Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rumi and the Bookstore Run Around

Konya is supposed to be more religious than the rest of Turkey. My tv had problems, so, after a half hour of trying to fix it, they moved me to a different room. I'm glad they did, because they aray of channels were interesting. A number were weird Italian sex channels that I didn't understand, You had to call a number and well, I don't really know what happens then. There was also the Syrian state channel, which was more illuminating. The had an English brief. There was news on Russia standing up for Asad, China warning the West about interfering in the crisis, and a report on several Western journalists who were allowed into a seemingly peaceful city. It makes you think, why are Russia and China standing up for Syria during the crisis if there is no crisis and everything is normal? Asad's arguments are becoming more desparate and thus are contradictory.

Though Turkey borders Syria and Iraq (and Iran, although there isn't a crisis there, just tension with the U.S.) and there was an attack by the PKK in southeastern Turkey and a Turkish retaliation, you wouldn't know it being in Ankara or Konya. It feels a world away.

I visited Rumi's museum and tomb. It was a good visit and emotional to see his tomb. This town is very much devoted to the one they call Mevlana (the guide, Rumi's nickname). Afterwards, I went searching for English books. Two very nice English-speaking carpet sellers wrote down the name and the general vacinity of a mall-like building filled with book stalls. First we talked. One spends time in Brooklyn. He mentioned that he feels the fear of Muslims in America has gone down, but he still turned down a trip to a radical mosque because he feared being on some list. He was pleasantly surprised when I told him that I'm Jewish and noted that Jews are referenced as being cheap in Konya.

He said that he felt free in Turkey and approved of the work of the prime minister. The other man was more silent and most of his talking was about carpets. He has a deep memorable boom in his voice and his hair has a distinguished gray spot, a color that is sprinkled across his stubble. They asked me my age. It turns out, the gray-haired man and I are both 30. The part-time Brooklynite, who sported a soul patch,  was a mature 28. He mentioned that I don't look like a tourist at all. I'm using the gray-haired man's computer while sitting in the lobby of the hotel now. Talk about nice!

The book mall was not easier to find. First I went to the Seljuk mosque. Konya used to be the capital of the Seljuk empire. I was the only one in the mosque, quite a treat. Telephone lines block any attempt at a nice photo of the mosque. The first guy I asked for Rampal (the book mall) laughed and sais, "You want to go there?" I worried that maybe the place they had written down for me was something offensive. I asked another guy and he exhausted his English after, "First right, then left. Then," he shrugged. "Then I'll ask," I said. He laughed. It took asking two more peopl to find the place. And then, there were about 7 terrible English books in the whole place.

Much of my day involved hand gestures to get what I wanted, food, clothes, directions to Rampala. It's clumsy, but it works.

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