31 December, 2007

Mutlu Yillar, Y'all

There are about 45 minutes left in 2007.Interestingly, in Turkey they equate Christmas with New Year's Eve. This means the city has been full of Santas, evergreens, and all sorts of Christmas decorative detritus since before Bayram.
However, all the trimmings are identified by most Turks as being New Year's decorations. In addition to believing Santa to somehow directly associated with the coming year, many Turks believe today is Christmas and it's near impossible to convince some of them otherwise. One English friend was met with such resistance by one student that accquiessed, muttering "I'll call England and let them know we've been doing it wrong all these years."

New Year's has never been of much importance to me, an arbitrary designation that has taken on arbitrary significance. I also agree with the whoever termed the 31st "amateur night". Whenever I happen to pass the end of a year at my mother's home I take some pleasure in annoying my mother by going to bed at about 11pm. She usually stammers about how I'd only have to wait another hour. My idea is that we'll either roll into a new year or not, and on the chance we don't I'd rather be fast asleep. Also, I tend to find more of interest in the early hours of January 1st along the empty streets and alleys of wherever I happen to be living.

Tonight, I spent some time with friends, opened a bottle of Greek wine, and made a fabulous meal. Tomorrow, I'll get up early and wander around the neighborhood and city with my cameras and see what I find. I suspect not much, at least in the early hours, but I know this city is never still for long.

Mutlar yillar. Happy New Year.
Salaam fi 2008, insha'allah.

30 December, 2007

Turkish, the language of Jedi Masters

My friend and colleague Nick, who is also learning Turkish, pointed out something interesting to me the other day.

"Think about how the sentence is formed in Turkish," he said before modeling a few simple sentences in Turkish.

"It's backwards! It's like Yoda-speak," he exclaimed. "I've decided I need to keep that in mind when I'm learning it."

He's got a point with the verb coming at the end of the sentence.

"Learn Turkish I will," he said in his best attempt at the wobbly, little voice of the little, green Jedi master. "One bottle Efes I want," he said with a laugh.

To a girl raised on the original films, who wanted to grow up to be Princess Leia and lead a rebellion to save the universe (and snag Han Solo), it makes learning Turkish even cooler.

May The Force be with y'all.

Best laid plans....

I know I wrote that I'd post an update regarding Greece, but I've been waylaid by several Christmas parties and now a nasty cold which kept me out of class for three days, which, in all honesty, isn't that bad. However, I'd rather be well and working than sick and housebound. I have begun laying plans for 2008 through my feverish and oxygen deprived haze.

In the weeks before I moved to Istanbul, I began compiling a list of things I wanted to accomplish, but without parameters, such as time or reality or feasibility. The list runs the gamut from the predictable - learn Turkish - to the idealistic, professional, personal, and with regular forays into the odd and unique. I'm revisiting the notes I made and adding things that have come up in the months I've been here.

For instance, I had no idea I'd be living in a neighborhood with so many transvestite prostitutes and, the Diane Arbus in me wants to get to know them. I've taken to telling the two or three who frequent my corner "goodnight" when I return from teaching my night classes. At first they seemed surprised and a bit confused as to how or if they should respond. But I did manage to finally get a "goodnight" in response recently, which I take as a good sign. An older Turkish friend told me "it's best you don't speak to them," but I disagree.

I need to arrange a schedule that includes incorruptible times for writing and photography. There the various places and unused planters I've been keeping my eye on in hopes of staging a guerrilla gardening project. And then there's that intense desire to confound the harbor pilots by taking a kayak through the Bosphorus, finding where and how to keep a kayak in this city, and swimming to the Asian side (no, not kidding). I'll also begin looking for diving partners, because I refuse to stay out of the water for as long as I have in the past. Then there's my stubborn refusal to bow to the male-female divide, whereby I will create a circle of male friends, come hell or high water, for match-watching, billiards-playing, etc.

Some things on the list are coming together: I'm starting a book club with a Turkish friend and that may help lay the groundwork for the writing workshop I'd like to organize. I'm also having a go at a long-standing goal of mine - 50 books in 52 weeks. I've decided to let some of it be a bit organic, while making a list of certain titles I'd like to be sure to read.

I'm feeling good, current illness aside, heading into the coming year. Of course, I suppose most people feel pretty good about the future this time of year, otherwise New Year's Eve likely wouldn't be much of a celebration. I feel a lot of responsibility for myself and no one else, which doesn't make it any easier.
Looking forward to seeing what's next.

Salaam, y'all.