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THE FOLLOWING IS A REAL TRUE STORY from my SUPER COOL NEW BOOK, East meets West meets You and Me. You can order this book here for fifteen wholesome American dollars, just follow the paypal link at the bottom. Wow.


Nathan asked me for help with his residency paperwork. I speak pretty good Turkish, and he’d arrived last spring sometime and was not adept at navigating the system yet, and so thought having a translator on hand would help out.

Doing your residence, your ikamet, is complicated in the best of circumstances. The basic process doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but what you have to do is make an appointment, show up with a bunch of papers, and then wait for it in the mail. But the required documents you need change every year, the place you apply at changes every year, and the cops are informed about these changes only half the time. Working papers are difficult to get, so most of us pretend to be “tourists” for years at a time.

One time I bribed a change office to write me a import slip saying that I’d changed $6,000 into lira and could provide for my own needs. Jari once forged himself into Orkun’s rent contract but before while trying to get it notarized, the notary public said his (fake!) contract was due 500 lira back tax. He and Orkun tried another notary, and they said it was 400 in back tax. So they spent a few hours wandering to different notary offices, shopping for the lowest imaginary tax price for his imaginary lease. Anna had a story about meeting a guy in a parking garage for some documents and then waiting in some müdür’s office all day while he processed a combination of forgeries and favors. I’ve turned in an application which lacked crucial documents but the cop liked me and so said I didn’t need them, and conversely, I’ve lacked a photocopy of my passport and got sent away until another day because they refused to let me use the copy machine right behind them. It is a struggle of the little man trapped in a bureaucracy that Kafka would have wet dreams about, a test of wits and charisma, of stupidity and luck. My friend Valentin observed: “the process of getting legal residence in Turkey is proof that you can actually live in Turkey. It’s a pretty good test.”

The government at that time was in the midst of some bureaucratic reshuffle, creating a new department to handle residents and migration, the Göç Müdürlüğü. Poor Nathan had applied for an appointment under the old system, and then while he waited for the date (three months later), the system changed, and his appointment vanished. So when he arrived at the police station, they had no record he existed, and told him to reapply under the new system. Which he did, and got another date, another three months later. So now he’d overstayed his visa by about six months.

We caught a cab not to the central police station, but to the new Göç Müdürlüğü building in residential Beşiktaş. It was a strange complex with three different buildings labeled A, B, and C. We tried A and the cops sent us to B. We went to B and the cops sent us to C to get fingerprinted. We went to C and the cops said Nathan didn’t actually need to get fingerprinted for his residency because he wasn’t a refugee, just a potential resident, and sent us back to A. The cops in A told us we were in the wrong building. We googled the address to the Göç Müdürlüğü and it was building A. We were stumped.

We texted our friend Brian to ask where the building was, as he’d just done his residency the previous week, and he sent us an address a few kilometers away. We got into another cab.

Now we were half an hour late for the noon appointment. We found the Göç Müdürlüğü sign outside a building, walked up two flights of stairs past completely empty and unlabeled offices, and found ourselves in an office lobby where a few other foreigners were waiting. It was also empty. A wire hung down from the ceiling, a few floor tiles were broken to bits. There were no signs to indicate this was the right place, just a piece paper taped to each of the three closed doors in the lobby, all labeled A, B, and C.

We knocked on A. We were ignored. We knocked again. A cop opened the door and said it was lunch break and everyone would be back in half an hour. We knocked on B. Another cop opened the door to say the same thing, and we explained that we had an appointment for 11. They told us to wait. We didn’t bother knocking on C.

When A, B, and C all opened their doors in an hour, all the foreigners got up and crowded around them in masses. We elbowed our way to the front of one of them, and got in by showing how much time had passed since Nathan’s appointment was. Inside the room (A) there were three desks, labeled 1, 2, and 3. Each with a migrant and a cop processing their paperwork. We sat down at 1 and the woman looked over Nathan’s paperwork and started stapling and checking everything was in order.

“It looks like you’ll be fine,” I said. “I might take off.”

“Yeah that’s alright,” Nathan said.

Just as I was about to leave, she stopped and asked when Nathan had entered the country. I relayed the question to him, and he threw out a date some nine months earlier. She looked at it the application and said, “well then this is invalid,” and crossed out the entire front page and wrote a huge İPTAL – cancelled.

“Whoa slow down!” I said.  “He got an appointment under the old system but—”

“He applied for residency after he’d overstayed his three-month visa. This application is invalid.”

“But he did apply, except your system lost his application.”

“Then he needs to re-apply,” she said, giving him back some documents, and throwing the rest of the application away. “He needs to leave the country, get a new passport stamp on entry when he comes back, and reapply within three months.” She waved us away, and called someone else over to Desk 1.

“But when he leaves, he could be fined, or worse, banned,” I said, standing up. “Can you maybe write a thing saying that he’s just doing this because he has to get around the bureaucracy?”

“Olmaz,” she said. It can’t be done. I looked at Nathan.

“I take it whatever you just talked about isn’t good,” he said.

