EVERYTHING SHOULD BE UNDER THE SUN...
NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?

The Problem of Turkish Toothpaste

by Philip MADDEN



My first days in Turkey were fast, confusing and exciting. Everything and everyone was new and different, so different from home, and I was loving it. I was getting used to my new flat and my flatmates (all English like me) I had been showed around the language school were I would be working for the next year, and most importantly, I was finding out about Eskisehir, the city I was going to live in.

We all need to do shopping, some of us love it, others do not mind it, while others still hate it. The experience of being a foreigner and not knowing the language coupled with the chore of going shopping, is not so much a job rather than a battle. When a foreigner enters a shop in Turkey, he or she is immediately recognised as one, from now how you survive this ordeal is controlled by the shopkeepers personality, if it is nasty then troubled times are ahead.

Sometimes that is not a problem; the problem is not being able to read the labels or properly identify what it is that you are looking for.

It was my second week in Eskisehir, and I had found a small supermarket at the bottom of the road, which sold everything I needed, whenever I entered the shop all of the assistants would smile at me, and then at each other after I had walked past them. So far everything had gone well, when I needed to buy milk I could find it because it is marketed the same in England ie;in a glass bottle or in a carton with a picture of a cow on it., when I wanted cheese or vegetables they were there, in front of me and recognisable as what they were.

I was doing well because things had been easy, my confidence was high and I thought I had conquered the problem. I was enjoying my new life in Turkey, my classes were friendly and responsive and my flatmates were agreeable. I had discovered the bars and pubs of Eskisehir and was spending perhaps a bit too much time in them. Everything was fine until I ran out of toothpaste and needed to go to the supermarket to buy some more.

The first thing I should say here is that it should not have been so difficult, in fact it should have been the simplest thing in the world, walk in, pick up the colgate smile at the assistants, pay for it and leave. Ideally it should have gone like that but this was a Turkish supermarket that stocked cheap and domestically made products and I was a naive Englishman.

I entered the supermarket smiling at the girls who I am sure now thought I was a bit crazy walked past the checkout area and into the supermarket proper. Now all I had to done was walk around until I found the personal care area. I walked past breakfast cereals, chocolate and biscuits until I came to the end of the aisle, so I turned the corner and in front of me stood a shelf with deodorants and razors, I was getting warmer I thought, I walked past it and there it was the shelf I was looking for. There were white rectangular boxes with big, yellow Turkish words on them and a picture of a man, bare chested and I supposed performing his morning abolitions. I wanted colgate but I’ll have to settle for the Turkish made stuff instead, I thought to myself.
So thinking I had done it, I went to the cashier, paid and went home. Easy.

The next morning in the bathroom, I opened the tube of toothpaste and squeezed it. Out came a thin yellow substance that neither smelled nor even looked like toothpaste. Well, this is Turkey I thought, standards of production are lower. I applied it to my toothbrush and put it in my mouth. It tasted awful; it felt like I was eating soap. I stopped for a moment and wondered whether or not I should continue, well I couldn’t use my flatmates toothpaste’s because they kept theirs with them in their bedrooms, so I had no alternative but to press on.

I brushed my teeth in that sickly, slimy soap tasting stuff all the while cursing the toothpaste makers of Turkey and trying not to be sick.

Some people might have gone out and found another brand of toothpaste to use, I thought about doing that but I was brought up poor and I knew that it would be a waste of money if I bought another tube of toothpaste now, and threw away the other one, no I would wait until I had finished this one before I spent money on another one. I had growing up struggling in South Yorkshire to thank for my continued suffering.

So the days went on with me using that vile stuff that did not seem to freshen my breath, all the while I thought it is because it is basic Turkish toothpaste it cleans your teeth but does not freshen your breath!!

One day my flatmate brought one of his Turkish friend home for a meal. He was a medical student at Osmangazi University here in Eskisehir, very pleasant and well spoken. They had their dinner and afterwards they joined me in the sitting room where I was watching BBC prime on the TV. At first the conversation was about what was on the TV and then it moved from TV to football, politics and so on and so forth.

- "What are you studying", I asked


-"I am studying to be a doctor," he answered.


I nodded my head simply because I had nothing else to say, and so the conversation died. After a few minutes our Turkish guest excused himself and went to the toilet. My flatmate and I sat in silence watching the TV and waiting for him to return. Not longer afterwards he returned and sat down.

He sat for a few moments before he could refrain from asking the question no longer.

-"I saw two shaving creams in the bathroom, one is Turkish and the other is a foreign make. Who is using the Turkish one?"

My flatmate answered that he never leaves any of his personal care stuff in the bathroom, and so they must belong to me.

Some cold and horrible realisation was starting to dawn on me.

-"
But there are two in the bathroom."


They both looked at me. The clammy fingers of understanding were tapping my shoulder but I could not stop myself from asking in a meek voice.

-"
One of them is toothpaste Turkish toothpaste."

My guest, who up until this point had been the model of politeness, stared at me for a few seconds before turning to my flatmate with a smile and widening eyes and said, "Toothpaste!! He thinks he was using toothpaste!!!", before bending double and exploding into a series of rapid guffaws that hammered my shame deeper into my soul with every laugh he shot out.


- . -

   
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