I don’t like it when people visit my country for a few months, days, weeks or minutes only for them to return to their homelands and wax rhetorical about the cultures and people when they haven’t fully integrated. When they don’t yet ’know us like that’.
Which is why I want to first throw this disclaimer out there: this story is by no means a reflection of the country that is Turkey and its people. I know easy going friendly Turkish people. Two to be precise.
But my first time through the Turkish airport, I think I arrived a few minutes after an evil villain had doused the place with a hormone labelled ‘Non-Turks fuck off’.
I was with a few Ugandans and upon entry two uniformed Turkish ladies receiving us as we arrived at the airport were asking to see our boarding passes from the flight we had disembarked from. One of my colleagues thought he was still in Uganda where jokes are a thing.
“But we’ve just got off the plane. Haha. Why ask for our boarding passes? How did we come to stand in front of you if we are doing so illegally? Hehe, hihi”.
The women didn’t smile. They glared actually. Our collective chuckles were silenced and as they waved us through one of the madams said, “Fucking asshole” loud enough to be heard.
The airport looked a grand place for this tiny African. Sleek and alive, bustling with people and activity. I like to enjoy my maalo time alone so I decided to separate from my colleagues for the next few hours. I wanted a pharmacy and sought out several help desks. At the first one I stood in front of one lady and grinned brightly.
“Hello! Where can I find a pharmacy?”
She looked at me coldly and flicked her eyes to her colleague in the store next to her. My smile faltered but I kept it plastered on as I went to the next lady. She stared at me and then looked down at something she was working on. I stood for about half a minute before she looked up at me with impatience and spoke tartly.
“What do you want”. Full stop.
Several help desks later the individual I wanted to buy medicine from over an intercom was also so terse that I decided my body could heal itself of its ailments.
I was hungry though. Delighted at the prospect of sampling the local fare I approached one restaurant. The food was arranged behind a glass screen and I stood for some time trying to figure out what everything was. I kept trying to get the attention of the cashier/owner but I swear it was as if I were invisible. People came and somehow with zero effort were able to purchase something as I hovered and in between them raising my hand and calling out, “Sir? Hello, Sir?”
When there was no one I stood still and looked at him curiously as he counted his money, put tea to boil etc. He looked at me eventually.
“What?”, he asked.
“What’s this?”, I pointed at a sandwich that looked interesting. He told me. I didn’t want it so I asked about another item. What I wanted him to do was spend a couple of minutes telling me what everything was but I could see it wasn’t going to fly. I didn’t want the second item either so I asked him about another plate.
“Order something or go”, he said.
“Tea and those lettuce leaves on that plate”.
I’ll experiment at my leisure elsewhere!