December 9, 2017 by palamow

Hello again from Luquillo,

I apologize for the long delay between blog posts, but as some of you may know, we have had a couple of distractions, Irma and Maria who visited our island in September. We are just now beginning to recover from the results of these two powerful (Category 4) hurricanes – we were without power for 67 days in our 13th floor apartment, and many island locations are still without electricity, water or any other creature comforts. Nonetheless, we are survivors – we islanders have weathered powerful storms before – many of us remember Hugo (September, 1989) and George (August, 1999), and we will rise to thrive and prosper once again, although it may take a year or so to recover fully. Our tourist industry is in tatters, and may not recover fully until next winter. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and vow to ‘Keep on keepin’ on regardless!

So here is another short memory about my family’s adventures in Turkey in the early 60s, written by lantern light while we waited for the electricity to be restored — hope you find it enjoyable …


Our household goods arrived in Ankara just as I flipped the page on my daytimer to March 20, 1965. It had taken almost five months for the shipping crate containing our possessions to catch up with us – a new record according to Ron Priestly, a savvy ‘Near-east hand’ at the US embassy. An astonishing list of enroute delays that began with a wildcat longshoreman’s union strike at the Port of Los Angeles that crippled container-ship departures, initiated this frustrating hegira. After several more delays, our protracted shipping odyssey finally ended months later on Turkey’s Istanbul docks with an exhaustive customs inspection of our possessions. These proceedings stretched over the better part of a week, despite some liberal greasing of a succession of minor bureaucratic palms with generous amounts of Turkish Lira to speed the process along. Next step – arranging for a truck to transport our errant belongings across the sparsely populated Anatolian plateau to Ankara. …

A few days later, the truck arrived in Ankara, and disgorged our battered and weather-beaten crate onto the customs loading dock. When I arrived to lay claim to our possessions, I was informed that “because the paper-work had been incorrectly filled-out in Istanbul” I must suffer through yet another interminable customs inspection (and presumably another round of palm greasing), I balked – I had had, enough and voiced my intense displeasure with a resounding negative, given in my newly acquired Anatolian street patois.

Regarding the above, I sense an explanation is in order: I had been in country just long enough to have picked-up a vital cultural subtlety of the spoken language – there were at least three distinct forms of negative interjection. Hayar (pronounced ‘higher’) the mildest of the three was used to politely turn down an offer (say, of a cup of tea) – Yok’ (pronounced ‘yoke’), the next form, is a bit more forceful, and is normally employed to turn away an odious request, such as the offer of an unwanted lottery ticket proffered by a loathsome street vendor. Form number three is the most forceful – one applies one’s tongue to the roof of one’s mouth and then ‘snaps’ it away, producing a crisp ‘tsk’ sound accompanied by a backward flip of the head…

As my level of frustration had reached its absolute zenith, I chose to employ all three forms hooked together as a single blatantly negative phrase, adding the Turkish word ‘efendem’ (sir) for good measure, so to speak – and, surprisingly, it worked extremely well –the astonished customs official summarily dismissed me with no more questions, the desired clearance in hand, and the shipping crate was soon enroute to our new quarters…

Providentially, we had obtained permanent quarters through the ministrations of our new friend Binbashi Kaya (BITS and PIECES # 62) – it turned-out that Colonel Kemal, a colleague of his, owned an expansive three bedroom flat in a recently constructed apartment complex next to the British Embassy, atop Cankaya hill at the city’s southern extremity …

Colonel Kemal arranged to meet with us at the Otel Kent’s front entrance on a blustery Spring morning early in March. He was an imposing figure, impeccably clad in stylish gray tweeds, spotless white linens, British ‘public school’ tie and highly polished brogues complemented by a handsome Burberry trench coat, slung casually over his right shoulder. A narrow-brimmed Alpine fedora with a gaudy feather attached, added a jaunty crowning touch to Colonel Kemal’s impressive sartorial ensemble …

A warm smile creased his ruddy countenance as he shook my hand and bowed to Eileen, Michael and Lisa. While his chauffer held the door, the colonel ushered us into his Mercedes town car for the short drive to the top of Cankaya hill…

