Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trouble in Paradise: The Sequel

We have all been waiting for the site meeting. It is important for all of us, but especially for Ali. He is ready to leave, in fact he is adamant that if the site manager remains, he will have his bags packed in the morning. The rest of the house owners don't want him to go. However at the same time they feel, that apart from her superior attitude, Site Manager has done a good job during the year.

It is impossible to tell which way English Gent will jump. While saying he wants Ali to stay he also exaggerates how little Ali was on site during the year. He seems to play two sides of the fence. Hotel owner is normally in constant touch with Ali but now has been strangely mute.

I have the mandate vote of  Absent Landlord. He wants everyone to grow up, shake hands and sort it out.
Two days before the meeting I have coffee with Ankara Lady. We are of like minds. I get a chance to say what I think. The biggest issue for me is that I am often here on my own and I feel secure knowing that Ali is about. The slightest problem and he will help me sort it out. Ankara Lady feels exactly the same. She also informs me Hotel Owner and her family want him to stay. I felt confident of the outcome of the meeting.

At last it was Sunday evening.  The meeting was held in English Gent's house. I arrived early and Site Manager and her husband  American Spy was there. As a tenant he should not have been present. She began to translate her report for the two of us before the others arrived. Next to arrive was Deserted Wife. She came to represent her landlord, Absent Landlord but I explained I was doing this. She really wanted to represent her own views. She had no mandate nor had she spoken to Absent Landlord.  Ankara Lady and her husband arrived next. Finally, Hotel Owner and her two sons arrived. Ali was with them. Immediately Site Manager bridled. Ali should not be at the meeting she said but either no-one heard or no-one heeded her.

The meeting began uneventfully. A meeting Chairperson was elected.  The formalities were dealt with. Site Manager, Ali and English Gent were thanked for their work for the Site during the year. Next on the agenda was the election for the Site Manager for the coming year. It was after this the sparks began to fly.

Everyone wanted Site Manager to remain. She wanted persuading. I knew that if she stayed Ali would go. I was now extremely worried. As she required persuading Hotel Owners sons were proposed,  No. 1 son lives in Istanbul, No. 2 son is very busy. It was proposed that they could help present Site Manager. She says that first everyone should know what was involved. This led to a discussion about Ali.

Site Manager tells Hotel Owner Ali should not be present. She has a point but he has been present at all the meetings in the past. He overhears her and his tension, which has been building up over the past few weeks explodes and he shouts at her that if she doesn't want him there he will leave. Others try to calm him but he storms out.

Oh Oh! Unhelpful to his own case. I translate for English Gent. American Spy, speaks very disparagingly about Ali. English Gent asks him why is he American Spy at the meeting. If Ali should not be at the meeting of house owners why is he there? What is his role? He is merely a tenant. American Spy gets very heated. According to him Ali has threatened his wife.This is a question of semantics. During an argument he threatened to leave, probably if he didn't get his own way. Is this threatening her or is it a statement of fact?  It is certainly not a personal threat.

English gent is now on his feet yelling at American Spy. He tells him he is a Jew who grew up in the 40's. He better than anyone should know what it is like to have people despise and look down on you. How can he do the same to the "peasant Ali"

American Spy is now roaring back at English Gent.  Deserted Wife is trying to calm American Spy. I'm trying to calm English Gent and eventually order is restored.

The discussion goes back to the necessity for a  workers contract. Amazingly, No.2 Son is speaking for Ali. He asks everyone how long a normal working day should be. Everyone replies 8 hours, his point was that we would need 3 men to do Ali's job. So he should have a contract and be allowed to work outside the site.

Site Manager quotes all kinds of problems from social security if he has an accident while working outside the site. She says he can't go, if he has an accident welding, rock climbing, riding his motor bike etc. there would be penalties for the site. Why did we send him to work outside? He is not covered. I wonder if this includes walking their dog!

Ankara Lady's husband spoke very well all through the meeting. If what Site Manager said was the case no-one would ever work. It also highlighted the need for a contract which would make it clear when he was on his own time and when he was on site time.

In the meantime Ali reappeared below the terrace where we were sitting. He was obviously upset. I looked at Ankara Lady and she gave me the nod to go to him. I was followed by No.2 son. We spoke to Ali and calmed him down. he rejoined the meeting and the discussion continued with regard to a working contract. Site Manager was resisting. Hotel Owner, who had shot this down when I proposed it 2 years previously, was coming round. The writing was on the wall.

Ankara Lady and her husband are very well respected. Because the proposal was coming from them it was being well received. I said very little because I could see how the land was lying. I'm looked upon, by the resisters, as the foreigner who stirred up this mess. None of this would be happening except for me. I had disturbed the status quo.

 If looks could kill American Spy had fried me to a frizzle 10 times over by now. He tried to inform the meeting that this wasn't England or Ireland and we couldn't apply those standards here. It's Turkey and we must apply Turkish standards. This is coming from him, American Spy, who has lived here for many years with a Turkish wife and still has only about 2 words of Turkish!  My answer? We are in Turkey but we live in a multi-national site, Turks, Irish, English and American. Surely we can all make adjustments, meet in the middle, work within the existing system to allow someone to improve their standard of living.

The die was cast, the contract will be drawn up. All that was left to be decided was who would be the new Site Manager. To cut a long story short. No. 1 son will be aided by No. 2 son and English Gent. Site Manager will look after the accounts and of course I must know give her a new name. How about The B**** formerly known as S.M. or Ms. Hoity Toity?

I may have lost the goodwill of the Site Manager and Hotel Owner but it has been worth it. Two years after I originally requested a caretakers work contract it is now about to be a reality. It couldn't have been done without the backing of Ankara Lady and her Husband. The view is that I'm a foreigner and I'm just trying to impose European standards in their place. The truth is they don't want their comfortable lives upset. As a house owner, I'm 1/9 of the caretakers employer and I will not be responsible for almost slave conditions.

It has been a difficult summer. I am the middle ground. Because I speak both English and Turkish, I have been the sounding board for all sides. I have been arguing Ali's case in particular with English Gent. I have had a long conversations with Ankara Lady, who luckily for me, sees the situation in the same way as I do. It seems to have been the only topic of conversation for the past five weeks and I'm so tired of it.

Has it been worth it.?
Yes, yes and yes again. I now have to fit in a summers relaxation into the next 10 days. This day fortnight the kids, and me of course, are back in school.


  1. Wow! There is always that delicate balance between sharing new ideas, imposing them and having other feel like your ideas are being imposed even if that wasn't your intention! I had similar struggles making suggestions for the NGO I used to work for here in Peru. I hope you're really able to relax, Mary!!

  2. You are able to relax..after all that happening around you. Glad to know, sometimes unfortunate events happen, there may be many causes, sometimes people, sometimes events and sometimes circumstances. But what matters is staying adamant to your beliefs to the end!

  3. I have to congratulate you on standing your ground, making others see your point - at least some of them, finding a solution and saving Ali's precarious situation. I also love the humorous twist you gave to this account with the names, actions and reactions, English gent vs. American Spy that made for an entertaining read.

  4. You'd have to meet them to believe them Penelope. American spy actually tells everyone he worked on Nuclear submarines and worked for naval intelligence for 20 years. You never met a more unlikely spy in your life. And what spy tells every Tom Dick and Harry he was a spy. Walter Mitty springs to mind.


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