -- and maybe there are other qualities to girls / women...like kindness, gentleness, elegance - that have been long lost in some odd race forcing females to elbow their way through things. with the "winning type" identified in the pack who shows off more heartlessness (a.k.a. - bitchiness). much to their mums' smugness.
tellingly - in turkey the common reaction to the news of the arrival of a baby girl is summed up in sentences like: "girls are so cuuuute!" or, more frequently "so nice. as a mum you will get to dress her like a doll. so much fun!".
sure - this kind of feedback is naive stock - and does say a lot about how "passive" and "barbie-like" women are still perceived (and kept) over here...
but i kind of find the first (westernised) reaction a tad worse than this one -- which, sure, does not stand out as deep. but sounds less scary, at least to me.
having said that - the genuine, almost juvenile enthusiasm surrounding "baby girls / dolls" over here still provides no alibi for the horrific turkish mania for unbelievable frou frou pink (pink pink pink pink pink pink pink pink pink PINK PINK PINK) outfits forced upon innocent newborn girls...
found out today that one of my favourite poets, henrik nordbrandt - actually lives in turkey. call me childish...but this piece of news somehow managed to make me happy. and while i fantasise about bumping into my danish guru... here are some of his verses...
THE WHITE VASE The summer has still not gone and you are still not gone and I am still not gone. And the door is closed and the afternoon sun warms the window-panes and the shadows of the birch-trees darken the dust on the black table with the white vase. And the dust just lies there.
SLEEPING AROUND I love to sleep around in foreign rooms with foreign women and hear the rain on the roof and hear the banana plant scraping against the gutter and hear the water pipes gurgle and a radio switch on in the room next door.
I love to hear a woman break out in moans in a foreign language.
I love foreignness: the one room more foreign than the other the one woman more foreign than the other the tiger’s roar in the yard under the moon.
I love when I am in love with a certain one
and I hear all of these sounds
alone in the dark
THE OCEAN When I return to the ocean it will be without me.
i always walk around town listening to my ipod. three months ago, a friend bought me the latest shuffle model, a genius solution that comes in the tiniest size – main drawback is, however…it constantly plays in shuffle mode (no surprises, given the name…) something that sometimes makes you feel you have hardly any control over the choice of music you are listening too. i thought about this as i was crossing a dodgy part of town today.
a mere ten minutes walk from the centre, and right behind the hilton hotel and the rather civilised neighbourhood surrounding the “Fuar” (trade fair) and the Kultur Park – you find yourself in what looks like a corner of El Cairo, minus the desert sand in the air. my students are not fond of the area and they say only “apaches” (a slang term to indicate kurds) can live there. and while i am not as squeamish (nor racist) – today i was kind of taken aback in noticing how dirty the streets were; what kind of humanity peeps unfriendly through the shops’ windows, behind the wheels of beaten up cars…with small kids sitting on the sidewalks and trash, dust, noise sort of building up in volume and chaos everywhere.
all of a sudden i looked like an unusual, unidentified and out of place passer by - landed by accident in some corner of a town looking like a random cross between karachi and minsk after a major street riot. at times i have the feeling that today’s turkey is an unpredictable hotchpotch of arabic fierceness and balkan unruliness – but i would never dare to say this aloud. locals here seem to dread to be compared to arab people…they see it as the ultimate form of insult, for whatever reason.
anyway…the main funny thing today was that…as i was zig-zagging between trash, beggars, street vendors, scooters zooming past on the sidewalk, cars parked everywhere, decrepit shoeshine men, women dressed in traditional dresses and headscarves and older men wearing anatolian hats…I realised with a certain puzzlement that my ipod was cheerfully playing joe dassin’s “aux champs elysees”…
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées
... yeah, right - i thought, only (very) partly amused.
