Turkish drivers and Boston traffic: Chihuly’s sculptures somehow capture it!

Karagöz is ecstatic.  He is swinging along the mavi boncuğu evil eye beads hanging off of the car mirror.   “We’re on a date! Let’s riot, let’s rock the house!  Let’s get wild and woolly!  We’re on a date.”  Hacivad interrupts his meditating on top of the neutral tab on the gear shift, “no, Karagöz, YOU are not on a date, they are on a date, just let them (and me) commune with nature a bit.”  Hacivad does not seem to realize that careening off of Storrow Drive and onto the Fenway at breakneck pace does not constitute what I would consider communing with nature, but that’s where he’s at, so what can I do?  Though we don’t have children of our own, we have lots (and lots) of children, youth and adults in our life, especially during the summer, and it’s been a while since we have done something fun, just the two of us.  Squinching his face into a twist, Hacivad barely opens an eye, maintaining his perfect meditation posture “just keep breathing, ok?”

As usual, I am breathing deeply in order to make it through the Turk-driving-in-Boston experience.  While Boston drivers are well-known for their insane driving, Istanbul drivers take the cake.  They are nowhere near Roman drivers, to boot.  But before I completely malign my beloved, he is an amazing driver, and, knock on wood, has never been in an accident.  Once I drove in his passenger seat in Turkey, I completely understood why he drove the way he did, and I felt very secure.  Translating that back into our life in the States has been a bigger challenge and we have certainly had our share of driving-related arguments.  My therapist laughed at this, “do you know how many people have hum-dingers in the car?” she snorted when I expressed my concerns about this.  Today, however, the deep breathing seems to be working, maybe the heat is helping or maybe all of these years of practicing life together have helped, either way, I am feeling pretty calm.  Hacivad chuckles in approval as he can read my mind.  I wonder how his waxy, paper self can fold into the lotus pose so easily.

We are heading for the Chihuly exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for our date – an exhibit which holds some special meaning for us as Chihuly is part of the reason we began dating.  Dale Chihuly is best known as the shaggy haired, pirate eye-patched eccentric glass artist who creates glass environments all over the world.  Many Americans know him as a result of seeing his ostentatiously delicious glass ceiling in the Belagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I was first introduced to Chihuly’s glass art by my cousin, who gave me a book about the famous installation in Jerusalem, “In the light of Jerusalem, 2000.”  It was the curious, undulating shapes that stayed with me once the book landed in my storage space – and led me to choose an image of Chihuly’s for the Internet dating site profile that connected us.

It was the Chihuly, my husband jokes, that made the online profile catch his eye.  Although not a major fan, my husband is an artist, and was happy to see that I had some interest in art, something that was apparently lacking in the other profiles he came across.  I hear Kenne and Khadijah swoon from inside of my purse.  I wonder why they are hiding there. Karagöz screeches with sarcastic delight.  “What a lovey-hovey-dovey story!”  Hacivad does not bat an eyelash.  “Was it love at first click?” Hacivad’s arm turns into silly putty as it stretches out to grab Karagöz off of his swinging beads, tossing him out the window.  “Chihuly – it’s all for loooooooooooove…..” he cried as the wind pulled him away into the tunnel behind the speed of our car.

My attention is split three ways between my Chihuly memory lane, the Karagöz slapstick show in my brain and my husband’s narration of whether and how he can break parking rules.  On our third roll around the block after finding the parking lot full.  “We should have taken the subway,” I protest. I then  try to pre-empt each potentially illegal parking attempt by shouting out “hydrant,” or “resident parking only!” I hurumph each time he stops where we have failed to find a legal parking space before.  “Maybe if I back in like this, it will not SEEM like we are breaking the law,” he says, ignoring my dark look angled his way.  Lather, rinse, repeat – this is how the next 15 minutes are spent.  My main goal is to be able to compartmentalize the grump long enough to not ruin this nice date, our first out in a long time.

Seeking the solace of the sun on my face after we finally park, about a half mile away, I grab his hand and commence discussions of all that has been on our “back burner” during these busy times.  As we amble up to the museum, drenched in sweat from our walk on the hottest day of the year, M. begins to plot ways to jump the line snaking around the block.  I turn to the proverbial camera in my head, otherwise known as Karagöz, and throw my hands up in despair.  You can take a Turk out of Turkey, but you can’t make them avoid trying to cut the line.

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Turkish drivers and Boston traffic: Chihuly’s sculptures somehow capture it!

  1. Justine says:

    Love the line about “you can’t make a Turk avoid trying to cut the line”, Liz. And Chihuly is fantastic – went to his exhibit at the MFA in Boston this August. How cool that you and M connected thanks, in part, to Chihuly.

  2. Liz Cameron says:

    Thanks, Justine! I try to avoid generalizations – but had to break one out for the “line management” as my husband refers to it…

    Isn’t Chihuly wonderful?

