Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Driving in Adana

I haven't yet had the pleasure of driving in Adana. I'm sure my time will come once our car arrives on the slow boat from D.C. However, I am not looking forward to it. Why? Because I have been observing the drivers around here, and they are terrifying.

I had grown accustomed to the drivers in New York and even D.C., which according to this survey is the worst driving city in the United States.  Surprisingly, as aggressive and crazy as the drivers are in New York, that city didn't even make the top 10. 

So then, where does Turkey rank on the list of worst drivers around the world?  Well, in this 2009 survey, it ranked #4.  Number four on a list of the ten most dangerous countries to drive in.  That's pretty harsh.  Now, there have been more updated lists since this survey was released four years ago, and Turkey wasn't even on it, which is reassuring.  But having been here as a casual observer for the past few weeks, I can personally say the driving is still pretty terrible.  Or maybe it's just here in Adana.
The rules of the road are very different here, and sometimes I wonder if rules exist at all.  Red lights for stopping?  Forget about it.  Parking on the sidewalk without getting a ticket?  Absolutely acceptable.  In a way though, I kind of like that idea.  I mean, finding a parking spot in big American cities is always such a hassle.  Wouldn't it be nice to pull onto the curb, throw the car in park and go run your errands without fear of consequences?
But parking and red lights aside, what really scares me is the way drivers don't stay in their lanes and casually cut you off.  Drivers will jump across three or four lanes of traffic to make a turn or exit a traffic circle, and they won't look twice before doing so.  Cutting drivers off is a big deal here and that's how most accidents occur.  Forget about checking rear view mirrors or blind spots.  And turn signals are hardly ever used. They just go for it.  I've seen it happen at least a dozen times so far, and my heart always ends up in my throat. 
So what happens if you get hit or hit someone?  Well, according to the one rule of driving that everyone does follow, you do not move your car.  Once you move it, the accident is automatically deemed your fault and apparently you don't want that to happen.  Then things get complicated.
Thankfully, the consulate employs a very smart, capable and extremely nice guy who will come out and assist you if you find yourself in such a predicament.  (Go ahead Mom, you can breathe a sigh of relief now.)  He will talk to the police and get things sorted out while you just stand there looking sheepish or pissed off, depending on who is really to blame for the accident.  He is number two on my speed dial, right after S, but I sincerely hope I never have to call him.
When I took driver's ed oh-so-long ago, the first rule I learned was to always be alert.  This is the rule to live by when driving in Adana.  And probably in most cities going forward. 
For now, I will stick with walking.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rainy Days and Weekend Exploration

We are having a rare rainy day here in Adana, so instead of exploring the neighborhood or checking out the local markets like I usually do, I am sitting at home sipping hot tea and catching up on blogging.
Last weekend, S had Monday off compliments of the great Dr. King, so we took the opportunity to explore the neighborhood as a family. 
There is a beautiful park here that we have come to love, so we spent the mornings there E.  That kid loves to slide, so we went up and down all the different slides until we were convinced he was tuckered out.  But no, after the slides came the see-saws, and then of course came the running.  For the record, E doesn't walk anywhere, he runs.  We try very hard to get him to walk, "E slow down, E watch where you're going, E WALK!" but he just shakes his finger at us and says "No walk.  I running!" He is really feeling his "almost-two-ness" lately, and if we can't get the kid to actually listen, then the least we can do is take it outside.  So yes, once the slides and see-saws had been exhausted, E ran...and ran...and ran.  He even gets into a little runner's stance and says "Ready, Set, Go!" before he takes off.  Maybe one day we'll have a future track star on our hands.
But I digress...

Once the running was under control our afternoons consisted of yummy Turkish lunches, a stop at a local ice cream shop, and casual strolling along some of the main avenues in our area.  S and I love to discover new places and make a mental list of all the restaurants or cafes that we would like to try, so we started our list last weekend. 

First up was a small place nearby that specializes in tuvuk durüm.  Tuvuk durüm is basically a chicken wrap, but it's a chicken wrap Turkey-style, so it's better.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to successfully communicate that we wanted tuvuk durüm because our waiter ultimately served us a plate full of sliced chicken, bread and a second plate loaded with pickled veggies. I guess the looks of confusion went unnoticed by him because he sauntered off with a happy smile after handing us the food and restocking our napkin supply.  Whatever it is we did order looked fantastic anyway, so we dove in.  And it tasted just as good as it looked.  E was even impressed with the pickled veggies, a first food experience for him.  We will be back again soon, I'm sure. 

