Kindly Turkish Grandma or Wily Camera Thief?

Tell me what you would have done.

Last night we decided to splurge for a restaurant meal. Kilyos isn’t a big town. Nearby our campground is a short street packed with water-and-flip-flops stores, stray dogs, and cafes with plastic chairs, so that’s where we headed.

One particular cafe had some tasty-looking meat on the grill, lamb maybe, which smelled charcoaly and wonderful. The proprietress was welcoming and friendly. Good enough. She waved us in and and we landed at a table in the corner of the patio, wedged in next to a large outside refrigerator and a planter. Space was tight, but we didn’t mind.

What happened next blew my mind.

While the others (Mark, Scout and our lovely German campground neighbors) sat down, I fumbled around trying to stow my DSLR in a safe place. I couldn’t be bothered (starving, low blood sugar) to detach it from the monopod, so there wasn’t enough room for the whole contraption on the little table, and I wasn’t about to lay it on the ground or lean it on the planter. I stood there, momentarily confounded, until the proprietress came up to me and—before I knew what was happening—took the thing from me. Immediately she handed it off to a waitress who whisked it inside.

In an instant, my baby was gone.

And by “baby” I mean my DSLR, a Canon L-series zoom with lens hood and filter, and a Manfrotto monopod with fancy-schmancy ball head. Total value: about $2500.

It happened in an instant, smoothly, the way my dogs lifts scraps from the table. You sort of see him but you don’t consciously notice what he’s doing. This was like that. My the time my brain processed the whole thing, it was too late. My camera was gone.

I resisted the urge to call out or run after the waitress. Or make my husband…do something. It all seemed rude. But my camera… If traveling is about learning to let go in a different culture, I was having the ultimate travel experience. And it was really horrible.

I forced myself to calm down and assess the situation.

Clearly the proprietress dispatched the thing for my convenience.

Clearly probably.

But still. What if disappeared? What if it the lens got damaged? What if she just denied the whole thing later on? There’d be no way to resolve it. Oh wait, yes there would. I’d be shit out of luck.

There was no way to get the camera back without demonstrating a whole lot of distrust to an apparently kind person, one who was doing her best to bring us what we wanted .

I decided just to go with it.

We all ordered some çorba and tavuk döner. It tasted good, but I ate without gusto, as my stomach was in knots over the kidnapping.

After we’d eaten and paid, the proprietress smiled broadly, patted me on the back and waved goodbye.


I motioned to the back of the restaurant. For a split second she stood there, poker faced. Oh God, here we go. But then she remembered. The waitress was dispatched inside and soon reappeared with my camera. It was perfectly fine. They’d taken great care of it.

Only in Turkey.

Now lay it on me. What would you have done?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 elaine August 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm

OMG ron would have had a mini heart attack if someone took away his camera without his permission – and in a foreign country no less. Good for you for not freaking out!


2 Renee August 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

It was very weird.


3 Ron August 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Yikes! I had to skip to the end to see if you got your camera back. I would have lost my mind! 0.o


4 Renee September 6, 2011 at 7:53 am

I was palpitating, that’s for sure.


5 David, Mirella's friend August 28, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Hi Renee, Mark, and Scout
I have enjoyed the photography and stories of your experiences that I have seen. You are brave and adventerous folks to have undertaken this journey. Mark I thank you for the National Geographic magazines that Mirella has been passing on to me. I am reading them cover to cover. Hope you are getting pleasant weather. After a cool and damp start to summer August is giving us a taste of what summer should be like.


6 Renee August 29, 2011 at 5:37 am

David, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog and grateful you took the time to comment. Thank you!

I miss our National Geographics but am glad someone’s enjoying them.


7 Jason September 30, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I usually won’t even give my Nikon to people that offer to take our photo around town. They might run off with it or drop it. Trust no one! 🙂


8 Renee September 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Jason, I know! I never accept offers to take our picture either. This all happened so fast. It was quite shocking.


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