(ii) as i was trying to wake up under the shower, this morning - i was surprised to find my little boy knocking on the shower door, the house's cordless phone in his hand. trying quickly to get the water out of my eyes and some (at least some) soap away from my neck...i distinctively heard my mother's voice chanting "sweetie, it is na-naaaa here!!" - to which, with a markedly unimpressed face, he passed me the phone. - mum, it's me - i said. "are you at the hospital then?" she asked, with the voice of someone who has just survived an asthma attack. - mum, you have just called my fixed line. at home. - i said. "so - you are not at the hospital then?" she insisted. - no. i am in the shower right now. no hospital - "but...i called your mobile and there was no answer...ha, i was so sure they had admitted you" - i am in the shower - i heard my voice repeating, and there was something slightly painful in it. "speaking about your mobile" my mother continued " i was actually wondering whether you have memorised the emergency number to call an ambulance to fetch you...just in case". - an ambulance? what for? "for emergency". - mum - i tried to cut the conversation short - i am not sure if you realise that in this country...if i call an ambulance...the odds are i will never ever see one showing up...if not three months late, if not at the wrong address...always hoping the driver does not decide he would rather have some tea before checking what the matter is.
but i do not think she listened much. especially to the truest bit... the tea part -
.............Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées!!!!!!!!!!!!
(iii) dropped my boy at kindergarden this morning. as we entered the school's gate - i was greeted by another mum pushing her three year old child (k.) in a pram. k. looked like someone just taken forcibly out of bed and sported massive black bags under his eyes. "he loves his sleep" his mother remarked beaming "he would stay in bed till 11 am every single day" - wow, lucky you - i reassured her - i wish i could say the same. ours...he is in bed at 8.30 pm and wakes up in between 7.30 and 8am. "you see...you are the lucky one then" she concluded with a smile "he never goes to bed before 2am".
2 AM! blast... i pictured myself having to endure bizarre routines involving my little one roaming the house till 2 AM and had to pause for breath. however - this is another funny thing about families here. children are happily kept up till late, with late meaning midnight, 1 or 2 am. they escort their parents on every outing to restaurants, parties and family gatherings - and even when they stay home they are sent to bed at unbelievable hours. the 2am story made me think of peter hedges - who once wrote:
"children fall asleep so you can love them again"
but...at the end of the day...
"Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées" in karachi, minsk, the "apache" part of town...or at the hospital (under the shower) - regardless...
watched "i am love" last night - a movie by luca guadagnino starring tilda swinton. i cannot say i liked the movie 100%... especially as in its second half it seems to spiral out of control, but some details about it are simply outstanding.
the film tells the story of a rich milanese family, the recchi's - and starts off by showing their extremely privileged life. it does so mainly by capturing in all its splendor their amazing villa, its interiors, its solemn architecture, its gardens, its impeccable bathrooms and stairs, its very dedicated maids and waiters, a certain aura of austerity that is palpable even in the light entering through the windows. there is nothing in the interiors that leaves room for disappointment - all the colours, pieces of furniture, frames, carpets, dinner plates seem to match and project this flawless picture of aesthetic perfection. the same can be said of the actual clothes and accessories worn by the statuary members of the recchi's family - who both in posture, style and physique seem the ultimate definition of aristocratic elegance.
the main core of all this careful, painstaking work of visual and aesthetic symphony is the family's mother, mrs. emma recchi - played by tilda swinton. she is the main focus of the story and she will eventually also become the epicentre of the entire crumbling crisis that will engulf everything and everyone, down in a spiral of unchecked tragedy.
i love tilda swinton and find her mesmerising. in this movie even more so. rarely i have seen such poise and elegance in one single character - and i believe there would be no movie at all without her, her elfin looks, her sashaying around in unbelievably stunning dresses. there is something utterly cold and hardly human in her features, her skin, the lean silhouette of her ethereal, long body...and yet every single gesture she makes conveys so much meaning and in such a powerful way - a bit like a work of art when you admire it in a dimly lit art gallery. mesmerising.
so, i guess the movie is worth watching just because of her! yet - having said that... i will also add this is the very first time i see milan (especially in the opening, with all the snow) under a different light...
milan is usually a city that on screen can appear even more soul-less than what it already is in reality. however - in the images carefully created by guadagnino you can discover a touch of magic to the city that is rather unprecedented.
