Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cruising the Greenbelt

This afternoon my brother and I took a 20-mile bike ride along the Boise River Greenbelt. Though the weather was constantly changing (hmm, that does remind of Istanbul), it was a beautiful ride. We even came across three deer that were hanging out right by the path. There's more to the potato state than it gets credit for.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Not quite like riding a bike

There are certain activities that if you don't engage in for awhile and then return to, you can jump right back in the saddle with no problem. I now know that skiing is, almost, one of them for me, but not quite. I am far from being an expert, my only real experience coming in a few jaunts to the San Bernardino slopes in high school. So when my brother suggested a trip up to Bogus Basin, one of the main resorts above Boise, I thought, "Why not try it again, over a decade later." Last winter I had tried snow boarding and felt I was really starting to get the hang of it by the end of the day and I recalled skiing as being a lot easier to pick up.

So yesterday I found myself decked out in an amusing hodge podge of my sister-in-law's ski apparel, long-johns, puffy socks and all. I was outfitted with the equipment at a rental shop and was soon doing the robot walk in my boots up the metal mesh stairs to the bottom of the slope. My feet tend to cramp easily and were already doing so in the strange new environment of the plastic boot. I stamped into my bindings and my brother and I made our way to the lift for the bunny slope for a test run. On the chair lift my brother provided several pointers and after hopping off the lift I was able to swish my way down without a hitch and stop at the bottom. We went down the easy slope a few more times so I could get my wits about me, then headed for higher runs.

I had gone about half-way down the next run when on a fast turn I found myself heading out of control and in the next second my body was flying forward and my face was firmly planted in a snow bank. I slowly extracted myself from the snow and my brother helped me gather my skis and get them back on. After this we practiced stopping and small S turns on steeper grades. We went on several more runs, and though I ate it twice more, it was a great time. The scenery was amazing and the weather not to cold. Good powdery conditions unlike the icy, dangerous runs of SoCal. I'm ready to hit the slopes again, but next time on Mt. Uludag.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sleepless in Star

Flew into Cali on the 17th after a horrendous 8 hour layover in Munich after which I was a complete zombie and not at all ready to do 11 1/2 more hours. Surprisingly good service on United. I always expect rudeness from American carriers but the staff was all quite good. And another point for them -- the food was above average.

Cousin Ron, mom and I went to dinner at Elephant Bar after escaping from LAX. We got to the house at around 11pm so there was no time to sleep. I went online and started work at around midnight and worked through till 8am. For the first few days on this schedule I wasn't feeling lagged but then I flew up to Idaho to see my bro and his fam and the lack of sleep is beginning to catch up with me. I can stay awake during the day, but my brain stays in this floaty state in which everything seems a bit surreal. Luckily not working on the weekends so got my first 2 almost full nights of sleep.

Spent the weekend in Twin Falls at my sister-in-law's parent's house. Adi went on her first 2 easter egg hunts. The first was a wild rampage of kids at a plant nursery. Though the kids were divided by age groups there really wasn't enough room so when the officiator yelled GO there was a stampede of kids and parents. I hopped up on a bench to get out of the way but wasn't able to get any good photos with the crowd.

This morning my bro and headed over to the actual Twin Falls (which is now actually only single falls because the other side has been dammed for hydropower) and then to Shoshone Falls, also used for hydropower but with open turbines. We took a short hike and of course because the hard way is always the funnest, did a bit of rock scrambling along the way. It was still cold enough for there to be some icicles hanging down from the cliffsides, though many had already melted.

If there was one thing I could change about living in Istanbul it would be the addition of open natural spaces (and I don't mean just city parks) where I could escape from the rat race, if just for a little while. I'm still in love with the outdoors even though I live in megalopolis, when I'm back in nature I realize how much I really miss it. It's in my bones. I can't feel fully myself without it.

Anyways, that was a tangent. I'm enjoying my little niece and just trying to squeeze the most out of every minute, cause who knows when I'll be back. Heading back down to Cali on Thursday, but up here will be skiing (or maybe trying boarding again) and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I am not a terrorist

The following are excerpts from a poem and a letter by two young Kurdish students who attend a boarding school in the southeastern city of Muş in Turkey. The work originally appeared in a column by Bulent Korucu.

You know I am not a terrorist

That I am only aware of the pain associated with terror

This city, this country is mine; I am aware of it

Nobody may label me a terrorist; I am not a terrorist; I am aware of it.

People usually think we, the people of the East, are thieves and terrorists; but we are not terrorists. When I hear these remarks, I wilt like a flower; if we were terrorists, then why did we send our brothers to become soldiers in defense of this country. Is it possible to believe that we became thieves and terrorists while our brothers are fighting there to defend this country? Finally, please speak up if someone says the Anatolian people are terrorists because we are tired of hearing this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Navigating the in-law waters

Families are a package deal, so along with my Turkish husband, Evren, I got my Turkish mother-in-law, Gülcan. Of course I had heard all the stories, even from my best friend, and they all came down to one thing -- the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can't be a good one. Yet I showed up two years ago ready to be the exception, after all when I had first visited before moving here we had gotten along great.

