Tuesday, 25 November 2008


We finally got the internet installed yesterday.

I remember when we did this a few years ago in Scotland. A man with a black bag came and did a couple of clever things with tools and that was it -- we were connected.

Here it was a lot more complicated. My husband and I went down to an office and waited until someone who spoke English was available. We chose a packet and arranged for a suitable day. What we forgot about was the fact that we have not been given our address here. In fact, nobody seems to know it.

"You're in a brand-new unit," the estate agent told us. "We don't know what it is yet."

So on the day we were due to have the internet installed, I had to leave work early. I had to take a dolmush from my university instead of driving home with my husband in the evening as I usually do. I stood on the busy road until a dolmush came along and once it arrived, I wrenched open the door and squeezed myself inside. There was only one seat available, next to the oldest woman I believe I have ever seen in all my life outside a hospital. She was tiny and bent over and in one gnarled brown hand she was clutching a walking stick. Her head-kerchief was tied under her chin and and her full, multi-layered skirts swept the floor under her little black boots. I had to stop myself from staring at her so great was her resemblance to the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

The dolmush driver took off with a great burst of speed, scattering chickens along the side of the road. I've never yet ridden in a dolmush that didn't have loud Middle-eastern music playing, the kind you associate with belly-dancing and plaintive, passionately-sung lyrics, and this one was no exception. Because I was sitting in the front, I had the job of passing fares and change back and forth from departing passengers to the driver. At one point, I held a five-yetele note in my hand for a good minute while the driver negotiated with a noisy woman who appeared to be lost; finally he took her money and passed over the change and I was able to lean back in my seat and watch my little old lady neighbor out of the corner of my eye. She sucked the few of her teeth she had left and ignored me.

I would love to know her life story.

When I got to my stop, I managed to get off without incident. God knows how the little old lady coped; getting off a dolmush takes a heck of a lot more than un poco de gracia and if there is a way to do it that does not require one to bend over and display one's rear end to one's fellow passengers, I sure haven't found it.

When the internet man called, I was ready for him. Although we live almost next door to a mosque, it is obviously not a very successful or prosperous one: no one happens to have heard of it. So I arranged to meet him at the better-known one that is five blocks away from us -- we are spoiled for choice when it comes to mosques around here -- and he even managed to understand my awful attempt at the name in Turkish.

I stood by the side of the road for fifteen minutes, waiting for the internet man to show up. The mosque is beautiful. It is surrounded by orange, palm, pepper, persimmon and pomegranate trees. There is a tall, gruff old bushy-eyebrowed man who lives next door to it, but I know his secret: he talks what sounds very much like baby-talk to his goats and cats.

As I watched the old man and his cats, I was suddenly seized with such a yearning for my cat in Scotland that I could hardly stand it. I remembered how she would settle, purring, in my lap on cold winter days when I sat writing, a cup of coffee at hand. When I got stuck on something, I would always go outside to pull weeds or rake leaves and my cat would follow me, always a good five-minute face-saving distance behind. As I weeded, she would hunt nearby or show off prettily until I reached down and scratched her belly -- just like the gruff old man was doing with his cat. And I remembered more: how easy and convenient it was to use my computer, how plentiful our supply of hot water, and how vividly red our maple trees always were at this time of year. I pictured the Christmas lights going up in our town, a scattering of snow frosting the tips of the trees, the smell of coal smoke in the chilled winter air.

The computer man figured out who I was right away. I hopped in the front seat and we drove down the bumpy, pot-holed road, me navigating as best I could.

Along the way we passed the little old lady from the dolmush, slowly making her way home, walking stick in hand as she hobbled along the dusty road. Obviously she lives in this neighborhood.

I wonder if I will ever know her life story.



Angela said...

You have such a talent for making the foreign come alive. I would love to walk a mile in your shoes, see what you see. Beautiful post, as always. Thanks for sharing.

Robin said...

