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LPT Symbol Real True Lies about Turkey

The Personal [oft-times embellished] Turkish Experiences -- of visitors to LPT

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Misunderstanding mama...whats new
Especially soothing syrup...whats new
Fouled-up Flirting...
Young Love
Person to person, hand to hand...
Politics spoken here...
For Language Lovers?
Stoned near Ankara
The Ladies Turkish Bath...
Driving in Turkey...
John can do...
To pay the bill...
Our "Private" Conversation...
Were you talking to me?
The Tell-Tale Thud
Cussin' in the Rain...
Ayran a good race
Just peachy ...
You're my beloved...
A dolt by any other name...whats new
Shish enough, and more...Ed. 5.0

Our "Private" Conversation

In early 1958, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Nathan Twining, invited all of the NATO chiefs of staff to H-Bomb tests in the Mariana Islands of the Pacific.

Shortly after he did that, in the middle of June, my phone rang in the Pentagon -- my caller was none other than then Lt. Col. Vernon "Dick" Walters [who later became our Ambassador to the UN & Deputy Director of the CIA].

He said, "Robert, I hear that you speak Turkish. Is that true?" [He was on the phone to me from the basement of the Pentagon, where he was assigned to the Standing NATO Group as interpreter & intelligence chief.]

I suggested he ask any of the Turks in his NATO group. So, he rang off, made the necessary queries, and in a few minutes he called me back...

"How would you like to escort the Chief of the Turkish General Staff, Gen. Feyzi Mengüç, to the upcoming H-Bomb tests?"

Of course, I leapt at the chance & sure enough, two weeks later all the Big Brass assembled in Washington, DC for a few days to get acquainted before flying -- on John Foster Dulles' personal plane -- to Honolulu & then on to Eniwetok.

During that brief interim, I took Gen. M. for a quick bus ride to places of interest near his hotel. He spoke only halting English -- which is why Walters wanted me in the first place.

After boarding the bus, Gen. M. started to tell me something in English. I replied in Turkish,

"Pasam, bunun gibi durumlarda Türkçe konusmakta hem kolaylIk hem de çok emniyet var. Onun için, izin verirseniz, Türkçe konusalIm. Hatta aynI zamanda da etrafImIzdakiler hakkInda istedigimiz her hangi bir sey söyleyebiliriz -- tamamen emniyetliyken.
[General, in situations like these, it's both easy and quite safe to speak Turkish. So if you permit, let's speak Turkish. Moreover, at the same time, we can say just about anything we want to about the people around us, in complete safety.]

He grinned & agreed. It was just fine with him. And so, we began a private 'unclassified' conversation -- which continued for several clandestine minutes. And, we thought we were being pretty clever, I'll tell you…

We became so confident, in fact, that we threw caution to the wind and began a frank assessment of the people around us. After a few minutes more, we noticed an attractive lady rise from a seat nearby and prepare to depart from the bus. And as she passed us, she leaned over and -- you guessed it -- softly said in perfect Turkish,

"Dikkat edin; Wasington'un her tarafInda bolbol Türkler var." [Be careful, Washington is full of Turks.]

The General and I did a double take in true Hollywood style. Then he, I, and the attractive lady exploded in laughter together. And, in a flash, she was gone.

Well, you can be sure that, for the rest of our bus journey, our conversation was the very picture of propriety!!!

Gen. M. was an extremely charming chap & we had a wonderful time together for the next two weeks. But then he returned to Turkey and, shortly afterwards, I heard that he had retired.
I've often wondered if our "private" conversation was in any way
a causal factor in his retirement?

I mean, who was that attractive lady anyway?
RFZ (November '97)

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Were you talking to me?

After about three weeks in Istanbul, I had picked up just enough Turkish to survive.

One day, I was walking through the Grand Bazaar with a British friend. As two foreigners, we got the usual offers of tea and great prices from the many vendors, but declined them all. We weren't shopping, just walking through, engrossed in our conversation.

One of the vendors, whom we had ignored when he tried to lure us into his shop, began gesturing and complaining loudly in Turkish. I couldn't understand a word of what he said, but from his tone, I could tell that it was far from complimentary.

At first, his uncalled-for harangue startled me. Then it irritated. And I quickly made up my mind that I wasn't going to let him know how ignorant I really was about the Turkish language.

So, I turned to him and gave him my best-ever bluff...

"Efendim?" I asked clearly*.

His jaw dropped two feet, he turned bright red, and started, I assume, apologizing profusely.

I didn't stick around long enough for him to realize
that I had no clue what he was saying.

KB (November '97)

* In this case "Efendim?" was used to mean,
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you well. Could you repeat please?"
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about all the uses of "Efendim..."

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