Kareteci Kız

This got posted by a friend on Facebook and I nearly died laughing.


I enjoy the title because it sounds quite like the “Karate Kid” and I love me some Mr. Miyagi. I prefer the one with Hilary Swank, which works here since she’s a Kareteci Kız. Also, the thought of a Turkish version of the Karate Kid would probably be spectacular. It would also likely be very sad, and would end with the brutal murder of every main character.There would be  a lot of shots of Ataturk, who would be revealed at some pivotal point to have been an excellent Karate master, freshly inspiring the main character to follow through and prevail. But, like I said, he will die a cold death anyway.

After watching the clip above I was curious, so I googled the film and was brought to the IMDB page which reveals the following:

Zeynep lives with his old father. She has lost her ability to speak because of an accident. She needs an operation in order to be able to talk again. One day, five prison fugitives come to their house and kill Zeynep’s father. The fugitives take their money and attack Due to the shock, Zeynep regains her ability to speak. The fugitives are arrested but Zeynep wants to take revenge, therefore she says that the fugitives are not the ones who have attacked them. The police appoints Murat to make her give a statement. Murat teaches her how to use a gun and some karate, but she still doesn’t know he is a cop. They fall in love and decide to get married. On their wedding, the prisoners kill Murat. Nothing can stop Zeynep now from taking revenge. She becomes a policewoman and traces the fugitives one by one.

Gender confusion and comically short/incomplete sentences aside, this description is interesting. I have the following comments:

  1. Why does she need to lose the ability to speak?
  2. Under what circumstances would a presumably psychosomatic speech problem be curable through surgery?
  3. Yay extra-judicial justice!
  4. Why is a police officer teaching a crime victim how to use a gun?
  5. Why does he know karate?
  6. Of course they want to get married. Of course.
  7. What is on that guy’s face? Is this like that horrible shaved eyebrow craze? It kind of reminds me of Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games:


Right? Right?



I’m only a few days shy of one year since I moved from Turkey. But, just last night, I got a Turkish lesson from one of my indefatigable students Kerem:

There are a few of them who still talk shit about the Celtics with me on Twitter, and who will, on occasion, correct their teacher’s Turkish.

If Santa Were Decent He Would Come through the Door.

So I’ve been back stateside for a while, but Turkey has remained in my heart and on my mind. Though, I will say, this holiday season I was extremely excited to be in the Land of Unrestrained Holiday Excitement, and for the first time in years, I was secretly psyched when I heard the first holiday song of the season… in October.

As the weather got (slightly) cooler, I became progressively more excited. I moved into my new apartment on December 1,  we had a Christmas tree before we had a shower curtain. At my new job I got to know my colleagues through the typical series of holiday events. First our lunch where we had a Secret Santa (I got a wine glass), and then at our holiday party at our department head’s home. All the lights and wine and cheesy foods had me quite in the mood.

Then over wine one ehem afternoon ehem at work… (are you sensing a pattern?) I learned the depth of one colleague’s hatred for Santa Claus. I had thought it strange that she had a “Le Père Noel est une Ordure” film poster on her door… in September (loose film name translation: Santa Claus Sucks). Everyone had alluded to how this fun, young, happy colleague harbored a deep seated hatred for Father Christmas. I thought back to my classes last year in Turkey, where I spent time explaining our celebrations to my students. One group of students was appalled when I told them Christmas was indeed a Christian holiday. The horror!

“No, my teacher.” they responded, “this is not true, we have Christmas.”

“No,” I would respond, “you have New Year.”

“Yes, that’s what we said, Christmas.”

We went in this circle for a few minutes until I realized that they had co-opted our Christmas celebrations for their New Year. It all had made sense. This was why Santa Claus and his holiday village had appeared the week leading up to the New Year outside the Carrefour in our Maxi Center.

So the last day before breaking for Christmas, we all sat around my desk sipping wine when she started up about Santa. “It’s a cultural conspiracy to brainwash our youth, and not just about the holiday, which should be about the birth of a religious figure, but also about physics. We mislead children into believing the impossible. No person could possibly visit every Christian child’s house in one night. And what about the kids that get nothing, because their parents can’t afford it. Is that fair? We give them a complex. Even the news teams are in on it, tracking Santa as he flies across the globe.”