finally, there is also a very strong and erotically obsessive twist to the story - which gets out of control and drags everything into disaster. must admit that, however, even if sex is not missing (euphemism) -- the most sensuous image of emma recchi finding pleasure is seen in a restaurant (food is a major element - from both a visual and narrative point of view) where she is having lunch and slowly savouring every morsel of a... shrimp. the utter, delirious joy she does this with is somehow too sexy for words - and a telling prelude of how her character will in the end lose herself in her absolute Love for life.
i should walk around town with a bodyguard in tow. evey day, i lose count of the people that approach me to bless me. they come close - point at my pregnant tummy and throw their arms up in the air / hug me / wish me luck / ask questions / invoke god's name in all fashions and loud voices. today, as i was paying my groceries, a very eager woman clutching her purse came right under my nose to whisper: "i wish your baby plenty of health. take good care of yourself" and then left. usually what i hear is: "may god bless you" or "may god bless you forty-one times" or even "may god look upon you". and whoever says this then (a tad scary...) tries to hug me, rub my stomach or at least hold my hand / arm. i have kind of gotten used to it -- yet the pathos that goes with this constant chanting (a lot of people literally scream + all of them turn their eyes to the sky + some clap their hands in a whim) is always a bit bizarre. my turkish friend s. wisely suggested "look, they bless you and all - but remember how people here are plain jealous and so, so superstitious...hence - just remember to scratch your butt whenever somebody pays you a compliment like that. since, deep down - they just feel envy. scratch your butt and you will keep bad luck at bay!" which may sound just wacky to you - but NOT to me, especially after living here for one year and actually having some real awareness of what a labyrinth the average turkish mind can be.
so... i just seem to be suddenly fond of patting my rear non-stop these days!
another funny thing about all this unrequested attention about my pregnancy is listening to the questions people (mainly women) ask. if they belong to the 15 - 35 years old age group they ask about how many kilos i have gained, whereas if they are any age from 35 to 105 they seem keen to ask "will you have a c section or a natural birth??" - because, they are quick to add, a caesarean is an evil beast and leaves you feeling horrid afterwards. right, you tell them - thank you, thank you sooooo much... and try to move on / walk away with a smile...
(hardly ever succeeding, btw)...
one thing that used to have me in despair when we first got here - is that usually turkish products carry labels in one language only: turkish. one year later - i actually find a secret, amused pleasure in reading the very few packages of the very few products that carry explanations in english. there is a certain fussy pompousness to turkish rhetoric that surely must be very difficult to render in english... and some attempts i read here and there are clear, intriguing examples of this. also, turkish companies - no matter what they manifacture - they seem to have an absolute fetish for "prizes" and "medals" and "quality awards" voted by obscure, unknown and remote panels in some foreign country.
take my favourite local cologne, for instance. the first bit i love about its orange box is a very grave addition, next to the main label... a round logo informing: "1981 GOLD MEDAL AWARDED BY MONDE SELECTION, BRUXELLES" which, since (i figure) they have kept there for the past twenty years (!) should be taken as some kind of distinction. below such prestigious mark - one can read the following text ((sic! - spelling, grammar and all)):
-- the story of REBUL lavander -- the rebul lavander is a classical and traditional cologne. lavander is an original mediterrenian flower. its relaxing and strong fragrance has been very appreciated by many generations. each year the lavander flowers are collected from the southern region of france (grasse) before sunrise and is transported to the extraction plant where we recieve the very pure lavander perfume oil. the perfume oil is brought to our cologne manufacturing factory and treated under modern and aseptic conditions for such a wonderful result, which we believe will continue its popularity for future generations.
and then - another instance i always enjoy to read - there is the label for a delicious white grape juice... one that states, with a touch of unexpected poetry:
produced by pressing with skin and seeds, not from concentrate. haze is natural in time. contains no preservative. contains natural fruit sugar only.
HAZE IS NATURAL IN TIME - call me childish...but i just love this one.
