Some days it feels like we have settled in quite well then something happens to make me realise that I have no idea what is going on around me. I know this is part of the process of settling in, but, from other people’s blogs, I have gathered that it is unlikely that this sudden feeling of being alien is ever likely to go away entirely. We will always and forever be yabanci. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
The language still feels like a massive barrier. My reading gets better and better – I rarely resort to the dictionary now. I’m trying to watch at least half an hour of children’s TV each day (that’s fallen over a bit recently as we have been out and about and busy), I try to listen to conversations taking place around me (it’s not as if the neighbours talk quietly). I understand more and more of the questions I am asked but actual fluency feels a long way off. And, without fluency, how can I do simple things like order a new cylinder of calor gas? The neighbours do things I don’t understand and I wonder how we should respond.
To date we have managed OK. As I’ve said before, everyone out here is extremely helpful. But I find my lack of comprehension quite uncomfortable. And I am not certain how far this will improve when my language skills increase (as, on good days, I am sure they will). Why do my neighbours hang plastic bags of left over bread from their gates? Why did they put the picture of Ataturk and the flags back on the castle earlier this week? Was it a special day? What kind of special day?
It’s hard to explain what I mean. I am confident that my language skills will improve and, however discouraged I feel from time to time, I do believe that these skills are developing at a reasonable rate. I have to remember that we only moved here in August – these things do take time.
It’s the culture shock though. It reminds me of ‘Mindswap’ – a book by Robert Sheckley which is a little bit like Total Recall. People in the future take their holidays by swapping consciousness with alien beings. The standard warning is ‘beware of metaphoric deformation’ ( In my student days we used to give each other the standard warning all the time). Metaphoric deformation occurs when you suddenly see a vague similarity between something totally alien and something familiar (and safe) and then you start to act as if the alien thing actually is the familiar thing. In the book this led the protagonist into all kinds of difficulties from which, of course, he narrowly escaped.
I think, here in Turkey, I occasionally suffer from metaphoric deformation. But at least I know enough to be aware of the danger.