Out in Konya this AM with two bags of laundry and a mission (find the laundry) and then find the big Dervish (yes, the whirling kind) museum here in town.
And on the way I see either Mr. Baskin or Mr. Robbins, and he’s got a paddle he uses to get the ice cream out of the tubs, and we ain’t talking those little wussie scoops, either—
We’re talkin’ three feet of stainless steel with a little flat end you would not want to get hit with.
I had a map and I was on the major street of the town, and little dots on the map where the laundry was, just off the main street, and I went around a mosque and was looking for the laundry, and very soon I was about 500 meters too far, and the big mosque I’d seen was actually the museum.
So I got re-directed, dropped off the laundry, got re-oriented, and hit the mosque/museum.
And here’s this Konya cop walking slowly through the huge crowd— the first time I’d passed the place, on the side away from the entrance and ticket booth, there were lots and lots of women in long coats and scarves in the park area, and mostly men going in and out taking shoes off and putting them back on, so I thought it was just Saturday AM at the mosque.
So I’m shooting some kids and getting the lay of the land, and I said “Gun ay den (good morning)” to the officer, and he said the same back, and I said, “Policeâ€”America” and he said, “Police America?” and I said “Avet (yes).”
And he got on the radio and soon here comes this other officer and he speaks some English and he said, “Police America? Come With Me.”
And he got me a pass and put me into the head of the line and I spent two hours in the place.
And most of the people there were women, and almost all were wearing long coats and scarves, and the scarves were brilliant in the morning lightâ€”stunning colors and patterns.
I got to thinking that if you are only wearing two garments people can see that you can avoid a lot of the cost of accessorizing. . . .
And here’s this kid, dressed up like a drum major, and he has a hat and a cape, and people are making a very big deal about him, and I’m not the only stranger shooting pictures of him, although I kind of came to his little party late, as he’d almost finished the ceremonial washing before I spotted him.
And I hope he enjoyed wearing that get-up, and all the fuss that was being made over him; I know I’m going to sleep better tonight than he’ll sleep tonight, as the family went from the mosque to some special Muslim moyul, and the kid got snipped.
It was bad enough at two days old, but at almost ten years old— wowâ€”his childhood is clearly over.
I reported back to the officer as he’d asked me to do, we had tea, and then lunch.
Think of a hot dog bun, flattened out about as far as you can. So, about two feet long by five inches wide by very thinâ€” and then picture a kind of hamburger pizza, without the tomato sauce.
It’s called a Etliekmek (ekmek means bread in Turkish).
And so we are all sitting in the guard shack and visiting and I’m a big deal, and it’s lots of fun talking to the others coming in and out for a quick lunch, and then I biffed it.
Almost all the police officers and civilian museum workers smoke, of course, as Turkey has lots of smokers: maybe 65% of the men and half the women. Over half the male MDs in the country smoke.
And, of course, almost everyone who lights up offers me one.
And an hour or so after the tea, just after lunch, they’re all lighting up again, and I ask Mostapha, the officer who speaks English and has been my main contact, how much cigarettes cost in Turkey. I explained that in the US they cost the equivalent of about 6.50 Lira a pack.
And of course, since he’s offered me a cigarette, I’ve now put a monetary value on hospitality. . . . .
And he got a little torqued.
Attacked on the way out
So I’m headed back to the hotelâ€” I’m tired, it’s really getting hot out, low to mid 80′s, and I need to sit (and write reports), and there’s a little park right outside the mosque/museum full of families, and I’m shooting some kids, and all of a sudden, here’s a mob of adults.
They are taking turns taking pictures of each other but missing the photographer, obviously, so I do the Tourist Pantomime and volunteer to shoot the pictures so I do, and then I get to shoot with my camera, and there’s a mob scene, and one of them has e-mail, so I explained how she should contact me and I’ll send her back the pictures.
And almost all the way back to my little hotel, here’s a 1962 Chevvy taksi— and its proud owner.
And some of his pals.
Gee— It’s usually my big mouth that gets me in trouble.
I’m at the mosque this AM and to go in they have these little blue plastic booties you put on over your shoes; then you go in the actual mosque part of the museum.
And I’m sitting there and these things are maybe size 11 and I’m size 13, and there’s about twenty early middle-aged Muslim women near me and we’re all putting on these little booties, and my Turkish got so good all of a sudden.
In another week or so I won’t even need the little cheat-sheet or the English-Turkish dictionary I normally have out more than the camera.
Here’s how good I got: one of the women was clearly saying to the others:
By the beard of the prophet, Fatima— look at the feet on that one!
So I played up to them and we all had a good laugh.
Later, when I went back to get my laundry, and was invited to have a glass of tea, the woman who spoke pretty good English and with whom I’d had several conversations during the day about laundry and closing hours and all that, asked my how big my shoes were.
I typed out “13″ on her calculatorâ€” I wind up getting shown calculators a lot because it’s easier to show me the cost of something than try and tell meâ€”and she typed in “50.”
Of course, it’s a different system over hereâ€”and size 13 US is actually only size 47.5 over here—
Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey