I lived in Turkey between 1996 and 1998. Today I had a chat and a tea with Ersin, the man from Muš who works at the Kings Langley Fish Bar. We talked about the long-distance buses (20 hours from Istanbul to Muš and 10 hours on my trip to Adana). Stops on the road for pide and tea, the smell of cigarette smoke, the overtaking. I used to enjoy the Bosphorus ferries, the noise, smells and of course the tea in the tulip glasses.
My barber there used to disappear for prayers mid-cut. His boy, no more than ten, would stay with me. We looked at Hürreyt and Milliyet, usually at the sports pages. The whole thing took a couple of hours. By contrast my Iranian barber in Sydney took twenty minutes. I get my Turkish fix at the barbers in Hemel Hempstead. The boys use the cut-throat razor, steam, foam and flame for the ears. I get tea in the tulip glass. We need to see if I can get in with powered chair.
As a 28-year old I could not believe that I was being paid to live in such an incredible city as Istanbul. Of course work was work, but there was a buzz about even the mundane. Selim would call for Mustafa or Faruk, we’d drive to Gebze to present to P&G or to the European side to meet Perfetti and discuss how to sell more chewing gum in the Izmir region. The traffic jams weren’t annoying to me. Funny now, looking back on our years of travels; I see my friends who took the ‘sensible’ route and wish for their stability. Then I remember the feeling of having lunch with my Italian colleagues at Gianni’s or driving in my Renault 19 across the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge. I am pleased with the journey I took.
Visiting a country just isn’t the same as living in one. It breeds understanding if nothing else. I have seen there are good people everywhere, whatever their faith.
Time out in the powered chair, today with Valentina to the health food shop, library and deli (for lunch together) are moments of simplicity and happiness compared to performing what used to be the most simple tasks.
My trips to the chip shop and barbers bring back such powerful memories of Turkey. I hope the country will find some peace.