Well, I thought, she is the real deal. We tried for a while to get her to confess to some traumatic experience with a shopping mall Santa, or divulge what exactly it was that made her come to the traumatic realization that Santa does not, in fact, exist. But, to no avail, she wouldn’t give it up. I went home from work that day laughing to myself about this hatred to find this article sitting in my inbox, forwarded by a glorious friend:

Thank you SO MUCH Hurriyet for continuing to be a beacon of journalistic integrity and the epitome of quality in reporting. Without you, I would have never found the only person in the world who harbors a hatred of Santa as deep and as firm as that of my colleague. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

Why indeed? The conspiracy continues.

Mişmiş or A case of double hearsay

Lately there has been one hell of a disturbance in my napping. I get home from work at 6, and I typically sprawl out on my couch after a day of sitting and staring at the wall, and pass out for a half hour to an hour while I listen to Martha Stewart explain how to butcher a pig or make a home-made leather apron for gardening (you can wipe them clean!)

Because its been hotter than hell, I like to crack the window, especially before the bugs get going. But, for the last month or so, my napping has been rudely interrupted by the incessant blaring music coming out of giant vans with huge speakers mounted on the roof: Electionmobiles. Shoot me. Please?

There is a national election here in Turkey on June 12, so now in addition to the call to prayer, I have the slogans of the AKP, CHP, MHP, BDP, HAS, the SDP, a marginalized socialist-leaning party with a blue flag with a dove–more like a girl-scout logo than a political slogan. All this campaigning is making me grouchy.

While discussing this yesterday with my friend Sasha, who worked in Bartin (near Zonguldak, though that’s probably not helpful either) she told me of this AKP ad with a super traditional song. She loved the music, and has been humming it to herself as she strolls around Istanbul. No, that’s normal, I told her.

The AKP is the ruling party that is expected to decimate the rest of the field, possibly giving them a 2/3 majority needed to push through any legislation desired. And, while this happens from time to time in the good ‘ole USA, its quite a rarity here, in a country with so many parties. And, it kind of sucks when one party tyrannizes another. The words translate roughly to: “In the same way we are history, we drank the same water, one part of a summer, we are the same mountain breeze. Got to give Erdo some credit, even if he is a loony toon (please don’t sue me?)

The CHP is the former ruling party, its a the slightly more liberal, and significantly less religious party. The Economist recently wrote an article that called on the CHP to get their shit together to protect a number of social freedoms currently being cut by the AKP. It slammed the AKP for their recent attack on journalists, and restored my faith in western perceptions of Turkey, especially after having read this vomit-inducing cotton candy piece from the NY Times. In the ad, you hear the word “yasak” which means forbidden. The government just passed legislation that forbids a number of names in internet website domain names which include both the words yasak (forbidden) and nefes (breath), which coincidentally is part of the CHP’s slogan “Rahat bir nefes alacak” Take a fresh breath.

The MHP is the party I least understand, and their election song does nothing to help me understand them better. They’re the nationalist party, and were recently hit with a sex scandal (yes, they have those here too–though not as aptly named as Wienergate.) There is all kinds of speculation over who is responsible, but the fact of the matter is, the MHP was hit hard. And, while I am loath to support an ultra-nationalist party (especially as a foreign resident in this country), here’s an interesting article that makes a case for some support for the party if only to prevent said expected 2/3 majority that would be held by the AKP if MHP fails to secure the requisite 10% vote to keep their seats in parliament (their voters are most likely to swing to the AKP rather than other parties.)

What I love about the song though, is that its a mix of bad metal with rap. It sounds more like the background music to some summer thrasher movie than a campaign song for this guy:

No he's not at an Ozzie show, the devil horns are actually for his elite group within the MHP called the Grey Wolves.

In any case, Sasha and I were talking about this whole mess, and she sent me an article, where she was misquoted, after double hearsay brought news of her love for the AKP song to a less-than-thorough journalist (c’mon Turkey, its just sad really.) This is not the first time that Fulbrighters have ended up in the Turkish paper.

Back in November, a local lunatic in Karabuk published an article claiming that the 54 Fulbright teachers were actually… wait for it… CIA! She based this information on nothing more than the knowledge that there were 54 of us in small cities. The two Fulbrighters in Karabuk were hounded by locals who, in true Turkish fashion, latched onto the absurd conspiracy theory, and socially alienated them. Things only got worse when Milliyet, a national daily, picked up the story, and ran it. And, while the story was slightly better weighted, asking at least for the Rector’s input, it was a stupid, stupid article.

