Friday, March 8, 2013

A date to the mall - keeping it real

Today was a family day - which means a day off work for all active duty personnel. It was not, however, a day off of school. Which kind of defeats the purpose of calling it a family day, don'tcha think? Anyway, these last couple of months have been uber stressful for Geoffrey so this day off was a blessing for him.  He spent the morning golfing with one of his work friends. The golf course here on base is quite nice, and very cheap. So he's been trying to do a bit more golfing. He even talked me into going last Saturday. It was my second time golfing in 13 years but I did okay and enjoyed it.

After lunch Geoff and I headed off base. We stopped at the furniture store in the alley to check on the bookcase we are having repaired and looked at some bedroom furniture we need to have made. No decision yet but we are close. It would be great to have it done before my parents get here next month so we'd better hurry up.

Then we drove across town to the M1 mall.  I had been there before but Geoffrey hadn't. It's a large very modern mall with some pretty pricey stores in it.  The Turks you see there tend to look a bit more affluent and European in dress than the ones you see in Old Adana although there is a mix. I enjoyed myself but was at times a bit uncomfortable. And I realized today why living here seems easier for Geoffrey than it is for me (aside from his stressful job).

First, he is not a rule follower. If a rule makes sense he follows it. But if it doesn't, he won't. (This doesn't apply in his professional life, of course.) And he doesn't expect others around him to automatically follow rules either. So the traffic here doesn't surprise or alarm him. Another odd unique thing about Geoffrey's driving is that if there aren't enough things going on to warrant his attention, he doesn't pay attention. At all.  On deserted or familiar streets he will run red lights, miss turns and blow through stop signs simply because he wasn't paying attention and missed them. But in complete traffic chaos in a strange place he constantly knows where every other car around us is and can find places based on horrible directions and his own innate map. And since he has complete confidence in those abilities he never feels alarmed or nervous.

I, on the other hand, like to know exactly where I am going and how to get back at all times. I get lost easily and feel very anxious if I don't know where I am. I am a devout rule follower and I'm always surprised when other people aren't.

Second, Geoffrey is not afraid to look stupid. I know that sounds cruel but it's true. One of the things you have to get used to here is that there is no such thing as browsing. As soon as you walk into a store, there are people trying to 'help' you. In the alley where the shop keepers speak English this can be annoying. But at the malls very few people speak English.  So it's a different ballgame there. When I walk into a store and ascertain that the clerk doesn't speak English, that is the end of the conversation.  I respond to their greeting in my limited Turkish, of course, but if they don't speak English I'm not going to ask them if they have the shirt in a different color or if they know where I can buy a particular item they don't sell.  Geoffrey will. He will carry on a long monologue way past the point at which it became obvious that no one understands a single word he is saying.  He will use primitive sign language and speak in short, loud words until he looks like every caricature of an American tourist you have ever seen.

And somehow it works. Today at the mall we went into Praktikar, the equivalent of Home Depot, and Geoffrey wanted some polishing compound to use with his buffer to clean off a metal door. The two clerks he asked had no idea what he was talking about. Ten minutes later he has 5 clerks around him who all still have no idea what he is saying.  Twenty minutes later he is in the back office on the computer with five different people trying to find some place in Old Adana where one of them thought he could purchase it.  And a half an hour later, he is finally leaving the store with the polishing compound he needed.  The manager had found it in a different department.

I hate looking stupid. I hate not knowing what I'm supposed to do or how things work. I'm not a control freak. I am generally a flexible person. But I like to know what is going on. Today before we left the base we stopped at the Turkish cantina to turn in our empty 5 gallon water bottles and get new ones.  I've done this several times since we got a water cooler. But today the clerk asked me if the empty ones I had turned in were the Hayat brand or the Evril brand. I had no idea. I hadn't even noticed there was two brands of water. Apparently one is more expensive that the other and if I bought the more expensive kind without having returned empties of that same brand I would have to pay a deposit. I was completely flummoxed and feeling so stupid to not know which type of water I had purchased the 3 or 4 other times I had done this. Finally the clerk I had given the empties to outside came in and told us which brand it was.  I was so grateful I could have hugged him.  So not being able to read signs or ask questions or understand what people are saying to me puts me completely out of my comfort zone.

Finally, although Geoffrey hates having people he knows pay attention to him (think birthday parties, congratulations, awards, etc.) he doesn't mind it when complete strangers stare at him.  I am the opposite. Bring on the singing telegrams and the standing ovations. But let me be invisible in a crowd. I know people don't mean to be rude or menacing. I know that I look, dress and speak very differently than what they are used to seeing. But I hate being stared at.  It makes me want to go hide in a closet. And when I am in Adana it seems like everyone is staring at me. It's disconcerting to say the least.

Anyway, we did stop in the Gap store at the mall. My favorite jeans in the world are Gap jeans and I wanted to see if they had them. We found these great Gap T-shirts that had various cities stitched underneath the GAP logo. Cities like London, San Francisco, New York and. . .

Okay so its not Adana but its still in Turkey. And someday we will get to Instanbul.
They did have my jeans. Since the sizes are different here I tried on two sizes. I was about to buy the larger one but let the clerk (who did speak some English) talk me into the smaller of the two. She reminded me that they stretch quite a bit when you wear them. I am still debating whether or not I should've purchased the other pair. I'm a cheapskate at heart but I will pay full price for these jeans (they are that awesome). Oh, if you're curious I'm referring to their 1969 curvy cut jeans. If you have a curvy figure, you should try them. Your tush will thank you. The only problem I have with these jeans (and it has happened 3 times now) is that they wear through in the inner thighs. Yes, I have tree trunk legs and that is the problem. The solution is to iron denim patches on the inside of the thighs as soon as you buy them so when they wear, they won't tear.

So in the states they cost $75 full price and they hardly ever go on sale. Today I paid 149.99 TL for them. With the current exchange rate that is $83. Ouch!!! But we did get a coupon for 30 TL off our next purchase, which we immediately used on a sweater for Geoffrey. All the same I really hope I picked the right size.

I hope that with time I will feel more comfortable here. Honestly I had hoped that after 7 months I would feel more relaxed and confident venturing off base than I do. It has been more of a challenge than I thought it would be. So for those of you who have remarked that my life seems so exciting and adventurous here I thought a little candor was in order.  There are many times when I realize that I left my comfort zone 7000 miles away in Texas and it's the thing I miss the most.


  1. Texas to Turkey - what an adventure indeed! I've only holidayed in Turkey (it's very different from London too) and I am enjoying reading your blog for the first time today. Hey, it's okay to feel the way you do, I would too :)

  2. Turkey with 5 kids? You sound like super mum. I live in New Zealand with 2 kids, and that's enough stress for me! Well done.