Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nazar According to My Husband

So I questioned BE last night about what exactly Nazar is. He wasn't 100% sure, but he told me in all seriousness he believes in it. Not as much as his mom, he pointed out, but he definitely thinks it's a concern in life. When I questioned him about specific ways that he believes in it, he got mad. I asked, for example, if our house is protected at all times from Nazar because of the boncuk sticker the previous tenants left on the doorstep and he said "Yes." Then he said "No." Then he said "Mostly." I asked him what kinds of Nazar could get us even with the boncuk sticker and he got mad. A lot of our conversations go this way. I feel like Mr. Spock, all coolly logical but clearly missing the point.

Anyway, the salient points about Nazar according to BE are as follows:

1) Nazar gets you when someone talks a lot about how much they like something you have. Even if they're not jealous, it can get you. This is the kind of Nazar that's brought about unintentionally, because the person giving the compliment isn't harboring any bad feelings towards you. I asked if this means Nazar is always listening for someone complimenting things and BE got mad.

2) Nazar gets you when someone compliments something you have and they harbor bad feelings in their heart. They can be jealous of you for another reason, like your money, but give your baby Nazar from saying he's cute. Again, this Nazar is pretty much unintentional. I asked if someone can give it on purpose by giving lots of compliments knowing it could draw Nazar, and BE said yes, probably, though he'd never known anyone that did that. I asked if this was why MIL didn't want LE to go to the funeral dinner, because there would be people there who are jealous of BE's branch of the family because of money or their seemingly blissful existence, and he said, yes, that was definitely the reason. I think this says a lot more about MIL and certain of BE's family members than it does about Nazar.

3) Nazar can be given on purpose by people with magic powers who know how to give Nazar. These people are considered evil. I asked how they give it, and BE said they do it with their eye. "Like this?" I asked, closing one eye and opening the other really wide, trying to look evil. "Not like that," said BE, because my open eye was inadvertently fluttering. "More like this," he said, opening both eyes really wide and staring intently. If that's Nazar, I thought to myself, then Turkish men have been giving it to me on a daily basis every day since I moved here. I didn't tell BE that, however, because that gets him all riled up and there's no one specific for him to go manfully bump chests with and shout at.

And here's another thing. Since LE and I are going to the States tomorrow, we sent him to spend the night with MIL. The ILs are convinced that, besides my cavalier attitute towards Nazar, I also don't care if LE gets sick. I don't take enough pains to prevent illness, and I don't rush him to emergency room or fill him up with medicine for every sniffle. A couple of weeks ago, FIL started harranguing me that we have to change doctors because ours wasn't fixing LE's cough. "Have we taken him to the doctor for his cough?" I asked BE, because he doesn't always keep me adequately informed about the bullshit he tells his parents. "Three or four times," he said. News to me. Anyway, the ILs are certain that LE has had a serious lung infection for like 3 months, because every sniffle he gets at school dribbles into his throat from time to time and makes a noise when he breathes. It doesn't matter how many times we tell them it's not his lungs, or that he's clearly thriving and not in the least bit sick beyond the sniffle.

So LE was coughing again at the ILs this weekend. Without asking us, they took him to the doctor. This was not the kind of doctor to let two fretful grandparents go home with a simple "He has a wee sniffle" diagnosis. Oh my, no. We have pus in the throat and an ear infection and a near case of bronchitis. Wow! All without symptoms beyond the sniffle. Naturally he prescribed antibiotics, pediatric pseudoephedrine, and antibacterial throat spray. And here's me about to get on a long-haul flight thinking, "Is he sick for real? I don't know. I wasn't there. Is he going to get sick for real? Have I mentioned on my blog yet that I have some serious fucking issues with doctors in Turkey? Because I don't think I can stress that enough." So I'm giving him the goddamned antibiotics, all right? I don't want us to fail any swine flu screening.

But the way this all relates to Nazar is this: BE said his mom thinks, no, KNOWS that LE got sick because of Nazar. I asked him if she had a guess which Nazar it might have been-- the funeral dinner or the neighbor or what, and he didn't know. And then he got mad because he's the only one who's allowed to make fun of his mom's Nazar thing.

