Learning Türkçe: Rowing in vain?

 Sometimes you try and try but you can’t get what you want because you are beating a dead horse and your endeavour is futile.

In Turkish, the same concept is expressed with a different metaphor:

“Boşa kürek çekmek.” 

It literally translates as “to row in vain.”
For example: “Yükselmek için yıllarca çalıştı durdu ama sonunda boşa kürek çektiğini anladı.”

These days, twelve years into my relationship with M., I feel the rowing in vain feeling all the time when it comes to language.

I have hundreds of Turkish words that materialize easily in my mouth – but only two or three basic sentences. Verb conjugations stymie me. Rosetta Stone’s fantastic program has given me a leg up, but I’m still only partially in the boat that I’m trying to row, in vain.

Perhaps I should just forget my dream of learning basic conversational Turkish…be a realist and just smile in my silent non-understanding through tea time conversations and bazaar bargaining bouts.

Karagöz mocks me when I think in this way – “yes, forget it, you only visit for a month per year now anyway.”

But then, Hacivad Bey kicks Karagöz out of the way in those moments, saying “but how nice it would be to engage in charming niceties during your visits!”

And of course Kenne, the Queen of Manners et Alia, she says “you don’t want to be an ugly American, now, do you?”

Esma, the hippie puppet takes a different tact, saying “you could equalize your relationship with M. by having more Turkish in common instead of your language, English.  This would be equitable, fair and respectful.”

And so it goes with each of the puppets weighing in on what I should do and how I should feel about this sticky (for me) topic.

M. says he doesn’t mind if I learn Turkish or not…but I think he would secretly be proud if I did.  I suppose I’ll only be able to make the jump if I row my heart out and head for that grindstone with my nose!

Posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Karagöz puppets boycott “Inside Out”

Joy from “Inside Out”

Pixar’s new film, “Inside Out” is all the rage these days.

“Inside Out,” while ostensibly a story about a little girl experiencing the trials and travails of a move across country, is really a story about how the personifications of sadness, joy, anger (and so on) work in her brain.

In other words, it is a story of puppet-like creatures living in someone’s brain, and that, it turns out, is too close for comfort for my Karagöz puppets.

You can read some reviews of “Inside Out” here and here.  So, little tiny puppet-like characters living inside a female head? Sound familiar?  I thought so.

Well, as you might imagine, 0f course, the Karagöz puppets picked up on the presence of this BLASPHEMOUS (to them) movie lickety-split – and you know what?

Disgust, from “Inside Out”

They don’t like it, not one bit.

“Heaven forbid,” Kenne (the Queen of Manners and Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior) said, “oh yes heaven forbid that WE the Karagöz puppets are TRUMPED by a bunch of colored animations.”

“Why,” I asked Kenne gently, “do you worry about being trumped?  After all – this movie’s inner brain characters are raw, simple emotions as opposed to developed characters such as yourself!”

“Harumpphhh!” is all we hear from Kenne in response.

Hacivad Bey, the learned Sufi elder jumps in now.  “I must agree with Kenne, WE are the ORIGINAL embodiment of emotions – and we do it through a cultural lens, at that!  We are COMPLEX and we provide a LENS for understanding and MANAGING M’lady’s cross-cultural world.”

“And,” Karagöz said, in a rare somber mood, “we have been inhabiting people’s brains for centuries in order to do so!”

(Did Karagöz and Hacivad Bey just agree? Shiver me timbers!)

In a rare attempt to sit with ALL of the puppets at once, I call a family meeting. “Now look, puppets, I think there is one important difference here.  The embodiments of joy, sadness, anger and the like drive the little girl’s responses and actions – what is different about you is that you do that AND you explain complicated cultural phenomena along the way.  You shouldn’t feel threatened!”

After my passionate speech, I ask for a show of hands to see who will attend the movie with me, and it is a sorry state of affairs.  Esma, the hippie puppet, is the sole holdout on the topic of whether or not to see “Inside Out,” or rather, whether to hitch a ride in M’lady’s purse when SHE goes to see the film.  Esma purses her lips and sighs, reminding the puppets that they are not the only puppet ethnicity out there – and that they should be open and accepting of all forms of embodied emotions et alia in people’s heads.  Ever the peacemaker, that Esma!  They don’t know what they are missing out on!

Sadness, from “Inside Out”

Posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Introducing the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Karagöz knits a sock on the head of the Turkish military

Can you knit a sock on your head?

These days, Karagöz sits with me as a make my way through the English-language Turkish press.  I like to keep up to speed on Turkish goings-on as much as I can so that I can deepen my knowledge of the country as I slowly wend my way towards that citizenship examination.

The other day, Karagöz came across an article before I did – an article to which he had QUITE a response.  All I heard were whoops and hollers and the word “çorap” which means “sock.”

I soon saw that he was reading about one proposed plan for the Turkish military to go into northern Syria to create a buffer zone from ISIL in response to all that has been going down on that border.  The article struck me as a typically nationalistic and short-sighted approach to local conflict that has a familiar ring to it.  What that all had to do with socks, however, I wasn’t sure, but you know how Karagöz is, he doesn’t often make sense right away.

Stuck, I had to go to M. for advice on Karagöz’ commentary about Syria and socks.  As it turns out, when someone causes a complex problem for themselves or others, Turks use the idiom “başına çorap örmek.

It literally translates as “to knit a sock for one’s head.”

Here is an example: “Bekle gör, senin başına ne çoraplar öreceğim!” or, in English “Wait and see, what troubles I will get you into!”  This is usually used to talk about the future in a situation in which trouble will be coming to someone or something.

Well, now I understand.  The Turkish military would indeed be knitting a sock on their collective head if they went into Syria in such a manner – that’s just begging for trouble, isn’t it?

Yet another twist in the road towards understanding Turkish!


Posted in Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments