The best way to capture the essence of my friend Pınar (Spring or Fountain in Turkish), is perhaps by relaying an email exchange between her and The Gorgeous One, in advance of a Beginners’ Turkish Course which Pınar taught recently.
TGO sent an email saying she hoped to make progress in using sentences during the course. Instead of, as now, going in to a shop and only being able to say one word like “Ekmek (bread)”, she would like to say, for example “Can I have a loaf of bread?” or “How much is this bread?”
Pınar’s reply was something like this;
Kim, what is this “Can I have some bread”? You should not think about this. I can teach you useful sentences like “How much are those diamond earrings?” and “Do you have that dress in red colour?”
Made me laugh anyway! Pınar is, you see, a funny girl. But bright too (degree in Economics) and no troll either (see photos). You might say she has it all but as that includes marriage to Kalkan Parc Owner, Fixer and Crazy Guy, Cenk Toparlaklı – life is not without it’s challenges (only kidding Cenk seni seviyoruz).
Pınar had a privileged upbringing in the 1970’s and 80’s, which in Turkey were a pretty tumultuous couple of decades. Actually just about every decade in Turkey’s history seems to have been tumultuous but I suppose the 1970’s and 80’s were amongst the wildest, with the army taking power in 1971 and again in 1980. Between times political violence between left and right saw over 5,000 killed on the streets.
Somehow despite such anarchy raging across the country and despite accompanying her father on postings across distant parts of Anatolia, Pınar says she and her sister enjoyed a wonderful childhood. The family returned to Ankara when she was 11 and she flourished at High School (“I was Nerd”) before going on to University to study Economics. Her sister followed later, going on to graduate in Civil Engineering. Two Nerds then, I guess.
At university she met, through a mutual friend (now head of Oracle Corp, Turkey), husband-to-be Cenk whom Pınar describes thus;
“He was Turkish Einstein. His hair was like this (indicates massive frizz to either side of head). He had glasses like bottom of Coke bottles and he was very clever”
The Nerd count is getting out of hand.
I cannot resist asking if they got hitched at the bus station (Kalkan’s premier and only wedding party venue).
Thought not! In fact it was at the Istanbul Sheraton, described by Orhan Pamuk in his excellent “Museum of Innocence” as the must have wedding venue for Istanbul’s rich, westernised Turks during the and 60’s and 70’s. Pınar and Cenk vowed to return every year but it shut for a decade in the year following their marriage! Should have gone for the Otogar after all!
“So what do you miss about Istanbul?”
“You can see everything in Istanbul. There is always something happening. But I don’t like the tidy areas (suburbs) I like areas like Balat where there is chaos (We went off piste here for a while as I thought P said “cows”. Took a while to nail that one). I also love the Bosphorus villages. A short ferry ride and you are in the heart of Istanbul but they are like real seaside villages. Everybody knows everybody”
“Tell me what is it like to be an independent woman in Turkey today?”
“Actually if you are capable you can have lots of opportunities. I worked in New York for three months and Oxford for four months but Europeans do not realise that Turkish women have the same opportunities here. People always think I am Italian or Spanish or even Israeli. They never think I am Turkish woman but the way I live is not unusual. It was the same for my mother too though maybe not my grandmother.”
“What is Turkey’s biggest challenge. What do you worry about for the future?”
“The biggest problem is uncertainty. In England even if the economy is bad things do not change suddenly. People control the government there but here the government controls us. Everything can change suddenly here. This always makes me fear about the future”
“What do you like most about your fellow Turks?”
“We don’t have serial killers.”
“No I am serious (I realise she is and adjust my expression). In England, France, America you have crazy people who go out and kill just anybody. We do not have this here. It never happens. Turkish people are not really cruel. People think the Ottoman empire was cruel but it was not. People lived together and they did not slaughter people when they captured cities. Turkish people are generally kind although they do not know how to apologise. You park your car in Istanbul then you come back and find it is blocked in but when the driver returns he just looks at you. They are not respectful because they are not educated.”
Sooooooo…we may have our axe murderers and serial killers but at least they know how to say sorry? OK.
“What do you think about the British here then?
“I like the British community because they try to get the best of life. When I heard you went to Antalya twice to the Opera (I am a sucker for Opera) it inspires me. You have very different mentality. I like it for example when you go out in a group you pay your own bills and share costs. For Turkish people this means shame. You must pay for everything if you invite people. It is a pity that Turkish and English people do not mix more. We can learn from each other”
“Any downsides to the British character?”
“Yes. When British people drink they change. In the day they are very nice and polite. Then when they have drunk in the evenings they get rude and behave badly. Sometimes in Oxford, even though I was married they make bad suggestions.”
That Bullinger Club again. Shame on you drunken, Oxford louts. I hang my head.
“If you like the British when will you come to the Gym to do Spinning class?”
“Ha!ha! Never. Not my whole body. Maybe just my head after a glass of wine! If you see me in the gym doing this take me to hospital and give me brain scan. Maybe I had traffic accident. Ha! ha!”
“What are your hopes for Alileo?”
To feel peace inside yourself, this is most important thing.”
“Cleaner. I hope it will be cleaner. Better roads and more aesthetic. Kalkan is a piece of heaven but I look around and all the buildings are ugly. Why not copy from the beautiful architecture in the Old Town. Where are the parks and nice walks? Just houses, houses, houses.”
And so say all of us.
Thank you for making me laugh Pınar and let us drink (but not too much) to the joys of a clear conscience, more understanding between people, a few less houses and a few more parks.