Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving in Turkey

I just returned from a three-day holiday to Turkey, where I spent Thanksgiving with Mark on the Mediterrean coast. No turkey for us, but the rabbit dinner was a great substitute. As was the sight of the turquoise waters, the pine forested mountains, the crumbling Roman ruins, and the scent of citrus, tea, salt and pine that filled the air.

I came back on a plane filled with traders from the Dordoi market, mostly middle-aged women. Many of them had bright orange or purple hair sticking up and shellacked in place.

There is a term for people who work at the markets, bazarni, which is often associated with uncultured. I never saw any truth to that until this flight. Everyone stood up long before the plane taxied to the runway, ignoring commands to sit. Then, when the plane stopped suddenly, everyone flew forward.

“Everyone is excited to be home and they forget that everyone else is excited as well,” said Larina, the 46-year-old trader sitting next to me. She had yelled at others to sit down, then hopped up to join them. She wore a large bandage on the back of her head, a result of a botched robbery attempt that morning. A Turkish man had tried to pull her purse off her, pulling her out into the street, where she fell and hit her head on the pavement. He didn’t get the bag, but she was pretty upset. “I can’t get rid of the awful impression,” she said.

She was a woman full of sadness. Despite the fact that she built up a good business over the last 15 years and seems to make a good income, she complained constantly about life in Kyrgyzstan, about how she doesn’t know any Kyrgyz and it’s too hard to learn, about the corruption, the lack of work for young people, the poor education.

She is married to an Afghan and a few years ago had the opportunity to immigrate to Canada. Her husband wanted to, but she refused, saying she was too old to start again in a new place.

“Several of our acquaintances went and they are all happy. Now, all the time, my husband says that it’s because of me that we don’t have a good life.”

At customs, people nudged each other, budded and fought in line to the point where they had to assign a customs official to stand guard over the lines. Of course, no one paid attention to the signs that said “Citizens of the Former Soviet Union” and “Foreign Citizens,” so I had to stand behind a long line of Kyrgyz citizens in the Foreign Citizens line.

“You complain about the disorder but here you are, Kyrgyz citizens, making a mess,” the customs officer said. “You are acting like children.”

I enjoyed my vacation, but it was nice to get back to my clean apartment. I went to the nearby market to stock up on vegetables. On the way, a rat ran out of the gutter and right in front of my feet. That was pretty disgusting. I bought peppers, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, potatoes and tomatoes, all under a dollar per kilogram – all fresh and firm and colorful.

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