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Brains over Beauty
Amy Dewitt
Marriage proposals
In my Turkish travels, all other variables were removed.  I was traveling without male comrades; my companions were the same two lovely ladies as in Egypt.  We smiled the same at any passers-by. We did little to attract any additional attention that three smiling, fair-skinned, foreign women did not already invite.  The only changing quality was geography.

 The Egyptian whistles were to lure us to merchants’ wares, and the offers of a chatty cup of coffee usually resulted in a marriage proposal (total: 8).  The lines thrown at us were all sexual in nature – Egyptian men good lovers! Or, Money, Money?  I suck you well! And endless others.  The ill intentions may not have been there (and were proven to be false by some), but on the mere surface value of their low uncertainty avoidance, the assortment of Egyptian men we encountered shared the same anatomy-based objectives.

A Turkish friendWe were warned of the saucy audacity of the Turkish chaps – promised to be more severe than Egypt.  Once on Turkish turf, however, the story played out quite differently.  The whistles still chased us, and the weight of the piercing gazes lingered long after passing by shops and vendors.  But the men that approached us came under the terms of education and pure friendship.  Am I being too naïve?  Two men caught our attention on a busy street in Taksim Square.  For the next five minutes one of the men nervously stammered his way in English through the introduction, supporting statements, rebuttal, and conclusion to why we should share a cup of tea with him before we could get a word in edgewise.  Some of the key points of said speech:

·         They wanted to exchange cultures – music, stories, food, politics, and ideas.

·         They longed for English conversation. 

·         They were university students and really needed to practice. 

·         They promised to take us to a crowded public café, and we could leave if we felt uncomfortable. 

·         They wanted to hear of our preconceived notions on Turkey and its people, and learn of our current feelings.

How could we say no?
These two men were not the only ones that approached us this way.  We exchanged emails with so many people simply to continue the intercultural dialogue.  All experiences turned into beautiful connections and enlightening conversation.  Safe and non-sexual.

What made geography change our interactions so distinctively?  Only an in-depth (this is a mere skiff), multi-sited ethnographic focus could derive an answer.  This contemporary form of study is elucidated in George E. Marcus’s article, “Ethnography in/of the World System:  The
Where's the facesEmergences of Multi-Sited Ethnography” in which he proclaims the importance of its “unusual trajectories” within this ever-changing and inter-connected globe.  “It develops a strategy or design of research that acknowledges macrotheoretical concepts and narratives of the world system but does not rely on them for the contextual architecture framing a set of subjects.”  The parameters to my Egyptian-Turkish equation were constant.  I am not saying that the Egyptian ethos has instinctive and impure intentions; perhaps our experience was rare.  I am also not trying to claim due to their hesitant approach and higher uncertainty avoidance that all Turkish men want English/American women purely for legitimate and educational purposes.  But comparatively, I discovered yet another traveling anomaly that will need much more exploration to be understood. 


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