Wednesday, February 9, 2011
A GREEN TURKISH CAT
This is an old story, so old - in fact - that the cat in question lived to be over 17 years old and went across the Rainbow bridge some years ago. But it was a funny story when it happened and by gosh it is still a funny story.
Our driver in Istanbul, a young, very helpful fellow, was somewhat fluent in English, having lived in England for a few years in the 1980s. For the most part we could understand him and he could understand us, and although I took a few lessons in speaking Turkish, his English was, and remained, far better than my Turkish. This story is about one of his goofs.
We had not been in Turkey for 3 months before he called asking us if we would like to adopt a little "kedi" that had been born in the vehicle garage of the company Jerry worked for. Seems the little kittens were of an age to run around and he was afraid they would be hit by a car, so he was trying to find homes for them. I asked him to find me a little girl kedi and bring it to the apartment. Sure enough, he arrived with the cutest little cat - a tiny tabby cat with big eyes, a ginger cat, the Brits would have called it. Once it hit my front door and I laid my eyes on it, that kedi had a home.
Ahmet helped us find a vet and the cat was given a "baby book" in which all the veterinary care would be noted, along with the date and shot record. From the vet I learned that the kedi was not a little girl kedi. Apparently Ahmet didn't know how to tell the difference, and to be honest with you I didn't even look; I took Ahmet at his word. But at any rate, nothing would have made me send "Tigger" back to exchange for a female kedi.
The baby book was kept at the vet's office, and when we found a vet who spoke English (the first vet did not and I learned it was very difficult to explain to Ahmet what I wanted him to say to the vet about neutering, about a bad spell of diarrhea the kedi had, etc.) Ahmet was somewhat prudish and he embarrassed easily, so finding Dr. Lale, who trained in the US and spoke good English, was a real blessing. Eventually we added another kedi to our family and Dr. Lale took care of Cipsi too.
When our time in Istanbul neared to a conclusion, Ahmet drove me and the two cats to Dr. Lale, so she could give them whatever shots would be necessary for us to take them back to California. The cats were made ready and I was given the "baby books."
On the way home, I was sitting in the back seat of the car (a requirement, Ahmet said, so it would appear that he was a "shofer" of Americans, not just a friend) and I began inspecting the baby books, which were actually mostly written in French and German. But of course all the blanks had been filled out in Turkish. I noted in Tigger's book that in the blank next to "Race/Breed" the vet had written "Tekir." Since this word sounded to me like the English word "Tiger" and since our Tigger was a reddish-orangish cat, I asked Ahmet if the word "Tekir" meant "Tiger."
"No, Mrs. Title," he replied. "Tekir means... like the color of your cat, GREEN!"
I was caught so off guard with his response that I could hardly keep myself from bursting out laughing. I did, however, quickly reach down onto the floor of the back seat where my purse was and begin pawing around in it, trying to stall for time so I could get the grin off my face before appearing again in the backseat via his rear view mirror. (Ahmet was always checking me out in that mirror to make sure I was satisfied, I guess).
Ahmet's time in England had been so many years earlier, and he had only lived there for a year or two, so it was understandable that from time to time he might use the wrong word. Once he told us that 24,000 cows had drowned in the Bosphorus, but we learned the next day that it was 24,000 sheep. On occasion he would tell us he intended to come over in the morning but he really meant afternoon. None of these were particularly funny, but the way he described our red cat as green was just too funny. He was so sensitive that I didn't want to have his feelings hurt by laughing. But from time to time through the years since our return home, Jer and I would make reference to our green cat -- and always remember what a wonderful time we had in Istanbul, how much fun it was, and how lucky we were to draw Ahmet Bey to drive for us, English notwithstanding.
Just to balance the scales a bit, when I was struggling to speak Turkish, I once told the guard who was posted in front of our apartment building that Jerry and I were going for a walk when we left the apartment building after dinner. About half-way through the walk, it suddenly dawned on me that I had used the wrong word. I had told our bekci that we were going cooking. I was a bit embarrassed, but upon our return I said to him, "No cooking, yes walking." He laughed. At least I think that's what I said to him.