February 15, 2015

Our first weekend with the new car

Alan driving

So, now that Alan and I have a car, we have driven in a total of three times. Alan successfully drove a group of guys downtown to the Turkish bath on Friday, but the other two times, yesterday and today, haven't been so great. 

Both times, our engine overheated within 30 minutes of starting. We weren't doing anything crazy in our driving (even during my manual driving practice session). Yesterday, steam was escaping from our hood as we stalled. After a push start, we stalled again. We coasted down the hill, wondering whether our gas gauge was off. We filled up the tank, but experienced the same problem again, this time on going up a hill. The check engine light came on as did the engine temperature light. Alan skillfully rolled us into a driveway were we waited for the engine to cool off.

At home, we checked the antifreeze: full. We checked for a leak: none to be found.

We took a three hour nap before driving it to the grocery store.

I'm learning
Today, we tried to take a 45-drive to a nearby reservoir. We made it about 3/4 of the way, just outside of town, before our car stalled.  We sat, hood open, for 10 minutes. We pushed a little farther before we stalled in an intersection (luckily not a crowded one). 

We smartly decided to turn back and headed toward the industrial part of Kayseri where all the mechanic shops are. Meanwhile, I recruited help from several colleagues to get numbers of other colleagues who could come out and help us decide what to do next. 

The final stall happened on a busy street near a busy intersection. We were stuck in a dangerous place for a few minutes as we waited for the engine to cool off. Just as I was getting ready to get out and push, a huge Turkish bus pulled up behind us, honking. That's pretty normal, but then a Turk jumped out and gave our car a hefty push so we could make the turn and get off of the main drag.

We rolled to a stop near a gas station, where we sat as I called the colleague from whom we bought the car and the colleague who loves cars.

At some point, the colleague who was trying to come to our rescue couldn't find us and asked us to find a Turkish person to give him directions to find us. Here is the magic of Turkey.

I walked up to the first person I saw standing outside a gas station and in my best Turkish said, "Can you help me?" as I handed him the phone. Before he had finished the conversation, a group of Turks had amassed. I understood my directions: "stay put."

I was thirsty, though, so I headed to our car to grab my water bottle. The crowd of Turks nearly had a fit. "Don't leave! Stay here, he said" They shouted. Alan stayed to ease their minds that we had understood our directions.

They must have been so relieved when I came back, water bottle in hand. We were offered a seat and hot tea by the gas station workers--because this is Turkey. They patiently talked to us in Turkish and kept us company until our colleague arrived. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality to complete strangers. As Alan pointed out later, even though we sometimes feel unwanted here, in general, when we need help, Turks are generally more than willing to help and make our experience more comfortable. 

After giving our engine a once-over, our colleague took us to his friend's repair shop nearby. Ironically, after stalling on the busy street, we had coasted to a stop remarkably close to the repair shop without knowing where we were going.

It must have been our lucky day because the mechanic was open and willing to drop everything he was doing to help us out. It's all about who you know in Turkey. Going to a random shop with no recommendation from a friend is no good here.

Not exactly what I had in mind for our
first weekend with the Burrito Mobile
After an hour of touching, smelling, and revving our engine, the mechanic assessed that we hadn't caused major damage to the gaskets, but that our cooling system wasn't working properly because there was apparently no water in the radiator and our car had really cheap anti-freeze. He flushed the cooling system It sounded like we had run a pretty big risk by continuing to drive the car, as the gasket repair would run at least $1000. We never really got an answer about what caused the problem, though maybe a harsh stop or start had shaken things just too far out of place and caused a brief leak. Anyway, we hope that the problem is largely fixed now.

Seven liters of "organik" antifreeze later, we successfully drove home. It was the cheapest trip to a mechanic I've ever seen: $40 or so.

So, while I can say that we had two "adventures" with our car this weekend, they weren't quite the kind I had in mind.

February 11, 2015

Buying a car in Kayseri

Alan and I now own a 2007 Hyundai. Well technically, I own a 2007 Hyundai. But it's a manual, so I can't exactly drive it. Not yet anyway.

