Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mutlu Noel!

By this time of the year back home, I'd have long been good and sick of Christmas carols and Santa Clauses and all the other holiday trappings I'd have been smothered with since Halloween. But when you haven't heard "Feliz Navidad" for a whole year -- and can feel pretty confident that you won't hear it again for another annum -- it actually sounds awfully nice. It sounds like home.

Walking into my friends' house for a holiday party last night, I was surprised at how giddy I felt to see one of them hanging red ribbons and ornaments from a chandelier, to smell the glögg warming on the stove, to hear some cheesy Christmas classics freshly downloaded from iTunes, and, best of all, to be able to unfold the "branches" of the tree into a proper-ish shape. (Not much in the way of real trees here, but this one even shed some of its fake "needles"!)

Besides getting to experience holiday spirit not diluted by overuse, spending the Christmas season abroad also allows you to enjoy everyone else's traditions too: Eating turkey curry (a U.K. fave) and then some Danish Æbleskiver with jam and sugar, watching the movie Germans apparently watch at holiday time each year in place of "It's a Wonderful Life," and whipping up an ensalada de Nochebuena to represent California by way of Mexico since my family's traditional pot roast would be a bit hard to contribute without an oven. All that was missing was the tamales.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that we were trying to be too clever by at least half. With the time to renew our press accreditation and residence permits fast approaching, another journalist friend and I decided to get a jump on the process by making appointments using the handy-dandy "e-randevu" (online reservation) system recently installed by the İstanbul Emniyet Yabancı Şubesi (Police Headquarters Foreigner Office). We weren't sure when our first set of paperwork from the press office would be ready, but it wouldn't hurt to make an appointment, right? After all, right below the "new appointment" button, there was a "find/cancel appointment" button. What could possibly go wrong?

The square stone wheels of Turkish bureaucracy turn slowly, of course, so we found ourselves needing to reschedule our appointments for a later date. I logged on confidently and clicked the "find/cancel appointment" button. The system found my appointment, all right. But when I went to cancel it, this message popped up:

To cancel your appointment, you must recourse to the police headquarters.

The verb used for "recourse" in the Turkish version was müracaat etmek, to appeal to. I pictured a crowd of foreigners on their knees at the Emniyet, begging to be allowed to change their appointments as a tea-sipping functionary steadfastly ignored them. But an appeal could also be made by telephone, couldn't it? No dice. I called up and was informed that though my desired operation could not be handled over the phone, if I came into the Emniyet, they would be happy to cancel my appointment. (OK, maybe, I added in the "happy to" part.)

So, basically, the Emniyet instituting an online reservation system is the equivalent of a bank setting up an ATM where you can make a request for a withdrawal at the machine, but have to turn up at the branch to collect your cash. Hm. I'd better not give Yapi Kredi and Garanti any ideas.