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I Don’t Remember The Question… – Cappadocia, Turkey

I Don’t Remember The Question…

Cappadocia, Turkey

For nine million it was a bargain.

That price included a full dinner, all drinks alcoholic and otherwise, plus the traditional Turkish folk dancing and the belly-dancer.

Traditional rock building in Cappadocia
Traditional rock building in Cappadocia
We – myself and the rest of the tour group, the standard disparate collection of ages and nationalities – were in Cappadocia, an area of central Turkey known for its oddly eroded rock formations and extensive underground cities. We’d been in-country now close to a week, almost enough time for me to wrap my head around the exchange rate – hundreds of thousands of Turkish lira to the dollar – and forestall the moments of embarrassment that occur when being informed by shopkeepers that no, a million wouldn’t quite cover that bag of chips and bottle of water. Moments such as these were offset however, by the generally good feeling of walking around with 20 to 30 million of negotiable anything on your person, and being able to remark to a friend who hadn’t yet had a chance to cash traveler’s cheques that hey, no problem, I can spot you a couple of mill, how much do you need? It was imperative this be said in the most offhand and casual manner possible.

At any rate, the name of the club escapes me, but a bus dropped us off at the front doors and we were led down a corridor and into a large cavernous hall. The room looked like it had been hewn entirely from the rock and was replete with dance floor and mirrored disco ball. The tables and benches were likewise carved from stone and the whole place was eerily reminiscent of a “Flintstones” episode.

We were seated and immediately plied with food and drink. Flagons of wine appeared, bottles of water and beer were opened, and platters of bread and the tasty yogurt dipping sauce ubiquitous to these parts, were placed on the stone table. We dug in. A bottle – a big bottle – of raki was presented.

Raki is a clear, anisette-based liquor, similar to the Greek ouzo. Masochists drink it straight, but it’s more traditional to cut it half-and-half with water. When mixed it instantly changes character from utter clarity to a cloudy whiteness, which is not a bad way to describe its effects. Up until now I had limited my alcohol consumption to bottled beers, but when in Rome…

I knocked back a glass and refilled.

More food was slid onto the table. Plates of olives, meat pastries, and cheese. Strips of fried beef with onions and aubergine. The floor show began, with Turkish folk dancers enacting a scene of a woman pursued by a determined suitor. There was much laughing and drinking and clapping and jumping about.

I proffered my glass again. Basim, the Turkish tour leader, poured for me.
“We have a saying in Turkey,” he smiled as he topped off the raki with bottled water. “I don’t remember the question but the answer is raki!”

Oh, good.

The folk dancers completed their routine to much applause and the music changed as the belly-dancer took the stage. An attractive dark-haired woman with sheer voluminous skirts, she bounced and gyrated fluidly through her number, fingers armed with brass clappers effortlessly keeping time with the music.

She finished a few songs and began to prowl at the periphery of the crowd, selecting her victims. Two European gentlemen were pulled onto the floor and she turned to our table. I was sitting closest and the metaphorical trap closed on my tender flesh.

She shouted something at me in commanding Turkish that I assumed meant: “Come and dance now!”
“What a good idea!” the raki agreed.

Now, for those that don’t know me some clarification is necessary. I can’t dance. Period. I have absolutely, unequivocally, and without argument, no rhythm. When God – or Allah – handed out rhythm I wasn’t just at the back of the line, I was sequestered in some forgotten broom closet and missed the whole thing. Nevertheless, the Canadian side had to be upheld and I bravely allowed myself to be led onto the killing floor. My shirt was stripped off and disappeared into the jaws of the crowd.

The girl was all heaving bosoms, flashing gold teeth and lithe, animal grace. I shuffled about like a wounded sloth, trying to mimic her moves in a woefully inadequate manner and wondering how I got into this situation. There was shaking and wiggling. There was bouncing and jiggling. There may have been some gyrating. All of which culminated in an acrobatic maneuver that involved knees on the floor and an arching of the back so the top of my head also touched the stones. Every one of my vertebrae audibly cracked like automatic weapons fire. The girl smiled her thanks and I managed to stagger back to the table.

The tour leader was laughing so hard he was choking.

Wordlessly, my cousin handed me my camera. I knew instinctively how I would caption the photos: I don’t remember the question…

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