Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sacred Grounds

The observant reader will note that I have been conspicuously absent these last few weeks, and I realize now that I did not - as I had intended to do - post my intention of being conspicuously absent when I had the opportunity to do so. Such a silly bint I am. In any case, rest assured that I am back from a rather lengthy vacation - or what some might callously term a rather lengthy period of unemployment - and am raring to go.

So it is 2010, and what better way to kick off the New Year (albeit a month late) than to ponder the past with an eye to the future. Confused? Don't be.

Shortly before Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I left for our rather lengthy period of unemployment vacation, I was shanghaied into a Girls Only Afternoon with a select group of students at the house of Habibe, a very sweet but rather thick (if I am to be honest) student of very limited linguistic (i.e., English) abilities. It was to be a raucous afternoon of eating jarringly sweet sweets, drinking jarringly sweet tea, removing of head scarves (I left mine at home), marathon smiling, and gossipping with dictionaries-in-hand - all set against the throbbing soundtrack of continuous Turkish music videos emanating from the television in the corner of the living room. And it was.

I must confess that the highlight of the day was the tour of her flat where pride of place went to her bedroom. In it were four framed studio photographs (about 2' x 5') of her engagement and marriage, all questionably tastefully hung around the room with one huge mirror skilfully positioned across from the bed which ricocheted the images about the room ad infinitum. It gave me the heebie-jeebies - probably (but not necessarily) because I have taught both her and her husband and did not want to dwell on their pre- or post-marital coital relations. You look beautiful, I enthused rather feebly because beautiful she was not. As we all left the shrine bedroom, one of my students grabbed my arm, and leaning into me whispered, Photoshop! We nodded to each other knowingly. I would later give that student an A+.

At the end of all this girlish mayhem - and if you're looking for a pillow fight in our baby dolls, read no further prurient reader - Habibe offered to read our futures. And because this is Turkey, divination - which I'm sure the Prophet (pbuh) frowns upon most sternly if the Qur'anic expression 'an abomination of Satan' means anything - divination doesn't come in the form of interpreting the flight patterns of birds, the livers of sheep, rods, palms, cards, the stars, soil patterns, gems, fire, runes, numbers, tea leaves, dreams, gazing into crystal balls and my favourite: interpreting the sounds emitted by stomachs (much favoured by Mr. This Cat).

No, because this is Turkey, it is fortune telling by coffee grounds - Turkish coffee naturally, no just-add-boiling-water Nescafé will do.

There was much squealing of delight when Habibe made her offer to read our futures. Off she went to brew, boil & skim the coffee which, it turns out, she likes to sweeten with about 4 tablespoons of sugar per cup (sugar is added during the cooking stage) and which I prefer to drink decidedly unsweetened. (This would be an excellent opportunity for Mr. This Cat to say that I don't need extra sugar because I am already sweet enough.)

I fretted: would the addition of unwanted sugar have an unsavoury impact on my future? Would the reading be unduly sugar-coated and therefore inaccurate? Would my future not include Mr. This Cat waiting for me to join him at the Ah Pub downtown?

Smiling - which wasn't so difficult as I had been smiling nonstop for the last 3 hours - I sipped my coffee (from one side of the cup only, otherwise the reading would be compromised) in a dainty porcelain cup, and tried to hide my discomfort as I felt the fillings melt in my mouth and discreetly scanned the room for a syringe of insulin. As directed, I turned the cup several times counter-clockwise (surely the Prophet was scowling up in heaven during all of this), made a wish (which I shall not share with you but feel free to pick up a copy of my book), and handed the cup back to Habibe to interpret the shapes of the dregs left behind. And because this is Turkey, and this is Turkish coffee, there was a prodigious showing of dregs.

Habibe carefully inspected the grounds. Since, apart from the two of us, the girls in the room were unmarried young things, Habibe dutifully foresaw in their cups mysterious men and marriage proposals and at least two white horses (read into that what you will) - which was followed by more squeals of delight. When she came to mine, she identified a giant fish or possibly a horse (she had given up using her Turkish-to-English dictionary by this point) and told me that I was about to set off on a vacation with palm trees. Which probably would've blown my socks off had I not told her on several occasions that Mr. This Cat and I would soon be enjoying a rather lengthy period of unemployment vacation in Spain. She also found evidence of a man with a very large backside. He, she knowingly assured me, would provide invaluable assistance to me in the future.

She then covered my cup with the saucer, flipped it over, and turned her professional eye to the saucer. There were no dregs! Everything had adhered to the cup. This is excellent! she squealed in delight. Why this was excellent she was unable to expound upon as Habibe was on the cusp of failing elementary English for the second time.

So there you have it: Turkish tasseography (or tasseomancy or even tassology) at its most suspect finest. Perhaps it's a sign of our uncertain times that more and more coffee houses in Turkey are employing the services of professional demitasse diviners. Am I a believer? I'm not sure that I put much (and by 'much' I mean 'any') faith in what the swill and sludge remains in my coffee cup have to say about my future, but I do own up to carrying about a much wrinkled and crinkled faded fortune from a fortune cookie secreted in the inner sanctum of my wallet.

And as for the
man with the very large backside? Dear reader, if you think that you might be he, kindly identify yourself.


Miss Footloose said...

A wonderful piece of writing this, and I much enjoyed it first thing in the morning with a Dutch cup of coffee, which is of a modest size. Strong, no sugar, a splash of cream.

About the telling of futures: In the US the 800 numbers for fortune tellers, psychics and other diviners have been buzzing mightily. Palm readers, tarot card readers and spiritual counselors with brick storefronts, including churches are also seeing an increase in business.

If the god of money fails you, go worship at the altar of another deity. Keep shopping until you get what you think you want.

Fun story!

This Cat's Abroad said...

Interesting that our friends at the Psychic Network are doing well in this economy. Perhaps they foresaw it?

Glad to know you don't take sugar in your coffee either ;)

MisterPivo said...

I miss Dionne Warwick and her Psychic friends, but I'm sure they know that already.

Nice blog btw. I predicted it would be.

Cath said...

I eschew sugared coffee as well, That said, if the prophetess foresaw a woman with a large backside, I'd be your girl!