Hopes & Dreams
Published in

Hopes & Dreams

Turkish Pide and Trash

Let all of us be keen and emotionally strong observers

I love spending a lot of time alone so I can freely roam around and make stops at different places.

There are usual spots where I go to every day:

One of them is a cafeteria that serves homemade food and where the staff treats customers like actual human beings. There was one evening when I was having my vegetarian dinner (I eat mostly vegetarian these days eating meat about less than five times a month or maybe not at all) and the cafeteria manager carried a big pile of pide with meat (pide is Turkish-style pizza that is shaped like an Italian gondola. The meat simply filled the center part of the pide) that was delivered from a pide place (the cafeteria didn’t serve any pide) and he set the many individual pides on a table close to me. I didn’t eat meat much anymore but the smell of the pides was exquisite.

It was the dinner hour and as there weren’t so many customers having their meals that day, some of the cafeteria workers sat down together and ate their warm, fresh pides. I glanced their way many times as I had my meal which was black in many places from sprinkling excessive amounts of black pepper (when I would take bites of my meal, I would keep my meal covered in black by adding more black pepper. I believe that black pepper keeps my hair dark [it’s just something I think]).

I remember now that it was a Saturday. I have gone to that particular cafeteria often enough that I notice nowadays when the cafeteria manager is like to order pides. That night was the second time I saw the manager swaying with a lot of pides in his arms.

I paid close attention to the workers eating their dinner. I silently thought about how they deserved those pides and that I was glad that the workers worked more or less well with each other. I knew that those workers worked long hours. With the Turkish Lira depreciating all the time in recent years with no way for it to get better and the fact that most Turkish people work practically all day or all night for meager monthly salaries (so meager that I can’t make sense of how one monthly salary can even support one person), I felt cheered up when I observed the workers enjoy their pides. Those pides were treats. They were like gifts for hard days of work for little pay. I silently hoped in my mind that those workers would get to eat more hot pides together.

Another place I like to linger in every day is my workplace canteen. There are white tables with fake leather blue, red, purple and orange chairs. I usually have a table to myself (which I prefer) sitting happily with my tea (and I sort of swear that Turkish tea also keeps my hair healthy; again, I can just feel it). The majority of the customers are young adults and mostly teens. The canteen is especially crowded in weekends when the high school students come to take their weekend English course. There is also a children’s program on weekends and I would notice the little ones buying snacks, thinking to myself, “Turkish babies!” (even though, they aren’t babies but they look so young and small and they don’t usually show that they know what they are doing so that’s why I have such a thought.)

Every day, I notice that paper cups with the school’s name on it are left behind as the students head to their lessons. Every forty five minutes, the students would congregate again in the canteen to talk to each other, use their phones or sit staring into space saturated with their thoughts.

I can’t but always notice the trash that remain on the tables. Crumbs too. I feel like I’m the only person who picks up after herself. I don’t have the heart to leave my cups on the table for the staff to dispose of. I can’t bear leaving a plastic or paper bag on the table for anyone to throw away for me. It appears customary to leave snack packaging and wrappers lying around but it’s not a custom that I want to pick up. I don’t like the idea of people getting rid of my trash when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself even when the staff is paid to do such a thing. When I occasionally spill my water or tea, I go to the restroom area to grab paper towels and I come back to wipe up my own mess.

I wish that everyone would think to do that but it’s not done not only at the workplace canteen or in Istanbul, in general, but, also, in Moscow when I taught at a language school there. I remember when that half-American, half-Pakistani manager born and raised in California would tell the Tajik cleaning women to somehow wash off the permanent marker stains he accidentally put on the glass walls in the school (he thought he was using a board marker, not a permanent marker), it used to disgust me especially when he used to smirk a lot (he was an overconfident fool that I personally never had good feelings toward particularly when he talked to everyone like he was high and mighty). I didn’t like watching him order the Tajik women around (the Tajiks, Turkmens, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz were discriminated against and exploited enough as it was in Russia; I used to read the Moscow Times that had stories about those poor migrants trying to make it in Russia and those stories used to upset me). I got along with everyone at that school in Moscow (except with that conceited manager) especially the Tajik custodians. (Just a side note: there significant numbers of Tajiks, Turkmens, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Russia because these nationalities used to belong to the former Soviet Union and a lot of them still use Russian as a main language, and there are numbers of these nationalities in Istanbul because the languages that these people speak have apparent close ties to Turkish and they feel more culturally similar to the Turks)

As I sit in my workplace canteen in Istanbul, I frown at the garbage that people carelessly don’t remove themselves. It’s easy to throw away one’s own trash. The canteen staff is always busy filling in orders and delivering them and preparing sandwiches and pastries and cooking and serving the day’s lunch.

I regard people a lot like myself as I wander around in my daily life.

It has always been a habit for me to take away my own trash.

When I wander anywhere, I take human care of my surroundings. I like to think well of and do good to the Earth and people.

Think more of people you observe and hope they are well. Feel more for the actions you do.

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Thank you for reading.

Or you can feel free to email me at debbie.chow1987@gmail.com

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