Monday, July 9, 2012

Turkish in America

One of my goals while in DC was to purchase a car for Ellen. And there's nothing that says,"Here's an eager buyer" more than arriving at the front door of the dealership in a bright orange., minivan taxi. No sooner had I jumped out the taxi than I was greeted by Ali, ready to sell me a car. Ali was a nice enough guy and he had the right "conversation starters" plastered on his desk...a blue Nazar (the protection from the evil eye) and four post cards of Istanbul. Having just arrived from Istanbul 16 hours earlier, I asked the logical question. "Are you Turkish?" No, his wife is. He is Iranian but he had visited Istanbul. We exchanged pleasantries and our love for Istanbul,. We then viewed a few cars from the lot and selected one to test drive. Minus the brown, melty foam that was blowing out of the semi functioning AC on this 106 degree day, the car I had selected to test drive drove fairly smoothly. But my gut said to keep looking.

I walked down the hill to the next dealership where I was greeted by another salesperson. I explained what I wanted and he found a potential match. More polite conversation and it turns out this salesperson's parents were from Turkey, his wife is Turkish, and he had lived in Turkey and always wears the blue eye "for protection" around his neck. Even better, his surname is Mutlu which means "happy" in Turkish. Cool that I know that, huh? I'm pretty sure based on the nice conversation we were having I would buy a car from Mr. Mutlu, if he had what I needed.

We had lots to talk about...the current state of affairs in the Turkey, the fact that his parents (not realizing the consequences) registered him as a Turkish citizen and now he can't travel to the country or he will be required to do his mandatory military service (he's my age), the fact that he started school in America not speaking English and now he remembers very little Turkish, and the story of how is parents immigrated to escape poverty in Turkey...a nice senator and a sponsorship..

I did buy the car even though my initial "low ball offer" was met with a smile and a "We're not in Turkey. This dealership has a sticker price and does not haggle." The price was a little above NADA blue book and a little below Kelly Blue Book, the car met our criteria, and there are other things I would rather do than buy I car, so I paid the sticker price and wrote off the difference as a pleasant Turkish experience in America.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Heading To America

I wanted to title this post "heading home" but that's really a misnomer. America is my home but I don't really have a "home" so the way I define " home" is where I plant my suitcase and enjoy the company of family and friends. For example, this week my home was in Izmir and Istanbul with Eric, Laura, and Toby. Morning coffee was brewed with a tiny filter press and diluted with hot water to make four cups, but the warmth and relaxation of morning coffee with family was the same. Driving down the freeway with GPS and me as my usual annoying co-pilot self could have been us in any city in the US...some tension and lots of laughter.
I'm reflecting on "going home" because, although I'm super excited to be home, I'm also nervous because I'm not sure what to expect. I know there is the reality of "reverse culture shock" and I can anticipate some things that will annoy me. For example, last year when I left, the customer service in DC and the filth on the Metro appalled me. The lack of "hello, may i help you", the clerks chomping gum and chatting on the phone during transactions, and the level of general work incompetence were disappointments to my usual American pride. Granted, I have suffered through layers of inefficiencies and bureaucracy for the past nine months and been disgusted by the litter destroying the otherwise beautiful landscape, but I have never been met with rude service. As a matter of fact, the people here have been SO nice, that it's difficult to be upset for long about the processes and it's easy to eventually ignore the trash.
But here's my dream: American time management, efficiencies, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and the cleaning up of our Capital city coupled with Turkish hospitality, kindness, and patience all in one visit home. These are achievable goals and worthy of promoting pride in the USA, my "home."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

There's a reason I pay cash.

Yesterday I tried to open a bank account. I haven't wanted one before but my new school pays by direct deposit and I now have bills associated with an apartment so I need an account. The first bank I visited is the most convenient in location. They opened at 10 am and I was the 2nd person in line. I took a number but since I didn't have an account there I'm sure I was penalized. My number was 801. There was one teller, two desk types, and one manager in a glass office. Person # 22 was being helped by the lone teller . I waited for 20 minutes while the lobby filled up. I watched #23, 24, and 25 get help. I had taken my number before all of them. The lobby was soon packed. A tea lady brought tea and coffee to all the paper pushers and the lone teller. A suited man came from the back operations area with a novel in hand. He glanced around the packed lobby. He left the bank for a coffee break. It was now 10:45 and I approached a paper pusher. No, she did not speak English. I called a Turkish friend and explained the numbering problem and what I wanted to do and handed my phone to the woman.
Her response was that there were 8 people ahead of me and I would have to wait my turn. Fighting back tears of indignation (I was the second person in the bank an hour ago) my Turkish friend told me to take a cab and meet him at another bank and he would help me.
Two hours later I had my new account and I'm set up to pay two of my 5 bills online. But, the account hasn't got money in it. To make deposit was a separate line of at least an hour wait. I had to leave to pick up Laura and Toby at the airport.

Ps. Today I'm sitting at home waiting for ttnet. (wifi) They should be here some time between8 and 5. Inshallah.

I haven't paid my rent and it would be must faster to just find the owner and hand him my wad of bills.

I want to play tourist with my family and I can't think of any solutions right now.

I need to look at the beautiful Aegean sea to bring peace from the incredible frustration of conducting business here.