With the help of google translate (plus my own Turkish) this is more or less what the second half of the article said:

“Turkish people are hospitible, warm, loving and tolerant, I knew that, I also discovered that by living here. The 8th International Turkish Olypics official song “New World” song fascinated me. The emphasis on a new world based on love and peace was appealing. The AK Part’s fascinated and integrated advertisements said it again, “Love, unity and togetherness, nothing else. If I could vote in Turkey, this message would compel me to vote for AKP.”

Then there was something about slogans that I couldn’t figure out. I just love that she was quoted in this article, and while she may have said those thoughts about Turks for the paper, she specifically told her colleague that she would not like to be quoted in anything regarding politics, but as it turned out, it was too late. Since there doesn’t seem to be any kind of fact-checking department, Sasha officially supports the AKP…

Ode to T-dag.

Most people take care when choosing where to live, we’re inclined to take several issues into account: the size of the city, the city’s reputation, the cultural scene, any current acquaintances we could rely on. For expats, perhaps this list is a little longer and would include the language barrier, the presence/absence of war, the presence/absence of domestic terrorism, the new nation’s level of like/dislike of foreigners.

For me, however, I had no choice of home when I came to Turkey.

This creates an awkward situation whenever I meet new people, particularly Turks.

“Why Tekirdağ?”

“Well”, I stumble, “uh, see I work for YÖK [the Turkish Ministry of Higher Education], and, well, they chose Tekirdağ for me.”

To distract my new acquaintance from this less than flattering explanation, I typically start rattling off a litany of frightening cities throughout the nation where my less-fortunate colleagues were placed: a Jewish man who lives in Bayburt, home to the MHP (nationalist party); or Iğdır, a tiny village nestled up against the closed border with Armenia and the wide-open border with Iran; Ağrı, whose name literally means “pain” in Turkish; or the number of blonde ladies situated on the Black Sea coast who are frequently propositioned as Nataşa or hookers (one actually took a harasser to court and got him jail time.)

After this, I typically explain that, despite the fetid air (blackened by a city heated entirely with coal), the polluted waters (where Istanbul, the city of over 20 million, flushes its filth), the constant smell of fermenting rakı that hangs over our neighborhood, that despite the little roma children who cruise around on their horse drawn carriages, the feral dogs, the cats in heat, the burning trash, that Tekirdağ, really, in the grand scheme of things, is not so bad.

Perhaps I should say, I’m currently afflicted with a sense of nostalgia. One week from today, gidiyorum. I’m out. And, while my current plans have me hopping between the US and Turkey through the fall, it is certainly the end of an era.

My roommate moved out this morning. She packed her Turkish life in to five bags (yes, FIVE) wedged herself into a taxi and set off with her father for Istanbul.

I can’t say I’ll miss the apartment terribly. Our university, I should say, made every effort to make us feel at home. We have satellite TV with over 800 channels, though so far, I’ve only found five with consistant English language programming: Al-Jazeera English, BBC, E2, CNBC-e, and a creepy though soothing English-language Japanese culture channel. I did find ARTE, my favorite French/German culture channel which I use to keep my French from disintegrating. Then there’s the internet, without a proxy server we couldn’t access gmail, Facebook, twitter, or any site that required a form submission (airline websites, bus websites, etc.) There’s the light in the bathroom which blew sometime in January when we discovered the light fixture had been plastered onto the ceiling, so we’ve peed in the dark since then. About a month ago the hot water was cut, leaving us with icy showers. Though I have mastered the bucket shower: with the help of my electric kettle, I’ve got the whole thing down to 10 minutes and only about 5 liters of water. In the kitchen you can’t have the oven, refrigerator and TV going at once. And, the vacuum can be the only appliance running or it trips the fuse.

At work, things are only marginally better. Despite the fact that our building is only several months old (or perhaps because of it) things don’t work well. Apparently the plan was to include A/C, a revelation here in Turkey only very rarely experienced. It seems this plan was scrapped, but our floor-to-ceiling windows that don’t open were never redesigned. The eastern-facing classrooms roast the students in the morning sun, while the afternoon and evening classes gasp for air in the western-facing rooms. It would be nice if we could open a door at least, into the hall, but the whole building is made of uninsulated and exposed concrete (surprise surprise) which naturally causes sound to bounce and clamor from one room to the next, multiplying in strength as it travels. Our offices were hastily built with something that looks like an office do-it-yourself kit. The walls don’t reach the ceiling which makes for next-to-no privacy, leaving us all at the mercy of a poorly chosen ring tone, a professional spat, or for me, a complaining Skype date with a friend from home. Ultimately we’re all reduced to talking in code, whispering or not talking at all.