The colonel’s apartment was located on the third floor of an impressive seven story building. It was reachable either by striding-up a grand marble stairway, or by entering an extremely, cramped elevator (which we later discovered operated only sporadically due to frequent electrical fluctuations). The apartment was lovely – the front door opened to a large living room, which in turn opened onto a full-length balcony which overlooked a pleasant valley and a neighboring hill. The kitchen was in a spacious alcove to the left, while three large bedrooms, each with bay windows (and lovely views) fanned-off to the right. The flat had two bathrooms, one European and one ‘Asian’ – the Asian facility contained a standard Turkish ‘bombsight’ toilet, consisting of a marble slab with a hole in the center and a water spigot with which to rinse one’s hand and wash away the results after voiding one’s bodily wastes into the ‘bombsight’ hole. The ‘European’ bathroom came complete with a standard ‘western-style’ toilet, a sink and a shower bath. With obvious pride, Colonel Kemal stated “I know how keen you Americans are to take hot showers”, as he stepped into the tub and, without considering the consequences, turned on the shower! Water cascaded from his soaked fedora, shriveling its formerly jaunty feather into a sodden lump. As he shut off the shower, he sheepishly declared “You now, of course, can perceive how well the shower operates”. I helped him dry off his soggy fedora with a kerchief my wife swiftly withdrew from her purse, as Michael and Lisa politely endeavored to suppress giggles, while their mother wrote-out a check covering the first three month’s rent…

We were soon moved-in, and once again surrounded by our possessions, and soon began to make new friends among our building’s other occupants, a few of whom were expatriated Americans like ourselves.

Jim and Gloria Cantwell were renting the building’s top-floor ‘penthouse’, a two bedroom flat with a wide patio that encircled their aerial abode. Jim was a petroleum engineer, while Gloria was a hospital administrator – their colorful life story included a hurried exit from Saudi Arabia after Gloria, who had been working at a hospital in Riyadh had been accused of insulting a senior male staff member and had been sentenced to a public flogging! We soon became fast friends, planning mutual social events and shopping sprees to Ulus, Ankara’s market district.

When we made enquiries with the PTT (Post, Telegraph and Telephone), we were informed that we should expect a delay of six months to a year before service would be approved, and a telephone installed, so we swiftly abandoned that plan. Then, one day while shopping at the US embassy’s commissary store, I discovered a possible partial solution to our communication needs. In the toy section I was able to purchase a pair of tiny, pink, battery-operated ‘Princess’ play telephones, complete with a spool of wire to connect them. Since our third floor apartment’s bathroom shared a common exhaust shaft with Jim and Gloria’s penthouse bathroom, we were able to hook-up a phone next to each toilet, and pass the interconnecting wire down the shaft. Voila! We were in business with what soon became known as our ‘Throne Phones’ system. Prior to this technical triumph, we had resorted to dangling a fishing line from the penthouse balcony, with which we exchanged hastily scribbled queries and replies – our new ‘Throne Phones’ were a much more immediate and satisfactory means of inter-apartment communication …

We became friends with Wes and Lois Simmons, who lived in an apartment building on a hill across the valley which abutted the west side of our building. Wes was an Air Force Captain who was assigned as the airdrome officer at the USAF contingent at Ankara’s Yeshilkoy airport. They had a daughter, Jessie, who was our Lisa’s age and the two soon became inseparable friends. They were often to be seen playing together in the small valley which separated our two buildings. They had ‘adopted’ a tiny lamb which was often tethered in the lush grass that flourished there. This idyllic pastoral pastime continued until July, and Seker Bayram, Turkey’s ‘Sugar holiday’ when the lamb suddenly disappeared. Frantic, the girls scoured the tiny valley from one end to the other, searching for their wooly playmate. Wes and I faced-up to the unpleasant task of revealing to our girls that their beloved ‘lambie’ had been butchered to form the main course at a local family’s holiday feast. The girls were initially horrified and crestfallen, but soon recovered, and were off, hand-in-hand to explore new valley adventures …

And so it went – as a family, we found endless opportunities to revel in Turkey’s fascinating culture, its history and its many gorgeous vistas. With our new-found friends we discovered ancient Gordium, where Alexander was said to have cut the Gordian knot, and explored Byuk Efes (ancient Ephesus) where Paul the apostle preached the Gospel. Regrettably, this mini-memoir is rapidly approaching my self-imposed 1500 word limit, so those ‘Turkey tales’ will have to be continued in future posts …




3 thoughts on “BITS and PIECES #65

  1. Russell Cabeen says:

    Really good to hear that you are o.k. We often thought about your tribulations.

    Kindest personal regards, Russ & Sharon

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. mkhulu says:

    Hey Pard. Soooo happy to read you again. “Hey” to the “Airwoman.”

  3. dgraceofgod says:

    Any possibility of more bits and pieces?
    Deborah in canada

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