Ankara’daki bayramlar (Holidays in Ankara)

aka: The best time to be in Ankara.

Eid Mubarak/iyi bayramlar/happy holidays!  For those not in the know, this holiday is the Sacrifice holiday.  It marks and celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of submission to God.  At the last possible moment, God intervened and gave Abraham a lamb to sacrifice instead of his first born.  If none of this sounds familiar, then you know, google it… or something.  Needless to say in the Islamic world it’s a big deal kind of day because they have calculated the exact date this happened and celebrate on that day every year.  Even here in Turkey which maintains a (quasi these days) secular style, there is a week holiday around Kurban Bayramı (Sacrifice Holiday).  Of course being secular (and über capitalist), most things are only closed for the actual day of sacrifice but people take the time to visit family or go on vacation.  Which means Ankara is left empty.  Blissfully, beautifully, wonderfully empty.

Up until this year I had never spent a Kurban Bayramı in Ankara — I also took advantage of the opportunity to travel or get away from the city.  Usually to a place that would definitely not involve accidentally running into ritual sacrifices (lambs, goats, cows these days… no first-born sons that I’ve heard of).  Technically it’s not allowed in the cities, but I’ve heard of people happening upon such sightings while out around different (more conservative) parts of towns or local villages.  So I bail far.  Like America or Western Europe far.  However this year we’re stuck and had to stay in town.  It was a combination of Mr. Awesome having to get some projects finished up and me being beyond the point of traveling around the second (if I’m generous) world without access to a good hospital or doctor in this whole baby cooking process.  I thought staying here would not only be boring (as per usual Ankara), but also a little miserable since we’re actually stuck.  Boy, was I wrong!

Not only is Ankara empty — which if you live in Ankara you know to be a good thing — but it’s also peaceful in a way it rarely is when the Ankaralılar are here.  First, driving has been a lovely experience this past week.  Which is to say normal by my American standards with a few impressive exceptions.  Second, lines have been manageable or non-existent.  My theory?  Mostly foreigners left in town (and frequenting the Starbucks) so it’s people who actually know how to queue!  (Except that girl that stole my coffee the other day even after the barista told her the cup said my name, or a close approximation of it, and tried to then argue she could just keep my decaf nonfat latte and I her full caf, full fat latte… Borcu Hanım, I’m looking at you.  Don’t mess with a pregnant lady’s coffee order, people.)  Third, the people left in town have been in freakishly pleasant moods for the most part.  Maybe because they’re taking to heart the spirit of this bayram and being thoughtful, or maybe just because they too have had to deal with fewer than normal frustrations around town.  What ever the reason, I’m loving it.  I think this might be my favorite time to be in Ankara.

Araba Sorun (Car Trouble)

I posted a while back about trying to find a car to buy for a reasonable price and how difficult that was, but I don’t think I ever discussed my eventual purchase of the very first car at which I looked.  It is half my age and wasn’t in great shape, but I didn’t need a nice new car.  Nor am I afraid of older, less shiny cars having owned only one nice, new (to me) car in my lifetime.  I just wanted something that was safe and would get me through the short few years we have left here in Turkey.  Also, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.  So I settled on Ole’ Rover, a big (read: safe and not easy to intimidate) old Land Rover.  He earned his name when we had our second issue and I decided that much like Ole’ Yeller, he meant well, but at some point it would be in everyone’s best interest if we just had him put down.  I didn’t think that eventuality would happen anytime in the foreseeable future and ideally would wait until I had sold him for Starbucks funds (yeah, I’m not looking to make money on the deal unlike the crazies I dealt with until eventually finding my wonderful car dealer) upon leaving Turkey.

Alas, I fear Ole’ Yeller may have decided to put himself out of his misery…

I was on my way back to Ankara with a friend after dropping her dog off at a lovely doggy hotel out past Golbasi (about 20 km from home — 12.5 miles, non-metric savvy friends) when it happened.  I could tell something was a bit off with the car so had fortunately begun to slow down when moments later I heard a loud, metallic banging sound, and felt something loosen and then hit the bottom of my car.  Sure enough when I looked back I saw I had left behind a little something on the highway.  So I did what anyone would do and put on the flashers and tried to get the car in park.  When getting it into park was difficult I knew I was screwed.  So I put on the parking break and turned off the car in neutral and my lovely passenger went to remove the object from the middle of the road.  When there was a clearing in traffic I went back to pick it up from the side of the road knowing all too well that I’d probably want that piece of my car if not to be reused in the repairs then to at least simplify the diagnosis process.

Walking back to the car with the drive shaft in hand – damn, damn, damn! U-joints are freaking expensive! — I saw that a car stopped in front on my busted Ole’ Rover.  Apparently an 8+ month pregnant woman walking down the side of the highway with a smoking drive shaft in her hands isn’t a usual sight around these parts and sends a “help me” flare up quite quickly.  Needless to say the two men in the car were very kind and tried to help thinking they might be able to reattach the shaft (hahahaha) or at least help me start the car to move it from the side of the highway (ha).  Once they gave up those valiant efforts, and after I had called my friendly car dealer and explained the issue (as Mr. Awesome was fortunately not at his desk when I tried him first) at which point he said he was on his way to come get us, they told us to get in their car and they’d bring us to their office to wait for my car dealer.  Luckily, he had talked to them so I figured we’d be okay because they knew someone was coming for us — and a Turkish man no less — plus their office was just about 100 meters off the highway from where I could still see my car.

So I told my friend who was with me (and speaks very little Turkish) to get in the car.  She looked at me like I was crazy and I explained that while it is usually a bad idea to get in cars with strange men, I thought we’d be okay.  So we did.  And we were.  In fact, once getting to the office we had Turkish coffee brought to us and some kind small talk, but mostly were left alone to discuss the annoyingness of the situation and for me to reassure her that something like this wasn’t avoidable and didn’t happen because I was doing her a favor so she shouldn’t feel at all bad.  In fact, I was glad I wasn’t alone when it happened so it worked out well (-ish).

In record time, my car dealer guy came with a tow truck for the useless hunk of metal formerly known as Ole’ Rover.  The tow truck took my car straight to the mechanic and my wonderful car dealer drove us home.  All and all a pretty impressive break-down story.  I mean, I can’t tell you how many times past cars I’ve owned have broken down back home and I definitely never had such an easy time of getting it picked up/taken to the mechanic (save when my transmission busted right in front of a mechanic that one time and I just had to reverse into their parking lot… you know, because none of the forward drives were working anymore)/getting home after abandoning ship.  Let alone such kind people to run to my rescue in the process of accomplishing those tasks.  Was it Turkish hospitality or the pregnant belly?  Or maybe both?

Of course, now we have to wait and see how painful (financially) this will be, but Mr. Awesome is threatening to just take the plates and run… He suggested we revisit my learning to drive the perfectly lovely (manual-transmissioned) Jetta we have sitting the the garage.  Which means we’re potentially back at square one where I have to face my fears of stalling in Ankara traffic… on a hill.  Only this time with the added anxiety that all these helpful pregnancy hormones bring.  So what I’m saying is, please say a prayer that my Ole’ Rover can be fixed easily and cheaply.  Or that my dealer was serious about just trading me cars for something more reliable…

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