Smoking Kills! (in Turkey, at least)

I haven’t been blogging so much lately, as I’ve been keeping busy - here in a foreign land, with no shortage of things to do. (Simply arranging to pick up the laundry is time-consuming when my Bulgarian skills are… um, non-existent). Somewhere in my spare time, I’ve been writing more articles, some of which will soon be accessible from my home page on the Sri Chinmoy Centre.

Travelling here was an interesting experience: 10 hours on a bus from Istanbul. Neither the driver nor the stewardess (yes, the bus had a stewardess – if that’s the right word) could speak any English. Of course, they don’t need to. If I’m in Istanbul, it makes more sense for me to speak Turkish. But as I was only there for a morning, I didn’t think it necessary to start memorising the finer points of Turkish vocabulary. As it was, nobody on the bus spoke English except for me, a friend from Czechoslovakia named Blazej, and a young lady from elsewhere who seemed as clueless as we were. As we approached the border, the stewardess examined the passports, called out each name and handed them back. She left Blazej and me until last, and simply handed them back to us in silence, presumably because she found our names unpronounceable. The guy sitting next to me was a friendly fellow who spoke no English, but often tried to speak to me in the small amount of French he knew (which was considerably more fluent than my own French... but still not great). A few of the people tried to engage Blazej and me in French, and nothing we said could convince them that we couldn’t speak it. Even when we looked at them vaguely, shaking our heads, they still assumed that we were French-speakers and tried to carry out a conversation.

Occasionally, the bus would stop for a break on some snow-capped mountain, and most of the passengers would go outside and smoke to their heart’s content. The message: smoking kills… because you have to go outside and freeze to death. The non-smokers among us, nestled inside the bus, would happily sit there watching an episode of a very weird Turkish (or was it Bulgarian?) comedy show. The locals were laughing themselves silly at this piece of merriment, but I reckon I thought it was funnier than they did – despite (or due to) not having a clue what was going on.