I was going to say I won’t miss my students terribly, but then this happened the other day:

IO-A, the best class ever, showed up to our last class wearing these.

And, a close up of a photo of me they sniped from Facebook.

So, perhaps this nostalgia got its start here. With a t-shirt with my face on it.

Then I went into the city yesterday to get some food for dinner. I missed the Thursday market, so I decided to wander down the main stretch and see what struck my fancy. In the end, and about 7 kilos of produce later, I had picked up strawberries from the district next to ours, fresh cherries being harvested for next week’s cherry festival (!!!!), apricots, a bundle of mint the size of my head, scallions, parsley, Israeli couscous, homemade beyaz peynir (white cheese, like feta), and a rotisserie chicken. In the piliç market, where I got the chicken, the vendor remembered me from November when I came in trying to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. My Turkish was significantly less-developed and he understood that I was trying to sell a turkey, after which hilarity ensued. He genially chatted me up as he prepared the succulent little bird in paper for me to cart it home. Come back sooner, he said as I left.

And, after weeks of sifting through idiotic taxi drivers in Tekirdağ, Sherri stumbled upon a kindly old man who is based out of the bus station. The dear man chatted genially as he drove us around the city this week. And, on Tuesday when we went to a café across town, as he waited for us to come out and meet him, he plucked two roses from a nearby bush and offered them to us with a flourish and a bow. She enlisted his help for her epic trek to Istanbul. This morning as he hurled suitcase after suitcase into his compact car, securing the trunk with several bungee cords, and as he helped Sherri wedge herself in between a duffel and a little black Samsonite, I realized it was the end of something.

Perhaps its only when leaving a place that we give thought to the idea of home. I haven’t felt attached to Tekirdağ until recently. It was a place I needed to be during the week, and it was a place to be left behind when the weekend came. As the weather has gotten nicer, as my Turkish has improved, and as I have cemented friendships, I’m not sure what comes next.

I’m not overly sentimental, like I said, the coal-filled air will be of no loss to me, the stench of burning trash, the peeing in the dark, the cold showers, I will not miss these things. But, the human connections have been lovely and will be greatly and deeply missed. I’m not sure I would ever choose to live here again, but its been a good run Tekirdağ, and despite all your flaws, you’ll be missed.

Mangal me.

Mangal, its the hip new thing sweeping the ‘dağ. Rather than holding classes, my colleagues and our students have made dates to meet in the forest next to the university for mangal, or BBQ. With the temps up around 25 (75F) outside, our jail-cell classrooms are sweltering, and students have resolved to halt any and all learning until after the summer break. With only a few days left before exams, us teachers are at least as wiped as the kids, and we’re weak in the face of a class full of students promising charcoal-grilled chicken and fresh çoban salata.

I first fell victim to B-6’s scheming, and with my colleague Seda, we decided to cancel afternoon classes to provide ample time to relax under the shade of the trees, play jumprope and build fires. We met the students outside of the Maxi supermarket where our students had procured the worlds creepiest, if not largest van. 14 of us piled in.

Yes, 14.

We barreled down the highway, pulling a u-ey in the middle to dart down into the forest entrance. Smushed up against my students, with one (luckily female) wedged up against my chest, I felt my credibility collapsing around me. My fragile façade of serious-teacherness was totally abandoned, not that any of them had fallen for it before…

We piled out and the gender roles took over. The girls started chopping up the cucumbers, tomatos and onions for salad. Another whipped up a maranade for the chicken wings. While yet others laid out the various snacks meant to hold us over until the meat could be prepared. The boys set out for kindling for the grill, a little concrete box in the ground. They swept out the old ashes and piled up little sticks, dry pine needles, picking thicker branches and breaking them for later.

Seda and I, the guests of honor sat and watched the scene snacking: her on leblebi and I on roasted peanuts.

The girls had their task down and were quickly finished. They set up jumprope (yes, my students are 20.) The boys were having a significantly more difficult time with their gender-assigned task. Each time the fire began burning, they would dump enormous amounts of branches and leaves on the mess, hoping to build it up, but each and every time they smothered the smoldering pile. After watching this happen 2 times, with my stomach growling in anger, I finally stepped in.

Having grown up on Massachusetts’s South Shore, spending my summers BBQ-ing with friends and family, and in a house with three fireplaces yet no central heating I’m a bit of a fire-building champ. Whether in a firepit, in a fireplace, in an old-fashioned stove I can get one going.

