September 30, 2009

"Kilo aldın!"

Translation: You've gained weight!

This is an acceptable thing to say in Turkish, apparently. Cheers to you, Hayati.

September 27, 2009


When a plan fails you in an epic way.

September 26, 2009

Reason #37 for loving Turkish


Reason #37: It makes French pronunciation accessible.

September 23, 2009

Umm, no

Today a Scottish woman told a table of people that the expression chock-a-block had the same root as çok, which is Turkish for 'very' or 'a lot of'. 

Umm, no. The former is originally nautical and at least 500 years old in English. The latter is Turkish and almost certainly comes from Arabic or Persian.

I don't care that you've been living in a Turkish village for five years and fancy yourself immersed and authentic. You are still an idiot.

September 20, 2009

Greenpeace expedition

"Marine Reserves Now!" said the sign. I had never seen a Greenpeace ship except on TV, so I sailed over there with the windsurfer. Bob from Scotland invited me aboard. Willie from the Philippines gave me water. Enel from Izmir gave me a full-on tour. The crew was so international and fun. 

The ship, the Rainbow Warrior, just finished two weeks on the Turkish coast as part of their campaign in the Mediterranean. Enel said 85% of the blue fin tuna here have been wiped out by commercial fishing, and no one gives a shit. Well, Greenpeace gives a shit! I wrote an article about the ship's journey for the Turkish Daily News, but I don't know if they will publish it.

The Turkish campaign team will be replaced by the Lebanese team, but the crew members (15 or so) will stay on board until their 3-month volunteer terms end. It made me think about volunteering. The schedule's not bad, and you get to see beautiful places with people from everywhere. Hmm.

September 16, 2009

"The skipper must be highly paralytic by now."

Yesterday a South African and I sat in a dinghy and watched a boat sink. The boat was a big, beautiful gulet, the kind of boat that is chartered by a dozen British holiday-makers. It had been smoking for an hour when we arrived. Men pumped water into it for another hour. The smoke only stopped when the boat sunk up to the deck. We suspect it is resting on the bottom.

The South African, his name was Richard, entertained me with his country’s unique brand of English.

“He was trenched.”

“He’s not shy of money.”

These are new expressions for me. Richard also used “must” more than North Americans do. North Americans say things like,

“It’s gotta be here by tomorrow.”

“He hasta finish something first.”

Must, to us, sounds snobby. In a South African accent it was cool.

“My friend, he was a musician. I said to him, ‘You must go back.’”

And in reference to the man responsible for the sinking ship, “The skipper must be highly paralytic by now.”

September 15, 2009

How to learn a language

Step 1: Go to the country of the language. Listen to how people talk. How do they greet each other? What are the sounds like? What do they say most often?

Step 2: Buy a grammar book. Read it when you're bored. Commit to learning 10 expressions a day. Use flashcards or fold a page of your notebook over and write English on the top, Language 2 under. Make everyone practice with you. Most local people love it, because it's a relaxed way to learn some English and they can correct your pronunciation.

Step 3: Predict conversations. When you travel, people ask you the same questions every day (Where are you from? Where are you going? Do you like my country?), so write down your answers and practice saying them. If you need to ask directions or go to the pharmacy, prepare your lines.

Step4: If you are serious, then find a local person who is patient, interesting, and willing to correct you. Then you can relax, talk about more than the weather, and actually improve.

Ta-da! Four months of Turkish this way trumped years of French in school.

September 10, 2009

Hoş geldiniz!

After Montreal and the awkwardness of dredging up silty French for unimpressed Quebecois, I am overjoyed to be in a place where I can play in a foreign language and be patted on the back for it. In Paris, I bought a ridiculously priced café allongé (which I pronounced allonGAY for the pleasure of the barrista) and opened my tattered Turkish in Three Months. Flip flip flip, it began to come back. When the plane touched down in İstanbul, I braved my first conversations. Want to hear?

M stands for Mary, and G stands for nice girl across the aisle.

M: Affedersiniz (Excuse me)
G: [Smiling] Evet? (Yes?)
M: Türk müsünüz? (Are you Turkish?)
G: [Smiling more] Evet
M: Biliyor musunuz, havalimanıdan otobüs istasyon'a kaç dakika? (Do you know, from the airport to the bus station how many minutes it is?)
G: Hangisi? (Which one?)
M: Büyük, çünkü Bodrum'a gitmek istiyorum. (Big, because I want to go to Bodrum)
G: İki var, ama Esenler... (There are two, but Esenler...)

Now, on the metro to Esenler. B1 stands for nice boy 1, and B2--yeah.

M: Esenler terminal'a gidiyor musunuz? (Are you going to the Esenler terminal?)
B1: Evet [more stuff I didn't get]
B2: Nerelesiniz? (Where are you from?)
M: Kanadalıyım (I'm Canadian)
B1: Neeagara Falls!
M: Efendim? (Pardon me?)
B2: Niagra Falls'a gittik! (We went to Niagara Falls!)
M: Oh! Çok iyi. (Oh! Very good)
B1: Ama Amerikadan, çünkü Kanada visa vermedi. (But from America, because Canada didn't give a visa)
M: Hmm [nodding head sympathetically]
B2: [pointing at luggage] Yardım verebilir miyim? (Can I help?)

He carried a bag and helped me buy a bus ticket to Bodrum. The city is 12 hours from here. On iki hours from here. Oh wow, I love Turkish.

September 9, 2009

What do you mean, you don't feel like traveling?

Abha, south of Saudi

Mardin, southeastern Turkey


near Prilep, Macedonia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Mostar, Bosnia

I just don't feel like it. People think I am traveling now. In truth I am moving and visiting familiar places along the way to my new home. Travel is a great adventure, especially when approached that way, but it can also become a hassle. It becomes a hassle when you don't embrace changing money, finding bus stations, seeking food, and avoiding harm as the day's bread and butter activities. For whatever reason, I am now looking through the hassle lens. Maybe it's because I didn't hate my last job or location, so I don't have the must-flee impetus pushing me to run through new territories. I flipped through some random photos to see if I could light the travel spark. They just remind me of beautiful places.

September 4, 2009

Different city

"People are always just people. Get over your expectations, please."

Bathroom graffiti in Dieu de Ciel (beer bar), Montreal.

September 1, 2009

The things I carry

Thoreau is offered a carpet by a nice neighbour. Presumably the neighbour wants Thoreau to spruce up his spartan cabin, which he built with his own two hands and a borrowed axe, which he returned sharper than it was, yada yada yada. Thoreau thinks and thinks and says no. The carpet will need to be swept, aired, and eventually thrown out. The carpet's lifeline will be woven into his own lifeline. There is more (time, energy, thought) to be lost than (material pleasure) gained.

Likewise, every shirt, sock, and camera cable in my bag has a cost. I might not be able to use the tram in Istanbul (cost of a taxi). I might have to root longer to find a pair of underwear (cost of time). I might decide not to go to Portugal, because I have to lug my shit around with me (cost of adventure). Thoreau said that we do not own things; they own us. 

Flying Vancouver to Winnipeg, here are some things I am carrying:

pens and ink
old notebooks
Turkish in Three Months
The Sun Also Rises
Christmas cards
a winter coat
two sandwiches
one scarf
four pashminas
a dozen dresses
two pairs of wool socks
watercolour paper
soft pastels
an essay on the Turkish Language Council
overheads for the warm-up day of teaching
animal cards