The ice cream stop was more successful thanks to the Turkish-English fruits and veggies board books we bought E for Christmas.  What is strawberry again?  Oh yeah, here's E's book...Çilek.  Thanks!

After that we strolled along checking out more shops and adding to our list of restaurants.  Thankfully, there are loads of fine (and not so fine) dining experiences just within a five to ten minute walk of our apartment, but that also means we are going to have to do a LOT of eating out if we are to cover all these places.  And we have only just scratched the surface.  I can't wait to see what this upcoming weekend has in store for us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Funny Side of Getting Lost in Translation

When I say I have been heavily relying on English/Turkish phrase books and iPhone translation apps since we got here, that would be an understatement.  Sometimes my words are understood, and sometimes I get confused looks when I try to say out loud what has just been translated for me electronically.  Now, I can't tell if it's because my pronunciation is so horrible, or if it is because what I am trying to say makes no sense.  In any event, trying to do everyday tasks in a country where you can't speak the language even a little bit, is hard. 
Yesterday, the communication problem reached a humorous peak when I went to pick up E from daycare.  I got there a bit early because I wanted to chat with his teachers and see how his first full day was...did he eat okay, did he nap okay, is he adjusting...those sorts of things.  I confronted the situation head on.  After all, I had two different translation tools in my grasp, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, things started out smoothly enough.  "E sleep one and half hour" I was told after the teacher consulted her own Google translate app. 
I smiled and said "iyi teşekkür," which basically means, "good, thank you."
This proceeded for another few minutes as I was told what E ate for lunch and snack, how well he played with others, and that he is already picking up on some Turkish words like "şapka" (hat) and "Merhaba" (hello). 
And then his teacher thought it would be a nice idea to tell me how many soiled diapers E had that day, which is great.  I would like to know that my child is having regular bowel movements.  Cuz Lord knows a constipated child is a cranky child.
So the translation process continued.  The teacher leaned over her app and typed something in Turkish. 
Then she turned the screen toward me, plastered a big smile on her face and said, "E shit two time!"
It took everything I had not to burst out laughing. 
What? Shit?  Really?  All I could think, besides, "OMG, did she just say shit?" was "what Turkish word is actually translated to shit?"  I mean, couldn't Google translate it as "poo" or "poop" or "crap?" 
She was so proud of herself and that sweet, innocent smile just made it all the more endearing.  Of course, I suppressed my urge to laugh and proceeded to nod and smile.  Because of course, who knows how many times I've said something equally ridiculous and funny to them.
But then she kept saying it. "No! Mistake shit!"
Ahh, she realized her mistake of using a curse word, I thought as I tried to hide my smile.  Good, because I don't want to have to correct her, I thought.
"Mistake shit!" she said again.  "E shit THREE time!" 
Oh boy.  Her mistake was with the number of times he actually pooped, not the fact that she was using the wrong word.  My smile was about to explode into full blown laughter, but I kept it together.  Even as she capped off the conversation with "Many shit! Big shit!" 
Yes, yes.  My kid pooped a lot.  Got it.  Teşekkür.
In the end I thanked her and bid her a good afternoon, all in Turkish and without the use of a translation app.  No, I didn't have the heart to correct her, but perhaps next time, after the shock wears off and I have had a chance to fully giggle at this little moment of being completely and utterly lost in translation. 
The fact is, E's teachers are amazing.  They are affectionate and caring and they are really helping him learn.  So what if we get a little lost in communication.  I can't wait to continue learning from them and I can't wait to see the progress E makes as well.  He is loving everything so far and I just want that to continue so I can continue to see that smile on his face everyday. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Merhaba from Turkey!