(...) When one looks at Coleridge's very different conception of a "pleasure dome", one sees that it revolves partly round gardens and partly round caverns, rivers, forests and mountains with "deep romantic chasms"-in short, round what is called Nature. But the whole notion of admiring Nature, and feeling a sort of religious awe in the presence of glaciers, deserts or waterfalls, is bound up with the sense of man's littleness and weakness against the power of the universe. The moon is beautiful partly because we cannot reach it, (like sea is impressive because one can never be sure of crossing it safely). Even the pleasure one takes in a flower-and this is true even of a botanist who knows all there is to be known about the floweris dependent partly on the sense of mystery. But meanwhile man's power over Nature is steadily increasing. With the aid of the atomic bomb we could literally move mountains: we could even, so it is said, alter the climate of the earth by melting the polar ice-caps and irrigating the Sahara. Isn't there, therefore, something sentimental and obscurantist in preferring bird-song to swing music and in wanting to leave a few patches of wildness here and there instead of covering the whole surface of the earth with a network of Autobahnen flooded by artificial sunlight?
The question only arises because in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness. If one started by asking, what is man? what are his needs? how can he best express himself? one would discover that merely having the power to avoid work and live one's life from birth to death in electric light and to the tune of tinned music is not a reason for doing so. Man needs warmth, society, leisure, comfort and security: he also needs solitude, creative work and the sense of wonder. If he recognised this he could use the products of science and industrialism eclectically, applying always the same test: does this make me more human or less human? He would then learn that the highest happiness does not lie in relaxing, resting, playing poker, drinking and making love simultaneously. And the instinctive horror which all sensitive people feel at the progressive mechanisation of life would be seen not to be a mere sentimental archaism, but to be fully justified. For man only stays human by preserving large patches of simplicity in his life, while the tendency of many modern inventions-in particular the film, the radio and the aeroplane-is to weaken his consciousness, dull his curiosity, and, in general, drive him nearer to the animals.
(...) The lights must never go out, The music must always play, All the conventions conspire To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash Important Persons shout Is not so crude as our wish: What mad Nijinsky wrote About Diaghilev Is true of the normal heart; For the error bred in the bone Of each woman and each man Craves what it cannot have, Not universal love But to be loved alone.
birthday coming up next week. usually feel rather grumpy and under the weather because of said date approaching... however - this year... i kind of went into pre-emptive overdrive, trying to think about something i really had a craving for. that is to say - a new perfume.
truly good perfumes and scents are in shortage in turkey and you generally have to pay horrific prices to get hold of them. to the point that around town it is common to find shops that sell imitations of the most famous and popular fragrances. these concoctions to me smell about as synthetic and chemical as industrial bleech - only more overpowering! (not pleasant).
have always been fanatic about perfumes, scents and niche brands that make lovely, unusual fragrances and really miss to sniff good stuff.
however - i did eventually find something to be excited about in one of the few bigger perfume stores in town. namey the "collection extraordinaire" by van cleef & arpels - six fragrances that (finally!) seem interesting and different. they include: gardénia pétale, orchidée vanille, lys carmin, muguet blanc, bois d’iris and cologne noire - and while thinking they all seem sophisticated and classy i would pick lys carmin, bois d'iris and cologne noire as personal favourites...
so... with the excuse of beating "birthday blues" i will have to resort to aromatherapy as a cure...and will definitely get one of these three gems in the next few days. (cannot wait!)
at the end of last week, i got a phone call from the local main importer of a high-end italian fashion brand. she wanted to meet up - she said. sounds like an idea - i said. but if it is about any working committment, i may have to add this is kind of bad timing - i explained, proceeding to inform about impending arrival of baby number 2 etc. but sure - let us meet up anyway, i condescended. and so we did.
it was an interesting meeting for me. not from a professional point of view - but more from a psychological perspective. i have come to realise i seem to talk and meet new people here --mainly because i enjoy to observe them better, from a closer angle. and after one year of doing this - i figure i could write a book about the social dynamics of izmir.