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. barbara says:

    greatings from Turkey. I am a Canadian/German women, from Canada, recently married to Turkish man. I was researching on the internet to learn how I can deal with his emotional outburst and was amused by your blog. I love my husband passionate , sensative, side, negative side freaks me out. I am wondering about the fine line between protective and controlling. my family if not emotional – which is can be good and bad. I am not sure what it is am seeing , when Serkan gets out of control angry or sad. I feel afraid when he gets like that because it is not familier to me. Any comments or suggestions?

  4. Liz Cameron says:

    Thank you for your email and your interest in the blog, Barbara. Congratulations also, on your recent marriage. I am not really sure how to respond, as I do not experience my husband to be controlling in any way – sometimes protective when my sister-in-law comments on my plumpness sure – but not in an angry way or anything like that. We are older, married later in life, and very independent in many ways. We also live in the States and call this home. I have trolled through many of the tulumba and other online fora and seen a few horror stories of women marrying and moving, for example, to eastern Turkey, where there are cultural strictures that may make gender relations take on a different tone. I think the central question you are struggling with, emotional outbursts, is more of a personality thing perhaps, than a cultural thing, although maybe it is more acceptable to show intense emotion in short bursts in some cultures or sub-cultures. I often joke that the first thing I hear in the morning is a loud, voice-rolling call to Turkey via Skype which sounds like it might be a fight but is actually about futbol or something banal. I do not think you can even say that there is one cultural approach to gender relations and/or the expression of emotions in Turkey, in fact I would strongly argue there is not. I know that in my experience, I sometimes find that Turkish men in a social situation are often loud and what looks like a heated argument may indeed not be- but I have also see the exact opposite amongst Turkish men. I am reminded of stereotypes about “hot blooded” people from the middle east…maybe it is just more of a willingness to express oneself with intensity in the moment vs. anything else – and when in the car (the subject of this post) we all know that “road rage” can sometimes inexplicably set in. I too am a “hot blooded” person and tend to express myself with strident verbalizations in the heat of the moment, able to let it go a moment later. I am a curious mix of Yankee, British and Spanish – but I do not think it comes from any of the cultures that formed the environment of my childhood – I think it is just me and who I am. I do not know you, your family, or your husband, but if you do come from a more reserved family vis-a-vis emotions, well, then maybe anything other than that looks quite different. I think that the process of adjusting to life in Turkey must be a tough one – the process of adjusting to being married is tough enough. I also think that as the native in the Turkish-based marriage, I might imagine that your husband held a lot of concern and worry for you to feel comfortable, etc. I would just keep on talking to him and learning about him – and about you, your responses to him – as we all know – communication is the cornerstone of marriage, and it is hard hard work – but well worth it. Just keep trying to communicate about it – ask him what is going on for him. If you feel afraid for your safety, you should immediately reach out to family and friends, of course, and maybe a women’s center. Without knowing you in person, or the situation, I feel a bit stymied in my response. I do wish you all the best in figuring it out.

  5. barbara says:

    I laughed when I re read my first comments to you. OMG- the grammar- I am starting to sound like a Turkish person trying to speak english.ha ha. thank you for your comments liz. it is actually good hear that you think there is a mix between personal and cultural issues. the later is more difficult to manage. I am just learning now, about Turkish culture. I read your older post regarding the need to double boil tea. I have introduced my new “family ” to the idea of perculated coffee. i am also a mature woman ( 43) never been married so yes- good point about any new marriage being challenging. that coupled with the fact that I am travelling back and forth from Canada to Turkey, two months at time. I was thinking to move here to retire/become a house wife and enjoy simpler things in life. but i have been a very busy realtor, not a skilled home maker and have only recently learned how to properly boil things such as eggs and pasta. I am enjoying the feeling of becoming more feminine, by doing traditional female work and sampling a less stressful life. My most recent discovery, is that it is quite mesmerizing to watch laundry dry in the sun on a windy day. I have decided this would be too much of a change though, and we are going thru the process of bringing Serkan to my home in Canada. In the meantime, while learning to live lightly in Turkey, I will continue to read your posts. They are very entertaining and educational. thanks for sharing:)

  6. Pingback: Lemon and limon, çay and chai: Getting through tough times in a cross-cultural household | Slowly-by-Slowly

  7. Pingback: A globalized, but quiet dinner in Provincetown as the Karagöz puppets state their resolutions for the new year… | Slowly-by-Slowly

  8. We were just in Istanbul, and it is a scary place to be a pedestrian! Still, we lived to tell the tale, and we really enjoyed Turkey.

  9. E. says:

    I am so glad you lived to tell! Indeed, being a pedestrian – or even riding in a taxi – makes me want to close my eyes, click my heels and wish for home!

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