Monday, June 28, 2010

Temporary Expats

The sad part of my expat life is that many of my foreign friends here in Turkey are not expats; rather, they are just passing through Turkey on their way from Taiwan to Mexico, or from Colombia to Sweden. They are true international teachers, making their way around the world, and they just happened to land in Tarsus for a few years.

Two years ago, it seemed as if all the people I'd just spent a year getting to know suddenly left. Thankfully, a wonderful group of new people arrived; and when they returned for a second year, it seemed a real expat community had been formed. But their two years are up and most of them have decided not to stay, so once again I've had to face the reality that my expat life is not shared with other expats.

However, I don't feel too entitled to complain, since this year we too are leaving, even if we're just relocating to another part of the country. I've heard that many of the foreigners in Istanbul really are expats, even if they never intended to stay, and so I am heartened by the prospect of friendships that won't lead to heartache.

And on another positive note: there's nothing like knowing you're about to say goodbye forever to push you to tie up loose ends -- I finished my painting!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Goodbye Tarsus

We're leaving Tarsus and moving to Istanbul. Four years ago, when I was new in Turkey and frustrated by how provincial Adana was, I would have given anything to have my husband announce we were relocating west; I dreamed of life in Istanbul, Izmir or Ankara, and traveled there whenever I could for a dose of cosmopolitanism.

But something happened over the past four years, and not only do I now appreciate Adana for its lack of traffic, its lovely climate (at least for the nine non-summer months of the year), its reasonable cost of living, and its safety, but I've fallen in love with Tarsus.

And so instead of tackling the logistics of packing and transporting our belongings, deciding what essentials we'll need for the month we spend "homeless" this summer, and finding a new nanny, I've been indulging in pre-departure nostalgia. Our Sunday morning walks have become pilgrimages, as we revisit our favourite parts of Tarsus. We inevitably discover new places, and are briefly consumed by the irony of not having known a place sooner.

I've also started bringing my camera with us on these walks, trying to capture what I know we can't take with us. Surprisingly few of my photos, however, are of typical Tarsus scenes, such as the mini lahmacun famous here.
Instead, I've found myself capturing Tarsus's quirks, such as this rooster tied to a sign post in the middle of the sidewalk;
or the way the city's once-beautiful architecture has been ruined by misguided attempts at renovation, such as this 'modern' second storey addition to a historical building:

I found this remnant of a balcony with its two well-tended flower pots absolutely lovely:

I've also become obsessed with buying unusual Tarsus 'souvenirs.' The first thing I bought was an old oxen's yoke I had seen hanging on the wall of a local carpenter's shop. I'd seen it months earlier and thought it would be an interesting feature in a home, but months passed and I didn't go back and buy it. But as soon as I found out we'd be moving to Istanbul, I decided I couldn't leave Tarsus without buying the yoke.

And then there is the cauldron. Like the yoke, the cauldron spent some time on my 'to-buy-one-day' list. I first came across the little corner shop with the polite older Armenian gentleman selling all things metal a few years ago, and immediately saw the artistry in the cauldrons he had lined up outside. But once again, it wasn't until I realized I might lose the chance to buy one, that I was overcome with anxiety and just knew I had to have one. Closed on Sundays and only open until 7pm on Saturdays, though, weeks passed between my decision to buy one and actually making it to the store with my husband, whom I always take along to do the bargaining.

We finally made it one Saturday afternoon. My husband chatted with the proprietor while I considered which kazan to buy, settling on a handmade copper-coloured one with excellent craftsmanship and a thick grade of copper. Unfortunately, it was also large, much larger than either of us had originally envisioned. But I stubbornly refused to settle for any other, more reasonably-sized cauldron, since they weren't as beautiful.
And now it's time to start packing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Things We Know for Sure - Part 2

I'm reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, and am once again reminded that I shouldn't assume "different" equals "wrong." For years I've been griping about the amount of animal fat and whole fat dairy products present in this region's cuisine, waxing poetic about the availability of low-fat everything in Toronto's supermarkets.

But Pollan's overview of the history of "Nutritionism" pointed out how many times experts have proclaimed a certain food or nutrient as healthful, only to later discover it caused cancer or heart disease. His examples of margarine and the first baby formulas shocked me, but what really hit home was when he described the way olive oil drizzled over tomatoes may very well help in the body's absorption of one nutrient or another, and that incidents of cardiac arrest increased in America after people stopped rendering their own animal fat and switched to hydrogenated vegetable oils.

So I am now going to feel less anxious whenever my mother-in-law adds kuyruk yağı, the infamous fat from a sheep's tail, to her sarma and am resolved to enjoy the whole fat milk delivered fresh to her door -- I will simply enjoy less of it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Ocean Apart - An Update

It's day four of my project with Lisa, which we've (tentatively?) entitled "An Ocean Apart." Here are our pictures from day 2:

Me: "It sometimes seems I do nothing more all day than create messes and then clean them up, over and over again. But I enjoy doing the dishes, and get satisfaction from seeing order restored."

Lisa: "Audrey walking along the benches in the park. Her balance has improved over the year, and she no longer hesitates along the way."

And day 3:

Me: "An impromptu breakfast eaten standing up at the kitchen counter, prepared by my husband."

Lisa: "Driving back from the airport along the Gardiner Expressway on a gloomy grey morning."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Art Project - An Ocean Apart

My dear friend Lisa and I have started a photography project, inspired by A Year of Mornings. Every morning for a month we are each going to take a photo of an aspect of our lives - hers in Toronto, mine in Turkey. At the end of one month we're going to make a book out of all the photos, each day's moments displayed side by side.

Here are our first photos, taken yesterday, 11 June.

Interestingly, we both took pictures of 'bits' of our families: Lisa photographed one of her daughters; in my photo I've captured my son's hand, my feet and the back of my husband's head. I can't wait to see whether our respective pictures will highlight the differences or the similarities between our lives!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paid Parking

It seems the end has come to the free-for-all that was parking around town. You'll recall my brush with the parking police a few weeks ago (if not, you can read all about it here); and you'll recall too my surprise that anyone even cared where I parked. After all, for the past four years I've watched my husband park in all sorts of places I suspected he shouldn't and he's never received a single parking ticket.

Purolator Courier vs The Parking EnforcementImage by compscigrad via Flickr

But don't let my recent forays into lawlessness fool you; polite parking is "in my bones." I've on more than one occasion spent over half an hour circling a few blocks looking for a legal spot in Toronto; I've gotten out of my car, only to get back in and move it after seeing an 'exception' on a Toronto sign and realizing I'd parked illegally; and goodness knows I've rushed to get back to my car before the meter expire, knowing that in Toronto, two minutes can cost you. Even now, an ocean away, the sight of an advertisement printed on yellow paper stuck to my windshield momentarily makes my heart sink into my stomach.

But lately, I'd been timidly testing the waters on the wild side, leaving my car in dubious places. Imagine my surprise, then, when a few weeks ago, I found myself with my pick of parking spots on busy Ziyapaşa Bulvarı in Adana. As a young woman smartly clad in short slacks and a turquoise short-sleeved shirt smilingly approached and typed my license plate into a small wireless credit card machine, I realized the municipal government had finally realized they needed to regulate parking and eliminate chaos in one of the city's most congested areas. The 1 Lira per hour fee was nothing compared to the convenience of having my choice of parking spots.

Two days ago on a walk through town, I noticed that here in Tarsus officers had likewise appeared every hundred meters and were collecting parking fees from people as they returned to their parked cars. I was left with an odd undecided feeling: am I glad that Tarsus is "growing up," or am I sad that it's losing its village charm?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]