Monday, June 29, 2009

We're having a wonderful time here, mashaallah, and are surrounded by wonderful people and wonderful nature.

My computer is broken, but Misha's brother is here with his, and I borrow it every night.

I don't really remember how to write anymore.

Not knowing Turkish hurts - we've been coming here for ten years, and I'm still pretty much clueless. Last night I learned a polite way of asking someone to fart: "Osurunuz lütfen!"

Marta at first seemed intimidated by the two foreign languages that all of a sudden replaced those that she does understand, but she's getting used to it now, and her cousin is here, too, so she's no longer facing the friend-making problem. Last year, when she was two and a half, it was much easier: she didn't yet understand how much she didn't understand when only Turkish and English were spoken around her.

Reading about Ukraine is making me sick. First, Hanna Herman's son, who got himself killed in a car accident: it's terrible to have mixed feelings about stuff like that, but I can't help thinking that too many people back home don't understand that traffic laws are there for a reason. Then there is the Victor Lozynsky Affair. And the shooting at a Kyiv restaurant, in which Yushchenko's son is allegedly involved: the cops are saying he's not involved, of course, but out of the Soviet-time habit I automatically believe the opposite, sort of. And since Lozynsky is Yulia's man (one of the defectors from Yanukovych's camp), Yushchenko's people are now saying that the rumors of Andriy Yushchenko's shooting incident are Yulia's attempt to take revenge for Lozynsky. I can't wait to hear Lutsenko's don't-get-the-kids-involved-in-your-political-battles spiel.

Reading about Russia leaves me more or less indifferent. The attack on Yevkurov is something of an exception.

Reading about Iran - I haven't done much of that. I follow it on Twitter. And, as always in such situations, I hope no more blood is going to be shed there.

And yes, I am sad about Michael Jackson's death.

That's it for now.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two of my favorite pictures from today's quick trip to Küçükkuyu:

Some more:

The Bosphorus:

A man singing folk songs in front of Kybele Hotel (what do they call the instrument he's playing, I wonder...):

Inside Maya's Corner, our friends' wonderful café boutique:

Kelly's cupcakes - very yummy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Marta turned 3 1/2 years old ten days ago - I posted a couple pictures of her via Twitter, but I feel I need to post a few ones here, too:

Friday, June 05, 2009

Kyiv - old and new:

This is the neighborhood where one of my best high school friends used to live. When I was there with Marta this time, I saw a man with Down syndrome walking around. Back in 1990, there was a guy named Vovochka there, also with Down syndrome. He used to get teased a lot. Some of the teasing wasn't too cruel: young girls would come up and pretend to be flirting with him, and he would flirt back, sort of. I never had it in me to participate in any of this, but I remember the guy well. Now, I was wondering if this was Vovochka, but he never came too close to us, and it's been almost 20 years, so it must have been someone else.

The truth is, I'm exhausted. On nearly every level I can think of. I wish the summer could wait for me to regain strength and enjoy it to the fullest...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A conversation I've happened to eavesdrop on at a coffee house in Moscow today:

Two young women at a table next to ours, one is blond, the other one dark-haired, both wearing very short skirts, both are quite stunning. The dark-haired one is making a phone call. She is talking to a male, respectfully, using his first name and patronymic.

"I'm having an exam," she says. "Macro-economics. Will you be able to arrange help for me during the exam? Yes, great. Thank you. How much will that cost?"

To me, the crazy thing about this conversation isn't the fact of cheating - nothing surprising about it - but that she was arranging to bribe someone to get a good grade in such a casual way. As if she was ordering a pizza or something.


And here are some notes on the playground encounters we've had in the past two days:

A seriously overweight, dyed blond woman comes up to us at the playground and coos about Marta. Then tells me how she regrets having been a "bad grandmother" to her now-8-year-old granddaughter when the girl was just born: how she'd do anything to avoid babysitting - she was 46 then - and how she craves having a little kid around now.

"But there'll sure be more grandkids," I tell her.

No, she replies, her son is now divorced and has turned into a useless unemployed drunkard, while the daughter-in-law has remarried and couldn't care less about her ex-mother-in-law's belated affection for the kid. Last time they talked on the phone, the girl said she didn't want to see her because she was "bad."

I feel genuinely sorry for the woman, try saying something encouraging, even though I know that the situation is indeed hopeless.


A 7-year-old girl at the playground is scared to walk down the wooden balance beam, so I help her. She climbs up the beam again, and I help her again. On her fifth attempt, she finally learns to walk down by herself. Her mother sits on a bench nearby, watching.

Then the girl needs to use the bathroom, so they ask me to watch after her doll stroller with a doll in it. Marta, of course, starts playing with it right away.

The girl returns, and since I've seen Marta playing with older girls before and they all seemed to enjoy it, I assume that this one will stay around to play, too: she does seem kind of lonely and bored. But the girl appears upset about Marta touching her toys: she keeps taking the doll and the stroller away, nervously removing some sand that has gotten on the doll. She's gentle, but very determined.

When I tell Marta that the girl doesn't seem too eager to play with her, so perhaps it'll be better if she plays with other kids, the girl says, "No, no, I'd like to play." But continues to gently push Marta away.

It annoys me, but I don't want to get anyone upset, so I tell Marta, "Hey, let's go to a cafe!"

Marta says she doesn't want to. The girl says she'd love to go - but her mother is against it.

Marta wants to know why. "Because we don't have much money and mama says we shouldn't be wasting what we have on cafes," the girl explains.

"Veronica, do you have any money?" Marta asks. "Yes, I do have a little," I reply, feeling somewhat uncomfortable, but unable to suppress a grin.

Marta gets up from the sand and tells me she's ready to go.


A young woman sits next to a little boy in the sandbox - both are very dark-haired and dark-eyed, beautiful. The woman looks like the boy's mother, but turns out to be his sister. He is 4 years old, but doesn't talk much. She says it's often hard for him to speak Russian.

I ask what their native language is. Kurdish.

We talk about the language, I tell her about our Kurdish friends in Istanbul, she tells me she has lived in Moscow for about ten years, but knows Turkish because she also used to live in Baku, Azerbaijan (her parents were born in Yerevan, Armenia, though), Marta counts to ten in Turkish for her, she loves it.

She tries to stroke Marta's hair, but Marta is a wild thing and doesn't allow her to. She says she loves "all these Russians" because they are so fair-haired. I tell her that I actually love darker hair much better. We laugh.

We talk about skinheads in Moscow, she says there is a sort of a holiday that they have - sometime in April - when they run around the city, hurting people. Hitler's birthday, I say. But this isn't a good topic for a conversation taking place in a sandbox, so we move on to other things.

She has an older sister, she tells me. Her parents are cousins: "I don't know if you're aware of it, but it's a common thing among us Kurds."

Her little brother's name is Muhammad, and she praises me for the way I pronounce it: "Many people say it in whichever way they like, but you sound as if you know that this is the name of our Prophet."

She tells me that her mother didn't know she was pregnant until she was five months along: "She had a huge bolyachka inside her," - a benign tumor, I assume - "and they didn't see the baby behind it, and then suddenly they saw his, you know, private parts sticking out, and she was so happy, and she cried a lot."

She says that to keep the yet-unborn baby alive, they asked their Turkey-based relatives who were going to Hajj to "do a kurban" - a sacrifice - for him at the grave of the Prophet Muhammad.

"Because, you know, not all of my mother's children have survived," she says.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Summer in Moscow (well, the last day of spring, actually):