Well, the Turkey trip was certainly an interesting and often terrifying ‘experience’ – not the holiday adventure you would sign up for in your wildest dreams, but I’ve always held with the philosophy that if you can find the humour in the experience (usually long after its lost its sting), then you’ve truly mastered one of the most skillful talents in navigatinglife . Finding the funny side helps you retain your sanity while avoiding the psychiatrist’s couch. In a way, humour pushes the trauma of any experience far enough away from your psyche for you be able to view it from a ‘safe’ point of view, almost like you’re watching a comedy sketch. It’s the way I like to treat the events and experiences that have assaulted me unawares in my life. Writing about them certainly is cathartic!
So let’s consider Turkey from this perspective…
First off, as a female, especially being of the blonde persuasion you become a target for every Turkish bum pincher within reach of your rear end. Things may be different now, but I found Turkish men then on the whole, to be a totally voyeuristic bunch. Nothing delighted them more than female tourists who saw a Mediterranean holiday as an excuse to abandon their bikini tops together with their modesty, en masse, on their beaches. Even wearing a bikini was a thrill for the casual male observer, considering their women spent most of their time wrapped up from head to toe. It was this ever-present interest that was the real cause of my concussion in the car accident. Because we’d been travelling through the countryside between major cities and towns, I’d taken to wearing a bikini to tan in the car as the hot Mediterranean sun beat in relentlessly through the windows – only pulling on a T-shirt and shorts when we made a stop. Hence when I saw my partner take a sudden turn to pull into a garage to buy water, I immediately unhitched my seat belt and bent down to pick up my T-shirt. In that fraction of a second, he had forgotten that he was driving on the right hand side of the road, and could not make a turn in that direction without checking the traffic. The rest is history. He made the turn, and as he did so, a car travelling in the opposite direction smashed into us, almost taking out the passenger side of the car. In the nanosecond of the impact my head was thrown back and then violently forward onto my knee. Goodbye nose, three breaks later in the middle of almost nowhere, and I was bundled into a passerby’s car with instructions to the driver to get me to the local hospital as soon as. All I can remember before passing out again, is asking for my shorts because I was still in my bikini bottoms!
The hospital was interesting… while I was lying in Casualty on the gurney waiting to be seen, and passing in and out of consciousness intermittently, I realized what it was that was waking me from time to time. Even in my foggy brain I found it somehow quite unbelievable that various men walking past me (the blonde injured tourist) thought it was an opportunity not to be missed to insinuate a hand under the blanket for a quick grope!
Once I had been treated I was relocated in a room that had to be the one reserved for unwanted tourists, with peeling paint on the walls, and all other surfaces.The door had a small rectangular glass window at head height, which of course set me up for close observation from curious passersby. No one spoke English needless to say, and I soon learnt that if you eventually got the attention of a nurse, and using your best charades skills, mimicked your desperation for a glass of water, you should never nod your head when the nurse appears bearing the desired glass of water, as a nod in Turkey means literally “no!” and that would be the end of that until another nurse checked in on you. Initially I thought this was a type of sadistic punishment, but realized after a while, there must be a cultural communication problem.
Most of the time I was left alone in the room, which wasn’t a problem as I slept most of the time. On one occasion I did awake suddenly to sounds movements from behind the glass window in the door. What I saw appeared to be some sort of black feather duster or broom being used on the other side of the door. What was puzzling was that the brush/feather duster seemed to be ‘jumping about’ near the bottom of the window only, with no apparent effort to clean the whole window. The sounds of movement increased, this time accompanied by grunts, which indicated greater effort of behalf of the ‘cleaner’. The strange movements mesmerized me. Was it possible that a very short person had been given the job of cleaning the doors? The few tips of black wispy feather or bristle and their feverish effort certainly assured me I’d come to the right conclusion. Imagine my shock then, when suddenly the eyes and eyebrows of a very swarthy male greeted my wide-eyed wonder! The little man was literally bobbing up and down to spy on me, hence the grunts registering the effort! That’s why all I had seen had been the bushy tips of his moustache dancing frenetically along the bottom of the window like a demented spider, until one last Herculean effort brought him his ultimate prize… a peep at the Western woman!
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before, “never say never”? Well the Turkey trip literally and figuratively forced me to eat my words! . On our travels around the country, we’d come across many establishments that prided themselves on their tripe soup. Now, having been raised to never eat any “funny stuff’, I’d declared with absolute conviction that I would “never touch tripe”. Well, back to my lovely Turkish hospital…
After having no food brought to me for probably over 12 hours, when the nurse finally appeared with a greasy looking steel slop tray with an even more greasy looking pale watery substance in the middle of one indent, accompanied by a few lumps of very stale bread on the side, I was extraordinarily happy to receive it. It actually smelt quite nice. I contemplated the bread, as it would have to serve as my spoon, thus the only option was to dunk it. Although the bread was quite hard, it would do. I gently blew the oil residue on the ‘soup’ to the other side and took my moment with the bread, which I quickly coated and attempted to put into my mouth… Problem number One! The hefty and crude plaster cast they’d put on my face after my nose ‘procedure’ (an experience that still hasn’t lost its sting) was so clumsy it covered my top lip making my mouth cavity too small to negotiate the stale bread. Eventually I worked out that I would have to just suck the soup off the hard bread to gain some nourishment at least…Problem number Two! …on my second dunk I found the soup to have minute grey floating bits in it. Suddenly it dawned on me – this was in fact tripe! Not only did I eat tripe, (desperation makes the hearty eater) but I sucked it off the bread like manna from heaven. Just a word from the wise, never be tempted to say the ‘never’ words, because sure as hell, the universe is just dying to prove you wrong.