But then in the first week after my move, I realized that things were already gettin' strange. While I knew that many Turkish women, especially in her age range, were extreme clean freaks, her level of clean was something completely different. Our washing machine was going 24/7; when she ran out of clothes, she moved on to curtains (that already seemed quite clean to me), rugs, basically any textile that could fit in the washing machine. And if it couldn't fit in the machine then it was washed in the tub. I was relaxing with Ev at around 1am when Gül summoned me out to one of the balconies to help wash windows.

I wanted to understand where this behavior was coming from. I keep my house pretty clean by American standards, and I was feeling pretty insulted by that point. So I plied Ev for background info. He explained that she is O-C with cleaning and that she does this even at her friends' homes. I was over at one of her closest friend's homes in Bursa, Sevil Teyze (Auntie), when I found out that this was absolutely true. Sevil told me she does this pretty much everywhere she goes and as her friends, they've mostly given in to it.

Over the last few years I've learned more that has made me understand her better, and she has eased off the cleaning frenzy while visiting us, at least a bit. She is a naturally energetic, or more accurately a WIRED person that needs to be moving almost constantly. Added to that, she retired from her primary school teaching job when she was only 35 (don't wonder why the Turkish social security/retirement system is collapsing), so has had to occupy herself for almost 20 years now with. . .

She came over last week and while the washing machine was still running quite a lot, it wasn't running at unreasonable hours that would make our neighbors consider doing voodoo on us. Oh yes, and the bleaching of the floors that used to go on (inciting asthma attacks in me) no longer happens, thankfully. She apparently saves that for the two elevators in her apartment building.

In an incident unrelated to cleaning that simply amused me after pissing me off briefly, she tried to plug an American adapter for my mp3 player directly into the universal power strip without the necessary converter to charge her cell phone (despite the fact that we had 4 Nokia chargers around the house that would've fit the bill perfectly). Result: the adapter blew and is now unusable, leaving my mp3 player powerless. The thought of being without music on the bus commute was almost unbearable, but then I'll be heading to the states in a week and will get to gift myself with an upgraded player.

Turks have two words for mother-in-law. One for if you don't like her -- kaynana (even sounds bad doesn't it) -- and one for if you do -- kayınvalide (rather unwieldly). But I haven't really used either, perhaps because of my dislike for such black and white labels. We are just navigating the waters of this relationship as best we can, quirks and all, trying to understand and be understood, trying to find our commonalities and accept our differences.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pivotal moments

On the bus to work this morning, a moment in my childhood that really changed my perspective came to mind, reminding me of the huge impact that words can have, especially on children. I was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA), a conservative Protestant religion that worships on Saturday rather than Sunday. I could expound but religion is not my point today.

I was 11 when this occurred and my father had died only a few months before. My family and I attended a medium-sized church called the Loma Linda Filipino SDA Church. One Saturday after services we were all waiting around for the church potluck to begin. The youth pastor approached me and pulled me aside, a bit suprising since he'd never spoken more than a greeting to me before. He then said in no uncertain words, "You're becoming a real recluse," adding a few more sentences along the same lines. I don't remember giving a response, just walking away in state of shock. Later that day (and many times after that) when I had some time to ponder the comment, I wondered how he could have said such a thing when he knew so little about me and when the one fact that he did know (since the funeral had been held at his church) was that my father had died recently and that I was a child in deep grieving. As well, even before his death, my difference as the only Black-Filipino besides my brother among the several hundred members had been keenly felt. I was a pretty quiet as a kid and this feeling of difference did nothing to help things.

This incident was the beginning of my questioning of organized religion. In my childhood mind I wondered how I could believe the things this man was preaching if he could be so thoughtless and blind on a personal level. Alhough this was a childhood simplification of the matter, it still led me down a path of questioning every aspect of religion and my own world view, and for that I am thankful.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Two more seats please

This past weekend, Evren and I headed out to see the Turkish comedy "Recep İvedik." This movie has been sold out here since it came out and I was curious to see what kind of movie had gained such popularity. We got to the theater, found our seats (assigned instead of first-come first-serve) and watched as the seats quickly filled up. When the movie was about to start a couple came in walked up the far aisle, looked at their tickets and then started chatting with the another couple who were apparently in their seats. They found that they had been assigned the same seats -- the theater had double-booked (gee, and I thought it was only airlines that did this). An attendant appeared and the couple had some words with her. A few minutes later a male attendant came in lugging an oversized stuffed chair and placed it about half-way-up right smack in the aisle. He left and returned with another chair which he plopped down right next to it, fully blocking the aisle (earthquake, fire safety, no problem, stampede down the remaining aisle of course). Problem solved, gotta love this place.

Oh, the movie, typical slapstick comedy, bottle-shattering farts and all. Though I prefer dark comedies I did get a few laughs out of Recep. How can you not laugh at a giant, big-bellied man doing leg lifts in pink spandex or getting locked out of his hotel room wrapped in a towel with bubble bath foam all over his body. And anyways, one of the reasons I like Turkish comedies is that the dialogue is pretty light and easy to understand and its a pretty painless way to learn some more language.