I feel like I've been on a journey - from Turkey to Dolmush to Scotland and back. And I did it all while lying on my belly in bed. You're such a wonderful writer, Mary!

How on earth have you been writing blogs if you didn't have internet connection? I assume at work, or at a cafe or something. If I knew how to get those stupid blog award thingies I'd give you one!

AnneB said...

So good to hear from you again, Mary! As soon as I saw one of your postings on the VK boards I raced my curser over to the RSS feeds to see if you'd put up another blog entry. And how absolutely positively wonderful to hear that you are connected to us all again from home, finally.

So...what are you ex-pats to the third or fourth power going to be doing on Thanksgiving? Ignoring since you're surrounded by Turkey-folk anyway and probably have to work besides?

Me, I just finished 1000 words on the WIP (first time in six weeks I've had that sort of run) and now I'm off to make my second batch of yeast-raised dinner rolls for the two-family celebration on Thursday.

debra said...

I'm so glad you have internet at home, Mary. Thank you for a wonderful look at a slice of your life there. Did you ever imagine it would be that way?

laura said...

Funny how it takes just one small thing to yank us back into the good old days. But I imagine in a few years something will pull you back to yet more good old days and they will be memories of Turkey. Time has a wonderful way of blurring events and things always look better in hindsight, don't they.

Kim Ayres said...

scattering of snow frosting the tips of the trees

Ok, I'll give you poetic licence for that one, but it never happens in South Scotland at Christmas. Cold drizzle, perhaps at best :)

Lovely writing, as always :)

Brian Fone said...

Do send me an email (of only one word, if you like ) so I can nick your address for my address book.
I am still on the same old one .


Charlie said...

I, too, love your writing and observations, Mary. What else can I say?

Barbara Martin said...

Wonderful expose of your journey and your internet connections. Wait for awhile and you will meet that elderly lady again, after which you must post about your experience.

Mary Witzl said...

Angela -- Thank you, but I've been on your website and seen what you do with query letters, and I am in awe. Writing about foreign stuff is hardly a challenge when you live in a foreign country, but penning a good query letter might as well be writing War & Peace.

Robin -- Aw shucks, thank you too!

The first month I was here, I used my laptop, but lately I've been using the computers at work, sitting amongst a great sea of students and hoping none of them know I'm writing about them. I'd love to write in a cafe, but I've yet to find one here that isn't filled with smoke and sweaty men.

AnneB -- It seems so sad to be here around all this Turkish and all these Turks, but without a turkey in sight. They cost a LOT of money here and there is no way our eldest would be up to turning out a whole stuffed turkey when even spaghetti with tomato sauce taxes her cooking skill. I want some of your rolls, but more than that, I want some of your writing energy!

Debra -- Before we got here, I had all sorts of odd ideas of what it would be like. None of them came close to the reality, though I did picture that it would be warm -- and warm it is.

Laura -- What you say is so true and in fact that is what has happened to us time after time. We get used to a place after a long period of feeling like it can never be home, and before we know it we find that we can hardly bear the idea of leaving.

Kim -- It really did snow in our town! I don't think I could count the times we drove home from Dumfries to find that our town was virtually snowed in. We got about five good snowy days last year and plenty of frosted twigs and all sorts of other poetic stuff. Just ask Eryl!

Brian -- I'm going to write to you! The only reason I haven't so far is that our eldest went and dropped our LACIE drive and we lost a whole slew of addresses. If I can't find your e-mail address, I know where to find you!

Charlie -- The feeling is mutual, my good man. Is your book out yet?

Barbara -- The little old lady actually lives two or three blocks from us, so now I think there is a good chance that I will meet her again. I hope I do!

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Carolie said...

I am so glad you have Internet at home...and thank you for that lovely little slice of your life! Things are chaotic here (what else is new?) but for a few minutes, you took me entirely out of my neurotic self by showing me that little old lady with the tiny black boots, and the gruff, bushy-eyebrowed man with his cats.

Thank you! I've missed you! (And I know, I know, I SO owe you a letter!)