The city of Ankara has a population of at least 4.5 million. The number has doubtless grown since the 2008 census. It is about three times more populated than Philadelphia, whose 2010 count was over 1.5 million. And it’s way bigger than my hometown of West Chester, PA, whose 2000 census counted less than 18,000 inhabitants.
Yet, Ankara is a small world.
A while back, I may have mentioned that during my first week in Ankara, about 15 months ago, I saw my hometown on television. Here I sat flipping channels and came across BAM Margera on MTV. Bam is originally from West Chester. This particular episode was shot in West Chester, while he and is fiancee prepared for their wedding. During one scene, when Bam finally realized he should not be at the bridal shower, he and his buddies jumped on the horse and carriage and paraded through town. First stop? The beer mart. In the background, I could literally see my Mom’s street a block away. If he had just moved that camera a hair to the right, I could have seen my home.
I meet lots of different people here in Ankara. I make it a point of not strictly hanging with the expats. I appreciate that they are here, especially the English-speakers. But I prefer to spend my days getting to know the locals, how they live, who they are, how they operate, et cetera.
Last week, I was invited to the birthday dinner of a Canadian friend. It was a great mix of people! His wife is Turkish, but lived in Canada and speaks English like a pro! Two friends of hers from Canada came along. Well, I say from Canada because that is where she met them. One is a Canadian who currently lives in Australia. The other is a Turk, who was living in Canada, but now lives in Ankara. Small world, right? It gets smaller.
Two more of the dinner guests are Americans. One I met shortly after moving here at the Sausages and Shots party, a Turk-American function. The other I met several months ago at a dinner of foreign wives. That’s right, we foreigners who are married to Turks get together for dinner from time to time. And believe me, that’s not all we do!
The latter American brought her Turkish husband along. And then there was one more dinner guest. At first, I thought she was Turkish, because she sort of looked the part. But then she spoke to me, and clearly I was wrong. This woman was American. Right? Wrong! She started a conversation with our Turkish hostess and now I knew clearly that she was Turk. I had to go meet this woman and figure it out. It turns out she is Turkish, born and raised in Minnesota. So we talked about about MN – because my sister used to live there. And we talked about food, and medicine, and so on and so forth. And then she asks me what my husband does.
Wait for it . . .
So I tell her which department he teaches at the university. And at first she says, maybe he knows so-and-so from another department. I said it’s a possibility, but I wouldn’t know. Then a light bulb goes on in her head. Turns out her first cousin is married to my husband’s co-worker. (I would call her his partner in crime – but that might lead to some serious questions.)
Small world, right? Four point five million people, just in the city of Ankara, and I am meeting all of these people who know each other, even though I am running in different circles.
Then it got smaller.
Yesterday, I was checking the news online. I admit, I have always been guilty of not reading enough news. And I’ve slowed down since I have been here. From time to time, I check my hometown newspaper. You know the deal, I need to know who died and all. So anyway, I’m reading the news and this video starts playing. I am super annoyed by it, so I turn off the volume. When the video ended, I noticed a still photo of a woman I knew, one I used to babysit. She and her husband now own two lovely Italian restaurants in West Chester. So I turn the volume back on and watch the video. It’s all of these separate clips of interviews with the locals about the heat wave. The last segment is the woman I know talking about how it affects her business and that she is installing outdoor seating. Pan right. The camera pulls back and I see these arms that could only belong to my younger brother. But this guy is wearing shorts that my brother would NEVER wear – an orange colored madras design. The camera moves back farther, and there he is in full view. You can’t miss him in his Yankees baseball cap.
So here I am, sitting in the comfort of my own living room, in Turkey, scanning the news and I see a video of my baby brother taken just the day before.
Small world. Right?!