“Think of it this way,” I said. “You’re going on vacation.”

This is a super short excerpt from my new book. You can read it and have a giggle. Or, if you were there, you can relive all the gory details in full technicolor.

***

The first few weeks I hit Taksim regularly trying to make friends again. As much as I hated it, Taksim was the heart of all social life in the city, and I had to visit there regularly to reconnect with the people of Bar-ish. Bari-ish is both the name of the pub and the guy who owns it, Bariş, and this Irish place was the gathering place of our little community. It was a dungy ground-floor pub off Kurabiye Sokak which runs parallel to Istiklal Caddesi. Everyone drank there. Adair, naturally, had a tab which he kept running all month, and it regularly hit more than a thousand lira. This was when beers were 12 lira apiece.

Samir, a British/Turkish louse with an auburn beard and a rugby player’s build, invited a bunch of people to the British Consulate one February night for drinks. This was exciting because it was the cheapest place to drink in the city – they didn’t have to pay import tax, you see. Back in the good ol days when an Islamic strongman wasn’t in power, not a vice tax was to be found. Now! Agony! Six lira for a beer on the street when it used to be four.

But it was some quasi legal entity where we had to buy a drink card for fifty lira’s worth of swill and turn it into two-lira beverages, including a stock of genuine English beers and gin. We talked about video of a Kuwaiti-Irish kid who’d been making the rounds on turkfacebook – this poor kid in the old city had knocked over a doner guy’s water display, a pyramid of bottles which came tumbling to the ground. Had this kid been white as the driven snow, there would have been no problem, but of course since he was brown, the esnaf grabbed his esnaf stick. And suddenly, the street was full of esnafs grabbing their sticks. It was as if they were just waiting for something to go beat up. But apparently this Kuwaiti-Irish kid was a Jiujitsu practitioner, or a boxer, or some sort of fighter, and managed to fight off a crowd of esnafs wielding esnaf sticks in the middle of a market.

After we’d gotten our fill, Adair moved that we attend karaoke. We went to a place near Galatasary Lisesi, right on Istiklal, and petitioned the bouncers to let us in. They said it was closed. Of course, it wasn’t – we just didn’t have enough women to justify our presence. So we stood off to the side and started talking about what to do.

“Maybe we should audition,” someone suggested. “Maybe we’re just not pretty enough.”

So we started singing off-key and stupidly. The bouncers came over and grabbed Samir by the collarbone and shoved him out into the street. As it usually goes, things accelerated much too quickly.

“Don’t you ever touch me abi,” Samir shouted in Turkish. They pushed me too, and I started shouting at them in English. Everyone was shouting. Don’t touch me, no YOU don’t touch me, etc. We backed off. Those guys were assholes, we all agreed. We formed a conga line and decided to dance past the place in the middle of the street, singing “this little light of mine.” And that’s when I made the crucial mistake.

I flipped them off.

I only half-saw the man throw his çay glass but it ricocheted off my head, Adair’s leg, and then shattered on the street. They appeared in front of us with huge esnaf sticks and started hitting us in the legs. In the middle of the largest pedestrian boulevard in the city. On a Friday night. We got away pretty quickly – a circle of people formed and people were shouting and yelling and shaming the bouncers back to their haunt. Chris took a pretty good clip to the knee and limped all the way to Bar-ish. Orkun later explained to us they only attacked below the waist because, in a court of Turklaw, it’s not considered deadly assault if you hit below the waist, and is therefore a way less serious crime. Huh. We told Bariş about what happened and he said “Oh yeah. We all have an esnaf stick.” And he pulled out a club from behind the bar.

In Turkish, “Bariş” means “peace.”

us, mere moments after the esnaf attack

Reads:

  • I know why poor whites chant trump trump trump The author connects her experience working in a shitty bar in Arkansas and living in a trailer park to today’s politics, and outlines the history of American wealth inequality from slavery to the civil rights era to Bush. I learned that many of the descendants of white indentured servants ended up in Appalachia, and also that a bunch of people camped out on the Washington lawn after King’s assassination in order to draw attention to ending poverty. It’s timely, in the wake of the reporting on the Panama papers, to revisit the history of how wealthy people in their bid to stay on top (or just plain greed) shaped the lives of millions of people. Was that sentence structured strangely? I’m rereading that last sentence and it was structured strangely. Maybe? Anyways side note where does the impulse to blame poor people and foreigners for problems come from?????

Jams:

  • TARANTA  epic drums/violin/choral/guitar jam from southern Italy made by a generation band and a composer
  • The Ballad of George Collins ballad with funky beat and a trippy modern dance video. the singer, sam lee, is an english folk singer who travels around to roma and ‘travellers’ communities to learn their songs, and then arranges them with modern and international instrumentation. has a background in burlesque and wilderness survival. probably a druid. read the article about him in the guardian. also check out his song blackbird
  • Stye albanian spooky poem set to sparse accompaniment of piano, drums and voice
  • All Star but everyone is playing at different tempos why would someone make this

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