Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Strange Things I've Seen

1) On a side street, there was some sort of hullabaloo involving several cars and an ambulance with its lights flashing but no siren. There was not the usual horde of onlookers, just a few people and a nurse. This was near a hospital so at first I didn't really pay attention, but then, from the back of the ambulance, they took an incubator with a baby inside-- I could see its little purple hand waving around-- and with a great flurry of nurses and a few nearby guys, they loaded the incubator into the back of a waiting car, then both car and ambulance sped off in different directions.

2) About a month after Ramazan is Kurban Bayram. This translates as Sacrifice Holiday, which I'm given to understand commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. It was just one of God's more serious tests, and he spared Isaac at the last minute after Abraham showed his willingness to kill him. In his place, Abraham sacrificed a ram. So at Kurban Bayram, people sacrifice either a ram or a cow, depending on their means, and keep some for themselves and give the rest to the poor. All over Istanbul are penned up sheep at the side of the road, staring at passing cars and awaiting sacrifice-- not just at Kurban Bayram, though at this time there are a lot more. People used to do the sacrifice in their homes (and of course they still do outside the city, in their gardens or whatever), presumably in the bathtub if the apartment block didn't have a garden, or outside on the street, but the city banned this practice a few years ago, partly due to the mayhem caused by sheep who cotton on to what's about to happen, escape, and run amok (every year there are news reports about sheep trying to escape their doom, complete with footage of things like villagers throwing rocks trying to get the sheep down off a roof or wherever they've ended up), and partly because of the sanitation issues presented by the sheep blood and guts in the street. Anyway, here's the strange thing: One of my neighbors bought himself a lamb a few days before Kurban Bayram. For some reason it was painted pink. However, Kurban Bayram passed and the pink lamb was still there, tied up outside the guy's shop. Weeks later it was still there, and growing. I guess the guy got attached to the little thing and couldn't stand to cut its throat. By Spring, there was a nearly full grown sheep on a rope there on the sidewalk every day, the pink color having long faded. Eventually I think the police made him get rid of it. Or maybe he went ahead and sacrificed it after it wasn't cute anymore.

3) Again with the sheep: In a butcher's window, I saw a few dressed whole sheep hanging on display. In order to make this display more attractive, someone had put bouquets of fake roses in the holes where the sheep's butts used to be. I wish I'd gotten a picture, but this was a few years ago, before I had a digital camera. Naturally I am on the lookout for another such display.

4) Again with the roses: Not so much strange as sweet, but I saw a big, nasty, dirty garbage truck on the freeway to which someone had tied a bouquet of fake flowers up near the top of the compactor. To make it pretty, I guess.

5) On the news, more running amok: People tend to do sünnet (circumcision) of their boys in August, before the start of the school year. Hospitals offer sünnet deals around this time. In some village, they'd rounded up all the 4-7 year old boys for circumcision. Most the boys weren't really sure what was about to happen, but word got out that it was nothing good, and the boys all escaped and ran amok in the village. A TV interviewer asked a little boy, about 5 years old, why he was running away, and he said he didn't know, but some bigger boys told him he'd better get away, so he did.

6) Again on the news: Gypsy wars. These happen from time to time. One was in an area of Istanbul called Dolapdere, which is mostly a gypsy neighborhood. There was a demonstration of some sort in nearby Taksim Square-- I can't remember, but it was either Communists or Anti-Kurdish terrorism-- which spilled over into the Dolapdere, angering the gypsies and causing them to attack the protesters with rocks and sticks. Another was in a village, where a long-standing feud between 2 gypsy families broke out. Even the old women had hatchets or pitchforks and got in on the action. A man went on a roof with a large stick, completely enraged and screaming down curses at the police and others, all the while punching himself in the face and hitting himself with the stick.

There are others, but perhaps let's leave it for another post.

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