Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Have Angst, Will Travel

Ismail runs a very successful auto repair shop. I've never met Ismail or had need of his services, but I know he is successful because his shop is directly across from the guest house we are staying in and he gets a lot of business. At all hours, from fairly early in the morning until well after seven, Ismail or one of his workers is out there revving up an engine -- vrooom, vroooom, VROOOOOOOM -- and chatting with his customers. His work also entails the dragging of extremely heavy items over a gravelled stretch of tarmac, and the sound this produces really has to be heard to be believed. If you are the sort that grimaces at the sound of a fingernail dragged along a blackboard, you'd definitely have to give Ismail's gravel-dragging a miss.

It is hot here, and dusty, but it is also unbelievably beautiful From the minute our plane touched down in Istanbul, I have marveled at the trees and shrubs that grow here in profusion -- ones I grew up with, but have not seen for decades. There are eucalyptus, pepper trees, bougainvillea -- a whole botanical world I used to be familiar with. Just walking outside and seeing olives, figs and oranges on trees is enough to make me cry. And things have gone so well here that for a long time, I wondered what to write. I'm not a huge fan of travel writing where everything goes right; I'm the nasty sort who enjoys reading about the passport that went AWOL, the bottle of shampoo that decided to make a break for it, the umbrella that the traveler toyed with taking, then left behind, only to encounter the first rainfall of the year at their travel destination. So how could I be a hypocrite and treat readers to stories of balmy Mediterranean beaches and affable Turks? True, the area we are now living in resembles a building site. There are many British expatriates here, and they and the people who cater for them, seem to feel the need to post billboards every square meter, generally in lurid colors. A huge boom in property development has obviously come and gone, with many of the building sites abandoned in various stages of development. It is not unusual to see a completed villa with mature and manicured garden stuck between the concrete foundations of two other buildings, piles of bricks and bags of electrical cables still in evidence, all just a stone's throw from a massive billboard advertising a casino in flashing purple and magenta neon. Think of the tackiest stretch of road you have ever seen in Southern California, add signs in Turkish, a light, but somewhat destructive earthquake, plus a great deal of hastily-executed half-finished buildings and a generous sprinkling of rubbish, and you will have a pretty good idea of the landscape we currently enjoy. But who really cares about that when you can get freshly squeezed orange juice every 200 metres? When you have a job you were trained to do, and could, if you wished, swim in the sea up until October?

And we have been lucky: our kids are more or less coping at their new schools, and our colleagues seem an interesting, kindly bunch. My husband mentioned to one of his fellow teachers that it was difficult to get around without a car, and this man offered us his, giving us the chance to tour the countryside and visit beaches. So I have honestly pondered what to write about. So far, it almost feels like a holiday -- and who wants to hear stories of how delightful someone else's holiday is?

Then yesterday I went to meet my husband and kids after school. Wearing khaki trousers and a rumpled shirt, I got dissed by a memsahib-type in a fancy designer suit, heels, and full make-up. Youngest daughter whined that her best friend Fatima was a jerk because she thought Chinese people were the same as Japanese and insinuated that all Far-east Asians were less than civilized. She said that Ben, who is from Leeds, is a jerk because football is all he can talk about other than how many girlfriends he has. She complained that she had too much homework; that she is tired of singing the Turkish national anthem and marching around the gymnasium. Eldest was in a grumpy mood and informed me that her flip-flops were disintegrating. And flip-flops, I have seen, cost big money here -- more than I am prepared to dish out. My husband called us just after we'd walked all the way to the supermarket in the pounding heat to get muesli, which does not appear to exist in this country, along with other staples like Ryvita or peanut butter. He could not pick us up, he told us; the car had only just broken down, black smoke pouring out of it. And suddenly it hit me: this place is starting to feel like home.

Sounds like Ismail's got another customer out there. I'm betting it's a big one this time -- maybe a Landrover.

Home is where the angst is.

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23 comments:

Tigermama said...

Welcome "home"! I`m glad you made it safe and sound. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Yup, I'm hideously jealous.

So pleased you made it in one piece. Looking forward to hearing more :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Well for those of us who were jealous, thank God for "yesterday." LOL. Sorry.

debra said...

So glad to hear from you again, Mary.
I'm glad you're all intact---even if the flip-flops aren't. Also looking forward to hearing more about this new adventure.

The Quoibler said...

Let's take up a collection and buy flip-flops to send to your daughter! I swear, in Pennsylvania, they're about two dollars apiece!

Glad you're "home"!

Angelique

The Anti-Wife said...

How lovely to have you blogging again. How was the move and are you settled in yet?

Travis Erwin said...

Home sweet home.

Tabitha said...

So glad you're blogging again, and that your new place is feeling like home. :)

I hope your settling in well. You've at least unpacked the most important thing: your computer. :)

Anne Spollen said...

Istanbul! I have trouble changing grocery stores...

Eryl Shields said...

Hurrah! You're settling in, I'm so glad, though very jealous. Have you tried the tomatoes, I dream of their tomatoes?

AnneB said...