Today was my first time buying a car, in any country. I'm feeling pretty proud of us for taking the plunge.

Alan and I had been brainstorming ways to improve our lives in Talas for literally months. We've considered adopting pets, changing apartments, and renting cars on a bimonthly basis. Some of these options are more responsible than others, and some are definitely easier than others; but none seemed like a perfect fit.

Last weekend, we decided that buying a car would be the best solution. We could get out of the house on the weekends, explore the area, and not lose tons of money on rental cars. Plus, owning a car eliminates the need for constantly arranging pick up and drop off time and location--in Turkish.

So, I enlisted the help of a colleague who is car savvy. Literally within hours, he had selected a used car for us. While we were considering this car, our boss threw in a bid for our attention. As his wife didn't like the stick shift in their car, he was ready to sell in and use the money for something else. The car he was offering had been in the Meliksah family before. My officemate owned the car before my boss, and both of them loved the car, but couldn't keep it because of their wives not wanting to deal with manual transmission. I hope I'm not going to continue that trend.

Anyway, the process of buying a car in Turkey involves some bureaucracy. Today, Alan and I took two important steps. We went to a notary and we transferred payment to our boss.

Like so many things in Turkey, the notary office was sort of familiar (signatures, documents, and stamps), but mostly chaotic and in a foreign language. My colleagues had warned me that they would test our Turkish with a few simple questions about our work or Kayseri. I don't know why they want to know that we understand Turkish, much less that we can speak, but anyway, they do. Our boss took Alan and me to the notary office, which was basically a big office with six desks and customers everywhere, haphazardly waiting in line, with no apparent order.

The room was loud with voices, computer sounds, and the thwacks of rubber stamps bringing up the noise levels. Alan and I took seats next to a desk where a woman greeted us. I nailed the greeting in Turkish. Then she asked me the Turkish equivalent of "Do you know Turkish?" Looking back, I'm pretty sure I confidently said "You know" instead of "I know", which is totally funny. In fact, I think I confidently made that mistake throughout the encounter, which has a wonderful irony to it.

We wanted the car to be in Alan's name, because he would be the primary driver. However, there were doubts about our proficiency in Turkish. Our boss tried to assure them, and I continued to say "You know". Then, we were directed to another desk where the background noise was even louder. The man in the sharp suit with a purple button up turned to Alan and asked a question that could even be misconstrued by a native speaker, much less a beginner. "What are you doing here?" The ambiguous "here" threw me for a loop, and his unusual phrasing made it hard for Alan to decode quickly. Alan's hesitation lasted a moment too long and the man turned to me. I froze and said something like, "We live here. Teachers." It wasn't satisfactory.

My boss whispered, "why are you in this office?" and I blurted out "Car! Buy... bought ..." My assertiveness made up for a lack of grammar and the man said, let's put the car in her name, she has better Turkish. While this isn't true (Alan and I are pretty much at the same level of Turkish), it was a confidence boost for me, and the lynchpin in us getting the car without having a translator present. I wrote on a paper (in Turkish) that I had understood and accepted the buyer/seller agreement, and then received some documents to sign.

Next, we went to the stamper desk where I had to say my phone number--a challenge I was more prepared for--and sign several more documents. After a few poundings with a rubber stamp, our paperwork was in order, and we (well, I) were the proud owner of a car!

When we came back to the office, I told everyone I saw (in Turkish) that we had bought a car. Turkish people love good news, and it was smiles and congratulations all around.

Transferring the payment was much easier. A simple function of online banking. It was hard to spend that much money, but I know it is an investment in our lives and our marriage. If all goes well, we will get most of that money back when we sell the car.

The next steps aren't very exciting. Insurance and license plates. We will take care of those as soon as possible so that the car is road-ready.

We are both really excited to see more of the city and surrounding area in our new car. If everything in in order, this weekend ought to be the beginning of a lot of adventures.

Plus, our next Turkish class starts next week. I'm feeling ready for some review...