Up to now I have refrained from writing about the site ( pronounced sit-ai - meaning housing complex) where our house is located. But the events of this week have changed my mind.
There is a varied cast of characters, the site manager is Turkish, married to an American Jewish ex-spy- at least this is what he tells everyone, he worked on nuclear submarines.
Also there is the spurned wife, the hotel owner who with her children owns four of the nine houses, the extended family from the capital, the bereaved Englishman, the uppity gardener and of course don't forget me. I have been cast in the role of "Lady Chatterly" because of my friendship with the gardener. There is the makings of a wonderful soap opera here if only I had the courage to write it.
If you are in the upper strata here, you spend your day in the house along with your extended family only to emerge in the cool of the evening to head out en famille, dressed to kill. The second option is you head off early in the day for your chosen beach club where you watch and are watched, your every need catered for.
In the middle strata are the "foreigners" who are welcomed and accepted but they don't really know the rules well enough to join the upper echelons.
In the bottom strata are the cleaners and the caretaker who provide a valuable service but are not seen by many.
On arrival back in the late afternoon, some of the well-to-do, at best beep the car horn to summon the caretaker or a worst they bellow his name "Ali" so that he must drop everything to come and carry their one little bag of shopping.
"Ali" has no work contract. his job is to be there 24/7 to cater to the whims of the residents. His day begins at 6 in the morning and ends usually around 11 at night when the watering of the gardens is finished.
He goes to the shop and buys the bread and newspapers for those who want them and delivers them before eight in the morning. He walks the managers dog twice a day in summer and three times a week in winter.
In addition, he waters the gardens, cuts the grass and fixes the small things that go wrong in every ones house. For this he earns the princely sum of €360 per month. He is also provided with a roof over his head and he does not pay electricity or water charges. More importantly his social insurance is paid.
We got to know "Ali" well when he was doing some work in the house for us. He ate his meals with us, as would be the norm at home if someone was doing a job for us and was in the house at mealtimes. His eyes lit up when he saw our table tennis table and he learned to play. When I had an "encounter" with a male Turk who I thought was a friend he appointed himself my protector.
The Englishman has also become a friend of Alis. Often in the wintertime if there are only two of them here, they eat and chat together. Sometimes they work in the garden together and there is a lot of good-natured bantering.
This week there was a major row on site. It should have been a storm in a tea cup. A barbecue was organised for last Saturday night. Everyone on the site was invited. The meat was purchased from our maintenance payments and everyone was asked to bring something. I had a disagreement with the site manager in April so I was told through "Ali" that I was to make desserts for 30 people. It was to be a punishment. Little did she know I'm the dessert queen! I produced the goods and am still receiving compliments. She is not a happy camper. It was not the revenge she planned.
Anyway, the hotel owner was not told or invited to the party. Ali says he was told she was not to be informed. A great night was had by all, but surprise, surprise it turned into a birthday party for the ex-nuclear submarine spy, the site managers husband.
The hotel owner found out about the party. She rang Ali and asked why he did not ring her. He said he had been told not to. As you can imagine an immediate row broke out between the site manager and the hotel owner.
This led to row number 3, as the site manager took a lump out of Ali for saying what he did. The next day he overhears the site manager talking to the hotel owner and giving him "down the banks." So he explodes and there is row number 4. The upshot is that "Ali" hands in his notice.
The hotel owner rings the lovely lady from the capital and explains how upset she is. She has cancer, her mother is very ill. She was so upset she says she didn't sleep all night. The capital lady smooths ruffled feathers and then organises a meeting with four of us, the manager and the caretaker to see what can be done to rectify the situation.
Ali is trustworthy and reliable. No-one wants him to leave. The site manager arrived to find the English gent and I also present. She immediately began a bravura performance, stating she would not stay and would not discuss the topic. The other two Turkish ladies managed to persuade her to stay by saying Ali would not be present and we would talk to him later.
She immediately began a rant, he was a peasant, ignorant, uneducated etc.... needless to say I was shocked. English Gent who up to now had lot of respect for her, began to roar at her and tell her to "shut up," a phrase I absolutely abhor.
Instead of endlessly going over the "I said, he said ....." I suggested we move on to look for a solution. If we drew up a list of work conditions and hours there would be no misunderstandings. This was not acceptable to the manager but accepted immediately by the rest of the group. Then the s*** hit the fan. According to the manager it was all my fault. I should not have been friendly with him. We should not have brought him to Ireland. He no longer knows his place. He uses the familiar form of address to the manager. Turkish like French has the tu and vous verbs forms, sen and siz in Turkish. He will never amount to anything because of this. This is about a guy who walks their dog daily for no extra pay.
My smile has encouraged Ali to insurrection. In my opinion all I have done is treat him as a fellow human being, as I would anyone else. I think everyone, regardless of their job or income is entitled to respect. The manager emphatically stated she does not have to show him respect, she is his employer.
It is a question that has sometimes crossed our minds, is treating him by our standards creating an unreal expectation of how others will treat him? Are we responsible for creating dissatisfaction with his lot? Yet as opposed to this Capital Lady has always treated him with respect and has always received it in return, yet he does not expect to be her friend. He knows the boundaries. What is your opinion? Should we have gone against our natures and cultures and been more reserved, should we have kept a distance? Should I not have given him English lessons to try and help him to improve himself? Or is it a good thing to show others a different way of doing things, to challenge the class system and snobbery that exists among many though certainly not all well-to-do Turks. I am really interested in your imput. I would love to hear your opinion on this topic.
As to the outcome of our "situation" there will be a meeting on Sunday evening with all the house owners to discuss the problem and hopefully draw up a proper work contract for the caretaker, whoever it may be.