Journal of an exchange student in Turkey
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgHave you ever come across daily Hürriyet’s university newspaper Hürriyet Kampüs? It’s a rhetorical question, no answer is needed. And its Ornitorenk (Platypus) section at the back page? (Again, no need to answer)
There is a column in this section entitled “The Journal of an Erasmus student,” written by Irmak Değirmencioğlu. (For American readers: Erasmus is a European Union student exchange program in which Turkey is also included.) Every university is full of all kinds of exchange students in Turkey now and God knows what kind of Turkish students are out there in European universities.
I wish we had programs like Erasmus when we were students. There was only the AFS program and somehow all kinds of extremely marginal individuals were selected for that program at those times. Whoever spent a year in the USA during those years came back to Turkey with a screw loose and never recovered. Everybody I have met, everyone, who was an AFS student, was not normal. With the exception of one person, my beloved former editor Haluk Şahin; his screws seem to be all in place.
Anyway, in these Erasmus students’ journals, Irmak writes about Kristin who has a Turkish boyfriend Hasan… In one journal entry, Kristin wants to stage a cheerleader show in a basketball match and mentions her intentions to Hasan:
“I told him I will warm up the audience and that I will be involved in a sportive event … He took my pompoms and threw them away in rage. He told me, ‘Hey girl, do you want us to be on page three?’ I told him, ‘Why not, if our team becomes the champ?’ He continued to look at me nervously. I asked him, ‘Why are you looking at me like that Hasan? Really, why should I not be in the news?’
“He said, ‘Look at what you’re wearing, Kristin. What would I say to my parents?’ When he said that, I immediately thought he definitely did not like the color of my outfit. ‘Actually, you are right. Instead of pink, I should pick a more striking color, for instance red, right?’ He continued, ‘Look everything is showing, fork, etc., and everything…’
“While I was trying to figure out what a fork has got to do with this, it suddenly dawned on me: This is typical Hasan, classic, I told to myself. Hasan had a natural ability to mention something different and keep confusing your mind so that he rises to the top in discussions.” (Writer’s note: Is this Hasan related to my husband? Wait a minute – I am the writer. I don’t need to put a note in my own piece…)
Back to the journal: “Since I did not want to keep going, I said, ‘Yes dear, we have a lot of time to think about this.’ I went back to the girls’ dormitory from Hasan’s apartment with a lot of questions in my mind. I should become a cheerleader and make Hasan accept it. But how? It is my right to shake those pompoms as any other young girl…
“I thought about this all the whole way back and as soon as I arrived, I went directly to Nuran. She was eating without stopping to take a breath, but I managed to attract her attention with a bag of snacks I had in my hand. She first asked me if I had chips, then said we should gather the girls. We jointly decided to do whatever Sude told us to do. Sude said Hasan was jealous of me. She also told me that I should ‘play ball’ and then two days later, play hard to get.”
“When I asked her why it should be two days later, she said, ‘Dearest, there is a national game on that day. He would not even take any of your calls and read any messages. This is your lucky day…’
“She might be right. Hasan was a true Turkish man. When there is a football match, life would stop for Hasan. That evening, I sent many SMSs to him. Hasan was responding nicely. I was reading the responses to the girls and then we were answering accordingly. Sude said, ‘I told you…’ This tactic seemed to work…
“The next day, I did not show up at school. This was the second phase of the plan that was working like a clock. Hasan would miss me and would be curious and worried. It happened exactly like that. I was waiting for Sude to come to the dormitory to tell her what happened. Sude listened to me and took a deep breath. She said, ‘Now we are at the final stage, grasshopper. In this stage there is plenty of caprice, plenty of whims; and then you will make him do whatever you want him to do…’
“On the evening of the football match, I sent Hasan a few silly texts. When he did not respond, Sude took the phone from me and wrote ‘Nyse sn msglsn glba!!!’ [I guess you’re busy right now]. While I was thinking what could that mean, Sude wrote ‘Madm cvp yzmıosn, bnde pn pn kz olrm o zmn!!’ [Since you’re not answering, then I‘m a cheerleader]. Then she wrote ‘kib’ – That’s for take care of yourself.
“Sude turned to me and said, ‘mission accomplished; you are a cheerleader now.’
“However, it turned out not to be like that when at half time of the game Hasan phoned me laughing and could not speak a for long time from laughing. He had understood that it was not me writing the texts. However, he liked them a lot. Moreover, he even was fine with me being a cheerleader. Only with one condition: “That ‘the fork’ should not be seen.” I still could not understand what ‘forks’ have to do with this topic, dear journal…”
(For American readers: Turkish boyfriends are possessive and like children. And fork is cleavage.)