Street crafts

The Turks, they say,all have two professions, one official, the other unofficial or still one diurnal, the other nocturnal and sometimes one known, the other concealed. A whole fringe of the population practice their trade in the street. Parallel economy, which paradoxically prevents the inflation, which is from 50 to 100 % a year, to become hyper-inflation. Often these second professions are exercised in the street, early in the morning , late in the evening , or even on Saturdays or Sundays. This street life facilitates the daily life of the Turks by a multitude of services which are in the door, even in the window when the goods pass in transit in baskets, fastened to a rope, which slide along facades to bring back the product bought without going out of the house.A method which confines the woman, a queen in her house, in her apartment by doing her shopping without going out of her realm. For lack of street traders, it is enough to phone the " bakal " ( the grocer) of the corner so that your kilo of potatoes arrives home "alone" .

With sunrise, the bread traders and their wagon wake you up to indicate the passage of still warm bread loaves, then it is in the turn of the itinerant " manav " with his fruits and day fresh vegetables. The "tube" of gas is empty, no problem, when the music of the lorry Aygaz rings, it is enough to give a shout from one's window so that the tank of gas is replaced straightaway. The umbrella traders prosper as fast as the first drops of rain which begin to fall. And if really the rain becomes diluvian and transforms the street into a brook, some do not hesitate to rent their arms and their backs to make you cross the flooded street. Surprising, this capacity of to adapt to the needs of services of the moment ; but a sign of great intelligence on behalf of this people !

By roaming in the streets, one often meets stalls of lighters for the smokers, but on the spot your disposable lighter can be reloaded in the wink of an eye. Salvaging is the privilege of developing countries, consumerism the one of the developed.

One of my Turkish friends said that the wealth of a country is conversely proportional to the height of its pavements! The Turkish pavements are often very high to prevent the cars from parking. The parking meter does not exist in Turkey yet, and it is replaced by a guard who appears as soon as you have parked your car, to demand the price of the guarding. But often when you return the guard has disappeared and so has the car , which has been towed away while nothing indicated the ban to park.

The unemployment allowance does not still exist in Turkey and all these street professions enable a lot of people to survive.

One feels a bit hungry, and on the spur of the moment a trader of " simit " (round bread roll, with sesame seeds, in the shape of a buoy) appears, carrying his bakery on a stick. Having eaten a good soup of orange lentils in the morning, many Turks only have this "simit" for lunch.

And if, after this excess of food, you want to check your weight, you will find without any problem an old man or a child who will weigh you on a talking pair of scales. In the street, it is not rare to see a pupil taking out his pair of scales out his bag and to wait for the customers while doing his homework. There is a rumour going about that the adults having a practice weighing human beings all day are spies in the government's pay, but this is pure invention.

In Taksim square, a host ofchildren being shoe-shine boys surround you ; insistent, they propose to the tourists a free cleaning of shoes, after which you will not recognize them any more. But, if you give nothing for this 'free' service, beware ! You will be obliged to run away in one of the numerous yellow taxis which wait for their customer. The word taxi in Turk is spelled " taksi " because the letter X does not exist in the Turkish alphabet but the word phonetically preserves its universalism. This " taksi " is yellow as in the USA, one more mark of the American influence in Turkey. The taxidriver who permanently fills his cockpit and so yours with smoke, often exercises his second profession there. At night, it is not rare, to meet a taxidriver who is a teacher in the daytime! Moreover, the car is used 24 hours a day and is in the hands of several drivers.

A phone call has to be given, and one needs a phonecard. Card which one can buy in a post office, but they often run out of the stock and one must resort to a retailer who, in agreement with the post office clerk, bought back by means of a bakchich, the bunch of cards and who resells them with a profit. Then, whatever the time, it is possible to buy one's phonecard and so to phone in one of the numerous telephone boxes of Istanbul.

At Eminönu underground passages are populated with auction traders. And on a stair, five or six blind persons have

grouped together and sell any sorts of tools. In the flower market which adjoins the mosque Yeni Cami, still in Eminönu, an old bearded man suggests you make a rabbit draw a piece of paper on which one can read a proverb. On the stairs of the mosque two or three women hand out plates full of wheat grains which one can give to the pigeons, by stretching out one's arm with the plate a dozen pigeons comes to peck in one's hand. The traders of Millipiyango ( the national lottery), indicated by their cap, never miss an occasion to try and sell a hope of wealth against a lottery ticket.

On Sundays, a whole new population of peddlers mushrooms, the balloons and confectionery for the children's salesmen , or else, balloons are put down in rows on the ground, or sometimes on the water of the Bosphorus, in order to shot at them with air-guns, in public.

But in the long and difficult winter of the Istanbul dweller, wedged under his quilt, it is sweet to fall asleep and to hear the stabbing call of the trader of boza (the millet beer the last aphrodisiac beverage before bedtime. And in the period of Ramadan, before sunrise, it is the drum which invites you to wake up to drink and to eat before it is too late to respect fasting.