Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Carrying Ourselves

Taşınmak, the Turkish word for moving house, is the reflexive form of taşımak -- to carry; therefore 'moving house' in Turkish is effectively 'carrying oneself.' When I think of the original nomadic Turks galloping down from the steppes of central Asia centuries ago, all glorious mad mobility, this seems fitting. Wanderers who nourished themselves on the milk and meat of their ever-mobile flocks, their homes were wherever they were -- 'moving' really was all about 'carrying themselves.' It is harder to carry ourselves these days. We have acquired wealth and comfort and lifestyles that keep us stationary. We are more likely to have a couple of guys with a truck do our carrying for us. It is hard to imagine the reactions of the light-traveling Turkish tribes of centuries ago getting a glimpse into the modern world their descendants inhabit.

We have been looking for a new residence for a few weeks now. One thing I have discovered: if you ever want to be acutely aware of your surroundings, start house hunting. The moment you do, you will perceive thousands of tiny and fascinating details that you never noticed on all your countless trips to the dry cleaner, the market, the bar down the street. Before our search started, if you'd asked me about the layout of the streets around our house, or the architecture in the neighborhood, I probably would have told you it's a bunch of boxes laid out on a grid pattern, nothing particular to look at. But now, with the glittering eye of the house hunter, I am 'awake' on my wanderings through the neighborhood as I have never been. High, sun-catching terraces catch my eye. I pause and contemplate well-hidden gardens, curious glimpses of spiral staircases and molded ceilings behind the drape of a curtain. The way some buildings sag and tilt, and how one building runs into the next, as if the builders simply ran out of room and decided there was nothing for it but to cement it to its neighbor. The curve of streets, the number of cars and garbage bins and stray cats, the sum total of trees on a given block....all of these catch my eye these days. It is a kind of fascinating hyper-alertness. If trying to find just the right apartment is an exhausting and nerve-wracking experience, the process of waking up and being so wholly present in the here and now is wonderful. I know now where there are hidden courtyards, triangle-shaped buildings wedged into the intersection of streets. I could tell you (not that you'd ever ask) the height of all the buildings within a ten-block radius and which streets are worth living on and which not. It amazes me to realize how much there is in our physical environment to perceive, and at how we (probably of necessity) tune so much of it out...how fascinating to know that we need not go ever further afield to discover something new: it is right there in front of us, if only we open our eyes.

6 Comments:

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Hope said...

I often found myself thinking about those kinds of things the 3 years I lived in Italy. Not sure about Turkey, but where I lived in Italy it was rare to find a single family dwelling, it was mostly apartments, all scrunched in together as you spoke. But it always fascinated me that from the outside, they looked so much alike, and when you went in they could be so vastly different, even within the same building.

I hope your hunt for a new home goes well Kate and that you find those areas that delight your mind and your soul...

 
At 12:23 AM, Anonymous banu said...

Hey Kate,
The cyber world is tiny after all! Searching for something totally unrelated has led me to your blog!I think i was looking for some info about Forum Bornova.No idea how i got to you from there.

Anyway,
this is banu ,by the way.You know,one of the Turkish teachers in the Address Education center you used to speak to back in summer?The blond one?I dont know how else to remind myself!

Anyway,i am still a bit shocked to have run into your blog.
How's life going for you?I hope you are well.
Good luck with apartment hunting.

 
At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not the reflexive form, it's the passive form. It doesn't mean "to carry oneself", it means "to be carried".

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger Kate's Blog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Kate's Blog said...

Thank you for your vigilance. As an obsessive grammarian myself, I can certainly appreciate your diligence. But if I may quote from an (I think) fairly reliable Turkish grammar book in my possession: 'taşımak = to carry; Reflexive form: taşınmak = to move house (literally 'to carry yourself).' It goes on to say 'for some verbs, the reflexive form is exactly the same as the passive form. Thus 'taşınmak' might mean 'to move house' or 'to be moved' depending on whether it is meant to be passive or reflexive. Well, we're doing it ourselves, so it certainly isn't passive, which pretty much makes reflexive the default option.

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger Kate's Blog said...

Hey, Banu! It's nice to hear from you! How are you doing? Scary -- or neat? -- how easy it is to find people we know on the web. Guess I need to be careful what I say. ;-) I've been wanting to stop by Address, but my job hasn't left me with the time or the energy to do so...hopefully sometime soon. Are you still working there? Hope all is well.

 

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