Bursa: Of Domesticity and Death

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Thursday, June 26, 2008

For the foreseeable future this will no longer be a travel blog. It will be a blog about an American in Bursa. About a somewhat eccentric retiree as he tries for the first time to establish a life in a foreign country, no longer the traveler, but a resident. I have seen, though, that I will always be the yabanci, the foreigner. More about that in later days. Once I've got some sort of a pattern going, I will begin reading Ottoman history, and visiting local sites pertaining thereto.

Meanwhile I have rented a house in Bursa. It is a nice house, by all who have seen it so far. My own ardor was compromised in the beginning by the dirty condition in which it was turned over to me. Furthermore, by the unwillingness of the rentee to be responsible for the cleaning of the house, which, he formerly lived in and had expressed some reverence for. And not only that, but he is a doctor. One would think. . . .

Nevertheless, the responsibility for cleaning was in my ken to pursue. The rentor's "man," Ibrahim, offered that his wife would perform the cleaning for 50YTL, or about US$41, by my last check. For most this is an easy choice. Now, I wouldn't call my self miserly, but I do internally deliberate these things, probably more than most, and often do opt for discomfort over paving it over with cash. But in this case I went for it.

So, last Thursday the house was pretty thoroughly cleaned, by Ibrahim's wife, and Ibrahim. I think they were here about six hours, and did a pretty good job. They missed some things that I am continuing to pursue; but they also did some things that I might not have done myself. So, the place looks better, and feels better.

With that accomplished, on Friday I took an early bus to Ankara, to retrieve clothing and books that I had left with my girlfriend. The scenery and geography near Bursa are pretty and interesting. But once up on the Anatolian plateau, not so. I slept most of the way.

The highlights in Ankara--that I can report on--merely included seeing a movie (a sort of B silly romantic comedy), and a quarter final in the Euro Cup 2008 soccer race between Croatia and Turkey. Turkey won an exciting game. I would also say that the weather in Ankara was surprisingly refreshing. A spring-like warm dryness.

Back in Bursa, I spent the morning taking down and cleaning the curtain guide rails in my bedroom. I found the curtains would not move not because the rails were dirty, but because the round glides were too big for the rail space. So I spent time with my nail clippers chopping about 1/32 of an inch off each side of the round plastic glides. I was spending the afternoon, in the now more hot and humid weather, reading (a book purchased in Ankara, Quinn's Post. More about that later), when I got a call from Zeynep, the young Turkish woman who has been of great assistance to my coming to terms in Bursa. (See a previous blog: "Bursa: A Profound and Humbling Experience," June 13, 2008 ). There were some more domestic issues to pursue, and she was prodding me to get to it. So we agreed to do so the following late afternoon.

On Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 Z. and her husband picked me up from the place called Heykel, the city center, with the statue and monument to Kemal Ataturk. I wanted to purchase a pillow and sheets for my bed, and a couple of towels. There was the broken handle to the washing machine to also seek to replace or repair. I had imagined Zeynep would walk with me through the Bursa center market area for this shopping. There are scores of stores and stalls selling, well, everything imaginable. But instead, we drove to an outlying (I wouldn't exactly call it a suburban), modern store selling domestic items. There I purchased the above mentioned linens, and a pair of in-house sandals as well.

We tried another store for the washing machine handle. No luck. Nor would you have such luck at an American store. You need to go to, you know, older junk stores and the like. But Zeynep and her husband are younger and urban, and I think, not all that familiar with their own city, or such kinds of tasks. We drove across town to what I will call a suburban mall.

Now, I am simply blown away by Turkish malls. I have never seen the like in America, and certainly not in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. There the latest "mall" at my time of leaving was some sort of horrid, California-International Disney World-like village. But these Turkish malls! They are huge, modern, glitzy, clean, and chock with offerings of international styles.

And, as I could have predicted, no washing machine handle replacement there. Even in a store almost exactly like a Home Depot in America.

I invited Zeynep and her husband to dinner. But they would not have it. I was to join them at their home (apartment) for dinner. At the mall they shopped for the evening meal--salmon.

Their top floor apartment is huge. I didn't see the extent of it. It was well and fully appointed. Zeynep is doing her correspondence course on a Macintosh laptop that is newer and nicer than mine. The salmon was over cooked. Fried. Zeynep admits to not being a typical Turkish woman. She really doesn't know how to cook. Her mother is an opthamologist, and her father a retired government statistician. They are well off; she didn't have to learn these things. She and her husband are largely supported by her parents, I believe. Many, if not most of Turkey's young people are living with parents well into their 30s.

They took me home. It was about 12:30am. I had talked to them about Bursa seeming to operate on a different clock . . . . later at night, later in the mornings. But, all was quiet. Five minutes after Zeynep and her husband left, some neighbors a couple of doors down came out to have tea on the steps. There were about five adults and maybe three children. I guess they don't have gardens. I got to sleep in spite of their conversation echoing up into my bedroom window. But I was able to note that they finally called it quits at 3:00am.

On Wednesday, now, I sought to address my primary aggravation: the toilet water pipe that was poking me in the ass for being too long, and the looseness of the toilet seat that was loose so as to accommodate same unorthodox, retrofitted pipe.

I returned to the suburban mall, now knowing which store to go to for the needed supplies. It is called Koçtaş, and is pretty much a carbon copy of what in America is a Home Depot. There I bought a small hacksaw, some locking pliers, some WD-40, and some new machine screws and nuts to replace in the overhead curtain rails, to make further work there easier.

I had lunch in the mall food court. A chicken burger. And then I walked the entire length of the three floors, just to assay the place. There is an Apple Computer store there. In addition to a Starbucks, there is another coffee shop by the name Tschibo, where I read in my Gallipoli book, and had a coffee . . . . and some rememberance.

In November/December of 1969 I worked my passage from Santos, Brazil to Hamburg, Germany as a deckhand on a German freighter. Most of the cargo was coffee beans, as I recall. The following winter, 1970/71, I worked at a small plastics recycling plant outside of Hamburg. On a couple of occasions I went with the delivery truck into Hamburg where we took raw recycled plastic to the Tschibo Coffee Company. There they used the plastic to make little dishes in which they sold the coffee. And, the driver and I would have a cup of coffee, of course. I thought I had seen--and participated in--an interesting cycle of international capitalism.

When I left the mall, due to the heat I walked along a grassy area that was being watered. Past a sprinkler a tattoo of large cool water drops thudded into my back. I wondered what it was like to be so machine gunned. Does one have consciousness long enough before shock to physically assess the process? To think: "Each of these holes is going to drain blood from my brain until I loose consciousness--for eternity."

And today, I thought, Each night we will ourselves to a little death (not the French kind. Well, maybe for some of you). We submit ourselves to what we believe to be a temporary cessation of consciousness. Oh, yes, we may dream. But that comes later--after the void.

But, in yesterday's late afternoon I went on to much more prosaic thoughts. I took off the toilet seat, sawed and planed with my knife, and made the physical corrections so that the seat is not loose, the top does not come down against my back, and the little hose does not poke my butt.

Then I went up to the cafe and was shown by Hamdi to my front row reserved seat, to watch, in sadness--when Germany scored--happiness--when Turkey scored; but finally dejection as Turkey fell in a semi-final match to Germany, 3-2.
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