Glad you have landed safely, Mary; I've been thinking about you all week hoping it goes well. Let me assure you: your friends want to celebrate the good and beautiful as well as commiserate with the bad and sigh with the ugly. Just write about daily life, wherever you are! You could make life in a dusty prairie hamlet sound fascinating, so just keep your eyes open and report, report, report what you see and hear.

Robin said...

Mary, it all sounds so exotic and cool (except for the lack of muesli and affordable flip flops). I love your thought that it feels like home. It's so true! It's the human condition to gripe, so if youngest daughter feels comfortable enough to complain, she's doing OK!

Gaining Back My Life said...

Mary, glad you have made it to your 'new home' safely.Isn't it the truth, though, how pain brings our insides out?

Merry Monteleone said...

Welcome home, Mary!!! Istanbul... forget the travel writing, one of these days I want to read your complete memoirs.

If you need flip-flops, I'll volunteer to send you a pair... they're dead cheap here.

laura said...

A smooth life is indeed a boring life! Although I did once remark, after a couple of extra crazy years, that I'd welcome a merry go round as my wild roller coaster ride of life was wearing me out. Sounds like you're home!

Katie Alender said...

Istanbul! I have family who frequently stay there. Wouldn't it be funny if we were someday to meet up in Turkey?

Anonymous said...

Istanbul - cool!

Thank you for continuing to feed us fascinating blogs despite all the craziness you've been dealing with.

- Tinamarie

Carrie said...

Wow--Istanbul! I agree with Charles--I'm glad for your troubles since they got you blogging again--I've missed your posts!

Kara said...

damnit, you're in Turkey. are you accepting guests yet?

Carolie said...

Shall I add flip-flops and muesli to your "C.A.R.E" package? SO glad to know you are safe and sound!

Mary Witzl said...

Tigermama -- We're neighbors now, aren't we? I'm betting it's still as much summer there as it is here. Whooee.

Kim -- Believe me, I'd send you a great big parcel of this sun for as much Scottish rain, mist and greenery as you could send me!

Charles -- Plenty more angst to come from the looks of things. Nothing like a couple of trials to make you appreciate the good times, though. Or so I try to convince myself.

Debra -- Thank you. We're holding up better than our flip flops, and I certainly have plenty to write about.

Angelique -- Today we finally found a store with cheap flip flops, so no donation will be necessary! But you were sweet to make the offer, even in jest.

Anti-wife -- The move was horrific and I owe my friend Dina so much I can hardly stand to think about it. She came over on the last day and helped me clear away a load of rubbish -- and held my hand while I blubbered. We hope to be settled in another week or so.

Travis -- It is sweet enough. Wish we had less roach spray in our rooms, though.

Tabitha -- Actually, I miss my old computer! We have laptops now and they are heavy and hot things to hold on your lap when you are sitting in a warm guest house lobby streaming sweat. Soon, I'm hoping to be in a cooler place where I will have the time for longer posts!

AnneS -- Believe me, changing countries ain't a picnic, even for us! And negotiating the supermarkets here is really something. I found it stressful going from Safeway's to Tesco's, so I know what you mean.

Eryl -- I have the tomatoes for breakfast every morning; they are so different from the ones I grew in Scotland! They are densely fleshed, very firm, larger and a little tough -- but delicious. I should write an entire post on the Mediterrenean breakfast; it is just amazing.

AnneB -- If only I had the time, I could fill a book so far! This feels so much like a dry, dusty prairie hamlet in some respects, but if you could see and hear the people!! I believe I could write about this place for weeks and not come close to doing it justice. But I will absolutely try.

Robin -- The youngest feels more than enough comfortable to gripe, and I hardly begrudge her. It's a tall order to go from one extreme to the other the way she has; I keep telling her about character and hoping she'll buy it at some point.

Mary Witzl said...

GBML -- Thank you for your comment! I'm hoping all the pain counts for something in the end; it certainly means that I seldom have a dull moment now.

Merry -- Thank you, too! I found out today where to get cheap flip flops, and someone bought me a box of muesli, to my endless delight. I wonder when I'll be able to get back to my endless memoir; I've definitely got some ongoing chapters to catch up on.

Laura -- It's crazy here all right, but I'm hoping things will settle down a little soon. At the present time, it's pretty much a roller coaster here and I'd much prefer a go-cart ride for toddlers.

Katie -- We are not exactly in Istanbul, though we changed planes there. I'll send you an e-mail with our address; I'd love to meet up with you here! (You've lived in L.A. AND Florida; I know you can take the heat.)

Tinamarie -- Thank you for that kind comment! As long as people refer to what I write as fascinating, I can keep it coming.

Kara --We're not actually in Istanbul, and I'm being deliberately evasive about our exact location for complicated reasons. If you come out this way, look me up! I'll try and send you an e-mail.

Carolie -- I've got both muesli and the name of a store with cheap flip flops now, but thank you anyway! What I'd really like you to send us is yourself, but I know you're needed there. Mugi-cha would be wonderfully welcome, too!

marshymallow said...

Wow. I am consumed with envy - especially for the eucalyptus trees - and glad everything is working out for you.