For my part, it reminds me of dogs marking territory. Whenever I send LE to MIL, he comes back in different clothes than the ones I sent. It's only because I don't like her that I read a shitty motive into this, like "He's my territory too, you ignorant yabancı." More often than not, he's wearing a sweater or sweatshirt tucked into his trousers (Ew. Does anyone actually think this looks good? Even on a baby?) and lately, a vest. So now it's like "You don't take care of our grandson, you ignorant yabancı, so we'll do it for you and take him to the doctor and get him all the medicine we think he should have." If MIL were nicer, I'd think they were trying to help and save us some money, but there you go. I'm trying but I can't.

It's always about trying to solve the bullshit behind the bullshit and never quite getting it right.

So when the ILs roll in about an hour from now, requiring me to stop packing our suitcases and not wear pajamas and also wear a bra and get bitched at for being barefoot with more than one window open in my own goddamned house, the person giving the Evil Eye will be me. So take that, Nazar.

It's probably a good time for me to go home for awhile.


Melissa said...

At least those eye-things you hang on your door are pretty.
Have a great trip!

siobhan said...

Do you know you can wash the nazar off, if you wash your hands and face as soon as you get home? I once went to a sunnet mevlit at a mosque before I was married and my mil made me get washed as soon as I got home. Of course, not yet being married and being totally eager to please I did just that.

Yes, yes, yes to the clothes thing. I only have to leave D for an hour and he's dressed differently when I come back and ALWAYS with the top tucked into the trousers, arrrggghhh. I'm usually really petty and immediately untuck him!

Anonymous said...

Can't. Stop. LAUGHING! I hope you felt better after this! You write these cultural issues out far better than I *ever* could. Got through point #3 and nearly fell out of my chair.

Have a wonderful trip back. I'm sure you'll see a few things that look pretty strange to you now that you've been away....


Stranger said...

Melissa, I have nothing against the boncuk thingy. They're nice, and I'm used to them. There's even a nazar boncuk in the Turkey tourism logo. They're as everywhere as Ataturk.

I did not know you could wash off nazar! Maybe that's why MIL goes crazy about the hand washing every time anyone comes in the door. Here I thought it was germs or OCD. I knew you're supposed to do abdest before leaving the house in case you die so you don't die unclean and go to hell, but not the nazar thing.

Siobhan, untucking the shirt is not in the least petty. Not even a baby has any excuse going around looking that dorky. Does your MIL put your kids in gawd-awful clothes that you would only use for things like eating stain-causing red berries or when you haven't gotten around to doing enough laundry but have no plans to leave the house? Does your MIL keep the clothes you sent D in? Mine does. They disappear into the black hole of her hoarding-tendencies house, not to be seen for weeks. Or forever, if she doesn't like them.

Jess, it's good to be home. We left earlier than planned, and I was trying so hard for all those months to not get pissed off at MIL and other things in Turkey, but once I found out we were leaving it was like the levee broke and I discovered I'm a very pissed off person indeed, desperately in need of a Turkey-free recharge. When I left BE at the airport, there were three other Turkish Babas there seeing off their yabanci wives and kids. I'm not the only one who can't stand it for long...

Anonymous said...

"So when the ILs roll in about an hour from now, requiring me to stop packing our suitcases and not wear pajamas and also wear a bra and get bitched at for being barefoot with more than one window open in my own goddamned house, the person giving the Evil Eye will be me. So take that, Nazar."

Priceless! I can't stop laughing about this one!!
Great blog, btw. I often pop in here and read your storries while having a cup of coffee.
(poster on Dave's)

Stranger said...

Thanks, dagi! I got kicked off Dave's for some unknown reason, so I've been posting at David's ELT World...

Vicky, Bursa said...

I had an interesting nazar chat tofay when I went to the market. The ladies there always lift up the mozzie net on Deniz's buggy and touch his face, kiss him etc. which gets me annoyed as he keeps getting colds. So today the girl asks how he is and I say he's caught a cold. her reply - must be Nazar. I said that it's much more likely to be from complete strangers touching his face all the time and he's picked up a bug, but she really wasn't convinced.

Talking of which, I'm so pleased to see government ads on the TV about the importance of hand hygiene to avoid passing on swine flu virus. However I wish they'd gone one step further and mentioned not only sneezing on your boss or coughing on your dolmus money and also said not to touch other people's babies. Please don't kiss his hands or his face - you may love him but it's time to get tough as I can't bear for him to get ill again just because I'm too polite to tell them not to.

