Turkey: Day 3 (An Indecent Proposal)

What can you say about people?  Sometimes, people are just plain weird.  On my third day in Istanbul, we headed to the Spice Bazaar which I kept calling the “Spice Bar.”  I had missed the tour bus because the driver said I was so late.  He left me.  I ended up waiting a bit for another driver to come and pick me up.  I sat in the hotel lobby, fuming, but not really.  I wasn’t sure I was that interested in seeing a bunch of spices anyway.  The backup driver arrived and I got on the little bus.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who missed it that morning.  When we got there, we didn’t have a lot of time because we had spent our time waiting in hotel lobbies.

Voila! Enter the Spice Bazaar.

When I walked inside, it was insanity.  So many people, so much “stuff.”  As I said, I didn’t have much time so I was just trying to rush through.  What was I supposed to buy?  Well, I guess spices.  I walked through, and as usual the shopkeepers were trying to get people to try their “stuff.”  And since I was dressed the way I was dressed, they assumed that I was Arab so they spoke Arabic to me.  It’s always fun to see the confused look on people’s faces when they speak Arabic and I respond in English.  They kept asking, “Are you Saudi?”  I responded, “Um, no I’m not.”  Everyone was trying to tempt me with Turkish Delight, but such effort was wasted on me since I don’t like it.  I kept wandering like a lost puppy.  I didn’t know what I wanted yet I felt the need to buy something.  I finally stepped into a shop and I even tried the Turkish Delight.  I wasn’t impressed, but whatever.  I bought some.  I figured I could give it as a gift.  So, I bought two boxes, choosing different mixes as if I knew any better.

The next stop was yet another shop with the usual, spices-a-plenty, Turkish Delight, all kinds of tea and some other stuff I didn’t really notice or care to notice.  But this time, I decided I’d get some tea.  I know that their goal is to sell, but what was this man selling?  He showed me lots of fancy shmancy teas which smelled absolutely divine.  There were teas for multiple things.  So, I chose one for a friend and waited impatiently for him to bag it.  He offered to make me some tea, but time I had not so I thanked him and said I didn’t have time for tea.  But he kept talking.  I could have left but I had paid the man so I wasn’t about to leave without my purchase.  He went on to say some strange strange things.  He said, “Please don’t tell me you have a Turkish boyfriend or worse, a husband.”  I laughed.  What else could I do in this situation?  He continued, “Cause I’m looking for a nice Muslim girl to marry.”  OMG!  But I quickly replied, “I’m not a girl.”  He was left speechless.  I took my tea and left.

Silly man, who offers marriage to random strangers in a store?  Just another day in the life I guess.

Special Report: Bravery in Action

We interrupt this series on Turkey for a special report…..

Once upon a time, I mentioned that KSA had taught me bravery, courage.  And today, I was given the opportunity to show this courage.  The story goes something like this.

I was sitting in my friend’s office talking about nothing, as usual.  Out of nowhere, my friend showed me a teeny tiny black “object.”  “What does this look like to you?” she asked.  It wasn’t a matter of what it looked like but what it was.  I told her, “It’s mouse poo.”  It wasn’t really surprising since we have seen these “gifts” around campus.  We saw one mouse run from one office around a corner and another set up camp in the librarian’s office.

She asked me where it was and I told her with confidence that it probably left already.  Perhaps it had left a present and left.  So we continued to chat, and like something out of a movie, I looked to my left and saw the mouse walking on the chair.  It felt like it was happening in slow motion.  It was so close that I wasn’t sure if it was on the chair or on me.  And being that I was now this courageous woman, thanks to KSA, I screamed bloody murder.  My friend, startled of course, started screaming, “What?  What is it?”  I said frantically, “It’s your mouse!”  And she jumped up out of her chair and we both headed for the door.

Fortunately, one of the cleaning ladies was nearby.  My friend called her name and she ran.  I guess so, my friend sounded like she was freaking out.  She said, “There’s a mouse in my office, can you kill it?”  She got her broom and went in.  That psycho mouse moved like he didn’t have a care in the world.  It was as if he was taunting us.  All the while she was swinging and banging the broom all over the place trying to kill a seemingly suicidal mouse.  And being the brave souls we were, we screamed and ran down the hall.  Sadly, there were a couple students around.  I put my finger to my mouth and said, “Shh, don’t say anything and don’t tell anyone.”
The mouse finally met his demise when he made a run for the door leading outside.  Soon, life went back to “normal.”

I am as brave today as I was before.  I’m actually quite proud of myself.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…..

What KSA Has Taught Me….Part 1

If you’re living your life right, you learn from your experiences and are taught a few lessons.  And, for me living in KSA has taught me a number of things.  I won’t talk about all of them now or you’ll be reading for days.  But one of the big ones is bravery, in a chicken sort of way.  That’s right, in a chicken sort of way.  I can tell you that I have always been a chicken, even as an adult.  Not something to be proud of yet I’m not ashamed.  It was only in the last two years that I’d turn the lights off at night.  I used to leave the TV on a Qur’an channel making sure it was loud enough to be heard in my bedroom as well as by anyone walking by at night.  I’d lock my bedroom door at night, as if no one could get it open.  After all, if they managed to get inside the apartment, wouldn’t they be able to get into my room?  That being the case, maybe even “chicken” is an understatement.   So how did KSA bring about this new found bravery?

