Sunday, May 30, 2010

Requiem for a Dream, and other adventures

My apologies for the lapse in blogging activity as of late. I would like to blame this inactivity on a series of Indiana Jones-esque adventures that I have been in, however the real culprit is tavla. Tavla (or backgammon) is the Turkish national pastime. Some Turkish friends of mine taught me how to play and I was hooked. I began seeing tavla boards everywhere. Literally every street in Istanbul has about 20 or more tea/coffee shops and each of those have tavla boards on every table. I found a board behind our sofa in the apartment and my roommates and I could not stop playing. Every morning when we woke up we played. On the commute to work, we might stop at a teashop and play a game or seven. We would play before we went to bed. When a group of us would go out on the weekends, we would always end up sitting in a side street restaurant playing with any Turkish people who would happen by. We played the guys in the grocery store across the street. I won one Turkish lira off a guy in a heated match. Some of our deepest conversations and worst arguments happened across that board with the dice flying. I have never been addicted to illegal drugs or prescription nasal spray but I can’t imagine that hunger being more intense than the tavla-fueled frenzy that my friends and I found ourselves in.
And then I moved to England. It is just like Sandra Bullock in 28 Days (or 28 Days Later (one is a comedy about a drug and alcohol rehab and the other is about a zombie apocalypse I can’t remember which one is which.)) England is like a tavla rehab without the support groups. At night I wake up in a cold sweats wondering which pieces I will move around the board with my 5/2 dice combo. Trembling I struggle to go back to sleep. These are the dark times but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. A light that is shining on a big tavla board. I bought a set in the Grand Bazaar right before I left, it is just a matter of time before I can find people here who know how to play.
Apart from tavla, I will give a brief summary of what has gone on since I last blogged.

Here we go: I got caught in a communist parade, I nearly died falling down a very steep stair tunnel in a mountain fortress in eastern Turkey, I lead a scooter gang around a desert, I got yelled at by a Romanian hostel owner for not ‘properly’ flushing the toilet, I spent over a month battling mold in an underground soundproof booth we built (if you are ever in Central Asia and order lumber make sure to specify that you want it to be dry), I ate sheep intestines, I nearly got in a fight with a taxi driver when he accosted the driver of the car I was in, I went to a foreign soccer game, I nearly got caught in a riot when the soccer fans realized that their team had not won the championship after thinking they had, I nearly got beat up by guys in a store because I had another team’s soccer jersey in my hand, I ate 8 Krispy Kreme donuts, I grew a mustache, I had to escape out the back door of a restaurant in Istanbul after being accosted by some very forward Turkish women, I introduced a Ukrainian pastor to a movie called Everything Is Illuminated (it is a funny American movie set in the Ukraine,) I got my supervisor from London lost in Istanbul and found out four hours later via Twitter that he was lost, I watched from the backseat of a taxi as my driver got in 30 man brawl around the cab, I commandeered a paddle boat and swashbuckled around an island in the Marmara Sea with my friends, I learned a lot of Turkish cuss words from my friends on a Turkish football team, I successfully made it through a Turkish bath without flashing any of the guys who work there, I introduced a friend to the wonders of the American tradition of free refills at a Chili’s in Istanbul, I moved to England, I found out that the grocery store near my flat sells Dr. Pepper, I watched as a teenage British boy stumbled down the aisle in a movie theater and threw up vodka everywhere, I saw three British girls with nothing but bras on walking around main street in broad daylight, I had a group of British girls ask my roommate and I if they could have our babies, I am realizing that a British accent does not automatically make a person sophisticated, I got lost in London and then realized that unlike in Istanbul people here speak English and you can simply ask for directions, I think the English countryside is beautiful, I am quickly finding out what all those comedians were talking about when they made jokes about airline food.

That, in a nutshell, is what I have been doing the past few months. I will be more proactive in updating the blog from here on now that tavla is a non-factor. That is unless the USA team beats England in the World Cup in a few days and I get murdered.