I was several hundred kilometers east of Ankara, the self-appointed capital of Turkey, in a town near the Black Sea called Suluova, famous for onions and wrestling, interviewing Mr. Ramaz Buycaz, president and owner of BuyCanShoes.com. It was a freelance gig for a magazine entitled ‘Social International Global Environment’ (SIGE), a meticulous hippy rag run by a gay couple, who were Trustafarians based in Oxford. They always paid on time, had their hearts in the right place, but this job was a bit of a brown loafer, until lady-luck raised her head above the East-West wall.
They had sent me to rate the environmental friendliness of the BuyCan factory, which had just begun exporting to the European Union. The angle was supposed to be from the worker’s point of view: wages, hours, living-slash-working conditions, safety, general happiness… you know the story, a sweatshop audit. I also needed to discover Buycaz’s levels of profitability and the actual “naturalness” of the raw materials, which they claimed were mostly leather from free-range steer. Other questions on my personal list concerned the current economic crisis, the invasion of Iraq, oil prices and gender equality. The only way for freelancers to survive in this cut-and-paste-world, is to sell the same facts a hundred different ways. I was hoping to get at least three or four separate pay checks out of my Suluova sojourn.
The game plan changed when Mr. Buycaz began screaming into his mobile and pacing around his Soviet-era decorated office at aggressive right angles. Mr. Buycaz began hiding behind the snot-green drapes looking at the sky, as if bombs were going to fall. He spat violently into his Nokia. I turned to my Istanbul-based translator slash driver and asked, “Mehmet, what happened?”
“Not sure now, sir. He is using personal family dialect.”
“You told me you knew every language in Turkey.”
“This is not Turkey, sir. This is deeply Black Sea village talk. Something very, very big has happened, sir.”