Monday, March 03, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Home at last! What a trip. So much excitement ... so little time ... I have to confess that getting to work like this is why I am still a lackey to my corporate masters. Where did they send me this time? Ankara, Turkey.

I went on this adventure with a corporate handler named Nix. Nix doesn't like his real first name, so he tries to get everyone to call him "Nix" and I'm not sure why because I've seen his real name and THAT ain't it. Nix's full time job is preparing and presenting briefings, executive hand-holding, and putting out corporate fires. He's been doing this same thing since the Cold War, so he's gray, brittle, and talks about his prostate a lot. He hates coffee, people who whisper and Republicans. He loves American food, drinking tap water, and firearms. His working vocabulary actually includes the phrase "commie, pinko bed-wetter."

My job is much simpler. I'm a technical Prima Donna. For purposes of Full Disclosure, my resume also includes Self Righteous Prick and Insufferable Ass, the proximal location of which, I'm sure, qualifies me for Management.

When we landed at Washington Dulles, so I turned on my cell phone and called the office.

Did you know that CNN is reporting that 10,000 Turkish soldiers had crossed the border into northern Iraq to chase the PKK?

(bitter sarcasm)

(gleeful anticipation)
What part of Turkey are you going to anyway?

Whenever I received news like this when I was in the Army, I could immediately locate my next duty station by finding the biggest, nastiest, steaming anal-esque fissure on the map. Once again, it looked as though I would be riding to that destination with my old friends, Bitterness and Cynicism wedged in between Nix and I.

Our next stop was in Munich, Germany. I wanted to buy a Diet Coke in a newsstand in the airport, but my Corporate "Hi-Ho, Let's Go!" Card was rejected at the cash register. I had no Euros, so Nix paid while I called the Card.

No "Hi-Ho". Wassup?

You are the Bad One. You tried to use the Precious in a Duty Free store. We've protected Precious from places like that. We will report to Management every such attempt to improperly use Precious. Is there anything else I can help you with?

It WASN'T as Duty Free store!

Yes, it was. We know those things.

Did you know that there is a dildo store on the main concourse in this airport?

**click** ... buzz ...

Our next stop was in Esenboga Airport in Ankara, Turkey. Went through immigration and Customs, then on to curbside to meet our escort, "Mr. Happy". As far as escorts go, Mr. Happy is about as good as any I've seen. Sure, he knew where all the good places to go were, but he was too proud of his country to permit us to see any of them. He immediately told us that it was safe to travel anywhere in his country at any time. I asked him specifically about a number of places I'd read about on the internet to which he consistently replied, "Except there."

He drove us to our hotel. It was a small, out of the way place, but did it have location! It is within 400 meters of both the Kizilay Square and the famous Kocatepe Mosque.

Kizilay Square is more or less the center of Ankara. There are "Mom and Pop" type shops everywhere. This one had cakes in the window. I haven't developed the pictures of the fondant cake sculptures they had.

I would wake up every morning with the call to prayer from the Kocatepe Mosque. The call to prayer starts with a hard electronic click and then a wailing chant just like you hear in the movies. The Mosque stands on a hill and commands the area around it. It's roof is made out of a colored tile that makes it look blue in the evening and a kind of green in the morning. It changes colors all day long between those two. It's something worth waking up to see.

Mr. Happy would arrive promptly at Stupidly Early, so I had to shower quickly and then sprint down to the self-serve breakfast in hotel restaurant. Nix had been to a few Middle Eastern countries before, but never stayed long enough to acquire a taste for the food. Turkish cuisine has similarities with that style, but really is unique. Nix wasn't happy with the offering. I had a great breakfast every single morning.

Mr. Happy drove us off to where we would do REAL work. The drive wasn't unpleasant, but it was longer than I'd expected. Traffic? Well, I didn't have to cover my eyes with both hands, scream and beg God to let me live another minute ... all the time.

Work is work. What can I say about that? Nothing, nothing at all, so don't even ask.

Once the sun was down, Mr. Happy would drive us back to Ankara. There was internet service in the hotel so I could check the email and see how things were going. Sleep.

I wanted to take a cab and see the landmarks, but Nix put the official kibosh on most of that. One place he didn't know about until I'd already planned it with Mr. Happy was a visit to Ankara Castle. Excellent place for restaurants (albeit pricey ones) and the view is spectacular.

