the unvirtue

by Sandra

Alright, time for an unflattering story about me.  I had almost forgotten I’d done this until my teammates were quick to remind me of it at yesterday’s debriefing.  I love them because they keep me humble…

So, all this talk about patience, right?  Well, I’d say that it was a gradual turning — I certainly did not start out the trip as patient as I ended it.  For example, the evening we were driving back from Mt. Ararat to Van we were in need of some diesel for our VW Transporter.  The region, so close to Iran where gasoline is pennies to the litre, is patrolled regularly for smuggled or illegally sold fuel.  For this reason, many of the gas stations along the road are kept with the lights off after a certain hour.  We found one, however, and pulled in.

Cindy and I stayed in the back of the van, having spent the day getting ogled and we didn’t want to put up with anymore.  Also, our bathroom stops were often contingent upon the quality of the toilet, many of which were the “affectionately” termed squatty potties.  If we knew we’d soon be in an area with a European toilet, we’d wait.  The guys however, were generally more indiscriminate about the condition of the loo, and they all piled out of the vehicle.

After several minutes none of the men had returned and upon some light reconnaissance, I saw that several locals were gathered around Gabriel, touching his hair and pulling on his beard, asking Chris if it was real (this happened often).  This was a pretty funny sight, but after what felt to be at least fifteen minutes, I started to get annoyed.  Soon the men were taking pictures with Gabriel and everyone seemed to be having a jolly time.  We could tell because we could hear what Cindy calls Gabriel’s “commercial laugh,” a hiccuping kind of guffaw that is quite charming but does sound a bit fake, filling the air.

Eventually, after what felt like an age, Gabriel and Chris and Brian got back into the van.  We were about ready to leave when someone said “where are Duncan and Craig?”  Craig, by the way, is a friend of Chris’s from his days in Germany.  Duncan is a friend of Craig’s from New York City.  They had been in Antalya or Mardin and happened to have some free days coinciding with the weekend we went up to Van so Chris invited them to come along.  They were both quite pleasant, but also a good twenty-five years older than our team.  Admittedly, their presence was a source of grumbling amongst us because we hadn’t anticipated their company and we were all a little miffed that we couldn’t have Chris’s attention all to ourselves.  We did, however, try to be as gracious as we could.

And I say “could,” because on that evening I kind of snapped.  Like I said, we were all ready to go, even after Gabriel’s twenty-minute cross cultural experience, and someone says “where are Duncan and Craig?”  We look out the window and the two men are standing on the island next to the gas pumps.   The kind and generous thing to do would have been to open the van door and wave the guys in.  However, in my frustration, I leaned over Cindy and rapped loudly on the inside of the van window, loud enough for them to hear, loud enough for probably the whole gas station to hear.  I might have also yelled something like “come on let’s go!” but I’m not sure.  Brian could probably tell you though, he likes to remind me of that night fairly often.  So Craig and Duncan got the message and ambled over to the Transporter.  “We were waiting for you guys,” they exclaimed as they climbed in “we hadn’t realized you were in here,” and away we went.

So, Gabriel’s comment a week later about me seeming more patient had come from somewhere.  I had totally forgotten about this incident though, so here I was thinking that Gabriel was just extremely observant.  Looks as though it was a little more obvious than that!

The diesel, by the way, we believe to have been smuggled.  Chris was expecting it to be about 300 Turkish lire, but it only ended up being about 99.  That and they wouldn’t give us a real receipt.  That might have explained why all the lights were out…