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Preparing for my Turkish guest

by Lyndie (4/28/2006)

Preparing for Yakup to Come to England

Those of you who know me, or who have been reading my other Essays, will know that I recently won an appeal the the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal to obtain a visa for the Turkish friend I am sponsoring to study in England.


Insallah! He will come on the 26th of May. He college place is reserved and paid for and he should start on the 30th of May.


I thought I would write a few words (a few? Me? Impossible!), about the preparations for his arrival.


I have read a lot about ‘Culture Shock’ – it’s a bigger subject than I imagined, so I am determined to ensure that his 12 months in England are comfortable, peaceful and positive for him. I have stayed with him and his family in Ayvalik many times and I know his habits, rituals and what make him comfortable and happy. I know him as a person very well and I will do everything humanly possible to ensure that his ‘culture shock’ experience is minimal.


In the first place, having a Muslim and a Turk, living in my household will require a few changes which will affect all of us. Pork and bacon will now be off the menu and my family will have to get used to this idea. It’s not just that he can’t eat it, but I know that he can’t even bear the smell of it being cooked. Maybe he will get used to this or maybe he won’t but to begin with we won’t be having it. On the subject of food, I have had to identify places where I can buy ‘halal’ meat for him. This is not too difficult because I live in an area where there are a lot of Muslims and even all our local supermarkets have ‘halal’ sections. I will probably buy all halal meat from now on, because its seems pointless buying and cooking ‘halal’ for him and ‘non halal’ for the rest of the family. My children were opposed to this at first because most of the halal butchers in my area are pretty disgusting and the hygiene standards are very low, but I think we can trust Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco so this is not a problem now. I have discovered that a lot of Turkish people are generally quite resistant to trying the cuisines of other countries and he is no exception, I can cook a lot of Turkish recipes and we tend to eat quite a healthy Mediterranean diet anyway, so this won’t be a problem. I am sure however, that I can introduce him to the delights of world cuisine as time passes and this will broaden his ‘international’ experience. I have a Turkish tea and coffee pot and regularly make these for myself and family so he will feel at home because we can continue his ‘tea drinking’ habits quite easily.


On the delicate subject of toilets! I managed to find a wonderful French gadget, that with a little plumbing turns an ordinary European toilet into a ‘Turkish toilet’ – no I don’t mean a hole in the ground, but I mean a toilet with a ….shall we describe it as a ‘washing facility’. It has a little water jet to wash your nether regions and a little lever on the side to squirt the water. It is an interesting aside to note that when I first went to Turkey, no one actually bothered to tell the tourists what the water jet is for. You hear all kinds of horror stories from other English tourists about Turkish toilet habits ‘Oh you cant flush the toilet paper because the plumbing is so bad’, ‘Oh yuk, you put ‘dirty’ toilet paper in a bin in the bathroom, how disgusting’ and so on. No one seemed to realise that you are supposed to wash first and then just use the tissue to dry yourself. We only discovered it because my husband is a plumber and with professional curiosity set about discovering what all the extra pipes and taps behind the toilet were for. Voila! The secret of the water jet was discovered. Anyway, I digress!


So, at least in our downstairs toilet he has appropriate washing facilities (as indeed we all do now having adopted the habit ourselves – offf, sorry – too much information?


We have a shower anyway, so he won’t have to adopt the ‘filthy’ English habit of lying in a bathful of ‘dirty’ water. All the mysterious plastic stools, buckets and bowls which inhabit every Turkish bathroom, and form an important part of his various hygiene rituals have been purchased from a local Bangladeshi shop, so that has been taken care of. Although I have a strong suspicion that when he is away from his mother his habits will change a little anyway.


