Sunday, 27 March 2011


1)) i initially thought it was a joke - but it is not... and we are indeed switching to DST tomorrow morning... (while everybody else already has over the weekend).
when somebody explained that it was because of a government decision - i was a bit taken aback. all other countries switched to DST today, but turkey is doing it tomorrow morning. and the reason for this is that today(27th march, sunday) in the whole country the university entrance exam was held. it is the most feared step in the academic system over here - and basically people started panicking - claiming that, had the change of time taken place between saturday 26th and sunday 27th - many students would have overslept or showed up late for their test. hence - the government decided to "postpone" DST.

i guess one could see it as a very practical decision -- but i see it as yet another demonstration of how independent this country can be, even with a hint of eccentric refusal to conform.

2)) as we basically consider the bars and restaurants downstairs as "neighbours" we tend to entertain unusually close ties with a colourful crowd of waiters, cooks and baristas. as we were having coffee the other day i got told by a rather sultry looking waitress that her biological mother could not nurse her - so she was breastfed by another woman who "...was bipolar. that's why i turned out bipolar myself". which kind of makes you wonder about the milk in your cappuccino... perhaps bipolar milk made by some bipolar cow? bizarre.

3)) while dashing home the other day - bumped into an acquaintance, ms. M., looking very uncomfortable when i asked how she was. "am actually not at work today..." she immediately mentioned..."because i have this laser operation". oh, god, oh alright, i see - i said, kind of not knowing what to say / not to say / not to ask. "hope everything goes ok", i mumbled, a tad startled. "yes. it is not the first time" she explained and i was starting to feel kind of worried when i heard her going "...this time i am doing my armpits and bikini part, you know..." - and the solemnly grieving face i was pulling just broke into a totally amused expression. "blast. laser EPILATION you meant, right?" to which, thankfully, she nodded - removing from my head every thought on laser surgery and co.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

"speak my language"

still having troubles with it is very encouraging to see that, many times...when i try to log in... a red header appears - warning me in turkish that "this is considered an illegal site" or something along these reassuring lines. this has been going on for the past six weeks or so... i wonder whether it is just a temporary thing or it will end up becoming worse...bringing along the end of my blogging days!
in the meantime... spring has definitely arrived. we are getting lovely, longer, sunnier, windy days and especially at the weekends the streets are full of people dining and drinking al fresco. there is something different in the light filling the days and i cannot help but loving the warmer temperature and the absolute stunning view of the sea under the cloudless sky. the great thing about izmir is that it is constantly swept by very sharp winds - and so the air is always so clean and dry that, when you feel it first thing in the just goes boooooom! straight to your head. it is the same feeling you get when you are skying on the top of a mountain in winter. i have a very clear recollection of breathing a similar air in auckland - i remember getting out of the airport there and my nostrils were hit so hard by the cool breeze that i nearly jumped.
trying to eat out for lunch as much as possible. i think food-wise turkey is spoiling me for life... i have taken to the turkish habits of eating in a way that is more about small, precious rituals than cuisine or taste buds. drinking bitter cay; dining on soupy baked beans; adding thick, sour yoghurt to my vegetables; chewing turkish delight and adding lemon juice and rocket leaves to my meals; having spicy salep (tastes like milk with cinammon) on colder nights; overdosing on splendid olive oil, goat cheese and salt; snacking on local avocados; indulging in dried fruit; fixing cucumbers and tomatoes for not sure i will ever get rid of these rituals.

last week at school - introduced a discussion on money... whereas this week we are talking about relationships.
what do you spend your money on? are you a big spender? have you ever wasted money - and how? can money buy you love? can money buy you happiness? would you lend money happily? would you allow yourself to get into debt? -- these were some of the questions i asked last week... receiving the usual candid feedback from my students. and with the most interesting takes expressed when it came down to talking about women's right to economic indipendence. even to 20somethings the concept only partially rang a bell. intriguing.