One thing I have learned about a BBQ fire from my father is that the coals must be hot. The quality of the fire has little to do with its size, but everything to do with the heat it throws. Eying the raw chicken wings sitting in the sun, heat was exactly what we all needed if we hoped to escape the day without a serious case of salmonella.

After building a teepee with branches and slowly adding wood, I kept the overzealous pyros away from the pile until the larger wood had caught. In about 20 minutes the coals were hot enough to cook the food. The guys seemed little interested in learning about building a proper fire, especially from their lunatic foreign langauge teacher, but who knows, maybe one or two paid attention.

In any case we chowed like champs, and I got my first taste of the oft lauded Turkish mangal. I’ve got a date this evening with one last class to char some chicken on my last day as an instructor here at NKU. Bittersweet? Nah, smoke-infused meat is just what I want to celebrate the end to what has been an… interesting year.

Afiyet olsun!

Yabanci, just like me.

Kars is a city in North-Eastern Turkey, skirting the border with Armenia. It is the site of Orhan Pamuk’s book Snow, though after torturing myself with both Istanbul and My Name is Red only to abandon both works entirely (certifying forever the pretentiousness of literary critics everywhere)  I have yet to read what I am certain is a thrilling interesting read.

When I told friends and colleagues of my plans to head out East, they responded with a mix of curiosity and disgust. Why would you voluntarily go to Kars? There is a great divide between Western Turks and Eastern Turks, with this again divided into city and village Turks. Out East, they’re not like us. They’re backwards people. Out in the villages, they’re not like us, they’re backwards people. It seems everyone needs someone to feel superior to. And, being American, I’m all too familiar with this notion of being a real citizen.

I live in a part of Turkey that was “exchanged” (read: bloodily and savagely ripped) from one country to another for thousands of years. Where Thrace once housed Greeks, Jews, Bulgarians, and countless others, it is now home to Turks. The East had a similarly vicious history that I was excited to explore. Where once home to Armenians, Circassians, Laz, Kurd and Turk, today it has made great strides towards ethnic homogeneity.

People out West where I live constantly warn me that people from the East are crazy, they aren’t real Turks. They’re backwards, like the Iraqis or the crazy Saudis, they make their women cover, they don’t have proper schools. People out East liken Westerners to the heathens of Europe, they’re materialistic and snooty. (Sound like the American North/South divide to anyone?)

The more I’m warned about a place in Turkey, the more excited I am to visit it. And, Kars was no exception. The ride had been an adventure. Even before leaving Istanbul, I had encountered a little of the local culture. A pushy multi-generational family of village people (literal ones, not the YMCA guys) had caught my attention in Ankara when entering the plane when they were

  1. Gaping at me openly, saying yabanci (foreigner) over and over (its an international airport guys, get over it)
  2. Surprised that you needed photo ID (really? really? you need photo ID to buy a cell phone)
  3. Carrying all their things in tarpaulin bags (sigh)
  4. Extremely concerned that they were entering the incorrect plane (no really there is a system in place for this)

The family consisted of two incredibly elderly men, one of whom resembled the chess-playing man in that Pixar short (especially after he dons the glasses):

With them was a thick, heavy set elderly woman, a cross middle-aged couple, their teenage daughter who seemed to have taken her style tips from Miley Cyrus, a grown daughter, a man who I assume is the husband of the elder daughter, and a screaming baby. Plus their baggage.

My Anglo-Saxon/Nordic coloring tends to set me out from the rest, and as we were shuttled to our plane, the elderly lady, clearly curious about my nationality, asked me for help with her ticket, then praised my glorious Turkish (I can pronounce 18A like a champ!) During this little interaction, they announced that those with seat numbers 1-15 enter from the front of the plane, and those with seats 16-30-something enter at the back. This announcement was only in Turkish, and I sat there basking in the glory of understanding my first-ever loudspeaker announcement.

Perhaps the family was too engrossed in keeping track of their  tarpaulin bags or attempting to read the numbers on their tickets (do they have optometrists in Kars?) to hear said announcement. They all entered from the wrong end and spent the next 10 minutes running over other passengers who were attempting to situate themselves.

The family was seated only one row in front of me, and as they arrived, an attendant asked that they please put their baggage in the over head bin. The elderly man without the glasses reached up to check the sturdiness of the compartments. He began to explain to the flight attendant that he was worried the bags would fall out and things would be broken. The flight attendant looked at him for only a split second (God bless him and his patience) whereafter he reached up and calmly explained to the elderly man and his entire family that in fact, the overhead compartments close. Ahh, the elderly man said, this seems to be a safe place for our things.

