I’m still too angry to try to re-write my previous “daily prompt” post, but I also realize I will not be doing much as long as the winners of today’s secim (election) remain unknown. So, I will write about yesterday’s comedy. Canim’s friend invited us to watch a basketball game with him at the city’s new stadium. When I say new, I mean REALLY new. I’ve been functioning in Turkey longer than this stadium has been functioning. When I first arrived in Turkey, the stadium was just a skeleton of a building that I passed every day on my way to work.
Now, it is up and running. We decided to go. I was very excited to see an Istanbul team play our local team. Expecting to pay what we would pay for a football game, I was very surprised to learn that the tickets would cost 1.5 TL (about 75 cents, depending on the day). That was my first clue that this would be a cultural learning experience, even when watching a game from my home country with several players from my home country.
We arrived at the stadium to purchase our very pricey tickets. Canim promised me we could go to the kuafor after we bought the tickets because we’d have about three hours to kill. He hurried back to the car and told me we’d have to come back to the stadium early because the tickets were general admission, meaning we could choose our own seats. I imagined hundreds of people pushing their way through the doors, tripping over each other, scrambling to find the best seats. I’ve tried to stand in line at a cash register in this country. I know how things can get.
So, we arrived almost an hour before the game started. Let’s just say we were able to sit in the second row without a problem. We could have sat in the first row, but there was a railing obstructing our view of the court, so we scrambled over no one to sit in the second row.
When we were nice and settled, I realized I had to use the restroom. Of course! Gentleman that he is, Canim escorted me to the restroom. Now, I have to air a grievance here. I understand I am not in my home country, and even if I were, my home country leaves MUCH to be desired. However – the stadium is new. NEW NEW NEW. Guests from other countries visit the stadium. Millions of lira were put into the stadium. Why, oh WHY were there 4 squatty potties and only 1 western toilet in this brand new building??? And why were there absolutely NO paper products available for the female guests to use? I have some theories about the bathroom situation, but you’re here to read about basketball, so I’ll move on.
On the way back to our seats, we decided to purchase refreshments. Beer? No. Super-sized fountain drinks? Nope! Bottled/canned soft drinks? Wrong again. Our options were bottled water, tea, and *maybe* Nescafe, but to me, Nescafe is never an option, so basically it was just water and tea. We bought a little bit of both, plus a bag of popcorn (prepackaged) and a Nesquik chocolate bar. I’ll tell you, the prices were super reasonable. We expected to pay upwards of 20 TL for what would normally cost about 10. Turns out we paid somewhere near 7 TL. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Madison Square Garden anymore.
The game was cool. The Istanbul team had their little pep squad chanting and cheering, waving their flags and banners around. The rest of the crowd was pretty tame. How tame, do you ask? Well, the very endearing teyze next to me should give you a pretty good idea:
So the stadium wasn’t full, even with tickets at 1.5 TL a pop. Still, the game was easy to follow and I found myself shouting things from time to time, like “yuuuhh” which is the Turkish version of “Booo!” when the refs made a bad call. I even shouted,”You know that was a foul!” because one of my fellow countrymen on the home team was arguing with the ref and I really believed him. Mind you, I have no idea what a foul is in basketball, but I know it cost the home team 6 points.
At halftime, we watched the team practice free-throws. Canim insisted that he knew one of the players. I’ll just call him Player. Player lives near Canim’s office. Canim called out, “Player! Player!” a few times, but it was too noisy for him to hear. I suggested Canim call out his name and wave his arms. He didn’t seem crazy about that idea. Suddenly (because the balls were going everywhere but the hoop), Player walked near us to retrieve one of the balls. Canim called out,”PLAYER!” and I waved my arms in the air. Canim has no recollection of doing this, but he pushed my arms down and waved to Player himself. Player looked surprised to see Canim, definitely a look of recognition, smiled, and continued practicing. I was cracking up for a good ten minutes after that, because I couldn’t believe Canim pushed my hands down. It felt like a Friends moment, like something Ross would do to Rachel.
As it turns out, the home team lost. They’re definitely the underdog. If this were March Madness in the States, we’d be hoping for a Cinderella story. Okay, I confess I’m not 100% sure if that sentence made sense, or if I just mixed sports metaphors. The point is: the team made me think, “Bendito,” in my head. If you don’t know what that means, google it.