Category Archives: People You May Meet

Urfa’s Wild Nightlife

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Before I went to Urfa, I imagined the city – the center of religious pilgrimage in Turkey – to have a very quiet and conservative nightlife. Indeed, a good amount of the population is conservative, I’m sure. Except for the three or four women I saw in full black chadors, though, I saw no outwards sign of religion. Well, except for all the mosques. This didn’t put a damper of the city’s nightlife in the least bit, however.

After a long day seeing sights Friday, I went to a guest house – Türkü Konağı – for an early dinner; I was lured in by their sign claiming to have live music every night. I must have arrived way earlier than any expected customers, though, as all the workers of the hotel were sitting together about to have their own dinner. When I ordered food, they brought me a luke-warm chicken kebab wrap. Not wanting to raise a fuss, but also not wanting to risk eating this – I was warned about food-poisoning in Urfa – I made up an excuse to the waiter and was heading towards to the door when one of the eating workers gestured to an open seat next to me and told me to sit.

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The Kindness of Strangers, Urfa

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Besides seeing the sights of Urfa, I spent a surprising amount of my time in the city also conversing with the locals. Usually, it was just polite pleasantries, although I did have three long drawn out conversations with locals who I believe – for the most part – meant well deep down.

My first such encounter was during lunch on Friday. I was having a small lunch in a cafe at the Balıklıgöl complex when a man came over and sat at my table. At first we were just making chit-chat about what I thought of Urfa and what I was doing in Turkey. Then, very quickly, the man steered the conversation towards how he would love to take me around the province in his car and show me the sights.

It was all okay, he reassured me. He had done the same thing with a couple from the Netherlands that morning, and they loved it! When he still sensed I was hesitant, he pointed towards two men sitting down in the distance. “They’re police officers,” he said. “They’re my friends and we will ask them what they think of me. They will say I’m trustworthy, I know it.”

After we finished lunch and walked over to the men sitting down, they did indeed seem to be off-duty police officers and they did vouch for Yilmaz’s supposed trustworthy credentials. So, I followed Yilmaz to the El-Ruha hotel which was directly outside of the complex; he wanted to show me the hotel since it was built on some ancient caverns that the hotel had turned into dining rooms – it was really cool, and surprisingly swanky.

Urfa Cave

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Mehmet’s Kindness

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(Mehmet’s Kindness picks up from where The Kindness of Strangers leaves off)

Gorged from the unexpectedly massive lunch of Turkish kebaps, we made our ways towards the bus stop to catch a minibus towards Battalgazı – the site of Old Malatya, which still contains old Roman walls and other historic artifacts. Our end goal was to see an old Ottoman caravansary as well as an even older Seljuk mosque, Ulu Camii, from the turn of the 13th century. It was on this minibus that we met Mehmet, who was collecting money from passengers to help out his uncle, the driver.

Kervansaray
The renovated Ottoman caravansary.

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A Tale of Two Cabbies

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“Gülüm Sokak, Basīnevleri,” I tell the cabbie as I rush into the first cab I see. I’m running late, and I only have 15 minutes to get from one side of the city to the other to meet my old host family for dinner – a massive feat, Ankara sprawls in every direction for miles.

Ankara sprawl
Ankara seriously goes on forever in every direction.

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A Corporate Walk

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Corporate Walk
 Image from online.wsj.com

I started my first real job yesterday at an internet start-up, and I am already amazed at how awkwardly I fit into corporate culture. Although the business I work in could barely be construed as corporate – there was a total of two other people in my temporary office with me today – I do work now officially in a corporate park.

Being in an isolated corporate structure – and I do mean isolated, there is nothing else around here within walking distance – I expected to be surrounded either by people from Office Space or Haiku Tunnel. So, when it came time for me to have my lunch, I decided I wanted to get away from my desk and eat outside; it is just so beautiful outside.

As I ate my leftover pad thai underneath a gigantic statue of nothingness at the lone park bench at the corporate center, I decided it would be a waste of both the date and my lunch break to go immediately back inside. So, I settled on strolling around the massive parking lot surrounding the complex. A walk in any other location would be as sweet, right?

During my first lap around the park, I felt incredibly isolated and out of place. What other corporate person walks around a car-park during their lunch break in a desperate bid to be outdoors? Well, as it turns out, plenty do.

Towards the end of my first lap I saw a man and woman, maybe each separated by 100 feet, power walking towards me. Maybe they’re just walking into the office, I pondered; however, as they slowly caught up on me and lapped me, I realized that they too were doing exactly as I was. They too were trying to desperately grab what small part of they day they could to fully experience, and not be dumbly placated by the flickering of their computer screens.

