Tuesday, 2 September 2008


While we were getting ready to move, James took down all our light fixtures and then headed down the elevator to get into the basement (which is used as a giant storage unit for all of the people living in the building). We had a few of our home owner's light fixtures stored in the basement and wanted to get them out so we could box our own up.

Our building is kind of run by this guy, the door man, named Mr. Friday. He cleans things up, keeps the garden looking nice, takes out trash, and is just kind of an all around helper. On this particular day, James went to see him because he has the keys to our building's basement.

James: Can you open up the basement for me? I have some stuff to get out of there.
Mr. Friday: You'll have to come back here later. I can't go down to the basement.
James: Why not?
Mr. Friday: There's a belly down there. It tried to bite me.
James: What??
Mr. Friday: There's a baby belly down there, and it's mom. They're dangerous.
James: Totally confused. Um... okay. When should I come back?
Mr. Friday: The owner will be back this evening. We'll go down there then.

James went back up to our apartment on the sixth floor and told me the situation. Together we figured out that there was a KOPEK (dog) in the basement. Not a GOBEK (belly). Sometimes people from our city have an accent where they pronounce K like a G. As if learning a foreign language isn't hard enough, I sometimes think that language-wise, we live in Turkey's version of the deep South.

A few hours later James returned downstairs in hopes of having better luck getting into the basement.

James: So, do you think we can go down there now and get those lights?
Mr. Friday: The owner isn't around yet, but if you really want to, then I'll open the door up for you and you can go down there yourself. Those bellies (translation: dogs) are dangerous. Did I tell you they tried to bite me?

James had been putting quite a bit on hold waiting on the stuff from the basement, so he decided to brave the dogs and go down to the basement.

James: Let's do it.
Mr. Friday: Unlocking the door with a look of complete and utter terror on his face, Okay, if you're sure. But be careful. . . I think they're wolves.

Since Mr. Friday was obviously scared out of his socks, James was a little scared too. Upon hearing that the dogs were actually wolves, James was quite a bit more nervous, but he started down the dimly lit staircase anyway. Mr. Friday armed James with a rake. He bravely followed down the staircase, still uttering warnings from a few steps behind. He was armed with a big push broom (hey, if the main parts of your job include sweeping and gardening, these are probably the best you can do in the way of weapons to fight off dangerous wolves). Pretty soon the wolves made some sort of quiet growling noises from a dark corner of the basement. Mr. Friday shrieked like a girl then ran back up the stairs, and James was right behind him, his heart pounding out of his chest. Mr. Friday re-locked the door with shaking hands, and James decided to put his work on hold until the owner of the wolves was around to help control them.

A few hours later Mr. Friday called up to our apartment to tell James that the owner was back and it was safe to go down to the basement. James went downstairs and looked at the front of our building. He found the owner sitting on the front steps with his "wolves" in front of him. His three year old son had his arms wrapped around the little "wolf's" neck in a big hug and the other building kids were petting it's mother. They seemed to be two of the tamest, friendliest dogs he'd ever seen. Mr. Friday was watching from about 20 feet away, still armed with his giant push broom, ready to take action just in case one of the dogs decided to go for his jugular.

A few things I'd like to point out about this story:
1. Turks are generally scared of dogs. They are usually not seen as pets, but as ferocious wild animals that terrorize the streets (probably because many of the dogs in Turkey really are ferocious wild animals that terrorize the streets).
2. More and more Turks are getting dogs (probably due to western influence), but I'd say that as a whole, unless proven otherwise dogs are seen as vicious and mean.
3. Even if a dog can prove its sweetness and worth to others, some Turks, like Mr. Friday, will never be convinced. They are sure that if a dog comes up to them it is always after raw human flesh, not a pat on the head. Period.
4 After a little thought, we realized that there were dogs, not bellies, in the basement. Imagine how many times people have had perfectly normal conversations with us and we've come away thinking totally strange things, all based around one misunderstood word. This is one instance where we figured it out. Think about all the times we didn't. Yikes!

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