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Arguing is a way of life here.

Moving to a new place always requires adjustments.  No matter whether it’s a new neighborhood in your city, a new city in your state, a new state in your own country, or a different country altogether, there are simple systems that you’ve got to work out.  Thanks to the preponderance of national corporations and institutions, moving around America throughout the last 12 years has been pretty easy for me.  My biggest concerns are usually pretty trivial – where to get my hair cut, and where to buy fresh organic produce.   Most people would definitely consider these to be first world problems.

For everything else, in America getting something is as simple as visiting a website or making a phone call.  If I want to find out when a store is open, or how to order, I go to their website and get the information.  It’s that easy.  Most of the time, I can do it all via some app on my phone.

In Turkey, it’s not that easy.  Since my last post about paying the water bill, everything this week involved arguing.  When you don’t know how the system works, it’s much harder to navigate.  My brother in Hawaii just got his Internet turned on, and we were able to skype tonight (which was awesome!!!).  It reminded me of getting Internet activated at my current apartment in Ankara, which wasn’t hard, but required a whole lot of verbal fighting on my part.  First, I kept going to the wrong TurkSat branch offices (just like dealing with the banks).  I think each manager gets to decide which services they provide, or which customers they help.  Just like the banks, I finally found somebody to help me at Branch #3.  When they evaluated all of my documents, they determined that even though I had internet at my first apartment, it was illegally obtained, and they could not transfer it to my new location (this is due to my unique resident status as a NATO soldier in Turkey – that alone always requires at least an extra forty-five minutes).  As a stranger in a strange land, there is probably nothing more important than the internet.  Sure, I can go to a cafe and use the wifi, but reaching out to friends, family, and creditors in the comfort of your own home is key.   While typing this, I’m watching the Army-Navy game, chatting on facebook, researching a paper, and playing Scrabble with some guy in Minnesota.  Although feasible, simultaneously conducting all of these activities would be awkward at any cafe in Ankara.

At the TurkSat office, the clerk typed thousands of things into his computer program and determined that there was no legal way he could transfer my service (that I already paid for).  So I decided to go to Level 2 and raised my voice while threatening to cancel my account.  This would require a refund of the previously paid-for services, which I knew no one was about to give me (in my experience, refunds don’t happen in Turkey).  The guy asked his supervisor for help.  Then the supervisor had to call his supervisors, and so on, until finally, everybody agreed that I could indeed transfer my Internet service to my new address.   It’s amazing how this process always takes forty-five minutes and just about all of my patience.  Wow, thanks Turksat.

The following week, the techs showed up at my apartment and after a cursory look at my utility cabinet insisted that I had to get an electrician to pull the wire up to my floor, and then call them back to install the cable.  Luckily my neighbor happened to pop out of his door when they were trying to explain this to me, and came to my rescue by digging into my cabinet until he found the cable.  (Now I’m forever indebted, and paying off my indenture by constantly conversing with his son in English).  After the cable technicians were shown the cable, it took about 5 minutes to finish the job and provide me with cable and internet – yay!!!!

The good thing about having to argue with everything is that it improves your language skills.  The bad thing is that once you realize that only an argument will get you there, you’ve got to brace yourself for every transaction.  And you get really used to arguing.

Professionally, I used to accomplish a lot more by consensus building than by picking fights, but when I return to the naval community, who knows what I’ll do.  After six months of living in Turkey, I’ve probably become too accustomed to arguing on a regular basis.   Half the time, I don’t even realize it’s happening until I’ve been yelling for a few minutes.  Wow – how did that happen?

My most recent argument involves exercise.  Although I’ve occasionally gotten into running, I’ve never been a huge fitness nut.  But in order to enjoy all the Turkish food and keep anything like a figure, I’ve got to run.  Right across my street is this beautiful track in a Turkish Army housing area.


It’s pretty rare to see people running on the streets of Ankara.  Standby for a future post on driving in Turkey, but I’m pretty sure that it’s just as unsafe to run on the streets as it is to drive on them.

