When you are a traveler, you want to visit all the top sights, museums, and note-worthy places of a city. When you live somewhere, however, your explorations are much more mundane. Saturday’s ventures consisted of the hairdresser’s and the hospital.
I hadn’t cut my hair since June, and it was completely shapeless and driving me crazy. On the streets of Izmir, there are about a gazillion hair salons and barbers (just look for the Kuaför, the Turkishization of the French coiffure). So I put out the call to my new Turkish lady friends to find a recommendation. Funda, a fellow English teacher that I’d met a few weeks ago at a workshop, knew a place that was cheap and close, and would take me with her! A date was set.
So Saturday morning I ventured out to the metro and took it three stops to Alabey station. Three stops isn’t far but it was a big deal for me! It was actually the first time in 6 weeks that I’d gone anywhere by myself. Zac and I have literally done everything together since we’ve arrived in Turkey. Which would be normal were we traveling together, but we live here now, so it’s time to act like it. Taking the metro three stops to meet a friend was a big step!
Funda is incredibly warm and friendly, and never stops smiling. We walked for a few minutes to the hairdresser’s, a humble shop that had a gaggle of women outside. Introductions were made, and I was glad I had Funda as none of the women spoke any English and my Turkish is quite limited. Funda asked if I’d had breakfast. I hadn’t yet. A shadow crossed her face, but she immediately brightened and said she would go around the corner for some gevrenk, the delicious seeded pretzel of Izmir. Breakfast is something that Turks are passionate about. While she was gone, the youngest women got me washed and ready. Funda returned and I had a few bites while we communicated to one of the other women what I wanted, a choppy bob with some side bangs. Funda had mentioned on the way over that most Turkish hairdressers just give you what they think will look best, not necessarily what you want, so we’ll see what happens!
At this particular salon, all of the women working there had different areas of expertise. The young one washed and did color, while two stockier middle-aged women did blow-outs and cleaning up. The shop was run by two sisters, one who did waxing and nails and the other who did the cutting. The cutter was incredibly fast, and you could tell by how she handled her tools that she has been doing this for a long time. In the US, most of the ladies I went to for my hair were slow and gentle, but this was the opposite. Gentle is not the word I would use to describe any of the ladies who handled my hair that day, but for what I was only 20 TL I wasn’t about to be picky!
The cutter finished and passed me off to one of the women to dry, but the cut she’d given me wasn’t anything like what I’d asked for. It had some nice layers, but was barely any shorter, and I noticed that the cut she was giving to the woman next to me was almost the same. I called Funda over from where she was getting her hair colored and explained that I wanted it shorter. She translated to the cutter who got back to work. I learned through Funda that she had been worried about making it too short for my boyfriend. I told her not to worry about it.
The second cut was much better, and closer to what I’d asked for. One of the stocky women came over to brush off my neck with talcum powder and dry my hair, but the cutter took over, wanting to see the job through, and gave me a very fluffy blow-out that reminded me of Gillian Anderson’s hair from the X-Files in the 90’s. Which wasn’t surprising since this woman has probably been doing hair since the 90’s.
I was given some tea and finished my breakfast, happily watching the salon, which had come alive with activity since we’d been there. I talked with Funda a bit more, paid and heartily thanked the woman who had taken such good care of me, and headed home.
Once I got home, the day took a different turn. Overnight, Zac had developed some sort of inflammation on his eyelids. The skin was swollen, with broken capillaries and redness near the surface, and was itchy. We think it was from a house we’d visited a few days before with our refugee volunteer group, a house that had a mold problem and was giving the all the children skin irritations.
We went to the eczane (pharmacy) around the corner. Like the hairdresser’s, there are about a billion eczanes in Izmir, but this particular one has a pharmacist that speaks good English and has been incredibly helpful to us before. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there. Her mother was watching the shop for her along with a younger junior pharmacist. They took a look at Zac’s eys and said that we needed to get a prescription from a doctor. For a lot of things in Turkey, such as antibiotics, a prescription is not necessary, but for this particular medication it was. We stopped at home to get our proof of insurance and our Turkish phrasebook, and walked the kilometer or so to Karşiyaka Devet Hastane, the big hospital nearby.
Karşiyaka Devet Hastane is a really scary-looking building. It’s old, with imposing metal front doors that look like they won’t ever open again once you go inside. Beside the building was a picture of what the hospital will look like once renovated who knows how long from now. The scary front doors were locked, so we went around to the side. It was a Saturday, so emergency services were open and seemed quite bustling. We flipped to the section on health in the phrasebook, took a deep breath, and went inside. . .
. . . Which looked just as scary. Low fluorescent bulbs lit long dingy hallways, and we found a sad-looking counter with a young man behind it. We managed to get out “gözler şişti” (swollen eyes) and point at Zac’s eyes, and he attempted to direct us to go somewhere. At our blank stares another patient took pity on us and walked us to a different counter. We did the same thing with the woman at this counter and she printed out some paper and sent us back to the first counter, where the young man finished the registration process. Registering for anything in Turkey always takes a long time. Much information is required, as well as a photocopy of your passport, but there is never a copier and you have to go to the tea room or shop across the street. In this case the photocopier was in the hospital canteen, so we ran over there to make the copy. Back at the desk, we received the paperwork and were directed to a waiting room to wait for our number to be called. Surprisingly, we didn’t wait long and went into the next room to see the doctor.
The doctor was older, with a kind face, and spoke some English. He looked at Zac’s eyes, asked a few questions, and wrote out a prescription. We asked what payment we owed, and to our surprise no payment was required! I’m not exactly sure how it works, but it seems that if you just have a small complaint that you need a prescription for, you don’t need to pay to see the doctor. Which is pretty fabulous.
All in all, our hospital experience was much easier than we had thought it would be. Despite the scary, run-down appearance of the place and our limited Turkish, everyone was incredibly helpful, including the security guards and the other patients.
We walked back to the pharmacy and were treated to tea and biscuits while waiting for the prescriptions to be filled. Nothing beats Turkish hospitality, where even the pharmacy will give you tea!
As you could imagine, all of these adventures were a lot to process for one day. We went home and spent our evening watching a lot of Turkish television, which is a whole other kind of adventure for a different post.
Turkey is turning out to be full of surprises.
PS- I really wish I’d taken photos of the hospital, but somehow it didn’t seem appropriate. I really tried to find a photo online that would give you an idea of the place, but somehow it looked quite cheery in all of the photos on Google Images.