Then there is his bedroom. My daughter inhabited the room for a long time and since in my household it was the responsibility of the rooms’ occupant to clean and decorate their own room, nothing has been done in it for years. Now she has moved into her own apartment, she has discovered cleaning and decorating skills hitherto unknown, but her ‘old’ bedroom was a pit. I have discovered dirt in there that would make a pig cry. Old cigarette butts under the bed, fluff that needs carbon dating to identify its age and the grime on the windows casts a permanent grey light over the whole room. This is all changing. I am in the process of decorating and laying new carpet (and cleaning the windows) It will be a light, peaceful retreat complete with white Egyptian cotton bedding, cream walls, white paintwork, TV, stereo and, for the first time in his life, his very own wardrobe and chest of drawers. We have an old computer to put in there so he can do his homework, but I wont be connecting it to the Internet because I know from very personal experience that most people instead of studying spend 90% of their time surfing the net and chatting on msn and he only has 12 months here, so he can’t waste his time.


I have several Turkish friends here in England and of course they have all invited us to their houses, so when he feels the need to speak in Turkish, he will have opportunity to do so, but since the whole point of his coming here is to improve his English, we will also spend a lot of time visiting my English friends. He will continue my own Turkish lessons and I am looking forward to this enormously. When I stay with him and his family, they all speak to me in Turkish all the time, whether I can understand them or not and from experience there is no better way to learn. We also intend to go to Spanish lessons. He can already speak German as well as English, so with some Spanish under his belt, he will be fully equipped to get a really good job when he goes home. I have a friend who has a managerial position in a bank in Turkey and he has promised to help him get a job when he goes home. Speaking three languages plus Turkish will make it very easy for him to get a good job. It’s all about who you know folks and I can network for Europe!

I have prepared his CV to English standards (he has a background in hotel and tourism work) and as I live near Canary Wharf in London which has 6 five star hotels, it should not be too difficult to find him a part time job, which will fit in with his study times and not be too far to travel. The experience will also be very good for him and his future job prospects, plus of course more language practice.


The area in London I live is very diverse. People from every nationality imaginable. Apart from English and German tourists, he has no experience of other nationalities and this will also contribute to his learning experience. If he wants to go to a local mosque, it will be virtually all Asian people. The nearest ‘Turkish’ mosque is a very long way from my house and he won’t have time to go there for Friday prayers so he will have to integrate himself with the local Muslim community.


Then there is the other delicate subject of my house and the standards of cleanliness. Frankly these are not what he is used to! His mothers’ house is so clean you could eat your dinner off the floor. No I will go further than that; you could probably perform open heart surgery on her kitchen table without fear of infection! He is going to be in for something of a shock in this area. I have tried to prepare him in advance, but he is definitely going to have to adapt to this. I work full time (his mother doesn’t work at all) and have to squeeze in the cleaning around my long working hours. I also tend to want to enjoy myself at weekends (what? How strange of me), so cleaning in my house is something of a haphazard affair! Well he has the option of the ‘what can’t be cured must be endured’ philosophy or he can clean the house himself! It will be spotless when he arrives, but I predict a gentle slide back into its normal grubby state after a couple of weeks. He will also have to do his own ironing. Yes really! I don’t ‘do’ ironing for people big enough to reach the ironing board and hold the iron. There is no compromise on this. He can do it for himself in the summer when he is working away from home, but usually in winter he becomes an ironing phobic and his mother does it all. Not here I’m afraid!


I have also had to prepare him for the English legal system and the general intolerance of English society to put up with fighting and careless sexual behaviour. As a Probation Officer in London, I have supervised too many Turkish guys who get into big fights in pubs and clubs because another guy ‘looked at’ a woman he was with and then is shocked and surprised when the English police take a dim view of this. Sadly I have also had to supervise young Turkish guys who have had sex with someone they didn’t bother to question the age of and have found themselves in jail and labelled ‘Sex Offenders’ because it turns out the Lolita in question was only 15! I think I scared him so much, he decided that he probably would never go out clubbing and definitely would not want to have sex with anyone! Yeah right!....


When I decided to sponsor Yakup, it was a simple decision. That was over 14 months ago and it has been very very hard work. In fact all the organising has taken over my life. When he finally gets here, it will be like a great burden lifted…


...except of course then I will have to ‘look after’ him... :)


ümitli, cosmopolite and Annette Faye liked this essay

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