It seems that in Eastern Europe, and maybe all of Europe, working out in public is odd and unseemly.  As a friend in Romania described, running on the streets is akin to someone coming up to your cafe table and doing jumping jacks in front of you and all the other diners, nonstop.  So you have to go to a track, or a gym, to get your sweat on.

I thought since this place is across the street, and I’m military, it would be no problem to run there.  So I ran over there.  Even though you can go right up to all the housing units, the commissary, and the restaurant, two guards are posted at the track.  Closely resembling MWR employees in America (generally not the best and the brightest) they intervened when I tried just walking in.  I showed them my American and Turkish military cards but again was met with no success, no entry.  To run on this track, I need an “entry card.”  At least I think that’s what he said.  When I asked how to get one, he said to ask my Turkish boss.  Who else could I ask?  Well, I don’t know, he replies.  So I ask the other guy.  He has no idea either.  Then I try for the sympathy vote, and ask if they’ll let me on, just this one time.  Absolutely not…not without the mysterious but absolutely necessary “entry card.”  I kept asking, in as many different ways as I could think of, how to get a card, with pretty much the same answer – these guys really weren’t sure.   Now I know how it feels to be a civilian living near military bases in America.  I briefly considered hanging out at the entrance, and stalking people who do have access, to find out how to get my own.  Maybe another day – I couldn’t waste the mid-afternoon warmth.

When I finally gave up on the track, I ran over to the Presidential Complex and ran around it instead.  Once you cross the street, there are no stops, so it’s around 3.5 miles and hilly, making it a better workout than the track anyway.

The gray area is the presidential complex - easier to run than on regular, traffic-ridden streets.

The gray area is the presidential complex – easier to run than on regular, traffic-ridden streets.  The blue dot is where I live – no big deal.

I’m going to have to find some active duty Army friends to figure out how I can run on that track though – I don’t care about the fitness benefits anymore – now I just hate being told “No.”

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. OMG! How annoying! We were afraid of running into things like that here, but it seems that in Poland, you can pay other people to stand in lines for you, or yell at the Internet company for you (like our landlords assistant). I’m pretty sure that exercising in public (ESPECIALLY if you are female) is considered weird in any country east of Germany. People still point and gawk at me here when I run. It’s all cold and snowy now, so I’m enjoying the privacy of spinning indoors!

    December 9, 2012
  2. This sounds very familiar. I lived in Paris on an eight-month journalism fellowship when I was 25 and *everything* was a freaking fight — en francais! We learned to not even go to the bank or the post office when tired/head-achey/stressed or having our period because you would quickly become homicidal, not a great move when you are guest in their country.

    I do love your def. of multi-tasking. Good heavens!

    December 10, 2012
    • I’m never sure if it’s multi-tasking, task avoidance, or ADD, but occasionally something comes out of it!

      December 12, 2012
  3. Patrick Redmon #

    Is the point when I remind you of all of the benefits and joys of living “the real life” of an Olmsted scholar? Out in the ‘Ville with the locals? Living, breathing and soaking up all of the host nation’s culture? (ha ha) Actually, Sarah, all of those arguing skills will probably serve you well when dealing with the field grade officers in the SWO community when you return to the mother Navy! 🙂 Just in case you are thinking we don’t have similar issues here in the U.S., I got home Thursday night to find out that the Verizon FIOS dude cut the line going into our house while he was installing/running a new line for a rental home on the cul-de-sac. Of course, that means they will be digging up my yard (again) to run a new underground line today… Perhaps if I had some good, Turkish arguing skills I might be able to get at least one month’s service for free as compensation? I’ll try but figure it won’t happen. Have you completed that semester writing project yet???

    December 10, 2012
    • Would you believe that I used to outsource all of my utility company arguing to my best friend, whose phone voice is extremely persuasive and usually gets all kinds of things that I never imagined. But I think it’s actually a good experience, and gives me a little pluck. Last night I had an argument with a girl who cut in line, which is becoming a daily occurrence.
      The semester project is actually a presentation. I’m about 1/3 through, but it’s all thought out. Now the work is in writing and editing Turkish, an extremely time-consuming process.

      December 12, 2012

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