episodes from the resettlement

new phantogram album dropped I am swaying in my chair because chair-dancing is fun

Back when I was working for Benal I did a lot of dancing in chairs. They set me up in a big orange room, alone, with a keyboard. I brought my laptop. My students would come in and we did some warm-ups, some vocal technique. Then would come karaoke time. Everyone wants to learn pop. I am verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryy up with current pop. Selena Gomez writes half-gritty mirror pop, Adele writes the heart-eating romance ballads, Avicii makes the most terrible dj swag celebrating being white and affluent. (I feel embarassed for the producers of this video.)

I depended on youtube to provide “lyrics” videos, so my students could sing along to these pop songs. I was never sure what to do so I danced in my chair a lot.

**

In my new house, in Kadikoy, my Italian roommates play a lot of really weird music. They’re artists and I like ’em a lot. (I moved, of course, because the house was Benal’s). This new flat is the greatest. Big living room, balconies, top floor. I knocked a plastic flower trough off the balcony and remember to scream DIKKAT (look out!) but nobody noticed, or even looked. This walking dude was a foot from where it crashed. He jumped back, and then looked from side to side as if another turkish person could furnish him with an explanation. The shoe-shine guy on my corner immediately looked up and gave me what I imagine was the evil eye. I went down the stairs to collect the wreckage.

“cok pardon,” I said to the shoe-shine guy. A small crowd had gathered. A young woman leaned out her window to watch.

“I came out here in the sun–” he began, and pointed at the spot where he’d been on the pavement, “and then this flowerpot crashes right down next to me. Can’t a guy catch a break?” [this is a liberal translation]

“cok pardon,” I repeated, and he pointed to where he’d moved it, across the street. I’m not sure why he moved it to the other side of the street, as it had obviously come from the apartment directly above him. I walked, in full view of the small crowd, across the street. I picked up the ruined flower trough. I walked it back.

“cok pardon,” I said again, because I couldn’t remember the word for “fall” or “accident.” I didn’t know where to put the garbage yet, and I didn’t want to put it in the wrong place with everyone watching. So I walked all the way back up with the flower trough, and put it on the floor of the balcony.

**

When I got back from vacation, I stepped into the new flat in the morning, fresh of the 16-hour bus from Viransehir. The Germans were setting up a lavish breakfast. “Are you hungry? We have real coffee,” they said.

[later I asked the germans how he managed to find espresso, and he said “I tried the turkish stuff for awhile, but eventually I just needed some real coffee. It was ten lira.” excellent.]

The spread was bread, some white cheese, butter, and a variety of preserves from Iran. They’d been to Iran with a native, and his Iranian mom had furnished them with cherry, fig, and orange blossom marmalade.

“We went through Shiraz, Tehran, a few other places,” Chris said. “We didn’t spend more than 135 Euro. We went to restaurants and tried to pay, and our friends laughed at us or got mad. Once we tried to pay the waiter without our hosts seeing, and he just laughed. “You are the guests,” he told us, and wouldn’t take the money.” The fruit preserves were incredible.

“They never stop drinking tea. I thought it was impossible to drink less tea than in Turkey,” Julia said.

“Ja,” Chris said. “But some days we didn’t even drink water. Just tea, tea, tea, tea.”

“Tea all the time!” I was dazed. Sleep-deprived and hungry, I feasted and enjoyed Iranian hospitality by proxy.

**

To survive for the next few months here, I picked up some English teaching work, I went to a casting agency, I met some private tutor recruiters, I pitched an article to a magazine. The new school is in Europe, in Aksaray, right next to the police station. Two days ago was my first day. They wanted me to come early, to observe a lesson, and then they had scheduled me for some lessons in the evening. Night school!

So I came early, watched a guy, Kubi, give a lesson to about six sleepy teenagers. Kubi sat on a tiny desk, rolled up his plaid sleeves, shook a shaggy mess of black hair, and asked his students to read out their answers. Kubi was a Turkish Kurt Cobain. In the forty minutes I observed, he dropped three weirdly sexist comments.

“Kelly cares a lot about her…which word is it, class? No? Appearance, cares about her appearance.” He looked up and paused. “Just like a woman, yeah? Always obsessed with appearance.” He looked around. “Zeynep, are you obsessed with your appearance?”

Question four or so: “They talked all night and couldn’t reach a…?”

“Agreement,” Zeynep said.

“That’s right, agreement.” He paused. “Talked all day and night and couldn’t agree? Must be a man and a woman, huh?”

Later, we met in the canteen. “It’s like beating your head against a wall this early, man. They do not wanna be there.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I’m so tired.” He sipped a dainty turkish coffee. “I was up til three thirty last night.”

“Oh?”

“I had a row with my wife.”

“A what?”

“Row.” He hunched down lower, stared low for a minute. He straightened, smiled, and said to me, “I said to her, why are we fighting? We’re not going to divorce over this, yes? We’re on the same team, let’s go to bed.”

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