I could tell they were even as anxious as I was to be outside, judging from their awkward hand arm pumpings and uncomfortable gaits, most likely earned from a lifetime of power-walking in business shoes and sitting at corporate cubicles.

I thought I was unique at first, daring to go for a walk during my small lunch break around the parking lot. Turned out I had accidentally stumbled upon a fairly common lunch-time culture. I guess it’s just like the rest of corporate life – difficult to be unique.

Image from: online.wsj.com.

Hip Grandma

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grandma
Photo credit: sundaybrunch.me

A few times a week I work as a security guard at my university’s museum in a desperate bid to help scrounge together enough money to cover my rent. The work is never that interesting and I’m awful at my job (mostly by choice), but I like the people I work with so I have been at the museum for almost two years now.

In general, I try to avoid interacting with the patrons in the museum as much as possible. Not because this is the professional thing to do – guards should, after all, seem as much like a fly on the wall as possible so as not to distract people from the art – but rather because the presence of visitors makes it necessary for me to at least seem like I am doing my job; all I really want to do is avoid people as much as possible and hide in a corner.

So, imagine my surprise when I was working last September, trying to ignore all the guests around me, when I suddenly hear a voice call out to me.

“Young man, stop! What’s going on with your hair?”

I came to a halt, and turned around to see nothing. Lowering my head, I suddenly noticed a tiny old grandma – she was less than five feet tall if she was an inch.

“My hair?” I reply.

“Yes, your hair! Is that a mohawk?”

“Oh, my hair! Yeah, it is…” I mumbled embarassedly, as I scratched the back of my head.

“Well, where’s your feather!”

“My what?”

“Your feather!”

“I, uh, I don’t understand.” Who was this old grandma, I thought. Was she really old enough to be making racial cracks about Native Americans, wondering why I didn’t have feathers in my hair? How was I supposed to respond to her?

“You don’t understand? Seriously, kid, you need to get with it,” she snapped. “Everyone has feathers today! Yesterday my granddaughter helped me get one too.” At this the old woman pulled at her hair and suddenly produced a purple feather from behind her ear. It was one of those tie in feathers that was all the rage for a few months before being compeltely forgotten.

How could I not be wearing a feather? They were so cool!

“Yeah, I, uh, I guess I just didn’t think of getting one,” I said.

“Well, you should if you want to look cool,” the grandma replied. “Now, where’s the elevator? I can’t walk up all those stairs anymore.”

I hope to one day be as hip as that woman – rocking out, being cool, and harassing kids even though I might be too old to climb a flight of stairs. Here’s to you, grandma.

Crouching Cougar, Hidden Poontang

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It was 4:30 in the morning, and my friend Rosh and myself were standing outside McCormick’s (maybe) Irish Pub in SoBe. The weather was balmy and fresh and a temperate breeze was slowly idling it’s way down the streets from the ocean. Although bars were open until 5 am, the bouncer made us wait outside because of the cups of water we were holding.

“Where you kids from? Here for Spring Break?” the bouncer casually asked us, ready for the night to be over.

“Yeah, we’re from Jersey.”

“Oh? I heard you kids have a nice shore up there” he smirked.

“Yeah…yeah, we do.”

As the conversation petered out, the bouncer turned his attention to a woman standing next to him that I had failed to notice before. She looked exactly as how you would imagine a modern party girl to look – except Time had taken a sledgehammer to her. Hard. Her face was a leathery husk over a body tanned hundreds too many times.

“Look at these youngins,” she said to the bouncer in a voice like gravel scraping over asphalt. “Tryna act like they know how to party.”

“Hell, not everyone’s got the experience you got,” he playfully chided her.

“Not like they’d know what to do anyway, I bet” she responded. The two of them laughed and she punched the bouncer in the arm. Old friends are adorable.

“Yo, Rosh!” I tried to say nonchalantly, “check it, your favorite. MILF!”

“Nah, she’s not a MILF. Definitely a cougar…yup, cougar!”

I looked back at her – definitely a cougar, and on the prowl.

Suddenly, both the bouncer and the cougar were looking at us.

“So,” she said, “you guys looking for weed or a good time? You could come back and smoke with me, I got plenty” she rasped. A chill descended over us.

“Nah, uhh, we’re good” Rosh and I said in unison.

“Hah! See, I told you, these kids wouldn’t know what to do with me.”

“You guys

missing out,” said the bouncer. “This cougars got claws.” The two of them roared with laughter as Rosh and I slowly sidled away.

I ended up seeing the cougar again two nights later, at a different dive bar in SoBe. Somehow, out of the four nights I spent there for Spring Break, I managed to see her twice.  It must have been a sign…