As with most of the Turks at the Embassy, they will do their best to speak English, whereas I do my best to show them I am attempting to speak Turkish. They say Good morning to me and I say the equivalent to them in Turkish, Günaydın.
Nadia, a young girl who comes in to clean our office is going to school in the evenings to learn English. I come in early and she will already be there vacuuming the building. She will smile and proudly say, Good morning, Dwaine Bey. (Dwaine Sir) And she smiles, not because she’s a smiling person, but because she can say that phrase, better and better every day. She is genuinely proud of what she is doing with her life, and rightfully so. Doing janitor work at day and University at night. I would like to see what happens to her in ten years.
The Turks exhibit an interesting sense of humor. A few months ago, I was giving instructions to the Local Guard Force on the use of a certain piece of equipment. Since the information was vital, I had a supervisor translate my instructions to them. He is a little friendly guy with a childlike face. Only about 5 feet tall. At one point in the translation, everyone burst into laughter. He looked over at me smiling and said, “I told them, you said I was a very handsome man.” I gave four of the sessions and every time afterwards, I had to sit with him and have a glass of çay (tea).
One of the guards has a very western accent, almost like he stepped off a wagon train. I asked him if he was born in Turkey, and he smiled and said, Yep. Evidently, he is asked that often. Further conversation with him, I find he worked with American construction crews for several years, which is where he learned English. Most construction crews from the States are Southerners. Sometimes, while talking to him, he will place both hands on his oversized belt buckle with his feet slightly apart just as you would see at a horse auction down in Houston, Texas. His name is Brock.
We have two local men in our crew who are specialists in their fields. One is sent worldwide to work on the special doors and windows at our embassies. Called FE/BR doors – Forced Entry/Ballistic Resistant. He is young and very good at what he does. He arrives after a terrorist attack within hours to start repairs. The other is also a Turk who travels to our posts with us. He is a very interesting individual. I had met him three years ago while I spent a few weeks in Turkey and was impressed with him, not just by his abilities, but his personality. His name is Aydin. Not to be confused with the similarly interesting RST, Atyen, I worked with in Ethiopia.
Aydin has a unique ability to get things done. Will not hesitate to make something happen when needed. Likewise, he expects everything to happen on time, and if it doesn’t, you will hear about it.
An example: In most European cities, it’s not uncommon to ask a waiter to run across the street and purchase a pack of cigarettes for you. Or a neighbor lady to ask a shop keeper to run an errand for her. One day at a restaurant, Aydin stopped the waiter and asked him if there was a bakery nearby. He was rather confused, but stated, Yes there was one around the corner. Aydin then handed him some money and asked him to go and purchase a loaf of bread for him. “But we have bread here!” was the reply. Aydin waved his hand across the table and stated, ”I do not see bread!” Aydin had bread in seconds.
It took about a week or two before Aydin got used to my Nolte sense of humor. On the way home after a particular tiring trip, I told him, My wife is going to be very upset with you. He had a baffled and slightly worried look on his face, and asked, Why? I said, because I’m going to tell her you worked my ass off.
It took two, maybe three seconds for the smile to form on his face, then stated, I’m telling my wife also! Since them, we tell each other that at least once a trip. His wife is a Ukrainian beauty, and together they have two vibrant little girls, each with a distinct personality. These three women are the loves of his life. If necessary, he would stop the world for them.
Everywhere we go, whether in Ankara, Istanbul or Adana, people come out of the woodwork to see him. He must have more friends than a little boy at school with a bag of candy. They will do the usual hug/hug on the cheeks, and then the orneriness comes out. They will grab each other and tussle a bit. Actually, it’s Aydin the one who pesters them and everyone else is skittish.
I met his father several years ago. A very gentle man with sharp intelligent eyes. He speaks English very well, like his son. His name is Feekrit. I’m sure the spelling is not right, but the pronunciation is there. Feekrit worked as a housekeeper and maintenance man for the American Intelligence Community when he was young and learned his English from them. A very interesting man to talk to. I think I have him convinced to take time and write his memoirs for his grandkids while he is still a young seventy something man. I used my mother as an example for him. I will continue to harp on him to do that, because he has stories that will go to the grave if he doesn’t do it.
You know, that can be said for everyone of us.
At the restaurants here, the waiters will greet you at the door. Several of them, standing in a line as if we are kings. After dining, on the way out it’s not uncommon for the owner to stand at the door and visit a few minutes before you leave. We shake hands with him and nod, sometimes a slight bow. In the States, the restaurants want you in and out so the tables can be reused; but in this country, they are genuinely happy for us to be there. I guess that best surmises what I feel about the Turks. Genuine. Many times the waiters will bring out a special dish for you to taste to see if it is any good. (It’s always good) And every meal includes a small curved glass of çay. A few places will charge for it, but most include it with the meal. And the second cup of çay is always expected.
Keep kicking butt. D.