We’re here!  We arrived Monday night after a longer than expected trip compliments of a snow storm delay in Istanbul that had our plane grounded on the tarmac for 5 hours.  There’s nothing quite like boarding a plane for a short one hour flight, only to sit there…not moving…for 5 hours… with a cranky toddler.  But, despite our delay, we arrived safely, as did the pets.  The pets were of great concern for us the entire time and added quite a bit of anxiety to our trip.  We had never traveled with them before, so we weren’t quite sure how they would behave in transit.  And considering they almost didn’t come with us thanks to some silly new rules about forms, and some extremely unhelpful people at a nameless office in Virginia, we were just grateful the ordeal was finally over and they were actually with us.**
B-cat decided to go on a hunger strike for the first two days here, but thankfully he is back to his old food-demanding self.  And M-dog has been barking a little too much and pretty much driving the neighbors crazy, but she will soon adjust and chill out.  We hope.
E was okay during the flights, although he barely slept and he started to lose it during that 5 hour wait on the tarmac.  But we were all pretty much done and losing it at that point, so I give the kid a pass.  Plus, he finally passed out just before the plane took off, so at least there’s that.  We got to our apartment at midnight, gave him a quick bath, and put him to bed where he proceeded to sleep until 2:30 the next afternoon.  For those folks counting at home, that’s less than 5 hours sleep in a 24-hour period, followed by 14 straight hours of uninterrupted snoozing.  I love that kid. He has continued to sleep like a champ since then too.  Let’s just hope it sticks.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we arrived in Turkey, so barring any preexisting notions about…anything, really, I am quite happy with what we have experienced so far.
First off, our neighbors are fantastic.  There are two FS families living upstairs in our building, and they both have young kids, which is great for E.  One couple has been our sponsor for the past few weeks, and did a great deal to help prepare our apartment, stock our fridge before our arrival, and even met us at the airport (in the middle of the night) to transport us to our new home.  They had us over for a delicious lasagna dinner on our second night, and the generosity continued into the next day when they helped me get around town to run some errands. I have also spent a couple afternoons with our other neighbor, casually chatting and sipping tea while our children played together.  There's nothing quite like getting to know a foreign city from a new friend over a hot cup of tea.  S and I are really excited to live with (and for him, to work with) such amazing people. 
The locals are also extremely nice and very helpful, and as a whole, as far as I can tell, they are genuinely kind.  Yesterday I met with the proprietor of a local daycare to see about getting E admitted into her program.  Her daycare came highly recommended from others who served at this post, so I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed.  Although a language barrier exists, I have no doubt that this will be a caring and educational environment for E.  And he will likely learn to speak Turkish better than his mom and dad.
Our apartment here is beautiful and huge.  It is quite honestly the biggest and nicest place I have ever lived in, and the views are spectacular.  Since we are the first FS family to live here, there were a few kinks that needed to be worked out, like, re-grounding the electricity for our stove.  It kept shorting out every time we turned it on, and would shut off the power to the entire apartment. And we had a minor hot water issue that was cleared up in a matter of minutes. But otherwise, now that those issues are cleared up, we can’t complain one bit.
S has been working since we arrived, and he has been very, very busy.  He loves what he is doing and he was excited to finally get his hands dirty.  The last 5 months of training in D.C. left him aching to get to work, and now that it’s finally here, it’s no joke.  He’s loving every minute of it so far.
For now, we are all happy, excited and looking forward to a little family time this weekend so we can continue to explore the city together and familiarize ourselves with our neighborhood.  Pictures of the apartment are coming as soon as we get our stuff!
**Basically, our vet included both B-cat and M-dog’s final vet exam information on the same form.  Thinking all was good, we personally drove this information to the only [nameless] office in all of VA, DC and MD (a good 2 hours from where we lived in Arlington) to get the final stamp of approval.  Upon arrival, we were told “two species, two forms” and were thus told they could not be approved.  This was 4 days before we were scheduled to leave, and 3 days before we were scheduled to have our car picked up for shipment to Turkey.  Bottom line, we naively took [nameless] office’s advice that they would have our vet “overnight” new documents to them, and in return nameless would “overnight” the approved forms to us in Arlington. But by Friday, the day our car was to be picked up, those forms were still sitting unopened and unstamped in the [nameless] office.  So, we were forced to rent a car and drive the 4 hours round trip to Richmond for the final stamps of approval.  We got it done, but oh boy, it was frustrating.  So, anyone shipping a dog and cat, or cat and rabbit, or bird and dog, or whatever combo of differing species you prefer, their vet exams MUST be on two separate forms, or they will not be traveling with you.  Or you will be jumping through hoops at the last minute like we were.  Oh, and all this cannot be done more than 15 days prior to your departure for post.  That combined with all the unusable/non-working holidays that occurred during our 15 days (Christmas and New Year’s) left us scrambling.  Not fun, but it’s done.  Thank goodness.