Monday, June 20, 2011

we are here



Upon discovering that my internet was out for some inexplicable reason, I began to feel a frustration and a sense of helplessness rising up inside me— I could not call the internet provider myself, as the situation called for more Turkish than I am capable of communicating in. Instead, I chose to stare at the spastic blinking lights on my modem, hoping foolishly that if I concentrated hard enough, the lights would shine a constant green, and I could go back to my normal, webby life. The stare-off was interrupted by the pitiful groaning sound of my doorbell. Muttering under my breath, I peeled myself off the floor and reluctantly tiptoed to the door.

Three distorted shadows curved through the peep-hole with an air of expectation in their postures. I wondered what on earth they wanted from me. I opened the door and was greeted by smiles— one of which belonged to the young man downstairs, and the other two were not yet familiar. Through mime, a flurry of Turkish and about seven English words, I learned that they were my downstairs neighbours in need of adjusting their satellite dish, which of course, happened to be located right off my balcony. I opened the door wider and in they marched, with a curiosity and wonder in their eyes. They peered into my living room, my workroom and my bedroom on their way to the balcony, mumbling things to each other as their heads turned this way and that. Going against my I-can-do-it-myself independent nature, I decided to ask for help, asking them in broken Turkish if they had a wireless connection I might use.

"Hehh... maalesef, yok. Ama komşu—" and with a finger pointed upward, "internet var." I learned from the sweet-faced young woman on my balcony that while she did not have internet, my upstairs neighbours did. I made the radical decision to leave my busy downstairs neighbours in my apartment as I climbed the stairs to ask my upstairs neighbours for access to their network. This was for me, a tremendous exercise in trust. The doorbell rang a bird call, and a friendly, familiar face opened the door. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by smiles, ushered into the entryway and asked to join the family for a little television. I respectfully declined their kind offer, and tried out my weak Turkish:

"Benim internet çalışmıyor— siz internet var mı?" Before I could ask for their password, I was handed a piece of paper with a series of letters on it and accompanied back to my apartment by the son, where he typed the letters into my computer. I clicked open the browser, et voilà! Access. I thanked him with my hand on my heart, and he explained that I could use his network whenever I needed. As he ran back upstairs, I decided to check on the status of the satellite fiddling on my balcony. Father and son continued to pull and twist the dish, while the daughter asked me about whether or not I get bored living alone, and where my family is. I decided to take this opportunity to show them some of my artwork, to give them an idea of who I am; that I am not some sketchy foreigner but rather, a nice foreigner who sketches.

"Ohhh! Çok güzel! Maşallah!" Hand gestures formed that demonstrated how much they liked what they saw. I was then invited to their home to watch television with the family. When asked if I had a television of my own, I replied, "televizyon istemiyorum"— I do not want a television, to baffled looks. Laughter ensued, and a brief conversation was struck between them and my upstairs neighbour who was now on her balcony watching our interaction.  

"O television istemiyor!" This elicited more "ohhhs." I tried to explain that if I watch TV, I wont draw— they nodded seriously, and seemed to understand. After a good while, I found myself alone again, in the doorway of my apartment. As I was about to close the door, a woman in a floral headscarf appeared in my entrance. I did not know her. She smiled, and started rapidly explaining something I could not understand under her heavy accent. I told her I did not understand, and with a look of great seriousness and sincerity, she said:

"Korkma. Biz burdayız!

Don't be afraid.
We are here!

9 comments:

Krista said...

These moments make real life, don't they? And all too often we are too busy "living" to allow them to happen. Living in another culture, even one which you have some familiarity with, takes courage - I commend you on yours - and thank you for sharing your stories.

szaza said...

Thank you, Krista.
Yes, moments like these really remind you that you are living in someone else's culture, and that you must be flexible and open to differences. Boundaries are drawn at different distances, and if you leave yourself open, you can really experience wonderful things.

Beth said...

It would be hard to explain all the reasons why I find this story so touching, but just know you (and your neighbors) have improved my morning. Art, music, tea -- even TV, I guess! - can connect us in spite of our faltering attempts to speak one another's languages.

Steve Baker said...

What a great story. As some one who has followed your adventures from the other side of the world I'm glad to know you have found yourself in a place with such caring and understanding neighbors.

Joy said...

Love the story too! I've found the Turkish people, generally, to be so friendly and helpful. You'd never get that kind of neighborly treatment in NYC!

szaza said...

Thank you so much, Beth!
All these things that bring us together are so simple; it makes me wonder why more people can't get along with each other.

Thank you, Steve! I feel lucky.

Thank you, Joy! Yes, you surely won't find a new family in your neighbours in NYC— though I did have some wonderful neighbours in SF who are still my friends and I care deeply about.

Liz Steel said...

I dont comment often...but I am loving your blog and these stories are precious!!!

szaza said...

Thanks so much, Liz! I am happy to hear you're enjoying the blog!

Sue Pownall said...

How wonderful. What a great community!