Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tea with Atatürk (Turkey)

“Çay? Kahve? Su?” questions the tea woman about every 90 minutes. Most businesses in Turkey have an employee whose primary responsibility is to serve tea and coffee throughout the day. Tea is served in small tulip-shaped glasses with sugar cubes on a small saucer. The larger glasses have a handle while the smaller ones do not.

I have not traditionally been one to drink much tea or coffee, but I don’t have the heart to refuse the eagerness of the tea woman as she knocks on my door. My mom was shocked to hear that her son, who has never been much of a tea or coffee drinker, was suddenly drinking two cups of each of the caffeinated beverages daily.

In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the modern Republic of Turkey. He made major reforms to the country, including adopting a modern constitution, separating mosque and state, and changing the alphabet from Arabic script. Turks love Atatürk and they proudly display his image everywhere. A good friend of mine who used to be in the U.S. Navy mentioned that two Americans in the Navy were jailed because they urinated on Atatürk’s statue. The U.S. government has still been unable to secure their release. When visiting Turkey, make sure to never say anything negative about Atatürk.

Joel Montgomery

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