It’s been one year since we moved to Turkey which begs the question: is the honeymoon period over?
Nope. It’s safe to say that my drooling discourses will likely continue.
I still find myself in awe of the sight of the sparkling Bosporus nestled in between European and Asian Istanbul. I am still eating my way slowly through the endless list of great cafes and restaurants (all with gorgeous views of the Bosporus, of course, and outfitted with outdoor heaters and cozy blankets in order to enjoy as closely as possible said views, no matter what the weather). I still find myself giggling drunkenly as I set off for a morning run in the intoxicating sun and soft air of a January day (January!!). And I still find the people as helpful, kind and charming as I did when I arrived.
It is true, though, that the past year has not been completely without negative incidents. I did get my car towed. Although that turned out to be such a positive, I can’t count it as a negative (won’t go into details; read the blog).
And there was one other incident.
It happened in the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest tourist attractions here, a marketplace teeming with people. I mean shoulder-to-shoulder action going on. I think I have mention TGB before. I have been there many times, normally when playing the dutiful tour guide to a visitor. TGB is a must-see.
Having had my share of scary experiences in similar bazaars in not-to-be-named countries, I would normally never respond to one of the many questions thrown at me by a seller. Especially not the question. After all, such questions are a common ploy to get a buyer into a stall and answering them can open up a can of unpleasant worms and take up a lot of time.
However, in TGB, the sellers are so reasonable, I couldn’t resist. After all, I have known them to only be polite. They have never chased me down an alley to get me into their stall. They haven’t called me names when I declined one of their products. The opposite. They have said “have a nice day” when I declined to enter their stall. They have served me tea when I decided to take a closer look at a product. They have wished me well even if I drank their tea and then declined to buy their product. Heck, they even gave up their sitting stool for my mom when she went out for a smoke.
(And despite the fact that neither my mom or the group of people who kindly invited her to enjoy their cozy smoking circle shared a common language, they all seemed to be having a marvelous conversation when I met up with her.)
Plus, whenever I have answered personal inquiries in Turkey – even when asked the question – I have only had pleasant reactions. So, it’s quite forgivable that I dropped my guard a bit – even knowing that I was in an area where, if anything negative would happen, it would happen there (as is typical of heavily populated tourist sites, in my experience).
I did what I rarely do.
I answered the question. Not any question, but the question:
“Where are you from?”
Call me a coward or unpatriotic, but 13 years abroad has taught me a few things. One of them being: you can’t please everyone. And coming from a large, well-known, influential and powerful country that plays a key role in global activities – activities that not only does everyone have a passionate opinion about, but they also feel compelled to share – that is especially the case.
So, as a politically weathered tourist, expat and foreigner, I admit to having become conflict-adverse (especially when it involves becoming entangled in political debates with total strangers out in public).
Therefore, I generally opt to ignore the question.
Or, if I can’t ignore it, then I play it safe and give the only obvious, practical, and sane response:
(Sorry, neighbors, practically no one – not even us – can tell the difference between an American and a Canadian. Not that I need to fear that the inquirer’s accent detection is that precise. I could also use the country of my spouse, a nation whose name similarly tends not to raise other’s blood pressure quite so much. The danger with saying “Sweden” is that I never know if the inquirer is one of the few people who decided it would be cool to learn the language of a country that is 9-million people large. Therefore, “Canada” it is.)
Instead, lulled by only good experiences, in a moment of weakness, I replied: “The US.”
To which, the seller responded…
Well, let’s just say that he responded not as positively as dozens of others who have asked the same question of me over the past year (even those who I answered honestly).
Truthfully, though? His response was quite mild compared to what I have been on the receiving end of over the years.
And, well, he had a point. Which is the thing about politics: there are always two sides (or more).
With such a compromising view, it just goes to prove that the honeymoon is still definitely on.