Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Impressions of Turkey Pt.1

In May of 2000 I touched down in the south of Turkey with my squadron for a training mission at a local Turkish bombing range. Going off on these short trips was a welcome break for us as it was nice to get away from the day in and day out training taking place in Germany but also it was an opportunity to go off and visit new places on the government's dime.

When we went on these temporary deployments we were paid an extra allowance depending on the setup of where we were sent. In Turkey the amount wasn't so great because we were on an American base in tents with a chow hall. But for some other locations I was sent we got over $100 per day extra allowance.

We landed and had a day or two off before any work was to take place so my close friend named Angel and I wondered off base and into the nearest city to the base. Most Americans only visited the road right outside of the base nicknamed 'the alley' to get any taste of Turkish culture and the wares they had to offer us.

But Angel and I decided to catch a taxi to Adana which was about a 15 minute taxi ride in traffic and cost a couple million lira but that was okay because it only equated to a few dollars at the time. We were dropped off in the city center area and just wandered around. The weather was muggy and overcast when all of a sudden the skies opened up and the rain poured down as I have never seen it do before. The streets were flooded up to my knees in a matter of minutes and we along with the rest of the people we saw were utterly soaked... We packed it in and went home to change.

Incirlik Airbase is owned and by the Turks and jointly operated by them and the U.S. Air Force and it is the only base I ever went to that had a curfew. You had to be on base between 11PM and 6AM as the gates were sealed and you were unable to enter or exit during those times unless on official business. If you were caught off base by the Turkish police or the American military police you were up the creek. You could basically kiss your privilege of going off base goodbye.

Work was very light and we didn't have to put in many hours so that left a lot of time to discover and roam as we pleased. My friend Angel had his eye on a Turkish girl that worked for a military sponsored business that took military members on tours around Turkey in their spare time. She worked alongside a young Turkish kid who couldn't have been older than 18. While Angel was off talking to the girl I would sit there and talk to the kid asking him about Turkey and other things that came to mind.

One day he invited us to go out with him around Adana on the coming Saturday night. We were leery of his proposal as we didn't want to jeopardize our gate card that allowed us to go off base if we were caught out after curfew particularly as we had just recently arrived in country and it would be difficult to be stuck on base for the rest of the time.

But he relented and we agreed to meet him somewhere in downtown Adana in the late afternoon for some coffee and we would hang out form there. Around 11pm as the gates on base were being locked and we were still in the city with no way to make it back in time if we wanted to we were digging into some Adana kebabs and rice with our friend and some acquaintances of his.

After we finished eating he took us to a discotheque and realized found it astonishing how unbalanced the male to female ratio was inside. And our Turkish friend made it abundantly clear that we should under no circumstances approach any of the minuscule amount of woman we did see. He said that we should only talk to the ones that approached us as this was their custom and the best way not to find yourself in a fistfight.

We eventually left and went to eat again before making it back to his parent's apartment where he promised us it was no problem for us to stay until the gate opened back up in a few hours. Angel and I crashed in his bedroom on the floor and awoke around noon time to his mother cooking us eggs and sausage for breakfast. We thanked him for the wonderful time and caught a taxi back to base were nobody was any the wiser that we had not come back through the gate the night prior.

I guess this is my positive impression of Turkey. And I started with the positive because the negative side of it took me a long time to get over. Angel never did get too far with the girl and last I heard the boy who took us out on the town was attending a university somewhere in Germany.

Wait until you hear me chasing people through the city with the cops chasing me... next time.

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