but - of course - the most enjoyable part is coming now that i am asking them to say something about feelings, relationships. would you take back an ex boyfriend? if your friends did not like your partner...what would you do? if your family disapproved of your relationship...would you consider ending it? would you date a considerably older / younger person? ...i questioned them, causing a series of amused / embarassed / uncertain faces...

so far, most of the students confirmed how key is the approval coming from families; the stigma applied to age (younger men appear to be a major tabu) and how possessive and jealous partners are perceived as caring - and not manipulative wackos. when i asked to note down a list of qualities the "perfect partner" should have, 9 lists out of 10 included the words: loyalty and respect. two comments were sort of mysterious and read: "should live in my city" and "should speak my language".

sense of humor is not very sexy around here, i suspect!

yesterday evening, on my way home, still smiling at some of the ideas and expectations coming out from my class - i was relieved to find the latest issue of glamour uk on the shelf of our newsagent's. alas! some much needed irony and fashion updates... at times it feels like england, the u.s., europe, etc are far far faaaar away places living in parallel universes. certainly there is some poetry in how different and "on its own" society is over here - but there is also a surreal aura i see in the way people live, love and dream here..something that could be daftly mistaken by some people as "exotic"...something about as sharp as the wind i was talking about before - refreshing, sure, but...kind of ...makes you jump at first!

Friday, 18 March 2011

some scattered notes from this week...

my students keep on referring to my maternity leave using the term "holiday".
"teacher, you are back from holiday!" they greet me cheerfully.
(imagine doing that elsewehere!)
our director of studies looks like a retired air hostess. her hair is always perfectly coiffed and she always smiles in a way that is reassuring and empty at once. she schedules a weekly meeting that has no content whatsoever. during the said meeting, she seems to be only keen in reminding the female part of the staff to dress properly. she is basically encouraging to make proper (meaning: "enthusiastic"!) use of make up, skirts and dresses - that is. jeans are shabby - is one of the most crucial points of her manifesto. i find these reccomendations incredibly funny -- could not imagine anything of that kind being said in europe, let alone america. the retired air hostess would be sued - pronto - for sexism and sartorial discrimination, i suspect.
was in the teachers' room watching the news on cnn the other day and fellow teacher H. walked in. the hypertypical brit you find around here (tubby, opinionated, wearing a buzz cut and strange shoes) he said hi in a cant-care-less voice and then gave a bored look at the images showing libya under gaddafi's bombings with tanks in the streets of tripoli and rebels waving green flags in the desert. his comment came in a growl:
"big mess. that JAPAN THING".
still reading parts of orhan pamuk's "different colours". it is a must read to understand turkey and am very fond of his style. found online this interview he gave to charlie rose about the book.
very worth watching.
had the conversation "izmir versus istanbul" a couple of other times - coming to the conclusion that istanbul works best for:
- 20somethings
- singles
- well off people
- students
- fashion designers; architects; artists
- tourists
- expats who reside there without working
- people who do not mind major pollution / horrific traffic / crowds everywhere / etc
whereas izmir works best for:
- families
- sea and sun loving people
- the aged
- expats with a relaxed / part-time job
- foreigners with no need for much social / cultural life
- people who do not mind the feeling of living in a rather unglobalised setting
keep on getting the feeling the international community here is fuddy duddy to say the least. was queueing up in a shop the other day and heard two ladies exchanging niceties in french. when the lady at the cashier (with the usual curiosity locals display) asked whether they were from france - they gave her a very offended look and replied in perfect turkish "of course not! we are italian".

