Monday, February 23, 2009


I awoke yesterday morning and padded to the living room window, where I threw open the curtains, admired the snow-capped mountains across the valley and listened to the tinny tones of the late morning call to prayer from one of the six mosques a stone's throw from our front door.

It took me a moment to realize, as I had yet to have a cup of coffee and was feeling particularly stupid , that I wasn't in Italy. Or, to put it another way, I woke up in Turkey.

Having gotten into our apartment (it's a loaner which is great because I look forward to giving it back) rather late the night before, the impact of waking up and seeing a different country in daylight was, well, impactful. (Yes, impactful is a word and yup, it does suck and yes, I promise to never use it again.) Hence the mountains and the minaret warbling to life, and didn't we pass the Sea of Marmara last night?

Izmit - a city of about 250,000 which no guide book apparently worth its salt deems to include between its covers - is now home. Except for the fact that we're not really in Izmit but rather in a village north, south, east or west of Izmit (I really have no clue where we are), connected by a tiny sunshine yellow mini-van of a bus. We know only the bus number (although I think that information is superfluous since there's only one bus that climbs the foothill to our apartment) and the bus fare - so, this being our first day here, we set off for the bus stop.

In a short time
the tiny sunshine yellow mini-van of a bus picks us up and we begin the labyrinthine descent towards Izmit - taking care to commit landmarks to memory as we have no idea what the names of our neighbourhood, village, or even street are. (I was not exaggerating when I said that we only knew the name of our bus and the bus fare.) Unfortunately, our comprehensive Orientation-to-Izmit package, left in our flat by our welcoming committee, proved to be a figment of our imaginations. As we approached the city, I espied a mall with a Carrefour hypermarket and we decide to jump off and investigate.

After passing through the mall's metal detectors - a first for me, I might add - we beetle to Burger King because our dear friend Miss K had once sung the praises of the veggie burgers sold at the BK in Ankara's airport - and Allah be praised! - didn't they have them here too!! The Bean Burger! We'll order two! - how difficult can this be, being that we don't know a single word of Turkish?
(I was not exaggerating when I said that we only knew the name of our bus and the bus fare.) Pshaw! - it's a photo menu isn't it?

Nonetheless, we approach the young girl at the counter with no little trepidation because we know that English words adopted into foreign languages never sound remotely like their linguistic forebears (MacDonald's in Moroccan Arabic was a bit tricky), and ask for two (two fingers) bean burgers and French fries. Blank look. Repeat. Blank look. We point to the menu board. Ahhhh, she nods.

Then the young girl has the audacity to ask us a whole string of questio
ns in rapid-fire Turkish. The gall of some people! If we are unable to master the number two (two fingers), how are we to understand if she's asking us if we want the menu meal, or what size of fries we want, and which soft drink? O the horror of it all! In time - and she truly deserves an Employee of the Millennium gold star for not walking away to take her coffee break in the middle of all of this -
we seem to reach an rapprochement of sorts and we take our seats in the middle of Burger King's smoking section - not really knowing what we were going to get, besides secondary smoke.

Fortunately, it was more or less what we ordered - secondary smoke aside. And it was good. But to put our inability to communicate with this young girl and her failure to understand us into perspective, take a shufti at the receipt we received with our meal. And bear in mind that all we got was 1 order of fries, 1 Pepsi and 2 burgers.


Snowflake said...

Ohhh, you have so much to learn don't you? Did you at least say 'thank you' in your new language???

Jillian said...

You're in Izmit, home of my favorite sticky sweet, pismaniye?! Curse you!

No really, happy for you :)