The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

2016 has provided a bumper crop of depressing man-made disasters: war, terrorism, ISIS, Brexit, Trump, ugly nationalism, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I don’t know about you, but a lurch to the hard right or hard left is not what I signed up for. You could be forgiven for thinking we’re all off to hell in a handcart. But then the smallest of kindnesses can restore your faith in humanity. Recently, Annie of Back to Bodrum reminded me of this when a dolly* driver went the final mile to get her home. Around the same time, I was having my afternoon cuppa in a local café when a man approached a woman sitting at an adjacent table. He smiled.

“Remember me?”

“No,” she said. “I don’t. Sorry.”

“Yesterday. You helped me. Remember?”

“Yes, yes. Now I remember.”

“Well these are for you,” he said, handing her a bunch of flowers.

The man had gone before the startled woman had a chance to respond but it brought the broadest smile to her face, as it did to mine and to everyone around us.

SamaritanThe flower man was elderly, white and local. The woman was elderly too and Asian, perhaps Filipino judging from her Imelda Marcos inflection and fabulous shoes. I mention their ethnicity and age only because I hear petty racism is on the march again, particularly amongst older generations. I never did find out what the good Samaritan had done to help the old man in need. Typically British, I didn’t like to ask. But it gave me a little hope.

Wishing us all a kinder and brighter 2017.

*Dolly is what I called a Dolmuş, a minibus used for public transport in Turkey.

Turks and Tampons

My third Guest blogger is Alexandra from Death by Dolmuş. Alexandra is a Yankee lass who teaches in Istanbul. She writes about the quirky side of life in the ancient city and has a mild obsession with public transport. Alexandra also publishes an amazing photoblog. If you don’t like discussions about women’s itty bitty parts, don’t read the following (oh, go on).

Alexandra

There are strange things that occur in Turkey. I am pretty on top of most of it, but from time to time things do catch me off guard. I’m unfazed when a man brings a 12 foot (4 meter) ladder into an over-packed dolmuş (roughly 5 meters long itself.) I’m unfazed when my bank calls to ask permission of my employer when I wish to close my account (obviously a mere mortal like me can’t be trusted with such a serious decision.)

I was caught off guard when my colleague, a punk, riot-grrrl feminist with red hair (not Irish red, but like, the color red) and combat boots, moans to me, doubled over in pain, ‘Gahh, I wish I hadn’t left the window open last night.’ It had been a sweltering 80 degrees (25 C) and I couldn’t understand what that had to do with her abdominal pain. ‘The wind, the night air, you know, it gives me cramps.’ Efendim?

Now, I’m fairly certain that cramps are caused by your uterine walls contracting to expel the lining. But, you know, who can say for certain…

I was constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge these university educated women displayed about their own bodies and the science contained in them. I know Freud thought that hysteria (that vague, female-ish complaint) was caused by a ‘disturbance’ to the uterus, but I’m pretty sure somewhere in my 6th grade sex-ed class, I remember learning something different…

As I was moving out, I had an enormous amount of tampons that my roommate and I had hoarded like we were preparing for the apocalypse. God knows when we would be able to find tampons again, so every time we ventured out of the Islamic Republic of Turkey, we bought up the store like they were going out of style.

Not having space in my luggage for 47 boxes of Tampax Pearls, and with the confidence that I could pick some up any time nature called at my nearest pharmacy (that’s a chemist’s for you Brits), when back in the US, I decided to give them away. Because honestly, who doesn’t like free tampons? Apparently, Turkish women.

So that’s how I found myself, on my last day of work, sitting in a locked office with my colleague, demonstrating how to use a tampon. I unwrapped it, showed how the applicator worked, as she dissected the tampon I had handed her, checking that the string was in fact well secured at the center. I extolled the tampon’s virtues: you can go swimming! (Her face lit up, what do you mean? She asked in disbelief.) You can wear white pants with no fear! Thinking back to all those tampon commercials of my youth, you can go shopping with your fresh-faced friends and laugh to your heart’s desire while spinning around in circles to demonstrate your new-found freedom!

Hello Dolly

Hop Aboard

We are finding local people to be warm, welcoming and obliging. We’re having fun riding around by dolmuş (or dollies as we call them) though it’s taken us a while to get used to dolly drivers collecting fares and dispensing change as they drive at speed along the highway, swerving to avoid pot holes and untethered cattle. Kindly strangers occasionally stop to offer us a lift, including a sweet little old lady with impeccable English, who pulled over in her beaten up Beetle and gave us a ride into town. She seemed unperturbed at inviting two strangers into her car. Perhaps this is because Turkey is blessed with a low crime rate when compared to the West and, therefore, the associated fear of it is also blessedly absent.

By comparison, Clement fled England because his fear of crime had reached hysterical levels. He’d become terrified to venture out after dark, lest he might be mugged by the drug addicts and beggars who loitered menacingly at every corner. He considered himself lucky to have survived the ordeal. We listened sympathetically and enquired where he had lived thinking it might have been Moss Side or Brixton. ‘Dorchester,’ he replied.