surely, if you compare this city with europe what will stand out in the first place is the noticeable poor standards of living of a huge percentage of the population. their clothes, manners, faces and dead end lives are nothing short than shocking for a visitor used to more westernised and globalised scenarios. however -- izmir and the country (at least the western side of it) are currently going through an unprecedented moment of development...with the upper middle and upper classes benefiting the most from economic growth and new forms of wealth and affluency. so, it is actually this part of the population that is changing more (and faster) over here. and it is this portion of the locals that seems to offer more food for thought on how manners, habits and behaviours change along with better incomes and better social statuses.
as i was on my way to my "business meeting" on friday - i started pondering about all this, saying to myself it was actually by observing women more than men that one could understand how things work here, at the social and community level. because they are (or make themselves) more visible. and also because men here are just too different to approach even if you need to ask what time it is. seemingly, and because of some unwritten internal rule - women here seem to handle most of the networking / mingling and socialising - even more so if the belong to a well off background. i remember one of my students telling me: "the way it works with a rich family is... if they have a daughter - her daddy either buys her a fancy shop or a boutique hotel to run. or...if she really insists on studying at uni...she studies psychology - and then her daddy buys a clinic for her in the best part of town where she receives patients two days a week".
so this woman i met belonged to the "daddy-bought-the-shop" specimen. as i entered her office -- she looked typical to me from the very start. sided by an extroverted friend - she sat me down for a long chat, overdosing on smiles and details on the number of houses she owned, making sure to specify she found izmir parochial and small. informing me her children were attending some famed school. enumerating the times she had been to italy / europe / america. i nodded on as her friend told me about her two years' stay in the u.s. and the french she mastered. when we got onto the business side of things - they both eagerly pointed out they were hoping for me to be "available" starting from february. this made me smile a little bit. i had a voice reasoning inside of me "baby coming mid/end of jan. - just tell them there is no bloody way", but turkey has taught me that you should never say "yes" or "no". straight forwardness can hardly be described as a social lubricant(this is true everywhere - but chronically so around here)... so i said (while still nodding) that "why not. everything is possible" + i was going to be in touch. and then left soon after.
came to the conclusion that women with money here can be divided into two groups: women with old money and women with new money. both are very interesting lots -- but the second set is somehow more entertaining. typically the main characteristics of local women with new money are as follows:
1. they are everything but demure, opting for massive hairdos, huge sunglasses, loads of make up, and drag queen-ish outfits (accessorised wiht furs, animal prints, oversized bags, you name it). they consider peroxide neon blonde as a perfect hair colour to look young and funky. 2. everything about them is over the top and while overdisplaying affection when they greet friends in bars and restaurants - they retain a certain defiant, fierce, almost angry face at all times. 3. they do not work. their husbands have some family business / small and medium enterprise / manifacturing company / import - export thing. they live in one of the "new" residential areas half an hour far from the main ("historical") neighbourhood of the city. 4. they are extremely label conscious and make sure to display in clear sight all the brands they are wearing. 5. they have a huge inferiority complex about istanbul but make sure to mention they go there to shop. 6. they love to go on expensive trips abroad. everyone's favourite seems to be paris. where they head to for three days of family fun at eurodisney followed by a one day cultural trip to...the galeries lafayette. 7. they have very poor manners - always speak too loud and never like to queue up. they are bossy (sort of dominatrix-bossy) with waiters and weary with foreigners. 8. they prefer to have a live in maid. best if filipino (trendy, apparently). 9. their children go to international schools and wear american clothes. if they struggle with their university studies they are enrolled into some obscure faculties in cyprus, bulgaria or romania. 10. their husbands look like hairier, balder and beefier copycats of tom jones. 11. they despise exercise in all of its forms and opt for plastic surgery (in all of its forms). they do not read, ever and despise any form of foreign food. however - they do enter the only sushi restaurant in town if they really want to impress. 12. they are ecstatic to be featured in the local society magazine "diva". 13. they all smell the same. usually buying the latest perfumes from expensive brands like chloe or tom ford (their hefty price tag somehow makes them smell sweeter).
