27 October 2010

The taste of initiation

At my women-only gym, the middle-aged Turkish women I do crunches with talk about pastries. It reminds me of my first summer in Turkey, where instead of crunches, my neighbors would knit or crochet in our garden while talking about baked goods.

Is there no bad time or place to talk about pastries?

My vocabulary has become peppered with the Turkish versions of pastry dough (börek), cake (pasta), and salty or sweet cookies (tuzlu and tatlı, respectively). Baked sesame seed rings (sımıt) are a daily part of our life.
Sımıt, for Pukka Living

Eat, and then work it off. Bonding in the form of locker-room chat. On the aerobic floor, commiseration over leg lifts and latent stomach muscles. Chats about tattoos, taboos, and domestic routines.

Food was my initiation into Turkey - hours in my mother-in-law's kitchen taught me the aromas and textures that filled the Turkish table - but my gym in Turkey is a social sphere of my own choosing. 

What's one surprising place you go that makes you feel at home?

21 October 2010

Which language says 'Mother' best?

At school, my son gives me a hurried, "Bye, Rose!" Not mommy, not 'Anne', the Turkish word for mother, but Rose.

My two-year-old called everyone 'Baba', father or daddy in Turkish, until recently, and now she's learned Anne.  I hear 'mommy' when I ask my son to say, "Can I please have x-y-x, Mommy?" and he repeats.

Is this some kind of permissive parenting style? Some sort of confluence of culture where anything goes?

Not really, but being raised in Turkey has made my kids acquire language differently than I expected. My mother-in-law has hybridized English and Turkish, calling me 'Rose Anne' in front of the kids. As a result of American movies, my in-laws still think everyone (rudely) addresses their parents by their first name in America, even though I correct them. It gets confusing.

English at home, Turkish outside of the house, my husband and I agreed. But when I'm with the kids outside of the house, I hesitate.

If I speak Turkish in public, everyone will understand what I am saying, and with some regret that I care, it means they will be more likely to think I am a good mother.

Four years of raising children in Turkey, though, and some phrases in Turkish come more quickly than in English. Networks of expat women raising kids abroad help soothe my worries, while some articles remind me of the difficulty of being disciplined and consistent.  It feels like every day I choose my language.

Has your native language been shaped by a change of location?

13 October 2010

Good guilt

"I'm doing research," I say, and huddle in the corner cloaked in my Uzbek suzani to watch Pretty Little Liars.


In September it was Glee. I had just finished a first draft of a young adult novel, and I celebrated with three days of impassioned singing and crying (every time I'd sing along, the kids would cry at me to stop).

Now it's October and Pretty Little Liars. I'm humming the theme song, "Got a secret, can you keep it..." while I revise the novel.

Pop culture bingeing? Guilty.

This is good guilt. This makes all the "shoulds" run in terror: "I should be working. I should be cleaning. I should finish x-y-z project I lost interest in." It makes me a goal artist instead of a goal athlete.

Tara Sophia Mohr says, "Detours will lead to fruitful places. Important things will gestate in so-called fallow periods."

Detour taken, binge over, and everything shifts back into place. Revising sounds good, projects look interesting again. 


What guilt-laden detours have helped you get back on track?

08 October 2010

Boats on the Sea of Marmara

Boats, 2004
Seeing Izmit through new eyes, how the landscape changes at the onset of winter, the last few days of rain hinting at November. Boats on the water. Smoke rising from factories. Mountains foggy in the distance. Drawings that chronicle daily life, where cold laundry whips in the rainy wind. Where that bright spot of yellow and red is heightened by the gray sky. City streets that get dirtier rather than swept clean in the rain. How painted concrete buildings have a story of their own.