Doing the Turkish “limbo”

We live in a kind of strange limbo between the villagers and the lives we left behind. My wife was educated in Boğazıcı (Bosphorus) University, the oldest and still the most prestigious in Turkey. Besides Turkish, she speaks fluently two other languages, French and English. She learned her French in her early years at another famous Istanbul school–Notre Dame de Sion. It seems she is full of prestigious while me? Well, there is a country song which says “I’m just an old lump of coal but I’m a gonna be a diamond someday.”

I was raised in the US, therefore I speak two languages, profanity and broken English! My Turkish is slowly limping along, I know a lot of words, just not enough of the same kind of words to put together a credible sentence!! I converse with our village neighbors occasionally when they catch me outside. My little scraps of Turkish and their ability to gesture and make significant faces allow us to communicate in a way which I often find remarkable.

My wife speaks Istanbul Turkish which is to say “proper” Turkish. The village people speak their own brand with plenty of accents and occasionally words which when used in a sentence take on a completely different meaning. Since many of them often speak fast, even my wife, on occasion, has difficulty understanding what they are saying.

We own the DVD of a very interesting film called “Snatch” by Guy Ritchie, the writer and director who also wrote and directed “Lock, Stock and Three Smoking Barrels“, two very funny films. There is a scene in the film “Snatch” where two British guys are listening to Mickey, played by Brad Pitt, speak to them in a version of English called “pikey” which is also a derogatory term for a gypsy. After a few conversational passes at them with what appear to have some meaning only to the pikeys, one of the British guys says “yeh I understand, allow me a moment to confer with my colleague” whereupon he turns his back to the pikeys with his friend and says “did you understand anything he just said?” This scene is so funny to us because this is what my wife occasionally goes through with our village neighbors.

I recently finished reading a book about people in Turkey along the south coast where we live and set from 1900 until the end of the Turkish revolution in 1923. It is called “Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres who also wrote “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” which became a bit famous when Nicholas Cage starred in the film version. My wife is reading it now, she says that she is learning many things about her country she did not know because of our marriage. I am an amateur historian and love to read all about that “old stuff”. Many highly educated Turkish people still do not have a good grasp of their history. Somewhat because until the last couple of decades it was not too healthy to have an overly inquiring mind as several violently deceased journalists found out. Also Turkish history makes a huge deal of the Ottoman Empire and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Both of these historical sagas are the stuff of legends for sure, but that is not all there is to know and far, far too many citizens just do not know or do not want to know.

I am not certain it is much better in other countries, just different I suppose. Any citizens who question the legitimacy of the nation in which they reside do so at their peril. Even, even, in the grand old US of A… I will write more about that later.

I have taken a teaching job in Istanbul for the remainder of this school year. An unusual event for a school to hire a teacher mid-term unless a teacher is fired, resigns or dies, none of which is the case with me. The Headmaster of the school and I have known each other for several years and he kindly offered me this job when his technology administrator told the Headmaster he needed more time to work on the development of a school wide technology plan.

So, next week, my wife and I take off for five months to “Ole Stamboul” for life in the huge, noisy, dirty and traffic choked city. Ahhh, will I never learn? Last night late I stepped out on the terrace and listened and could hear–absolutely nothing!! I will miss that for the interregnum of our time away. By the way, Istanbul is the largest city in Europe!!!

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