Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Turkey Trauma," by Christopher

Tuesday, August 19th
12:32 PM CST - 8:32 PM EEST

Today is Tuesday. It is the second full day we have been in Turkey. 

It feels like the second week we have been in Turkey. 

The truth is that Sarah and I are tired beyond words, beyond transmission of information of any kind. We're not tired from working too hard, or not getting enough sleep, or not taking care of ourselves.

We're tired from Turkey Trauma.

It started this morning.  
We rose with vigor the both of us, heaping not-bowls full to the top with not-corn flakes and grinning like goons. Took our showers, took turns with our only towel, dressed and left. 

We met up with our group in the high school computer lab. We listened and scribbled notes as rapid-fire technical instructions were issued to us in both Turkish and English. Then we were lined up, draped in heavy laptop bags and marched downstairs to lunch. 

The Turkey Trauma began for me in between these events, in transit between here and there, in the gaps where socialization with my group took place.  

Every gap, there is one new name to remember and one new vital piece of information to learn immediately. Hi, I'm Wes. You can check the counters on your mobile by dialing *1234#. What's a counter? It's like a minute but-

Then we're eating. 

Hi, I'm Nora. You should talk to the director about that furniture. It sounds to me like you could have the broken piece replaced. But it's best to break it all the way, first. Wait, why would we need to break it all the-

Then we're on shuttle buses to the mall. 

Towers whizzing past, no air conditioning again, all the windows wide open and blasting me with heat, the wind so loud I can barely hear. HI, I'M JASON, IT'S REALLY BEST THAT YOU ONLY BUY CERTAIN THINGS AT THE MALL. NOW I'LL TELL YOU A LENGTHY, BARELY AUDIBLE LIST OF DO'S AND DON'T'S...

Then I'm standing in a Schlotzsky's. 

There are no more things to remember, because my pupils have spread into gaping abysses and I'm nodding at everything, agreeing with anything to make the sensory overload stop. I'm slipping out of my head one frantic inch at a time and nothing is real-

And suddenly a Turkish girl is explaining to us the towels, the towels we need, we'll find them one level down, the name is Carrefour, you go three levels down and it is on the second floor of the Carrefour but if not enough selection go to Bulmasoz, or Burmashoz, or Balmashonz on the other side of the mall where the prices are higher but the selection-

Then I'm in the Turkish Home Depot.    

And I'm finally seeing it, my head is filling up with the white, dawning light of realization! It's right in front of my eyes! Glorious! I've come full circle, it's all making sen-

And a little man walks through my door. 

He's barely four feet tall with curly wisps of ebony chest hair protruding from the top of his collar nearly to his nostrils. He is a fiercely bearded Yoda. We freeze. 

"Yeshkilbeverdem hazgoolkilverdegreeb," says the little man, and he walks past me to grab our chair. He hustles it past me and sets it on the floor in the open doorway. He jumps up on it, and begins to make an intense examination of the space above the door with his back turned to us. 

My head spins like a loose hamster wheel, I can't begin to address this little thing who is in the process of laying his strange eggs above my door-

"Uh. We go, you lock?" is all that Sarah can stammer out before the little man leaps and turns at the same time, landing a foot in front of us.

He produces a long screwdriver from his pocket.

"Shej bol gyulev. Broktijva. Broktijva," he explains. And jumps back up on the chair. 

I've settled down enough by now to notice that he is tinkering with the little red alarm bell above the door. Then he hops off of the chair, presses our doorbell button and we both recoil as our previously broken doorbell rings for the first time. 

He replaces our chair, turns, and leaves without a word.

Sarah turns to me and says, "See! I told you our doorbell was broken." 

"Yes," I say as we head out the door to dinner. 

Then I stop. 

The evening sun is baking the question out of my head and through my cracked lips. I know we'll never know the answer even as I ask it. And I know I'm too exhausted, too permanently stunned to make sense of how or why.  

"But did you tell him?"

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