Monday, 14 March 2011

4 a.m. call

baby does not like to sleep after four a.m. and kind of decides it is high time i woke up cuddle her a bit, sing to her and walk and dance around the house holding her in my arms. this goes on till 6 - 7 am... must admit it took some time to get used to this far from amusing routine...but there are some elements of fascination in being the only person up and about while the rest of izmir (i.e. 4 and a half million people) is still sleeping deep and cozy.

first, it is the only time when our otherwise buzzing street is actually silent. as we live along a stretch of restaurants, cafes and clubs - usually you can always hear music and voices from the crowd dining and chatting below. second, it is the only time when there is no movement of boats, seagulls and ferries around the gulf. this, seen in pitch darkness from our living room is somehow breathtaking - with the motionless waves looking like an open, endless pond of petrol black mud...and the lights of the other side of the harbour projecting longer sparks over its shiny surface.
and then there is the first call to prayer of the day (around 5.20 am) - a long echo of one, two, three chants coming from three or four different mosques... and, while when i listen the muezzin singing at other times during the day i hardly pay any attention...the first call of the day, heard through the still air embracing the empty, quiet city is a totally different thing - reaching me like the song of a siren in pain, with vibrations that seem to pervade every wall if the minarets' cry was actually transmitted through the water pipes of the house, coming out from the kitchen sink like the tune of an old fashioned radio playing in the background. it is a sound with no real volume - yet with a persistency and an allcompassing power that sorround every corner. a prolonged chant breaking the stillness of the night and kind of flooding the whole body of the city, its gulf and sky alike. in the dark, it creates a very surreal, eerie atmosphere - then, as i listen on and look out at the sea...the night gives way to the dawn that slowly but steadily lights off the sky with warm, soft colours. undeniably magical, i will concede - and it is indeed the most unusually intense way of beginning the day i have ever experienced.
a bit like daydreaming in slow motion.

started teaching again and must admit i do get a kick out of meeting my new classes. have met three so far + am doing some private teaching on the side. there is a very fixed pattern to my first classes with my new students. i introduce myself, i ask them to say something about themselves (where they are from; what they do in life; etc) - then i always ask whether they like izmir and how izmir compares to istanbul. i think i have had this conversation about 890 times so far and the answers i get are more or less predictable. istanbul is "very crowded" and the traffic is very bad there. izmir, on the other hand, is beautiful and people here are relaxed...etc - hardly any surprises, although younger people quite often point to how exciting and happening student life is in istanbul - especially if compared with sleepy and more family-friendly izmir. however, i will have to write a more detailed post about this - as it is indeed an all-time favourite topic of discussion...and not just for english as a b language.

am very happy to be back at school - even if i have come to notice how emotionally straining going back to work can be. at the end of every class i find myself in cold sweats. perhaps the result of jumping about all the time (i cannot seem to sit down very much)...or rather, i figure the result of... nerves! i just seem to try the hardest when i teach - going to great lengths to listen, talk and explain with great energy and enthusiasm. a bit like an acting rehearsal really. adding to this, i must say, there must be also some kind of unconscious fear of failing / not-being-able-to-function-post-partum kind of thing. but that's just me, i guess. and waking up at 4 am does not help!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

saba, windy days and the heartless child

the wind has been sweeping the city all night long and it now blows even faster and colder. days like these do remind me of triest, a city famous for its freezing, siberian wind bora. triest actually does look like izmir in some ways - and especially on windy, blustery days like today. the best portrayts of triest were definitely made in verses by umberto saba - a poet i love and whose poems i used to learn by heart when i was in school.
there is always a bittersweet quality in saba's style - which i especially enjoy. he very often finds the best way to very few, simple words...the most difficult contradictions belonging to the human spirit.

Ti dico addio quando ti cerco Amore,
come il mio tempo e questo grigio vuole.
Oh, in te era l’ombra della terra e il sole,
e il cuore d’un fanciullo senza cuore.

I say goodye when i look for you my Love,
as wished by my time and this haze alike.
In you I saw the earth's shadow and the sun at once,
and the heart of a heartless child.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


((seemingly, it is becoming more and more difficult
to actually access AND my account
where i login in and post my bits and bobs...
the main website appears to be blocked -
and i do wonder
whether this is a turkish thing
(until a couple of months ago youtube was banned here)
or some kind of issue is experiencing -
hope to be able to write and post in the future
as i consider this a bit of a personal journal...
and, moreover,
hope not to be deported or something...
just for the silly stuff i write!))