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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

Cussin' in the Rain...

My husband and I have lived in Turkey for two years now and we plan to stay for a few more. Our home is in Incirlik Village, Adana -- and a lot of interesting cultural differences have popped up since we first arrived.

I remember one, the first month...

We are in downtown Adana. It starts raining, so my husband leaves to run and get the car. I decide to sit down under an overhang -- on steps leading to an ancient mosque.

A few seconds later an old beggar woman appears and sits down a step above me, and spreads out her scarf. Not long after, the Call to Prayer is sounded, and with that, men start entering the mosque -- and, as they pass, they begin putting money down on my skirt!

Surprised, I try to discourage them, and tell them, "Yok, agbey" (No, big brother)... They look at me, puzzled for a moment. Then one man says, "Taman" (All right), and he leads the rest...in pulling out more money!

At this point, I start in with the hand signals of a tourist and try again. "Yok, agbey, yok! " and then I point to the beggar woman -- who really seems to need their charity. They light up in understanding, say "Taman," once again -- and start giving her money, very generously.

Ahh, I say to myself..."Success!"

In naive hopes of a final success, I now try to give them back the money they've already given me. Doesn't work. It actually upsets them. There's a commotion that doesn't seem to be leading anywhere.

So against government policy , I stand up and say, "Ben AmerikalIyum. Ben fakir degilim, inan." (I'm American. I'm not poor, believe me.)

This, finally, gets their attention. And upsets them even more. Especially the old beggar woman who is telling me to, "Sus!" (Keep quiet).
She, by the way, has been making out quite nicely,
until I have opened my mouth once too often

Then, out of thin air, a man appears -- sternly speaking (enough) English to tell me that I shouldn't be sitting there. He points for me to move over there...
into the pouring rain. The warm dry place I'm sitting in is only for the beggars!!

Fortunately, just in the nick of time, hubby arrives with the car -- I jump in, he hits the gas, and we escape in a cloud of wet spray...

Ah the joys of living in a new country!
And rainy days in Adana will always hold a special memory for me...

RI (May '98)

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person to person
Person to person, hand to hand...whats new

In 1958, I took a summer between my Junior and Senior years at the University of Southern Mississippi and went to Europe. And I spent a month in Turkey without learning much Turkish.

One day out walking in Istanbul, I asked a young Turk, in an army uniform, directions to some place. He smiled, hestitated a moment, and then took me, literally by the hand, and walked with me to that place.

I have to tell you that I felt pretty uncomfortable
as we started off on this walk
(in 1958, at least, American men didn't hold hands or
show much affection in public --
especially to strangers)

So, I kept looking for an excuse not to hold hands, such as to blow my nose,
or to scratch a non-essential itch...
But the soldier kept taking hold of my hand.

Finally, I said what the hell and
just started to enjoy it --
and there we went,
walking down the street,
holding hands,
swinging arms to and fro,
like everybody else.

Years later, when I started to learn Turkish for real, I did it cold Turkey so to speak. I went to a tea house in Sinop and sat and watched how people did things.

And when I heard the expression, "Bir çay yap", I noticed that this caused the waiter to bring a small glass of tea on a saucer. The next time the waiter passed by, I uttered the magic words and got my own glass of steaming hot tea.

I enjoyed that tea --
and it may have been apparant to those around me...

Turkish tea is still the only tea I really care for -- my favorite was and still is the Ada çay or Island tea (a peppermint flavored kind of Sage tea).

When I finished my glass of tea and prepared to leave, I offered the shopkeeper some Turkish money. With a friendly wave, he said, "Sizin para burada geçmez," and, smiling, he ushered me out the door. I could tell he meant well, so I went along. But it wasn't until I got back home that I learned for certain, with the help of a phrase book, that the shopkeeper had meant, "your money is no good here".

I stayed good friends with that tea house owner and
when I left Sinop, after a year, he presented me with a
two hundred year old 'nargile' (water pipe)
made of Bohemian crystal. I have it still and it is a sign of pure friendship that remains unduplicated in my life...

After my Turkish improved, I'd sometimes have a little fun -- teasing Turkish youngsters. For example, I might see a group of schoolgirls -- on there way to morning classes. I'd stop them and remark "Ne kadar sevimlisin," or "How cute you are".

Turkish custom dictates that one should accompany any compliment, especially when made to a child,
with the word "Masallah" -- to protect the youngster from the evil eye that might bring misfortune.
And the kids know the custom from an early age...

(Click here to see where we've mentioned Masallah before...)
But I'd press on and ask them
how they liked school,
what their favorite classes were,
did they study English,
I could see the children squirm,
because they were worried about the evil eye and
that I hadn't said, "Masallah".

When I'd prepare to part company I'd finally say, "Masallah" quite off-handedly, and
they'd be so relieved that
they would curtsy!

But "Masallah" isn't just for kids...
I'd also have to recall the phrase for
grown men, for example,
whose new suit I might compliment.
They'd grin, thank me for noticing, grin some more, tilt their heads, look at me from the corners of their eyes -- and wait for me to utter
the all-important Masallah,
to protect the suit from evil doings!!!

TK (December '98)

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