Thursday, June 17, 2010

Teşekkürler is a Word that Comes to Mind

I was apprehensive when my traveling partner, Sven the Swedish Monk-slash-plumber-slash-baboon trainer, suggested we enjoy a long weekend in Istanbul with his mother. We’d been to Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, and I’d never really enjoyed how tourists are treated in these countries. In the end, however, I gave in. He was paying. He’d had a good year baboon plumbing.

Most travel guides for Istanbul mention how uninformed the taxi drivers are, so it should have come as no surprise that our driver didn’t know where our hotel was, despite the fact that our hotel, The Crown Plaza, was on a main street just five stops away from The Blue Mosque, the main tourist attraction in Istanbul (pictured at the end of this post).

How many times do you think a taxi driver should have to ask for directions? Would you lose your patience at three times? Four times? Twelve? Our driver asked how to get to our hotel twenty-three times. At one point Sven the Swedish Monk-slash-plumber-slash-baboon trainer turned to him and asked, “You are a taxi driver, right?”

The weekend was getting off to an excellent start.

The first evening, Sven the Swedish Monk-slash-plumber-slash baboon trainer decided we needed to do something touristy, so we put on our party hats and boarded a harbor cruise complete with open bar, dinner and bellydancing.

On the way to the boat, we met a German/Turkish woman and her mother. We exchanged niceties in German. The daughter liked me; I could tell.

Fast-forward to tispy Christopher: By the time the bellydancer took the stage, I was toasted and putting on quite a show of my own. I’m known for upstaging bellydancers, and this one paled in the shadow of my swagger-slash-wiggle. I was distracting so much from her performance that she invited me to dance with her (keep your enemies close, I reckon). Of course I made a show of resisting at first; but before she could give up on me, I accepted her invitation with grace and wiggle. The crowd went wild.

Before I knew it, I had breasts and my belly was showing. Authentic is a word that comes to mind. Plastered is another.

Once I had my man clothes back on, a young woman asked me to dance. It was the German/Turkish woman from the bus earlier. Turkish pop music is incredible. We danced and danced and danced. I tried to do the Whirling Dervish thing, but by that point the whole boat was whirling. Difficult is a word that comes to mind. Woozy is another.

The night on the boat ended (I’m told) and we headed to our tourist buses. I found myself sitting across from the German/Turkish woman’s mother.

“So, where’s your daughter?” I asked.

“My daughter? She’s my girlfriend. I didn’t know I looked so old.”

How does one squirm out of such a faux pas?

“Oh,” I said (which I think was a pretty good start). “It’s not that you look old; it’s just that she looks so young.”


That was the best I could do. I think I fell asleep shortly thereafter . . . thankfully (is a word that comes to mind). I need to start a list of top ten foot-in-mouth moments.

Stay with me for our second day in Instanbul . . . the day I learned my first Turkish words, entered a mosque for the first time and saw the oldest Christian cathedral. But for now . . .

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.