Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - No comments

"Spring" Break

It’s like the weather knew.

Turkish universities just got out on their semester break, and the elementary and high schools will follow on Friday.  And after two weeks of thunderstorms and flooded streets, power outages and sub-zero temperatures (only a few degrees and only at night, but still - this IS the Mediterranean!) the sky seemed to have heard the last bell and yelled, “Spring break!”  

I woke up to sunshine - real, true sunshine.  Not the kind that peeks out weakly from behind a cloud just long enough to make you think, “Yay, hot water today!”, only to leave you feeling defrauded when it’s replaced by a dark sky and raindrops in the afternoon.  Nope, this was the kind that makes you forget last week’s scarves and mittens and makes you scan the ground for violets.  The kind that beckons old ladies and their teacups onto their balconies and little boys and their footballs out into the empty lots and means (joy of all joys) laundry that dries in just a few hours and doesn’t turn mildewy from sitting on the rack for days.

I got home last night from an intense five days away co-hosting a seminar and was way overdue for a day off.  Today didn’t turn out to be so much of a “fun day” as a “catch-up-on-life” day (empty fridge, overflowing laundry basket) but the warm weather made even my errands feel like recreation.  

I rode my scooter to the pazar wearing sunglasses and no jacket, and I took the long way just for the pure pleasure of being outside.  The streets were full of university students home on break - knots of slow-strolling girls catching up after months apart, guys whooping and hollering as they tore up and down the road on their motorcycles.  Women in long skirts and headscarves lugging carts laden with fruit and vegetables stopped to chat with friends working in their gardens.  An unusual abundance of mobile fish-sellers hawked their glassy-eyed wares-on-wheels.  Piles of avocados and “winter strawberries” at the pazar got me fantasizing about summery salad combinations.  Even the freshly-shorn sheep at the animal pazar seemed to be smiling at the sun.  (Poor things had no idea that the people admiring them weren’t doing so with petting zoo intentions.  At least their last day on earth was a pretty one....)

My favourite use of the sunshine today was a long afternoon run. (In a t-shirt!  In January!)  I’m training for a 10k in March and, after five days away, was eager to get back in the swing of things.  It turned out that every female home on university break had decided to take driving lessons this week, so my normally quiet dirt road route was suddenly clogged with student drivers, and I spent as much time dodging crawling vehicles as I did remnant puddles and sheep poop.  But I wasn’t bothered.  Winter break will soon end, the freezing weather will swing back, and there will be plenty more hood-and-gloves runs to come.  I was happy to share the road, so long as I got to be outside! 

Around my complex, it was as if everyone had come out of hibernation.  I spotted two neighbours were washing their cars- one because her car actually needed it, the other, because he’s unemployed and seems to have made a career out of religiously shining his up once a week.  Our new Syrian “winter gardener” appeared (much to our disappointment, our full-time, live-in one was recently let go) and raked up all the half-decomposed leaves littering the driveway.  He also scrubbed down the “sitting hut”, ridding it of rooster “deposits” and making it sittable again.  (When the manager tried to get the birds’ owner to clean up their messes and told him that a townhouse complex really isn’t the place for breeding poultry, the owner apparently yelled at him, asked him who he was to say he couldn’t keep chickens, and came after him with a stick.  You can take a man out of the village....)

The main event of the day was heralded with the early morning sound of sledgehammers on concrete.  The house kitty-corner to us was sold last week and apparently the new owner has a beef with the third floor.  Its punishment:  being reduced to sacks full of debris on the side of the road.  Over the course of the day, I watched from my window as workmen in wife-beaters brought a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom to their knees and tossed them over the balcony.  

Now, it’s “against the law” for homeowners in this type of complex to change the basic structure of their houses.  And when it comes to colour and design, there is supposed to be a uniformity to the place.  But in recent years, no one (including our various managers) has stood up to (or been in town to stop) those “creative license bullies” who have said, “What do I care about the rest of the complex?  I want ___________ (insert “an extra room”, “a different colour of paint”, “ostentatious Corinthian columns” here) and I’m gonna have them!”  And so our complex has become a bit of a neighbourhood joke.  

This morning, when the demolition was in the early stages and only the roof was missing, my roommate, who was recently “elected” (against her will) assistant manager, decided she should go over and investigate.  (The actual manager doesn’t even live here, hence the “finding out about these things after it’s too late” phenomenon.)  She took another neighbour along for good measure, and they asked the construction workers if the owner was planning on adding a fourth floor.  “We don’t know what his plans are,” he replied innocently.  “We were just told to remove the roof and the windows.”  Right.  And the walls coming down later in the day was just because the sun was shining and you got carried away.  

We’re all watching with great interest to see what will materialize in place of all those rooms that disappeared.  The new owners certainly aren’t doing themselves any favours by gaining a “rebel” reputation before they even move in.  But if this sunny weather keeps up and if it turns out they’re installing a swimming pool up there, I just might have to take over a plate of cookies and welcome them to the neighbourhood....  :)

Note the bannister peeking up where the top of the stairs and the hallway ought to be.... :)