Random observations: Turkey Edition, V1.0

Trip Start May 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, July 10, 2006

It's time for the best part of any travelogue... random interesting observations about a country.

First, a couple about money.

In the hundred(s) of monetary transactions I have had in Turkey, I have only received 1 korush (100 korush = 1 lira =~ .6 USD) pieces in, maybe, three of them. I would estimate tens of millions of calories in effort and brain cells in stress are saved annually in the magical practice of rounding to the nearest 5 korush or, more precisely, just factoring in tax to the price and charging you... say... 1.50 instead of 1.49 plus 6%, for a nice round 1.61 or something. When I get a 1 korush piece I seriously get excited. I didn't know they existed for a long time. The way I felt the first time I got one is comparable to how I would feel if I got a 1/3 cent piece State-side.

Now, to balance out a wise monetary practice with an endlessly annoying one. Turks are, without exception, complete nazis with the denominations of money you give them when you pay for things. If you pay for a 1.40 YTL item with, say, a 10 or 20... you will be met with angry stares, demands for smaller denominations, and often times angry points at your wallet demanding that you show and prove that you do not, in fact, have any more convenient way to pay. If I ever got around to it, I would receive endless pleasure from knowing how to say "If you want to sell me something you will take my damn money in whatever form I give it to you, and that includes Vatican bonds, gold bullion, and big game pelts" in Turkish.

Now, transportation.

Or... perhaps I should say... "the chaotic circus of moving vehicles that vaguely resembles some sort of system of transporting people and goods from point to point." Signs and lights are not so much ruling bodies as half-hearted suggestions, rarely heeded. Lanes are nonexistent. Let me repeat that... lanes. are. nonexistant. There are no lanes. Roads are however wide they are, and people just drive on them in some sort of Darwinist battle for supremacy. I have been on roundabouts where people are stopped 5-wide, all waiting to pull onto the same road, side by side, pulling out two and three at a time. Taxis are always adventures. One particularly eventful ride Marc and I took to the bus station one evening (on the way to Kaş) took us out of campus, onto the interstate-esque road and... wait for it... into a U-turn onto an on-ramp, head-on into the intended flow of traffic. Granted, traffic was fairly slow, but it was still nightime DRIVING OFF AN ON-RAMP. We took a few strange twists and turns, then approached a clearly blocked road under construction. No problem, we zipped again into the opposite direction traffic was supposed to flow onto roads more fitting to a Hummer than a little Renault taxi. We then ducked into a residential area, made a few strange lefts and rights, going deeper and deeper into darker and narrower alleys, leading me to believe that, yes, pretty soon we are going to be pistol whipped, robbed, and dumped in a gutter.... right when we emerge from the metaphoric fog practically on the doorstep of the bus station. Bizarre.

Taxis are always a blast, but they are like the mechanized horse thing for kids at a wal-mart compared to... the Dolmuş. A Dolmuş is a privately owned mini-bus that goes to and from assorted points important districts. So they go to a Dolmuş stop, wait in line, load up with passengers, and then head to their pre-announced destination. It's actually a nice example of the efficiency of privatization in some cases. They are cheap, fast, and easy. Plus, the adventure comes free. So when you get on and take your seats (or stand if it's full, remember, these guys are trying to make max money), you pass your 1.20 YTL up towards the front. Now, picture a crazy Turk steering through crazy traffic with one hand, shifting with the other, smoking a cigarette with another, drinking tea with a fourth, all the while counting money being passed to him and counting out change and passing it back with a fifth and final hand. Or, at least, it's something like that... but with two hands. You get the idea. And if you want to get off somewhere between the pickup and dropoff point, you had better hope you are a professionally trained stuntman, as you will get, if you are lucky, a 2 second door opening and closing, just enough for you to Indiana Jones dive and roll onto the concrete.

Well... I'm tired of writing now, Random Observations Turkey V2 will be coming to theatres soon, I suppose.
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