Closer to Home

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Friday, August 1, 2008

With all the movements, emotional things and such seriousness, the small things that fill the interstices of life go unmentioned. But they accumulate in my mind.

I came to Turkey to explore the possibility of emigrating permanently. Well, the experiment is concluded in so far as that singular idea is concerned. I won't be emigrating to Turkey. That's not a failure. Like Edison said of the compounds before tungsten, one positively discovers what doesn't work.

The notion begin to erode pretty quickly as I sought to transition from a traveler to a resident. The main thing was the language, I think. Despite my 1 1/2 years of Turkish language instruction I just haven't gotten very far with it. And I don't foresee getting much better.

There are two principle reasons. One is that I am a visual person, not an aural one. I retain more things by sight than by hearing. I learn Turkish by reading rather than hearing. The other is that, well, I just don't put much effort into it; I naturally gravitate to other interests that are more compelling to me.

I was walking down the street one day remembering how I once decided I wasn't going to try and learn how to throw a pot on a ceramic wheel (or play golf, for that matter). I just didn't have time to overcome the initial frustrations of trying to learn these things. Better to get on with other things.

Associated with the language issue, then, were the little domestic things I faced upon first settling down. They were comparatively minor things, but I couldn't cope with my limited Turkish language. I realized that it would be a very long time, even with concentrated effort, to acquire a language skill that gave me the sense of personal freedom of action that I had in my own culture. It was going to be an inefficient life. Were I younger I might have time to deal with that. Now, it's too late, I'm thinking.

I have not lost my fondness for Anatolia and its history, culture and people. But here I notice I am straying into more seriousness than I had intended at the outset of this piece.

Back to the close-in domestic scene.

As mentioned many times before, I am living near the main iconic (and tourist-centric) structures of Bursa, the Green Tomb (Yeşil Turbe) and Green Mosque (Yeşil Camii). Currently the Tomb is undergoing restoration. So in addition to its natural shroud of trees, a view of it is further compromised by fencing and scaffolding (not to mention some unfortunate latter day architecture).

The door of the Green Mosque (about 50 meters from my front door) is said by the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey to be "a supremely beautiful building which represents a turning point in Turkish architectural style. Before this, Turkish mosques echoed the Persian style . . . but in the Yesil Camii a purely Turkish style emerges."

Sliding to the left, as one faces the front door of the Camii, across an alley is the cafe that I frequent on an almost daily basis. It has a very fast, and free, wireless internet connection. Of course, I always have to have a tea or something at the cafe. (No, no alcohol).

I spend hours there, reading news, emails, and posting this stuff. One of the servers, Hamdi Bey, seems to have sort of "adopted" me. He greets me when we first see each other. During the recent European Cup football championships, when Turkey was a contestant, and the cafe was set up as a viewing parlor, Hamdi Bey reserved a front seat for me (unsolicited). Unfortunately, he didn't quell the cigarette smokers all about me. Hamdi Bey took my picture on the cafe veranda. He was thrilled with my picture of him, and I intend to get a print of it for him. Other of the servers also greet me by name these days.

A couple of doors down from the cafe, and in a direct line between the door of the mosque and my door, is a parking area for visitors to the mosque and cafes nearby. There is also a public WC beneath the small parking lot. And these combined services are the hangout of a band of guys I call "Los Gelcis" (GEL-gee-s). That's a neologism of my own creation. "Los," of course, is the Spanish masculine plural article. Gelci is my neologism, with an English plural appended. So, from one who can't and won't learn Turkish, here's how it goes.

Gelmek is the Turkish infinitive for "come." The command form of a verb in Turkish is the root stem of the verb, in this case, gel. This is the word you hear uttered most often in Turkey. It seems that every time someone is backing up a bus, truck or car, there is a guy out back shouting, "Gel, gel, gel." Or, more likely, "Gelgelgelgelgel. . . ."

Now, for a person who performs a task the suffix "ci" is attached (this is the short explanation, skipping the Turkish alphabet and vowel harmony part). So, a person who makes a key (anahtar) is called an anahtarci. A doorman is called a "kapici" (kapi=door + ci, the one who attends). So, Los Gelcis, the guys who shout at drivers trying to park and unpark their cars.

These same fellows also attend to the WC, cleaning and collecting a small fee. Most mosques have a WC in or proximate to them. Let's just say they vary in maintenance. So, if you are ever in a pinch, head for the minarets. And, people--guys, too--carry your own paper!

After you descend from the parking lot and pass by the door of the WC, a few steps across an alley and down a few more, you are about before the door to my rental.

The other day I went to scoot a dried leaf on the wooden floor of my downstairs living room. Only the leaf scooted too! I stomped it before it could scurry into a base molding crevice. See what I found (picture at bottom). The Turkish One Lira coin is about the size of a US25cent coin. I find myself more amused than freaked out by that. It reminds me of the F-89 Scorpion planes that briefly were assigned to the base in my home town back in the 50s or 60s. I've always wondered if the planes were specifically designed to mimic the insect, or was the name given after the resemblance was noticed.

A last item for today is to show my supposedly Ottoman mug that I bought at a local antique shop shortly after arriving here. I needed a tea mug anyway. Since, the handle just broke off! Clay fatigue I guess. So far the super glue is holding.

The blue glazed brick bit is from the Muradiye Complex. I know about proscriptions relating to Turkish antiquities. I hope this doesn't qualify. I found it behind a bush when I went to look into a window of a building. The building had not a trace of glazed brick on it. The nearest that I saw was about 50 yards away. So it didn't seem to be an in situ archaeological treasure either. I guess all thieves rationalize their takings.
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whatsnew on

Language barrers/challenges!
Yes I know what you mean about the language but well it is a challenge at least and they - the Turks- tolerate us well. of course I have the advantage of Turkish in laws BUt I am relying on Their English rather than they on my Turkish.

whatsnew on

Ne yazik ki ben de yalniz biraz Turkce !
I personally do not think you should give up on your langauage skills. My neice is living in Italy and also feels the same about her langauage abilities after 2years BUT she does not see how much she has learnt - we do though....

whatsnew on

language efficiency
If you were more efficient in your language skills in your initial setting up in Bursa, you (nor they) may not have had the great experience of meeting all the people who helped you. It is a great way for people to experience each other.

oldrover on

Re: Ne yazik ki ben de yalniz biraz Turkce !
No, I'm not giving up. I continue to read in the textbooks I have. But read, not really study. So far they mostly are what I already know. I do the exercises. But I don't STUDY with any real intensity. I don't really study anything. I'm just a confessed dilettante. Scorned by scholars and airheads alike.

In reply to:

I personally do not think you should give up on your langauage skills. My neice is living in Italy and also feels the same about her langauage abilities after 2years BUT she does not see how much she has learnt - we do though....

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