One of the dishes you really need to try in Turkey is Adana Kofte. It's spicy ground veal and lamb patties formed on kebob skewers and grilled. Oh my God is this stuff good! Here's a picture of it and it's chicken counterpart. I had this stuff every single day for lunch just because I could. I even found a recipe for it on the internet that I'll try later.

There was a bar, the 1-A, just across the street from the hotel. Thank goodness. They had one choice of beer, a Tuborg lager, and an impressive selection of liquor. Most of it was RAKI, the national alcoholic beverage of Turkey. Raki tastes like black licorice and packs a wallop. It is usually served mixed with cold water, and when it is first mixed with water, it becomes milky white. That's why its nickname is "lion's milk". You sip it slowly and the common toast is SEREFE pronounced "share-a-fa" which means "to your honor".

Coffee in Turkey is interesting. Turkish coffee is served in the cute little espresso type cups. The coffee is not as tough to choke down as its cousin in the Persian Gulf states, but it will still pop your eyelids open for sure. I did find a Starbucks on a corner in the Kizilay Square, and it was certainly good.

Sure, there were plenty of people who refused to acknowledge our existence, some even spit and few more hissed as we walked by, but Nix and I didn't see anything genuinely unbecoming until out next to last evening.

We were walking back to the hotel from the Burger King across the street from Kizilay Square and out of the blue, a pair of very aggressive Night Crawlers approached me. While one mimicked repeatedly swallowing a banana, the other announced ... the rather obvious ... and its price. Naturally I said "No" and walked away. They persisted. I tried to be diplomatic and told them that I was married and therefore perfectly accustomed to going without, so "No, get out of my face!" That didn't work either. Then something spectacular happened. Nix earned his pay for the trip. Oh yes, handling problems is something that Nix knew how to do very well. In about as minute or so, not only were the street urchins gone, but so was everyone else on the street. It was kind of like a movie, only weirder because after all the screaming (OK, I'll own up to it. It was only me, but I was caught up in the moment.) was over Nix asked me why I thought that the girls weren't attracted to him ... as he hustled me off the scene. It turns out that prostitution is legal in Turkey. Who'da thunk it?

Alas, all good things come to an end. Our last evening ended in the 1-A bar drinking Tuborg and watching CNN. They announced that Turkey was ending it's campaign in Northern Iraq and would pull the troops out in the morning. Ironic, don't ya think?

Ain't life grand?


NouveauBlogger said...

Great post! Very interesting....and "....and told them that I was married and therefore perfectly accustomed to going without" had me literally LOL.

Marisa said...

So jealous that you got to go to Turkey and I didn't. My dad's mom is from there, and believe it or not, this vegetarian grew up eating that veal-lamb dish nearly once a week. If my dad still made it every once in a while, I might not be a vegetarian.

TerriRainer said...

Did you know that there is a dildo store on the main concourse in this airport?"

YOU SOOOO DIDN'T REALLY SAY THAT ON THE PHONE DID YOU (and is there really a dildo store on the main concourse ;)???)???

And forgive me for asking, I'm pretty sure this may end up just like the time I finally broke down and asked my friend how EXACTLY she had "pulled a train" (a visual I could have done without)....but how did Nix get rid of the Night Crawlers....?

Glutton, aren't I?

Glad you made it back in one piece!


Leah said...

I came to visit, and then thought this was so strikingly well-written and funny (unusual attributes in a blog) that I had to go back and reread all your entries--I love your blog!

I'm also jealous of the trip to Turkey. When I lived in Israel, my friends all traveled to Egypt and Turkey. I felt I was being adventurous enough just being in Israel, so I didn't go, just hunkered down in Jerusalem. I SO regret it now; I didn't realize the opportunity at the time! Now that I'm ensconced in Brooklyn, even traveling to Manhattan seems like a project...

bindhiya said...

Dear Skeeter,
Great post!
Glad to know you enjoyed your travel...
When you going to visit Kerala? :)
Germany is one of the places I love to visit...My classmate for 10 years, my best friend lives there...
Take care


Ellen said...

just found your site--it's great-makes my day and keeps me laughing.
Thanks for taking the time to share your insights and humor!