on the other hand... local women with "old" money - seem to follow these other patterns:
1. they opt for dark clothes and expensive, classic coats. their hair is usually cut in long, well groomed bobs invariably dyed of a very intense, yet classy auburn shade. 2. they have a ready smile and extroverted but somehow understated manners. 3. they work. often as owners a high end shop / boutique hotel. their families own "areas" of the best neighbourhood in town (say two or three blocks of flats) that they rent out. 4. they buy expensive clothes but making sure they kind of look french / european. 5. they love istanbul and often own a house there. they also have a "summer house" where they move to permanently with their entire family, for three months a year (every year) - in the seaside towns of cesme or alacati, half an hour from the city. 6. they love anything european and usually spend one or two years in the states at some point / for whatever reason. 7. they have good manners and treat politely waiters and anybody assisting them / working for them -- yet with the touch of distance that is typical of those definitely not accustomed to get a "no" for an answer. 8. their housekeeping staff is usually turkish and strictly not live-in. they may have a driver. 9. their children go to the best turkish high schools. 10. their husbands look like inflated versions of danny de vito. they live in spacious flats in the most "historical" part of town. 11. they go to a pilates / yoga studio once or twice a week. they read interior design magazines and are curious to try foreign food - especially if european. 12. they call society magazine "diva" only for the opening of their new outlet / hotel / etc. 13. they usually go for classic, ultra predicable fragrances like "eternity" from cavin klein; "tresor" by lancome; "shalimar" by guerlain; "flower" by kenzo; "angel" by thierry mugler.
p.s. local society magazine "diva" is laughable to say the least... yet telling (oh, soooo telling) about the "good life" of well-off turkey...
said bye to my tuesday ab initio class yesterday night. they are an outstanding, unusual bunch and i loved teaching them. first of all because - especially if compared to the rather "quiet" mix of students you get on average here in turkey...these people were rather unique, if not eccentric.
i usually do not enjoy taking up ab initio classes - mainly as they are scared stiff of being taught by someone who cannot explain the lesson in their native language. they react sheepishly and sometimes retaliate with long faces, long silences and long, unhappy stares at their watches. (cannot blame them 100%!).
this class was however different from the very start and over the past two or three months i have loved noticing how their english was actually improving significantly. but what i enjoyed the most was listening to them and getting to know them better.
interestingly, they would always sit in the same places every tuesday. to my left there would be a very smiley financial consultant, a girl with a rather horsey face and lovely manners; next to her a nurse with a peroxide blonde bob and incredibly deep (and deep set) eyes; then a lad who works as an opera singer; then the ladies man of the pack, an economics student who plays "underwater rugby" (and - unsurprisingly - loves to say it). then mr. o, an accountant with a bald head, very shiny olive skin and very shiny, olive eyes (i have never met anyone with a monochrome face, but was it not for his lashes - you would think his eyes and skin are blended together)...
mr. o - a lovely human version of shrek, if you ask me to describe him...- "loves to help around the house: ironing, cleaning, doing the dishes" and once treated his girlfriend to a surprise weekend in paris (in short: not your typical turkish bloke!). next to him, two girls attending the course because they dream of making it as air hostesses for turkish airlines -
peculiarly when they would speak, they would take the initiative together...their smiles and voices following a rather fascinating synchronised pattern.
and then the sweetheart of the group - a very trendy and soft spoken girl with huge, cartoon-like blue eyes. and then finally (and sitting to my left) the intellectual of the class - a boy with a mousey voice and slightly camp ways who is trying to become an academic in his history faculty at university.
needless to say - given such a diverse and bubbly concoction of personalities and backgrounds - i was never bored and i was never tired of answering questions and working with them.
i am always curious about people - where they come from, what they expect from life, how they project themselves, when and why they get short, how they tell about their lives and families... and to be honest - interacting with eccentric tales or peculiar hobbies, or puzzling resemblances to shrek... is actually amazing.
a fab source of "salt" in life.
a juke box filled with catchy tunes.
a collection of short stories.
an album putting together unalterable polaroid instant close ups.