Talking of adverts, I would love to do one to tackle the horrendous littering problem here. How about a picture of Ataturk then lots of proud looking turks with the tagline 'proud to be a Turk' followed by people caught littering, chucking fag packets out of the car or leaving their rubbish after a picnic by the roadside with 'but not proud of Turkey'.

Stranger said...

LE's finally gotten old enough that I don't get too upset about all the touching (mostly he just escapes) but it used to just drive me batshit. BE got mad at me all the time because I'd snatch him away from strangers or tell them not to touch him.

Now I figure it's their own risk-- kid germs are virulent and if they want to pick them up and take them home, be my guest. Serves them right, I say.

Your TV ad idea is great. There was this ad in the US in the 70s ('s not YouTube so I hope you can watch it). I'll bet it did a lot to cure people of littering here-- if they did the same in Turkey with Ataturk instead of an Indian (or Ataturk AND an Indian, since so many Turks have this bizarre notion they're related to American Indians), it might make people feel properly guilty.

Vicky, Bursa said...

that's a really really good ad - something similar would definitely help here. I got so annoyed with our kapıcı a couple of months ago after some work had been done at the apartment block. He took a wheelbarrow of stuff and dumped it just by the river. The crazy thing is he had to walk past the bins to get to the river. Mad me so mad. In a beautiful example of Karma/Kizmet he has since been sacked for being generally crap and surly. Although it's sad that he's lost his job, I hope that the 300 TL he (over)charged us to clean our empty apartment before we moved in has helped them bridge the gap before he finds another job.

Hope you are enjoying being stateside - I still love your blog and am so happy to have found it again (I changed laptop earlier this year so my old bookmarks had been lost).


Stranger said...

Un-freaking believable. In our neighborhood, I got all excited when they installed recycling bins...

... until I saw all the kapicis dumping trash in them. I can't be bothered to paw through my trash neatly separating it if that's what's going to happen.

But I figure the gypsies who go through the trash looking for recyclables they can get paid for probably do a pretty thorough job. In fact, I'd almost hate to see a successful city-wide recycling program take away that source of income from them.

Jackie said...

I found this blog by mistake 2 days ago, I typed "English-speaking doctors Istanbul" & inexplicably, your blog was the first result. I read your 'Doctors' post & was immediately hooked. Ive been reading your posts ever since.
I am absolutely amazed/relieved that the things I felt (& consequently felt guilty for feeling) are not just do to my own neurosis. Reading your thoughts on hospitals, covered women, internet banning, & just being a general yabanci in Turkey is just so REFRESHING. Ive been living her for 8 months now & I still feel so awkward; lately Ive been having the sinking suspicion that this awkwardness is not just a passing phase, but something I have to get used to as a foreigner in Turkey.
Before I moved to Istanbul I was deciding between going to Italy or here. I ultimately chose Istanbul due to the lower cost of living & the better opportunities I would have to study language (as a graduate Linguistics student). Sometimes I wonder if it was the right decision, if I would have assimilated better into Italian society. I just can't see still having this same awkward-still can't say one complete sentence yabanci feeling in Italy that I do here.
Anyway, I wrote to say thanks but it turned into a diary entry lol. I completely understand your one post, where you mentioned that sometimes you don't want to leave your apartment for days on end. I noticed the side effect of this feeling is that I e-mail & write long-winded responses to EVERYONE & everything.

Great work :)

jackie said...

btw, I apologize for the spelling mistakes .... but it IS 12:30 am after all....

Stranger said...

No, Jackie, you're not alone. As you can see just from this comments thread, there are a lot of us here. Long-timers. The ones who stay while watching all our friends who don't have Turkish husbands move back home, or to somewhere in Europe where there's more pork but less tea-related hospitality.

It's funny what you say about writing looong emails, comments, and posts. I still do it sometimes, but I found myself doing it a lot less after I started the blog. I think it made my friends start answering my emails more because they didn't feel obligated to address some 3 page tome I'd just sent off the top of my head.

