Thursday, July 2, 2009

Impressions of Turkey Pt.2

So work isn't to pressing and Turkey is a mysterious and cultural challenge to unwrap. I had done all my shopping in 'the alley' right outside the base's main gate buying up carpets, tailored suits and gold jewelry. On with the exploration...

But one night we thought the base was being over-run as we were woken to the sounds of gun shots and horns honking... But in fact it was a large celebration because the Turkish team Galatasary had beaten an English football team in the UEFA cup final. Weirdos.

Angel and I found ourselves along the main river that runs through Adana on a beautiful and warm day in May. We are strolling along looking the part of curious American Air Force members watching the families sitting along the river bank in a park drinking Turkish tea and eating a variety of foods I can't readily identify. As we stuck out like Michael Jackson at a tanning salon many a Turk came up to us trying to get us to sit down and drink tea with them.

After refusing a few offers we were approached by an individual who made us feel obliged to sit with him and his family and we did so. It was an interesting conversation as his English was not that great and he seemed to be very opinionated. He had 3 children, all of them daughters, there with him and his wife and the conversation turned towards the kids he told us that his youngest child who had flowing long hair and a beautiful pink dress was actually a boy.

Angel and I thought he was joking with us or that something was being mistranslated but he reassured us that the child was a male but they dressed him up as a girl because he was their first son and they were fearful that an evil spirit would take him from them since he was their first born son. So to trick the evil spirit they dressed up the little boy as a girl... Go figure.

So after parting ways with this family we made our way towards this huge mosque they had recently completed building. It was so huge that it could be seen from the flight-line off the base some 10 miles away but it was even more grand once up close As Angel and I walked around the perimeter of the building the prayer let out and we were stuck in a throng of people for a few minutes when a kid looking around 8 years old came up to us and asked in slightly accented English if we would like to go inside the mosque and look around.


We had been told that this was off limits for us to go inside mosques by the military for our own safety but hell, we were invited in by a little Turkish kid! He took us over towards the main entrance and after telling us we had to take our shoes off he said his dad was there in the mosque and he would introduce us to him.

So we entered inside the mosque and were utterly struck by senses overload. The smell of some sort of incent burning and the noise of some people still praying. Seeing the vaulted ceilings with large beautiful chandeliers and the carefully crafted carving on the walls in Arabic script.

As Angel and I tried to stay out of the peoples ways the young boy had found his father and brought him over to introduce us. He was a short skinny man with a moustache and when he smiled I noticed he was missing quite a few teeth. He told us how he had worked on the base at the supermarket and he really liked it talking with the Americans. I did find it a bit questionable though due to his appearance but placed it in the back of my mind.

He invited us on a personal tour of the city and we took him up on it thinking we would buy the guy some lunch or maybe throw him some cash for his time afterwards. We walked around different parts of the city and he told us about the history of certain things and helped us buy some stamps to send some postcards. After a couple of hours it was past lunch time and Angel and I were definitely hungry so the man took us to a restaurant nearby. It was nothing fancy and the menu contained traditional Turkish food.

While sitting there eating our food the man from the mosque was talking to us about how he had been in the Turkish military and had fought in the Cypriot war between Greece and Turkey in the 70's and even lifted up his shirt to show the 3 bullet wounds that he received for his trouble. All the while pushing back a whole bottle of Turkish Raki. When we were finished Angel and I had no qualms about paying the bill for the boy and his father so I asked the father how much the bill was and he got up to find out at the place where you ordered. He comes back and says 25 million lira for everything so Angel and I gave him the money to pay and as we were walking out I just happened to glance at the prices for the food listed on the board behind the counter and I saw that our meals had only been 2 million lira each. At the time the rate was around 650,000 lira to 1 US dollar and we had paid over $38 for 4 people in Turkey!

I asked the guy at the counter how much he had paid him for our table and he said 15 million lira. I asked him how it could have been so much when the means were 1.5 million to 2 million each and there were only four of us... The Raki... It had cost 5 million alone. So i ran outside and started chasing the guy down the street yelling at him to, 'give me my f*#$in money!'

By now the kid is gone and the dude is walking at a really quick pace. I am still behind him telling him that if he doesn't give me my money I am going to stick my hand down his throat and make him regurgitate everything he had put into his stomach when he begins to run down a side street and then I saw why. There were 3 cops sitting in the intersection looking our way due to my yelling and hollering. I asked the cops if they spoke English to which they said no so I took off running after the dude down the side street. To which the cops started chasing me.

I saw him in a carpet shop off the side street and when he saw me he started running to the back of the carpet shop and I followed him up a pair of stairs and then out a side door down a fire escape. 2 of the cops had stayed outside while the other had gone inside the carpet shop and the cops outside made me stop but never even tried to stop the Turkish dude.

One of the guys in the carpet shop spoke English and translated 'everything' to the police and told us that this guy was a known scammer type and we weren't the first to be had by him and the kid. The cops told us to go back to base and report it there... The kid and the man were not related and the man had never worked on the base.

As we were in the taxi back home I saw the kid through a window on a bus in traffic. This little shitbird waved a 10 million lira bill at me with a big smile on his face....

Chalk it up to the game...

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