Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One, two, three, arse, five...

I'm studying turkish here at the moment (to fend off accusations that I'm a *complete* layabout) 3 mornings a week. It's an 8 week course, I'm half way through - and progress so far is depressingly slow.

Being realistic I suppose it's not going badly. I'm doing ok compared to the other guys in the class, which is gratifying I suppose. You can't expect to learn a language overnight anyway. And it's definitely much quicker and easier learning it here, than from a book - you do pick up a lot from context.

(The turkish, erm, relaxed attitude to signage not always massively helpful here. For instance, seeing a road sign "tek yön" I'm thinking ok, "tek" is something like single, because I know you can order a tek rakı. And yön is direction, I think. So, single direction...oo! One way! Quick scan of the cars on the road to check the conclusion, which is initially confirmed by the fact parked cars are all facing one direction; then doubt is cast by the sight of a taxi bombing it down the hill in the other...)

And turkish speech no longer sounds like incomprehensible babble now. (Nooo, *now* what it sounds like is the massively improved 'Anyway, we went [blah blah blah], where [yada yada yada] a lot of [blabbery blabber], so he [thingummy doodad], yeah?'. Vocab! I need vocab!)

Anyway. It's a start I suppose, and I'm a lot further on than I was even 4 weeks ago. Problem being, it is a lot only when compared to nothing. It is sadly very, very little when compared to a proper adult vocabulary and expression. I reckon I've probably got the vocab of an 18 month old - and none of the natural pronounciation.

And so to this post title - guess which word in turkish when mispronounced sounds like a slang word for backside?

Ordering things in fives. It's got to be the way forward.

ps Its been snowy and cold here recently, and very very pretty to boot. I have been taking photos like a bitch, and will be posting these alongside tales of courage and woe (all ends happily). But technical issues at the moment - will get to those next week hopefully...

pps there are too many parentheses in this post.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

School boy errors

It's reasonably simple to get on with the day-to-day life stuff here. Whether it's the effects of globalisation, Turkey's drive to close the gap with the EU europe, or just that there are a limited number of ways that butter can sensibly be packaged, things on a basic level don't seem that different to home. So by and large I've been getting by.

But I am of course still making some elementary finding-my-feet mistakes. These are no big deal really. For instance buying the Wrong Kind of Cheese - shouldn't be a problem really, just have to eat that one first and look more carefully next time. Buying a bumper pack of kitchen roll when I was going for toilet paper was marginally more embarrassing, though. Our island has that small town feel, including only one person on the mini-market checkout; so she probably remembered me when I went back 20 minutes later for the bog roll, and therefore would have worked out that not only am I an inept shopper, I also really needed a shit.

However my favourite to date took place yesterday. We were in the Mısır Çarşısı, a busy spice & goodies market right in the tourist hub of Eminönü. I was hanging about whilst t'missus bought some lokum (turkish delight) (yes we're living the cliché). Probably clocking my baseball hat and backpack, some stall holders start chatting to me in English, trying to get me interested in their stuff.

Them: Hello, how are you, where are you from?
Me: [polite smile, looking away, don't want to take the bait]
Them: Hey, I know you, you were here yesterday
Me [in turkish, thinking that if I can display some language chops they might take me for bit less of a visitor] No, definitely not
Them [in turkish, and now nudging each other and grinning away] The shop is open, you know that? [english] You know [turkish] 'shop is open'?
Me [puzzled, thinking of course the bleedin' shop is open, it's a busy marketplace at 2.30 in the afternoon] Yes, I know 'shop'. Shop is, er shop?

These guys are still going on, and I'm losing touch of what they're saying, and then a stall holder from across the market joins in. I can't work out what he is saying either but he is saying something to my guys and looking disapproving, whilst the giggly twins are trying to persuade me that he is their older brother and there's nothing to worry about.

Fortunately S then sweeps in, drags me away, tells me that I probably should do up my trousers, and that 'your shop is open' is the polite way of informing someone in turkish that your fly is open. So basically I just had half a market discussing my pants. Score!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First week

So I've been here a week now. It's been a week of firsts, and Sorting Shit Out. In the latter category falls the boring but necessaries - getting keys, akbil (oyster card equivalent - makes a more pleasing doodly-doo sound on use), registration on turkish course, etc etc.

In the former, and more photogenic category, there was the following...


First morning - this is the view from my window. Not bad eh? That's Heybeli below, and suburbs of the asian side of Istanbul opposite. There's snow on the hills there - that morning was also the first snow of the year here. Seems I brought the weather with me. (Not quite in the same league as what y'all have been having in UK, I gather, but there you go.)


First meze and rakı supper, on the first evening I think.


This fetching one of me was taken at our first houseparty. This being on the day after I arrived, with S's mum and friends in attendance. They were incredibly kind - both our landlady and one other guy I'd met just once before actually bought me proper wrapped gifts, which was genuinely touching.

So all very lovely but bordering on A Bit Much for a second day - you will notice, for instance, that I have adopted the "Yeah, I'm too cool for school" pose. This is very closely related to the "I'm skulking in the doorway in an attempt not to be rude but not to actually have to participate in the conversation, because whilst my incredible ability to say 'One tea please' in turkish may get me reasonably far in cafés, it doesn't quite cut the ice in party style ratatat-tat style banter" pose.


This is the view to my house (top left) from 5 minutes down the hill, taken on one of my first explorations of the island.

And finally - more rakı.


The view across the Bosphorus again. We're sat outside our gaff, having just had our first outdoor barbeque of the year. A rather pleasant way of spending a January evening - picture me blowing a raspberry in the UK's general direction.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Leaving, arriving

Well then.

So I've just left London, for Istanbul, for a bit of a change of scene. This blog will be the (entirely tedious and solipsistic) record of my progress here...feel free to ignore the ramblings and just look at the pretty pictures.

Just a short one, until I get into the swing of things - a few from the trip over.

Leaving Jules', somewhere before eight. Ridiculously sized luggage not pictured.

Sun coming up on the Stansted Express. I was feeling vaguely nostalgic about it at the time, which is ridiculous on two counts. First, how can you be nostalgic about something you haven't left yet ('its not just that its a toilet mate, so much as it's RIGHT THERE!'). Secondly, about ten minutes after that, the bloody train in front of us broke down. Which led to an entire trainload full of stressed people with planes to catch treking through the innards of the train, complete with ridiculously sized luggage (not pictured).

Welcoming committee at İstanbul Sabiha Gökçen airport. Aw.

Last leg of the journey. There's no cars on heybeliada, so we're in a phaeton (horse drawn carriage jobby), up the hill to our gaff.

Ridiculously sized luggage just about in picture this time ;-)