Turkish is wonderful great fun for a Linguistics geek (I'm one too). In theory, it's so regular and perfect and predictable and beautifully, mathematically precise. In practice, it's as slippery as any other language. On the other hand, if you're interested in pragmatics, Turkish gets fun again, once you progress. It's like the more you learn the more you realize you have no idea about, and that doesn't include dialects and the problems of different registers. After almost 8 years, I've finally decided to take some Turkish lessons-- I'm sick of the awkwardness and limitations. I don't think lessons will fix it, but I expect it'll help. Just learning the conditional properly would be cool. And embedded clauses. The teacher I found is a linguistics geek too, so he totally got what I meant when I said I need to learn more about pragmatics, so I can stand my ground and make myself understood without pissing people off.

And not to bum you out, but I know people who've been here for 20+ years, with excellent Turkish and loads of Turkish relatives and they're still awkward and uncomfortable and forever doing the 'wrong' things. It's like, the more you try to engage with the culture the harder it gets. And I think there are definitely some limits to how far they'll let a foreigner in. It's no coincidence that 'foriegner' and 'stranger' are the same word...

And good luck finding the doctor! After talking to a lot of foreigners in America, I decided medicine and education in other countries are the two things that, no matter how long you live there or how much you know or even if the quality is better, an expat will NEVER NEVER get used to or be able to fully accept as 'right.'

Oh, and I also tend to write more when my kid takes a really long nap :)

Anonymous said...

This is great. I second and third everything about MILs marking territory and the hidden messages about how crappy I am so she "has" to do things for me.

ILs are living with us in the States, and I started WWIII recently by telling MIL not to move my furniture. (She'd move it, I'd move it back, she'd move it back to her preferred location ... absolutely marking territory.) Oh my God, the martyrdom. The hysterics work, damn it.

Stranger said...

Oooh, living with them! When I can't sleep at night I'm plagued with the terror that one or both of the ILs will move in with us because of failing health. I've already started dropping hints to my husband that assisted care facilities can't be all that bad, and that there should be more in Turkey by the time his folks need them (PIL is just short of 60, MIL is short of 50). Hats off to you for surviving.

I don't know what it is with MILs and furniture-moving. Mine came to help a cleaner one time while I was at work (one of her favorite activities-- "helping" me by cleaning the house, but really just getting to have a big old snoop, plus the favor can be saved for later obligations), and she not only re-arranged living room, but the entire kitchen, drawer by drawer and cupboard by cupboard. It took me two weeks to find everything. Plus she threw out everything in my fridge that she didn't know what it was-- foreign mustard, Lea & Perrins, parmesan cheese... Did it never once occur to her that I too can find the trash can? Or how she would feel if everything in her kitchen were suddenly in a different place?

Her latest barb-gift came after she found out LE had gotten wet at a picnic, and had ridden home in dry pants but no shirt, covered with my sweater. She freaked out for an entire week, phoning BE to tell him we should never take LE on a picnic again because of cold, wet, and dirt. Then she gave BE a "gift" of a bag of several changes of clothes for LE and a towel to keep in the car. BE showed it to me, daring me to get mad but resisting the urge to roll his eyes because we both know that gift means: "(supertext) Here are some nice things for LE to wear and a towel in case he gets wet (subtext) because your incompetent fuck-up of a wife doesn't know how to dress him properly or prepare for picnics."

Anonymous said...

(I'm the one with the ILs in the States.)

Ooh, I would be mad about the food being thrown away.

The first thing my MIL did upon arriving for her first extended visit was to rearrange my pantry. By shape and size of container. I had JUST organized it before she came. (By type of FOOD, not container.)

Then everything else got organized for me -- hall closet, basement, home office, even attic.

I still can't find my muffin tins and a certain important envelope from that first visit.

She is making my house better for me and I should be grateful; hence the martyrdom over the furniture.

stacey Bruno said...

I never believed in love spells or magic until I met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Indian this year on a business summit. I meant a man who's name is Dr ATILA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one's gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I'm now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 5 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn't believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is

Stranger said...

Okay, I guess that's nice if you believe getting married married and having a baby is a happy ending.

(Spoiler alert-- unless you die tomorrow, getting married and having a baby isn't the end of your story)

Does it ever bother you that your marriage resulted from a spell rather than all the other good stuff that happens between people that make relationships flourish?