Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Farewell to Istanbul: Part 6

Imdat .. Imdat... My apartment building is on fire
Early one morning, when I was living in Büyükçekmece, I awoke with the smell of smoke. There was still some apartment buidings that still burned coal so I thought really nothing of it. Then, I realized that this was a very strong smell. I went to my door and opened it. The hallway was filled with smoke. I went to my balcony and looked down and smoke was coming from the apartment two floors down. At this point, I had very few words in my Turkish vocabulary.. but I remember the one for help—imdat.
I yelled this out and fortunately some people heard me, saw the smoke and started to call on their cell phones. Soon the manager of the apartment came and motioned me to come down. I used whatever Turkish was at my disposal at this time and sign language (not official) to indicate that I could not because of the smoke. The firemen were there surprisingly soon. I covered my mouth with a towel and they escorted me down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was the electricty box. It had completely burned. The backing was not metal, but wood. Sub-standard electrical wiring is common in apartments in Turkey, although it varies by the age of the building. (I learned about the standard of electrical wiring when the plug of my electric heater burned the plug. Electrical smoke is distinctive and not very pleasant. It lingered around the apartment for hours.)

I was asked when I was at entrance of the apartment outside if I wanted to go to hospital. I said I was fine. They urged me and they put me an emergency van and drove me just a few blocks to the public hospital (devlet hastani-in Turkish state hospital.) This was my first and last visit to this hospital, as I saw what those without state or private insurance had to suffer. I was escorted directly to the emergency room. I was in a room where there were a variety of people. I was put on a respirator and then asked if I wanted an injection. Seeing the place and sensing that this was not the best organized place, I declined. Outside there were twenty to thirty queuing for the doctors. Well this not much different, in the States, but this was an actual line. Nobody was too much concerned with me or other patients. One assistant was going through the area asking if there was some sugar for his tea. Next to me, there was an older woman from east Turkey who was sick and blowing mucus out of her nose. I could see another who was just brought in on a bed and relatives were beside her. Then they brought in a young boy who had a cast and they had to remove it. All the time, he was crying... anne, anne (mother, mother) in a pitiful voice. It was a circus. Soon one of the research assistants came, I had called him. As soon as I was able, I quickly left this place. For a good two hours, I was taken to official doctors to confirm that I was not affected by the fire and to the police station by the research assistant. Later, I was put up in a dormitory while they were getting my apartment cleaned up after the fire. After this I immediately bought a used cell phone and vowed only to visit private hospitals. In retrospect, although the state hospitals are far from the best, health care is free for everyone.

In the U.S., which can afford to give adequate public health car for those who are uninsured (which are now not only those chronically unemployed and the working poor, but now many in the middle class), even basic public health care is unavailable. It is valiant that Obama is trying to reform health care in the U.S., but it looks as this will be another failed attempt to reform health care in the U.S., blocked by the powerful lobbies of the AMA, drug companies and insurance companies. Obama needs to take this to the people and not bother with trying to compromise with the Congress, who are heavily influenced by these lobbies. Actually, this was stated by a Bill Maher, the irreverent pundit, on a recent episode of Connan O'Brian, which in Turkey may be a couple of days or weeks delay from the original airing. (I find Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, a pleasant relief from the myriad of red faced commentators who are hawking the same worn-out pablum that we have been fed for years. Guess you can tell, I am not a Republican, but I can not be put in with the lot of traditional liberals. I would describe myself as a Progressive. We need someone like Robert LaFollete again. )

Gel Bakim, My bird..Boncuk
Just recently, I bought a bird.. a small parakeet. I would never think that I would own a bird, but I had one. Now, I am not big on pets. I like dogs, but never wanted to keep care of one. So, a bird is fairly low maintenance, but none the least a wonderful pet. While in Istanbul, I have experienced things that I never thought I would and these experiences have been very much of my continuing personal development. These types of birds, are more intelligent than I could ever have imagined. Jane Goodall on a recent segment of BBC's Hardtalk, stated that her most recent campaign was the protection of all sentient beings. (For those interested, the link for the Jane Goodall Institute is located at: . I could definitely state that my bird, a male, is a sentient being. I had to give him away before I left. As of this writing, this is first day for six months , I have not awakened to this chirps. This is because in the morning, all the other birds would chirp and he would answer back. For a while, he had some regular visitors which were a group of three small birds, presumably females. He was making a variety of sounds. I am sure that he was talking to them in his own language. He would often come up with chirps that were obvious imitations of other birds. This was purely for his own amusement. Another quite interesting thing was that he would be quite all day and then you turned on the television and he would start chirping in a variety of manners. It was not certain that he was imitating the voices or sounds, but sometimes he seemed to imitate the rhythm of the sounds. Whatever it was, there was no doubt he was having fun. He loved to get out of the cage, but never went very far. When I would take him to other places in the house, he was visibly nervous. We all like our comfortable surrounding or our territory. When I was leaving, he would being chirping in very accented and short don't go. Lately, he was getting around the printer of my computer, hiding behind it and then peering around the corner, almost like a child who was playing with a parent. He was a joy and I will miss him as I have never bonded with an animal like this. What was interesting was even though the awareness of animals is not the same as ours, there is often a sense of communication between us and them that is very real. Sometimes, you feel that they are teaching you. In my case, Boncuk was reaching out to me in his own way. Too bad all those days of repeating things--I spoke to him in Turkish--he never repeated. Well, I think I heard him say his name one time..but that might have just been my imagination. Knowing him, he could probably repeat them, he just was not inclined to do so. Sometimes, he might have been repeating them at a higher pitch and rapidly...but this is probably just my assumptions. I know that for my readers, this is not exactly about my experiences in Istanbul. However, the mourning for the loss of friends and animals (as in this section) from your everyday life is a part of the process of leaving any place and of adjustment to a new one.

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