How to relax after a hard day’s work? Karagöz chortles and snorts


The Slowly-by-Slowly dog is the best one in the house when it comes to relaxing. He likes swaddling, best. M’lady could take a lesson or two from him – minus the swaddling, I suppose.

This month, Slowly-by-Slowly is taking on the topic of work – with and without the Turkish Karagoz puppet troupe that inhabits my brain on this road trip through one Turkish-American marriage.

The topic of work has been chosen for two reasons – one on the surface, and one deep in the subconscious, well, ok, maybe not that deep, less deep each day.

The little chorus of dancing lady puppets splits into spirals of two, holding up signs to explain each reason – but not before they do some on-air synchronized swimming-style dancing in their Ottoman garb.  (Let me tell you, it’s a strange place up here in this brain of mine).


The little chorus of dancing ladies came to consensus, after a pitched battle, about what type of swimsuit to wear for their on-land synchronized dancing, veils optional.

Surface reason for focusing on the topic of work for the month:  Safiye Rakkase, the vainglorious dancing girl puppet steps forward to explain this one – saying “M’lady had the idea to join all the other ladies at BlogHer, and their NaBloPoMo writing prompt for the day is as follows: What is the best way to relax after a hard day’s work? That’s the only reason that M’lady is making us think about work this month,” she quipped, hurumphing off to find her missing sequins, “I wanted the skeleton swimsuits, anyway, I’m still pissed!”

Subconscious reason for focusing on the topic of work for the month:  Esma the hippie puppet steps up to explain this one, with a calm tone and a clear heart: “M’lady is having a mid-life crisis – and has finally recognized that she needs to re-negociate her relationship with work -and the function that workaholism has in her life.”

Safiye Rakkase was the sole vote for use of the skeleton swimsuits for the synchronized swimming dance performed by the little chorus of dancing ladies - she's always on the edge of the latest fashionista trend, along with Lady GaGa herself...

Safiye Rakkase was the sole vote for use of the skeleton swimsuits for the synchronized swimming dance performed by the little chorus of dancing ladies – she’s always on the edge of the latest fashionista trend, along with Lady GaGa herself…

As soon as Karagoz the trickster read all that, he just about fell off my shoulder guffawing at the ridiculousness of it.”Hah!” he screeched, “m’lady? RELAX? That’s an oxymoron – you moron! She’ll never do it!”

Hacivad Bey, the learned Sufi elder ignored this bad behavior on the part of Karagoz, and basked in the glowing glory of just knowing, deep down, that m’lady (that’s me, your narrator) has finally reached a point in her life where she can answer that question by saying something other than “by reading a statistics textbook, analyzing some data or falling asleep.”

Esma the hippie puppet, who has been encouraging m’lady to engage in mediation and nature walks for years sighs in happiness. She is sitting, lotus-style, on top of my head, happy that her rose-petal glow can descend upon me in this new leaf era.  Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Maven of the Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior, while stiff and proper, even admits that even a *proper* lady needs to relax sometimes.

I relaxed by enjoying some delicious bibimbap tonight…it felt good to relax. The puppets weren’t sure about the dish – they are used to Ottoman fare.  But they opened their minds a bit and enjoyed the mix of tastes in the end.  Good for them, those cultural responsivity-brave puppets!

Truth be told, I did relax tonight, after a hard day of emotional work. I took a nap, and then went out to a delicious Korean dinner with M. and new friends, and despite the knots in my stomach of stones yet left unturned, I felt a modicum of happy and good and silly and serious, and not a whit guilty about not working.  It’s a new world – and it feels really weird, but I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Although Haciyatmaz is keeping the Write-a-Matrix at bay in some far corner, the little chorus of dancing ladies, together now after holding up their two different cards, now have their own intervention going on.  Using their collective power formed by guiding hands, they have floated a coffee table book about the beauty of the Ottoman court my way. They are showing me the ladies of the Harem lounging in a relaxed manner on silken carpets with woven-tulip-shape filled tapestries hanging here and there. The sunlight is shining through the tall windows, with the breeze from the Bosphorus Strait wafting by now and again – a little bit salty. Of course tea is being served, and every need for each lady is being met by one of the Eunuchs.  “This, M’lady,” they exclaim in unison, “is how WE relax.  You need to join us next time.”

And maybe, just maybe, I will.

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4 Responses to How to relax after a hard day’s work? Karagöz chortles and snorts

  1. Turklish says:

    I’m glad you are finally able to relax and without guilt – that’s a double triumph! I know what you mean about the guilt – I feel like the first years of grad-school it is programmed into our brains to feel guilty if we are not working the maximum hours possible. I can imagine that feeling is amplified on the tenure track. Why does it have to be that way?? From the outside is seems like academia should be pure professional bliss – flexible schedules and intellectual freedom (to a certain extent). I haven’t given up hope that it is possible…have you? Do you have any friends or colleagues that work in academia in Turkey? If so, is the academic culture any different in Turkey?

    P.S. Looking at your blog has been my relaxation for the night so far – it’s finals week – I’m finishing a take home biological statistics (biometry) exam (urgg)….times like these I wish I was working a 9 to 5 and making twice as much without the weekend homework….

  2. E. says:

    I just knew that you would relate to the comment about work and academia and guilt. Unfortunately, I do not think it gets any better after tenure. In fact, during my meeting with the provost in my tenure hearing, she said, it just gets worse from here. I thought G is that supposed to be an incentive? So don’t listen to me I’m pretty burned out at the moment, and you are at the beginning of your wonderful career. I also wonder if there is a difference between those who are primarily teaching institutions and research institutions, or people doing environmental science for example or more classroom-based work or individual research. I would also like to believe that it should be the perfect way to balance personal freedom and intellectual exploration, but I think it is never quite perfect. I don’t know too much about Turkish academia but I do know that it is quite nepotistic. Although some people tell me that Americans are sought out in droves in some fields because of the lack of professors there. When you land let’s figure out if we have any contacts for you. I wish you well with your exams maybe that was the last one, and I’m glad to hear that your sweetie is safe and Turkey. May you be together again soon.

  3. Turklish says:

    Thanks for the great reply and the mention in one of your recent posts. 🙂 You are right that there are so many factors – it is hard to compare experiences across disciplines, universities and countries! I think the one factor that inhibits us all from reaching that balance is this culture of “busyness”. Everyone is suppose to be so busy, with schedules so jam-packed that they don’t have time to do much else than work. It seems that administrators are especially good at this. Those few academics that manage to strike a balance are not lauded for this major success, but instead feel that they have to hang somewhat under the radar as to not draw attention to their happiness and manageable schedule. It seems that we really need a cultural shift in our universities so that administrators will respect their faculty that have achieved balance and then faculty can pass on that approach to the students. I know I’m living in a fairy-tale world here, but just thinking grand for the moment….

    Thanks for your offer to help with Turkish contacts! I still have about 2 years until I finish, so I probably should start feeling out the job scene sometime soon.
    I’m really enjoying these posts of yours – it is such a useful activity to reflect and brainstorm solutions.

  4. E. says:

    You have *totally* figured out the academic game, if the way we both see it is truly as it is. Yes, it is hard to compare across disciplines, etc., but time will tell. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out in Turkish academia…

    I am SO glad that my blog is of some use to you – that was my goal – to talk about the *real* stuff that comes up in cross-cultural relationships, as so much that is written about them involves milquetoast statements along the lines of “learn about the culture,” etc.

    Be well.

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