Friday, July 2, 2010

A Change of Plans

Even though Turkey had a lot to offer- the history, mosques, museums, countryside, the beaches, etc.- the au pair job ended up being a little too much for me to handle. Here's the story...

The week after we returned from Ayvalik was the start to my days with the kids on my own. And let me tell you, they weren't very full of speaking English, but were full of terribly dubbed Hannah Montana in Turkish. It was really nice to hang out with the American girl, but that wasn't guaranteed and definitely didn't outweigh the time with the kids. The kids were great when they felt like playing with me, which was maybe an hour out of our seven hour days. Other than that they treated me like a toy, played with me when they wanted, but completely ignored me when they didn't. And trust me, I never thought a six and seven year old would get to me like that.

Over the weekend we went to a family friend's house for dinner. I didn't mind too much going out with the family and seeing the culture of other people. But this night I was basically brought along as the babysitter for four non-English speaking kids. Granted, they all understood it, but that doesn't mean they would listen. This house was something out of a magazine. First of all, it was an actual house and not a five story condo. And second, it had a yard, which is totally unheard of. They had a beautiful view of the city and had a separate room outside with walls you could move up and down. It was complete with couches, a dining room table, and a kitchen. I was asked to occupy the kids and get them to play a game they just couldn't resist. Right. I tried my best, but I could really only get the attention of the three year old who spent the whole night talking to me in Turkish. On top of everything I had done something to my foot, which made walking quite a task. And chasing kids did not seem to help. For dinner I sat inside with the kids an ate something the cooking lady made. She was such a miserable looking lady, there just wasn't a trace of happiness on her face. I learned later that this family didn't have any close relationships with their workers (which was very different from my family), because they'd had problems in the past and they didn't want the hassle of having something crazy like friendships. Anyways, during dinner the mom of the two boys came in and turned on the television. She said it helps them zone out so they will stay in one place and eat. Nice. I was instructed to make sure the kids ate ALL their dinner before they left. Ayse Naz, the little girl I took care of, didn't finish of course. She tried to pull all these toys out of my hand and eventually proceeded to get them and run off. So when I told Sinem about it she said Ayse Naz wouldn't receive any dessert that night.

And yet again she did.

It was the final straw for me. These parents who, at times, were so good to their kids. But they were raised being given EVERYTHING. They have no appreciation for things. When a kid is little they are usually proud to show you something they have, whether it be something they can do or something they got for their birthday. Not these kids, and seeing this other wealthy family, I could tell they were raised the same way. They never had to say thank you for anything. They never cleaned up after themselves or had to make their beds or tidy their rooms. Nothing. I doubt that's all family's, but in my case, I simply couldn't handle the thought of living with it for another six weeks. And so started the adventure of leaving...

Monday I was supposed to go to the doctor with Sinem, who had hurt her knee. The morning I was with the kids. I was told that they needed to brush their teeth and get dressed in the morning, you know, before the do anything else. Understandable. She told me is their nintendos or tv or a game was stopping them from doing so and they weren't listening to me then I had permission to give them a warning then take them away. So, Monday morning after they watched a ridiculous amount of the terribly dubbed Disney channel I asked them to get ready. Finally after the last show was over I had to turn it off. I went into Sevket's room and he was playing with these Smackdown cards. I nicely told him he had to get dressed and brush his teeth then he could play with the cards. It was a beautiful day outside and there was no way were going to stay in the house again. I told him he could bring the cards with him. He refused. I gave him to the count of five then said I'd take away the cards. Then I did. And he threw an even bigger fit. Finally I got Nurdan to come help. And because of our language barrier she finally gave back the cards and nothing had changed. They were taught to get what they wanted if they threw a fit. Great. Later when I talked to Sinem about it she said I shouldn't take things away from them, because she wants them to like me and if I do that then they won't. This is completely opposite from the first comment she made about how I have to be an authoritative figure to them.

So I was upset at how things had gone. And I was still upset from the night before. I was upset that I was attached to this family all the time. My free time was really limited. I knew I could have tried to wait until the 29th of July and go meet my family in Greece, but I seriously couldn't last another month of counting down hours of the day. I was there to have a good time with these kids. Why stay in a situation where I was dreading every morning? That's not how it should be. I wanted to stay in Istanbul on my own and stay in a hostel or something, but I didn't have the money to do that for a month and a half. No way.

Monday I went to the doctor with Sinem. She had to have a really minor surgery to take the screws out of her knee. The doctor said she'd be fine to go to London this upcoming weekend and it wasn't going to be a big deal. She was worried though and she was worried about work. But, she worked for her dad. He wasn't going to fire her. He wasn't going to hate her for having to get something done to her knee. After the doctor's office I told her I had a family emergency and I may possibly have to go home. She said she couldn't handle another stressor right then and to talk to her once I knew more of what was going on. Great. The car ride home was silent. I could tell she was really upset about other stuff and I wasn't going to get in her way. At the house she was yelling up a storm on the phone. I couldn't handle it. I e-mailed my mom and she found a ticket for me to go home the following morning. Thank God for her. I went and told Sinem someone in my family died and I had to go home. At first she was sympathetic, but later that night came in and told me how irresponsible I was being abandoning her and her family. I offered to pay her back for the portion of the ticket she bought or to fly someone else out. She said the money wasn't the point and they had made arrangements for me to be there this summer. And without me there's no one to watch the kids.

Wait a second.

First of all, she has a nanny. Nurdan has been with the kids since they were born. When I got this position she told me, "I don't want you to feel like you're doing work, you are simply there to teach them English." Alright. I know it's a little bit more work for Nurdan to watch the kids, but she did it the summer before and she helped do it during the school year.

Second, Sinem's mom lives ONE HOUSE away. She doesn't work. Why can't she help out with the kids? Oh right, Sinem said her mom likes her kids, but not enough to take care of them every day. She has her own things to do. What happened to Turkish families giving everything to their children?

Third, even if something had happened to my family, shouldn't that come first? Shouldn't she understand if something came up and I have to go back? She kept asking me just to stay another month. That would defeat the purpose of me going back now. And I'd already confirmed the ticket. If I'm wrong about this, let me know.

So that was my last conversation with Sinem. Her telling me that I'm letting down her family and storming out saying there's nothing else she has to say to me. Not another word was said by the family that night. I woke up early the next morning and made my way out by 8 am before they woke up. I got a taxi to the airport and made my journey back. With some delay in New York (missing two flights, being put up in a hotel for the night and flying out in the morning), I finally made it home. I've never been so happy to see Washington. Never. And with no plans for the next six weeks except probably going back to work, it's such a relief from the last five days.

Now instead of Istanbul adventures the blog will be full of summer adventures. A change of pace, but oh well. Istanbul isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I'll be back on my own time :)