Friday, February 5, 2010

Kan Is Not Mentioned In This Post - Happy Now, Evan?

After a trip to the internet café (I now know the correct case to say “I am going to the internet café,” by the way) today, I decided to take a trip to Beğendik.  Beğendik (the ğ is silent) is listed in my guidebook as “the Sears of Turkey” and conveniently located under the giant mosque a block from my house.  I think that in terms of the scope of things available the store is perhaps more of a Super Wal-Mart than Sears.  My family eats food exclusively from the supermarket on the first floor.  There are also reasonable home furnishings, clothing, stationary, book, plant, toiletries, toy and bakery/specialty foods sections in addition to several café-like setups.  The only thing giving Sam Wal the upper hand in the comparison (besides the low low prices offered by Chinese sweat-shop workers) is the selection.  Beğendik has somewhere between one and three choices of most items.  The one exception is in the toiletries section, where there are more toothpastes than I have ever seen before.  Still, you have to give them credit for including the wares of every store in Kızılay (about five blocks away) under one roof (or mosque, as it is).
So why would I need to check out Beǧendik for my shopping needs?  I was looking for some boxers.  Pitzer had recommended that I bring two pairs, I think, in addition to one shirt, a pair of pants and some organic, fair trade granola in case I got hungry.  I had fortunately ignored most of the suggestions, but I had not packed two weeks of boxers, and it was clearly the limiting factor in laundry.  I could have gone to a variety of other stores around Kizilay, but I was hoping to avoid sales people.  You see, Turkish sales people are of the belief that your presence in their store is a sure sign that they have what you want.  If they do not, it is the sales person’s job to convince you otherwise.  If the product is too expensive, or it is not your style, this is when the salesperson believes you are playing hard-to-get.  To soften you, they may try to become your friend.  I now know a clothing salesman in Ankamall that has a dream of moving to America and becoming a dentist.  His favorite basketball team is the Los Angeles Lakers.  See what I mean?  In a small store, the moment you walk in, you are accosted by some excited sales person saying “buyrun!”  At Beǧendik, all you have to do is not be too interested in anything you are looking at and not stick around in a single part of the store for too long.  These self-created rules were easy to abide by, and I spent a happy half hour browsing the store unbothered.  In the end, I bought the only two pairs of some reasonably priced ($3 US or so) boxers in my size and walked out entirely satisfied.  Even though I leave the neighborhood this weekend, I doubt that I have made my last trip to Beğendik.
The real excitement today though was not Beğendik, but a lunch with my international student advisor at METU (my soon-to-be university).  My advisor, Esra (that’s a girl’s name, though to the best of my knowledge there is no rule of thumb to determining gender from a name), was the first counter culture person I have met in Turkey.  When I met up with her, she had just come back from a morning-long protest over benefits for newly fired tobacco and alcohol producers.  The tobacco and alcohol businesses used to be government-owned (as was most of Turkey in the ‘80s) and the privatization of the industry has resulted in a lot of job losses.  Esra does not work for the industry, but sensing some sort of injustice, she had to protest.  Esra is also the first Turk I have met to:
1.      Share an apartment with non-family members of the opposite gender
2.      Consider vegetarianism legitimate
3.      Mention the words “Kurd” (I have heard of the PKK, the Kurdish terrorism organization, but never of the Kurds themselves)or “Armenian Genocide”
4.      Complain of a lack of things to do after midnight
5.      Have a serious facial piercing
6.      Use the word “overconsumption”  (In a country where the better-off have had the ability to over-consume for no more than 20 years, it is assumed you will buy as much as you can possibly afford)
No doubt, the semester that she spent in the Netherlands probably made a huge difference.  Were I to meet Esra in America, I would consider her a typical liberal teenager.  In Turkey, which has a secular Muslim “Leave It to Beaver” vibe going on, she was a breath of fresh air to have a conversation with.  As an added bonus, her English was not bad.

1 comment:

  1. clearly the answer is to just go commando. you have less items to packa and clean and all that jazz. plus, it just makes your day that much more fun. =P