Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Some more Anatolian exploits

I should be writing up my six-monthly performance agreement at the moment, but writing yet another post seems to me far more useful, infinitely more satisfying and may potentially encourage a readership of more than one.

Since Rotten requested it, I’ll try to delve back into the memory banks and see if I can’t rewire the circuits to produce a couple sparks of cognitive recall about my torpid Turkish existence. Fifteen years is a helluva long time afterall. For a start, the title of this post is not altogether correct because I spent probably more time on the European side of Turkey than on the Asian. But, hey, Anatolia has a certain romantic ring to it, conjuring up fez hats, hennaed hands, numismatic jewellery draped over colourful chadors, and elaborate scimitars for flaying alive Crusader knights. Not that I ever saw even a hint of mystique on my two very brief excursions outside the big, bad city of 20m.

So, where did I get to last time around? Ah, that’s right, 10 days lolling around Sultanamet, accepting the offers of free shoe shines, and supping on glasses of Efes Pilsner when I thought I could afford it. Finally, when it was time to head over to the free accommodation provided by the prestigious school of English Fast (another school had beaten them to the title of Fast English), I was on the first ferry across the Straits. The school was just in the process of completing a new apartment block for its teachers and trainee teachers, but by the time I was shown around it was clear that the long-termers had snaffled all the best rooms facing outside, leaving only the clammy, airless and windowless interior rooms for the newbies (you’ve got to hand it to those canny Turkish architects – they know how to squeeze as many bodies into a building as possible). And of course, all the occupants were English.

Naturally, this accommodation grossly offended my Kiwi great outdoors sensibilities, and although I had zip bargaining power, I somehow managed to negotiate a room in a civilian apartment building a couple blocks away. Although it did have an existing tenant (mentioned a few posts back), had no running water, and had last been cleaned at the time of the Young Turk Revolution, it did have windows and a back room that looked out onto an inner courtyard. Ideal for getting pished in the evenings on sickly sweet Maramures red wine and flirting with the school girls a few floors below.

Not that my own sleeping quarters were particularly salubrious. The only window opened into a peculiar shaft type of arrangement for dispersing cooking smells, although it also had the odd effect of funnelling the sound of conjugal rights being enacted. No running water was a bit of an issue, especially as my flatmate had a habit of violently evacuating his bowels after regular nights of doner kabab washed down with liberal amounts of raki. This tended to result in the splattering of a very lumpy mustardy-beige substance with the consistency of clay over the foot marks on the squat toilet that were difficult to extirpate without the aid of a high-pressure hose. Ablutions in general were conducted via a large bucket filled with mineral water purchased at the corner shop. Ah, those were the days.

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