Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random Thoughts About Romany Radar

They seemed benign enough in Spain, they scared the crap out of me in Bratislava but here in Izmit, they just bug my ass. No, I'm not talking about my employers (although I could be) but rather the local Romany population. Or rather, the local gypsies.

It's not that I have anything against gypsies because I don't, unless they - or anyone for that matter - gets in my face and hovers around me
like a freaking mosquito, following me up & down the street, asking for money. Wily creatures that they are, they have pegged me for the non-Turk that I am and have cut quick to the chase, eschewing all languages save English. Money, money, money.

And I swear to Allah, who keeps me awake at 5 in the morning, that they are equipped with some sort of homing device - Romany radar - and can find me within seconds of stepping foot outside my door. In another world, they would be tax collectors.

Now, it's not that I have anything against gypsies because I don't unless they send their grubby little kids out to do their dirty work. Grubby little kids who get in my face like a freaking mosquito and hover around me, following me up & down the street. Asking for money. Money, money, money.

And yes, I know how I sound. And I know what you're thinking. Noblesse oblige, perhaps? What's a few lira here or there in the big scheme of things? And it's not that I'm unsympathetic to the poor - Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad will tell you that I have been known to give money to beggars. Really, I have. I am not an ogre. (really.) But, there's a principle at work when it comes to me and beggars, and while in Morocco, I developed a code of ethics which, in my mind, the successful beggar has to adopt should s/he wish to separate me from my money. The gypsies - or at least their dirty grubby kids - are light years away from ratifying this agreement, and until that happens, there will be no professional relationship between us.

I know that as a non-Turk, I have a big bullseye on my back, so I can put up with the constant demands for money, money, money. I can even tolerate being followed up & down the streets of this town. What I can't abide is being touched. You touch me and any chance you have of walking away with a few lira has effectively ended. Period.

Of course, I - as a non-Turk - am not their only target. They pester and harangue the locals as well who will either give them a coin or a cuff on the side of the head. (Another few weeks of this and I won't be muttering ignore her, ignore her to
Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad but rather hit her! hit her!) Of course, this is little consolation since one of the grubby little kids just skulked into the café we're sitting in and found me. See? - they do have some sort of homing device. Romany radar maybe. God those grubby little kid bugs my ass.


Anonymous said...

If the Turkish gypsies are as imaginative as the Spanish gypsies you are in for a lot of fun.

Cath said...

We always used to joke about my Mom's "gypsy roots," because of her Hungarian beginning. Anytime she'd make chicken paprikash, we'd ask "Where did you steal the chicken?" Everyone but Mom found that hilarious.

This Cat's Abroad said...

Cath: it's a known fact that Gypsies have no sense of humour.

Nomad said...

The gypsies, tramps and thieves! The street urchins as well. How many packs of tissues or chewing gum does one actually need. The lives they must led probably owes a lot to Dickens.

Snowflake said...

We saw a lot of them in Paris this week. Apparently they only speak English because they kept asking 'do you speak English'? And in our best English we said, 'no, we don't speak English'.

Nomad said...

My friends and I once went out to the far East of Turkey. At Harran, we were plagued by poor urchins that followed us high and low-there was really no place to hide. They kept saying, "Amca, kalim var mi?" Apparently, there is a dire need for pens out there and, if you wish to put a smile on their tiny besmudged faces, then a few BICs should do the trick.