when it comes to presents - i am difficult to say the least. i enjoy buying them - i spend a lot of time thinking and rethinking what to choose and what can make the receiver of the gift happier... i try to be original and love the whole "surprise effect". of course such accuracy and dedication to presents for others results in an unbeliavable talent in (too) often feeling disappointed by whatever gift i happen to receive. truth is - very seldom i can say that i truly like what i get. and i have felt this way since i was a child. as stated in my opening line: in short, i am difficult. picky and difficult.
problem is...as my maternity leave is approaching -- these days i seem to receive a lot of presents... from colleagues, from students. and...since the local taste (especially when it comes to newborn girls) verges on the embarassing... i have started to collect incredible barbie-like outfits, tiny hats, furry things... and all of them are invariably candy pink - a colour that makes me cringe only if i think of it. ok, while on one hand i tend to thank and appreciate the thought that prompts these gifts...on the other i keep on being 100% put off by most of the stuff i am getting. with the "best" number so far being a pink, furry (and i mean yeti furry) coat - that would make even the most innocent toddler seem like a copycat of jody foster in taxi driver.
anyway -- given this foreword... imagine my face yesterday when i received from my sunday class an envelope whose content was a certificate by the "aegean forestry department". turns out eleven students decided to pay for an olive grove to be planted under my name. it took them twenty minutes to actually explain this and translate the certificate for me - and the idea sank in as rather different and kind of original - even to me, an old grumpy bag when it comes to presents. apparently the trees (eleven) will grow along the river menderes. wikipedia helped me locate the place and read a bit about its history - making it all sound kind of cool actually... and i do love olive groves...their trees are beautiful to say the least. there is something wild and wise at once about them and they are one of the symbols of the mediterranean.
we greeted the new year here in turkey in the good company of a visiting friend. a bit like christmas -- even new year was a rather quiet affair in izmir...just some music and fireworks at midnight in the nearby square + loads of people strolling by and packing the usual cafes and restaurants along the sea...which, in truth, is what happens every weekend - if not every evening! anyway, nothing close to the grand parties and concerts we could only see on tv - broadcast from american, australian and european squares.
read my horoscope for the new year and apparently there are ghastly times ahead! -- which does not surprise much, after all. am not an expert, never intend to become one and would never want to sound like a "know-it-all"...but usually the first months with a newborn are everything but happening...it is like a stand-by / slow motion type of thing... so, i guess being horoscopically challenged matters less than zero, really -- doesn't it?
and it is january now - which reminds me of that song "june in january" sung by bing crosby in 1934... and later performed by dean martin too. being a fan of the oldies... i kind of like mellow songs like this one and being january "my month" - i smile whenever i hear it.
A clouded moon creeps across the clouded sky Winds of January sigh and moan And yet it's June. I can see a sky of blue Dear the miracle is due to you. Just you. It's June in January Because I'm in love It always is spring in my heart with you in my arms. The snow is just white blossoms that fall from above. And here is the reason, my dear, Your magical charms. The night is cold The trees are bare But I can feel the scent of roses in the air. It's June in January Because I'm in love. But only because I'm in love with you. Oh the night is cold! Won't it be to bear? But I can feel the scent of roses in the air. It's June in January Because I'm in love But only because I'm in love with you.
not many new year's resolutions that come to mind at the moment... am just taking notes on what movies and books i want to check out as soon as i can. in particular -- have included the following films in my wish list:
-- never let me go (based on the uber famous novel by kazuo ishiguro - and adapted for the big screen by genius author alex garland... am sure this one will give me the creeps... but did read plenty of promising reviews on it...)
-- la bellezza del somaro (italian byopic that was reccomended as "genius" by many friends - especially for the peculiarly accurate portrayt it offers of the so-called radical-chic middle class italy swarms with)
(p.s.) went for one of my final check ups before delivery last week and as we were leaving the clinic - asked by my husband whether he could be present at the moment of birth - the doctor informed us with a very broad and genuine smile "it is turkey here, ...you know?" - which was comedy to say the least... and a very quick reminder of how very un-romanticised labour and birth still are here. truth be told... i kind of find this reassuring.
as mentioned earlier... i am a big big fan of the oldies - ...and the "oldie" ways, i figure.