Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 14:12:38 -0800
I just got back from Turkey, where I had to fix a product for managing distributed databases called DataHub that was having problems with another IBM product that emulates tcp/ip over SNA called AnyNet. Got that?
I spent a week in Istanbul. The flight is essentially 24 hours of transit. The first day my luggage was lost so I was a scruffy American at a posh hotel (Swiss Otel ( http://focusmm.com.au/swiss/ )).
We had a tour guide. She was a nice European lady in a fashionable (to me at least) coat that was a little thread-bare. She spoke, in levels of fluency, Turkish, French, and English. Her pronunciation was nearly flawless but her comprehension was very bad indeed. I found yelling and gesticulating, with an occasional threat, seemed to help.
I asked her how she felt about the Greeks. She thought they were wonderful people but that they didn't need their own country. The Turks would take of them.
We went on the boat ride up the Bosphorus in the morning. While we were floating down the Bosphorus, I had occasion to insult a high ranking Chinese official. He mentioned that he was Personnel Director for (blah blah blah) in Beijing. I told him that that didn't sound like a real job to me.
We then had a lovely Turkish lunch in the top of the (remodeled) Prison of the Golden Horn. This was a very old prison that is now a tourist trap. Little of the original prison remains, which was a shame, since I went to Turkey to check out their prisons ...
We then visited the big mosque. I thought about buying a Fez but couldn't quite do it. I never felt so much an alien as when the call to prayer goes out over those cheap megaphones. The mosque was hundreds of years old and fabulous of course.
Then it was the palace of the sultans. I've got to hand it to the Turks: they managed to hold onto their treasures even though they've endured many wars, changes of governments, etc. There were many odd exhibits.
I wandered into a room where artifacts of Mohammed have been collected over the centuries. There was one of his teeth. A mold of his foot worn smooth by kisses over the centuries. I was looking at this with all the reverence I might hold for Graceland when I noticed everyone around me was in some heightened state of rapture. It was then that I felt like a voyeur.
There was a little man cloistered off to one side that looked very much like an Hassidic Jew. He was rocking back and forth while chanting the Koran into a microphone. He was surrounded by closed trunks. I wanted to go in there and start opening the trunks.
Someone should have prepared me for this. I wandered in to a "holy place" with entirely the wrong mind-set. C'est la vie.
Most of the rest of the week was spent in a room crammed with 40 programmers, 4 to a desk. I had a personal audience that varied from 3 to 6 people. Programming as performance art. The temperature was sweltering. My audience included Haluk, the IBM sales support guy from Turkey. Doreen, my little sna/DataHub expert co-traveler. 2 programmers from the bank, one of whom was a lovely woman named Ahu, the other was a programmer just out of EE whose name I can't recall.
I would type and then look over my shoulder and break into a sweat. I thought they would break into an applause when I used emacs to comment out a block of code. Then I realized no one had the slightest comprehension of anything I was doing. Just as well I suppose.
At several points during the week we would be struggling with some incomprehensible behavior of AnyNet or DataHub and my sense of nausea and loathing would nearly overflow into a postal frenzy of mayhem (redundant?) -- or so I fantasized.
Other than that, it was lovely. A couple of nights we had the energy to go out to eat. The first time (was it Monday?) we went to a lovely place in the Asian quarter. They greeted us at the door with "no alcohol! no alcohol!" as though we were wild drunks.
The waiter asked with contempt dripping from his baritone voice "What would you like to eat?" He had absolutely no comprehension of anything we said until Doreen remembered the incantation "mixed kebob". I was joking with her that this man obviously hates me when I glanced over my shoulder and there he was! He caught my eye, leaped to my side, took my knife and fork and commenced peeling the skin from my eggplant. He made a little pile of the skin and then poked it with a fork chanting loudly "BAD ... BAD ..." I think he didn't want me to eat the skin. I gave him a nice tip. I was grateful that he didn't start slamming the food into my mouth.
In all -- the Turks are fabulous people and Istanbul is one of the most beautiful and compelling places on the planet. Dirt cheap too. You should go there. Don't smuggle any hashish.