– 3 months after my trip to Egypt, Arab Spring strikes in Cairo.
– 3 weeks before my move in, London riots.
– 3 months after my trip to Istanbul, Turks protest.
– 3 years in Thailand, well.. need I say it?
Were I lucky enough to be a maths teacher in Europe, I would be holding my lessons on geometry in these houses of religion. I find it ironic that historical scientists and mathematicians faced persecution when their subject matter made building these gorgeous buildings of worship possible.
Scotch and Holy Water is written by an American expat John Tumpane who worked in Turkey for ten years in the 1960s. I have rarely read a book that I actually laughed as loudly as I did when working my way through this one.
The book is a somewhat chronological compilation of events and narratives from the author’s time in Turkey. Each chapter can be read by itself, and not necessarily related to the one before or after. The narrative had a somewhat satirical and clearly self-deprecating tone. While my experience in Turkey amounts up to a short family holiday in Istanbul only, I have no doubt about the veracity of the stories. Could some have been embellished? Sure, why not. But, as any expat abroad can relate, some of these occurrences are so bizarre one has to go through to relate. And Tumpane has done an excellent job in culling out a small number of representative narratives that ranged from a simple question over a dinner table to a far flung road trip that spanned over mountain ranges, run away cars, cave hotels, and developing world bureaucracy.
Being a fellow expat, I found myself relating similar experiences and envying the author’s ability to communicate his experiences so succinctly and humorously. The fact that my experiences were about half a century later didn’t take away from the similarities, showing how living abroad and culture clashes remain an ongoing source of life experiences, regardless of generation. If only I had that story-telling skill.. This blog would fare so much better!
The book is no longer published but copies can still be bought online.