Redefining “Neighborhood Watch Program”

First, I have to brace myself, especially if it’s a hot day, and I’ve decided that wearing shorts is the only choice between me and heat exhaustion.

Secondly, I replay in my mind the guidebook phrase that informs, “Turks don’t consider staring to be rude.” As I remind myself of that phrase, I try not to flash back to high school, when all the boys over six feet tall sat on “Jock Rock” in the front entry of the building and assigned scores to every passing female.

Thirdly, I shield myself with sunglasses, hat, and earbuds–devices that serve as interference between me and the stares that are not rude but that, nevertheless, feel like a challenge.

Fourthly, I prepare myself for the audible commentary and mock applause that Turkish men over 50 produce at the sight of a woman running. It’s a bonus day when they wave their fists in the air and act as though I’m crossing a finish line. As well, I do a special “dodge and weave” stretching routine that limbers me up so I can maneuver my way through the gamut of neighbor housewives who badger me to buy a doll, a scarf, a pair of socks–despite my refusal to do so every single time I’ve passed their houses for the past 11 months.

Fifthly, I ready myself for defense against passing adolescent males on motorcycles and scooters who enjoy a quick game of “Buzz the Runner” when they spot me out on a country road. When this happens, I count myself lucky that I’ve never had men in loafers smoking cigarettes pretend to chase me down–proving their macho by keeping up with the runner–as Byron has. Fortunately, when it happened to Byron, the two faux chase runners, cheered on by their compatriots, had to drop out after a few metres due to hacking and an inability to draw breath.

Six, I try not to laugh visibly at the disconnect between the podcasts I’m listening to and the landscape and people I am seeing. It tickles me immensely to be listening to fairly, erm, hardcore advice being dispensed by Dan Savage as I pass a grandpa on a donkey.

Seventh, once I am out of the village, I pick up handfuls of rocks, all the better to use when and if I encounter the myriad wild dogs. Byron remains genuinely traumatized after his major showdowns with packs of thirty and, most recently, ten angry and aggressive dogs circling him. For the most part, the dogs retreat in the face of a rocks and shouting, but even still, Dog Rendezvous adrenaline trumps a “runner’s high” any day.

Finally, once I’ve run the gauntlet of staring; attempted to explain in my limited Turkish the idea that I’m not running any place specific but, instead, am doing “spor”; and equipped myself with nature’s weaponry, I turn up the volume and set to the jog. On the days when I find the entire endeavor tiresome and just wish for an easy, anonymous run,

at least I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ve provided the natives with some new entertainment–which, clearly, they were needing–and then, smiling, I imagine the neighborhood aunties who find me so curious being able to witness Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon, with 9,000 runners passing by in the space of a few hours.

They would wet their shalwars.

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7 Responses to Redefining “Neighborhood Watch Program”

  1. Deborah says:

    Well, that’s more than a little uncomfortable. So very little of what you have said in the last eleven months has been negative, even though you’ve referred occasionally to the spectacle you are for the locals. You have been admirably resistant to any idea of seeing ‘your’ ways as the right ways, and your genuine interest in Turkey and Turks has always come shining through. But your patience seems to be wearing thin, and why wouldn’t it? It’s in our nature as humans to slip a bit when we know we don’t really have to hang on for much longer.
    A lesser person than you might have thrown a few pleasant ‘Go stick your head up a camel’s ass’ exhortations at the bystanders – or maybe you did. With a smile, of course.
    The dogs would have done me in though, much as I like them as individuals. You got some gumption there, Jocelyn.

  2. lime says:

    you and mr. lime should trade stories some time. he had some rather interesting running experiences in trinidad….and they speak english and have had olympic medalists in track events so running shouldn’t seem that weird….unless you run in a small village and you’re a redheaded american in small shorts. you know the drill…

  3. chrissy says:

    I love it and you! Too funny except for the dog thing. I would have given up running for sure. Thinking of you and family as marathon is this Saturday. Mostly, thinking of scones though.

  4. I really love Deborah’s response. Yes, gumption in spades.

  5. Love to listen to Dan Savage. My daughter actually got me hooked on his show. I also really love this science show, which I am struggling to remember the name of…wait a minute…Radiolab, yeah. My slothful self usually prefers to listen while driving.

  6. Jazz says:

    Interesting experience, this running thing….

    Those grannies look utterly miserable, especially the second one, huddled in her doorway…

  7. Lori says:

    Ah. Really had to post on this, even though it’s a couple weeks old. The combination of Jock Rock (such memories) and seething dogs forced my hand. The Bulgarians treated dogs incredibly poorly and you had to at least look ready to throw rocks at any given moment. Just now inspecting the beautiful dog bite scar on my leg – such clear teeth imprints! :)

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