Let’s see, where should I begin? Since it’s been mentioned by more than one person in the past week, I guess I should mention my new found ability to kill things, geckos in particular.  And trust me it was a long, dark road getting to this point.  At first I didn’t think anything of them.  I’m from a northern state and we don’t have geckos or lizards of any kind unless you buy them in a pet store.  I still can’t figure out why anyone would want one for a pet.  Anyway, I used to see them on the balcony and I was always afraid one would come inside.  So, on the advice of a friend, I boiled some water.  She said if I threw the hot water on it, it would be stunned and then I could kill it.  Well, I decided to try it one day.  I boiled water in one of those little Arabic coffee pots, the little red ones you find everywhere.  I boiled the water and went out onto the balcony.  I attempted to throw the water.  And, to my dismay the water hit everything but that nasty gecko.  Oh and the pot flew with the water.  Not quite part of the plan.  In the end I was only holding the handle.  Oops.  That didn’t work out I guess.  And just to show how chicken I was, I left the pot out there.  I didn’t even bother trying to get it.  It was the last time I would try to kill a gecko for a while.

Over time, I tried to work up the courage to kill one.  I wasn’t ready to give up.  I saw one in my apartment and knew I didn’t have time to boil water.  Besides, the last time I didn’t do so well with that anyway.  I grabbed a broom and started swinging.  I hit everything but the gecko.  Kinda like the water incident =).  I ended up with several dents in the walls and a gecko that got away.  I’m sure he was laughing at me the whole time, that devil! So I gave up, again, until last summer.

I was teaching at YUC and had been using the same room for all of my classes.  It was cool and the projector worked.  And if you know anything about our experience in the last building, having both of those things in the same room was not a guarantee.  Anyway, one day I was teaching and I saw a gecko on the back wall.  The students noticed that I was distracted and turned to look.  I watched its every move.  That thing stayed in the room for several days.  But when he made his way to my area at the front of the class, I knew I had to do something.  I tried to psych myself up saying, “You have to do it.  Don’t be a chicken.”  Of course, I still was.  So, thinking about my friend’s advice, I thought I’d try again with water.  But I decided to take a different approach.  I filled my water gun with water.  I thought, “I’ll shoot it with the water gun, it’ll fall off and I’ll smack it with my shoe.”  So I went to the room.  Students were sitting outside and of course they thought I was crazy walking around with a water gun.  I shared my plan with them and one brave soul stayed inside with me.  I sprayed and sprayed and that industrial strength thing wouldn’t fall off the wall.  So, my student offered to keep shooting it with the water gun.  She kept shooting it and it fell to the ground. Yay! Of course I screamed, but that’s beside the point.  I took my shoe and I hit that SOB with every bit of strength I had in me.  For as hard as I hit, I think I have some unresolved anger issues.  I screamed again but I also jumped with joy.  It was an embarrassing display and somehow I wasn’t at all embarrassed.

One of my students, and she knows who she is, was traumatized by the event. She called me a murderer.  She said that soon I wouldn’t be able to stop.  I didn’t mind.  I was so proud of myself.  I called my family to let them know.  They laughed at me, but again I didn’t mind.  I went on to kill several geckos after that, even posted my fail proof method for killing geckos on Facebook.  How does this make me brave?  I used to use half a can of bug spray to kill a single bug.  If there were a big bug in a room I’d close the door and wait for it to die several days later before going in again.  So, to kill a gecko was a huge deal.   I’ve come a long way.

I almost feel like a big girl now and I owe it all to living in KSA.

Language Lies

I’ve been speaking Arabic for a number of years.  And although I spoke mainly one dialect, I have been blessed to understand almost all of them.  Let me emphasize the almost.  There are a few I don’t understand at all and others I don’t understand some of the words they use or how they use certain words.  In any case, I am able to speak and understand.

Initially, I wouldn’t let people know that I understood, except for those who knew me and had actually spoken to me in Arabic.  Later, my secret got out and I started using it more often and with more confidence.  But when I got to Saudi Arabia, things changed.

First of all, we were told not to use Arabic in the classroom.  “It’s and English only environment.”  So, I tried to follow that, even when I thought that it may be beneficial to use it from time to time.  What was funny and interesting though was the fact that my students didn’t know what to make of me at first.  I had this Arabic name so they thought I must be Arab.  My name is the only Arab thing about me.  Oh let’s get that out of the way right now.  I legally changed my name, my entire name, when I converted to Islam.  Now back to the story.  I watched my students covering their mouths when they spoke for fear that I could read their lips.  I can’t read lips in English let alone Arabic.  Eventually, as time went on I started letting people know that I did in fact understand and speak Arabic.  I don’t do it often so it’s become a bit of an obsession for some.

That’s at work, but what do I do when I’m out in public?  Oh I feel so guilty sometimes, but I also find it funny.  How else am I to entertain myself here in Yanbu?  There are two places where I never use Arabic though, the bank and the hospital.  I don’t want to screw up my money or health because I misunderstood something.

Anyway, because of the way I’m dressed, it’s assumed that I speak Arabic and depending on my mood, I will.  But there are times when I really act a nut and pretend I don’t understand.  For example, I went into the Body Shop and said a few words in English.  The man working there quickly said, “No English!”  What did I do?  I walked out, lol.  It’s not like I couldn’t have spoken to him in Arabic, but I didn’t.  Even as I walked out, I wasn’t sure why I didn’t just speak to him in Arabic.  What did I have to lose?

On another occasion, the salesman spoke and I shrugged my shoulders

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