Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Steps Forwards and Backwards in Turkish

The exciting news from Turkish class this week is that we finally got around to learning verbs. Having just spent two weeks trying to communicate without them, I can tell you that they are pretty necessary for most conversations (though saying that things do and do not exist actually got me pretty far). So overcome with joy over learning the present tense, I decided to teach myself the more useful of two past tenses (one is used to describe things the speaker witnessed, while the other is used to report events that the speaker was told secondhand). Verb conjugation is thankfully easy, and I think I might teach myself the future tense by the end of the day so I can tell warn my host family of future events such as my ultimate departure this coming weekend.

Anyway, it appears that I am not reaching the point where I can sometimes have conversations not directly related to my wants and needs. Last night, I had an extended and lovely conversation with my host brother (again, he seems to mature to call my brother, so let’s call him Cihan, which is apparently his name) about my life and future plans. I believe that he works for a large defense contractor in Turkey. When he heard that I was a studying mechanical engineering, he wanted to know if I was going to work for Lockheed Martin (or wrote it, Locked Marlin).

I also had a brief discussion about vitamins, as my host father had picked up a pamphlet from a purportedly well-respected (read: I have never heard of them) American vitamin company. Cihan’s wife (name as-of-yet unknown) asked me what I thought about vitamins. In America, this is usually the point when I launch into a lengthy speech about how most Americans get enough vitamins as it is and that multivitamins are at least expensive, if not (particularly in the case of excessive fat-soluble vitamin consumption) somewhat detrimental to one’s health. Because on a good day, my Turkish vocabulary is limited to about a thousand words, I instead said that I did not think vitamins were good. Cihan’s wife kindly referred me to the pamphlet, which said that these vitamins were not only the winner of the Vity (perhaps the Grammys of the vitamin community?) award, but they were also approved by the ABD, a very respectable American organization. At first I thought that maybe the acronym was the Turkish translation of the Food and Drug Administration, but there was no word for “drug” in ABD, so I told them that I did not know of the ABD. The family, having all gathered in the kitchen because of the commotion caused by the vitamin pamphlet, looked at me like I was crazy, reminded me that the ABD was American and very famous, and ignored me. Later on, I at least managed to get in that Vitamin E supplements were probably a bad thing, but I fear that my anti-multivitamin crusade* has failed to take route in Turkey.

Partially as a result of the previous night’s events, I did not attempt to stop Cihan’s wife from feeding the baby honey this morning even though I am sure that is not a good idea. Feeding the (6 month old) baby food from the dinner table is the new game around the house. My conclusion is that the baby really does not like any of it, but the fact of the matter is that the baby hates eating baby food as well.

I have also learned to play “Okey,” which is a tile-based version of rummy and a Turkish obsession**. Though the game is not excessively difficult, I needed the Americans in my group to teach me in a game saloon. I played at home too, which was fun. My host mother attempted to teach me a similar card game, but my Turkish was not quite good enough to catch all the rules.

Finally, I have a quick one of those look-at-what-silly-things-happen-to-me-because-I-know-no-Turkish stories. Yesterday, I went to the Avea (my phone service provider) store to buy more minutes (or kontor, which are different from minutes, but I don’t know why). Every store has signs outside advertising how cheap the minutes are, and it really is a good deal to call domestically. I went inside, walked up to the nearest desk, and asked for 500 minutes. The man pointed to a computer-printout with minutes and prices that were twice of the sign outside. Stupidly assuming that he was going to charge me the price advertised by the signs inside and outside the store, not the one he was pointing to, I said that was fine. He added my minutes and then asked me for quite a bit of money. I gave a half-hearted protest about how the price should have been half that, and the man said something I didn’t understand. I paid him, realizing that though it was an Avea store, I apparently bought kontor from another company. Had I walked to the next desk down, I could have bought Avea minutes. Live and learn, I suppose.

*I do approve of Vitamin C, which is at least not bad for you and in excessively large doses may be good for your immune system. Assuming it does nothing, I think the placebo effect offers a net benefit.

**This is also why Turks do not say “okay.” For what is supposed to be the second-most-recognized word in the world, it is sort of funny that I have heard it once during the past three weeks. Fortunately, the word “tamam” can be used as a near direct translation. I think my host father tried to teach it to me the first day so I would not say “yes” all the time. Since them, I have embraced “tamam” with open arms.

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