Thursday, 30 August 2007

Last piece of Turkish Delight

Right, last anecdote about Istanbul for posterity's sake. We're finally in Medicikoy (pronounced Major-dee-ya-coy, or at least that's how I remember it's pronounced) after being shunted off out of Kadikoy and away from the nest that I'd shat in. I was driven over by the school's manager rather than taking one of the mobile saunas called buses, who recounted stories from his officer days in the army to do with lecturing his conscripts on the evils of cottaging.

After being shown around the school premises in a nondescript high-rise tower on a very bleak estate I was dropped off at my new accomodation in an apartment about 15 minutes drive away. I'm buggered if I remember what it looks like now, apart from the kitchen and the toilet, which I got to know particularly well over the next few weeks. My only surviving photo from this period is the one you see here, taken from my classroom window the very day before I scarpered off to Czechoslovakia. I remember the kitchen from my apartment well because when I entered the room at night and switched on the light the place would be literally swimming before my eyes with cockroaches. It was the first time I'd ever even seen these insects and they reminded me distinctly of that great George Peppard movie Damnation Alley.

I think I had one flatemate, but as we worked different shifts and he had money, our paths didn't cross too frequently. Again, I don't remember too much of the actual teaching stint apart from getting on the wrong side the authorities as usual - this time for wearing cut-off cargo pants to work when all teachers were expected to wear suit and tie. The greatest redeeming feature of the school was its cafeteria and the tab it provided to teachers. That allowed me to rack up a few hundred thousand lire in food bills in my first month before my first pay packet arrived. In between time I was surviving on about 5,000TL per day, which basically bought me a couple ekmek, some jam and a bottle of water. And I think that money came from pawning the few books that I'd brought with me from England. The only two books that I permitted myself to keep were Crime and Punishment, and William Manchester's American Caesar.

These were not particularly happy days, and the anxiety levels rose still further once the ninety-day tourist visa period had expired. To get out of the country again I'd need a residency permit in order to avoid paying a thumping great fine for overstaying, but I encountered some Kafkaesque bureaucracy in my efforts to get the permit before I even understood what had made dear old Franz so famous. And because I'd purchased a flight ticket to Prague for 23 August 1992 with my second to last pay packet (which sucked up $150 from a total of $190), I ended up visiting the foreigners' police station every single day for my last two weeks in Istanbul hoping almost beyond hope that the permit would arrive in time. Miraculously, it turned up the very day before I was due to leave. I'd been keking myself.

And to compound matters still further, I'd contracted a powerful dose of gastroenteritis in my final month from some fruit that I'd failed to wash properly. Because I was still living on a couple dollars per day, I couldn't afford to visit a doctor or buy medicine, so I quite literally shat myself to a complete halt. Teaching was a nightmare, as I had to excuse myself from the class every 10 minutes to shit-blast the porcelain (fortunately the school had European toilets or else I would have had it all over my ankles). Fuck me, it was going in solid and coming out at the other end as a fine but highly pressurised mist. In my last week in Istanbul I was down to less than 60kg.

Eventually I did come right, and I put that down to the medicinal properties of Efes Pilsner. I was quaffing the stuff back by the dozen to hydrate during the height of summer and to anaesthetise myself from the pain of hanging my rectum out every 10 minutes. This had some embarrasingly consequences one evening when I was lounging about the apartment in my speedo briefs, when there was a ring at the door. I answered it without bothering to dress myself further and found the building's caretaker blabbering away something wholly unintelligble to me. The next I knew I was flat out on the deck with the coat hanger lying on top of me, the door wide open to the public, but not a soul to be seen. My speedos were still hitched up and the throbbing in the Kyber Pass was no worse since the latest violent expurgation, so I had to thankful that I hadn't been taken advantage of. God only knows what the caretaker made of it...

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