The Gift that Keeps on Giving
A few weeks back, my youngest daughter had to take the cat to the vet. Our cat, although really still a kitten, managed to get out of the house the other night. She was gone for five nights and apparently had a wild old time out there, consorting with the half dozen toms who live between the farm and the mosque just behind our house. Our neighborhood -- in fact, the town in general -- happens to be overrun with cats and kittens. On almost any given day, you can see stray cats climbing out of garbage cans, nipping into alleys, racing across busy roads. All too often they don't make it across, and you can see the sad evidence of that too.
Nobody needs any more cats around here, so a trip to the vet's was definitely in order. My daughter put the cat into her carrier, went outside, and flagged down a dolmuş. It was full, so she sat in the back with the cat in her cat carrier on her lap. When it was time to get off, she dug a handful of change out of her pocket and made her way to the front of the dolmuş to pay the driver, leaving the cat in her cat carrier in the back, next to the last remaining passenger. "No!" he cried in shocked tones. "No!"
My daughter turned to see what he was protesting. He was pointing to the cat carrier and waving his hands from side to side in the universal I don't want this! gesture. Apparently, he thought he was being left a gift. "I shook my head and waved my hand," she said. "And boy, did he look relieved when we got off."
Our cat, it turned out, was one week pregnant. Narrow escapes all around.
Yesterday, I took the dolmuş home. I like to take my change out early so I can sit back and enjoy the ride, so I pulled out my wallet, but no sooner had I done this than there was the sound of metal pinging on metal and I saw a fistful of gold-and-silver one-lira coins rolling every which way. I stared at my wallet. Did it actually have a hole in it? It didn't look like it did, but I'm a klutz: I've spilled a lot of coins in my time.
There was a student sitting just across from me who had just gotten on the dolmuş himself. I pointed to the coins on the floor and then at my wallet. I frowned and he nodded. Clearly, I must have spilled the coins. The student was fiddling with his own wallet and showed no inclination to help me pick up the coins, so I bent to retrieve them, collecting a total of almost ten lira. I hadn't realized I had that much money in coins! The boy now bent to pick up coins himself, and after the last one had been retrieved, I held out my hand to him. He frowned and opened up his palm. And suddenly the penny dropped, if you'll forgive a bad pun. He had actually been the one who had spilled the coins! How embarrassing! I deposited the handful of coins into his outstretched hand, my cheeks on fire. I hoped he didn't think I was trying to fleece him of his money. What if it got around school that the American teacher was such a tightwad she would stoop to rob a poor student of his coins?
Fortunately, when I got off the dolmuş, the student smiled and winked at me. I hope he understood that it was an honest mistake. Or maybe he'd stolen the money himself and was paying his respects to a fellow thief.
Eggplants from Heaven
My colleague Leonard is from Nigeria. The other day, he and some Nigerian friends were taking the dolmuş home after a trip to the market to buy produce in bulk.
"We bought tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, and beans," said Leonard. "When we got onto the dolmuş there were a lot of other people who'd been at the market too and they also had big bags of vegetables. One man had three huge bags of eggplant. We'd seen them selling it in the market and they were very cheap, but none of us knew how to cook eggplants, so we didn't get any."
When they got to their stop, Leonard and his friends grabbed up their bags, paid the driver, and hopped off. It wasn't until they got back to their shared house that they realized they had one of the bags of eggplants.
"We rushed back to the dolmuş stand," Leonard told me, "but of course it had gone and we couldn't find the man with the eggplants. We didn't want him to think that Africans are thieves, but what could we do? And after all, it was an honest mistake."
I asked him what he did with the eggplants. "We took them back home and cooked them," he said, smiling. "We think God must have wanted us to have those eggplants. Whatever the case, we all know how to cook eggplants now."
Friday, 2 April 2010
The Gift that Keeps on Giving