They sat themselves down, got up, rearranged, sat down, passed the screaming baby back and forth, and grumbled when the attendant explained they must wear their seat belts. The other passengers watched this scene with equal amusement, though their sentiments seemed tinged with shame whereas I enjoyed this interplay of culture diversity.

Upon arrival in Kars, as we continued to barrel down the runway at the speed of a racecar, they unhooked their seatbelts and stood up to gather their things. The flight attendants, still dutifully strapped in, were helpless to stop them. By the time we began taxing to the arrival gate, they had their bags in hand and had lined up at the back exit door.

“Where do they think they’re going?” Quietly commented the woman seated next to me, clicking her tongue in disapproval. I love seeing the interaction of Turks from various backgrounds, the village and city folk have about as much as common as I do with pretty much any Turk. But, unlike in my “native” Tekirdağ, in Kars, its the village folk who win out in normalcy.

After arriving on the tarmac of the Kars airport, I relaxed in the dingy cafe of the departures gate while waiting for Hannah and Sasha to arrive from Ankara. Once they had arrived we made quick friends with a taxi driver who would take us to Ani for the better part of the afternoon (if you’re wondering, we got him to 30TL per person for a 3 1/2 hour trip total.)

I love visiting historical landmarks in Turkey, they’re one of the nation’s great gifts to the tourists of the world. Unfortunately, those sites which do not immediately demonstrate the glory of the Ottoman history, and the Turks in specific, tend to be less-well preserved.

Ani is an abandoned Armenian city that sits on a cliff right up against the Turkish-Armenian border. It once housed 100,000 people but today its been reduced to rubble save the handful of semi-standing structures. Its always interesting to see what Turks make of other culture’s historical places. These places are always lauded as part of the “Glory of Turkey” even while the Turks themselves reinforce the yabanci-ness of the site’s original residents.

The plaque at Ani’s entrance had some phenomenal statements/translations that illustrate this Turk-centric ideology.

First is this, lest anyone forget who the most important party in Ani’s history is…

In Ani even though the foreground of the Christian Management, Turk and Islamic Governments were the ones who had the city for the longest period.

And this garbled mess of English that tells of Ani’s importance, what it has to give to science I’m not sure…

Ani city today as being a Ruin Pace (Open Air Museum), which is now in lands of Turkish Republic Government, services to science and culture, and with the excavations and researches it’s secrets are coming to light day by day.

We traipsed through the rubble, narrowly avoiding the enormous magpies left by grazing cows. Though the site is a historical monument, local cows are allowed to graze here. Hannah, discovered this for us when she stepped smack in the middle of a giant magpie, her foot covered in green-brown goo.

After making our way back to Kars, we set off to find our friend who was joining us from his placement in Ağrı. He has not fared so well this year, and who can blame him after eight months of isolation in a city whose name literally means “pain.”

We weren’t sure what we would find, and we searched for the hotel he was napping in with more than a little trepidation. After ducking into a place called Bizim Hotel, we inquired of the staff as to whether an American man had stopped in. Yes, he said, he’s upstairs.

Up the stairs, huh? The “stairs” were built into a nearly vertical wall, and we used our hands and feet to climb them, much like a ladder. On the second floor, which was called the first but really located on the european third, the man knocked on a door. We heard some English inside, but when the door opened, it wasn’t him.

We said our hellos to a blond, germanic-looking man who looked at us groggily with confusion. As we stood there, the receptionist started to make his way downstairs. As Hannah and I tried to explain who we were to the germanic-man, Sasha caught the receptionist and explained that this was not our friend.

“Sorry” Hannah and I explained to the confused and bleary-eyed tourist, “We said we were looking for our friend, and they must have assumed it was you… you know, there aren’t many tourists here, and well… sorry… go back to sleep. Have a nice trip though!”

Sasha’s conversation was a little less successful. As we left the tourist in peace, the receptionist made his way back to the man’s door, “No, no, of course this is your friend” he told us.

“No, really, we don’t know him,” we countered.

His boss, who had heard the commotion, made his way upstairs. His employee explained that we were looking for an American man who had made a reservation for four. “Oh” the man said, as he crossed over to the tourist’s door, “He’s in here.”

“No!” We yelled as he was about to knock on the poor man’s door. “That’s not him!”

“Of course it is” he countered, “He’s foreign, just like you.”