After an long, exhausting day at the beach we returned home to a bit of a do. Our shared courtyard was ablaze with candles and Bubbly Beril was busily dressing her patio table. Moments later, the flamboyant Sofiya floated through the garden accompanied by a younger woman slapped up like Coco the Clown on a bad hair day. Beril turned to Liam and explained in broken English that she was throwing an impromptu al fresco dinner party and we would be joining them. In five minutes. The menu was a generous selection of calamari and un-filleted fish. This was Liam’s worst nightmare – he simply can’t do fish bones and tentacles are an absolute no no. I watched my husband attempt to keep his gag reflex in check, but he struggled. Eventually, he resorted to stashing cuts of rubbery squid in the pockets of his bermuda shorts. Oh the shame.
The evening was an eclectic mix of insults and complements, with Sofiya acting as the unofficial translator. Her companion was half cut from the start. She sat po-faced and aloof, only opening her mouth to demand more rakı. My attempts to engage her in a friendly tête-à-tête went largely unrequited. When she did speak it was to brag about her English – a result of a ten year stint in Texas (or Teksars, as she called it). Her pidgin dialect seemed little better than my Turkish, but I let it go. The miserable Coco became more and more inebriated. As her tongue loosened, the reason for her truculence became crystal clear – I was the problem. She unleashed an unprovoked broadside in my direction about foreign residents not speaking Turkish. Caught on the back foot, I attempted to placate her with a humble apology and a promise to do better. Dissatisfied, she continued to snipe. After an hour I could take no more and asked Sofiya to intervene – she did so with grace and tact, as I would expect from an ex RADA girl. Sofiya’s friend delivered a theatrical but fake apology topped only by my own fake acceptance of it. She withdrew to the opposite end of the table to sulk and sup.
I do accept that my lack of ear for languages will hinder a meaningful engagement within my host community. However, to be dressed down by an old sop who, after spending 10 years in the USA, could hardly string a few simple words together in English was a bit rich.
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