Monday, August 13, 2012

A Day of Kindness

2 posts in a 2 days? Uncharacterisic, I know, but I have some time to kill and it's a neat story so why not.

I am currently in the south of Turkey, away from the touristy areas full of English speaking locals. I stayed at a hotel in Mersin last night, conveniently across from the bus station but very, very local.  Around 7:00 I went down to ask the receptionist (one of the few females I had seen since arriving) where I could have dinner nearby.  She asked me in broken English what I wanted to eat and I told her I loved Turkish food and would be happy with anything she recommended.  She said,  "Chicken kebap?" I said, "Sure", assuming she was sending me to the closest place with chicken kebap. She said "Please, please, sit", and proceeded to have my dinner brought in and served to me in the seating area of the hotel. Well that was nice. (And it was delicious.)

This morning as I checked out, I explained that I was going to Tasucu, the very small port area of Silifke, and that I was told by people in my last city that there were buses to Silifke all day and then I would take a dolmus (local bus) to Tasucu. Can I buy a ticket from any company? She looked across the street at the bus station, looked at me, and it was obvious she felt unable to explain something. Instead said "Come, come", and she and her 11ish year old son then went outside and basically stopped a minibus in the middle of the road. A man jumped out of the back and took my bag as she bade me farewell. Okay then...

After about 2 very hot hours, a lot of beeping and questions in Turkish that I couldn't respond to, the driver pulled a u-turn in a relatively busy part of town to get me to the right side of the street and pointed to a bus stop and said "Tasucu" while gesturing that I needed to wait. The butler-from-Mr. Deeds-ish man then jumped out of the back again and handed me my bag, also pointing and gesturing "wait here". I'm standing with a woman and two elderly men, waiting for the dolmus. What does a dolmus look like? Got me. Are there signs on them? Who knows. What I did notice was that there was a line of taxi-drivers nearby and not one had run up to me like bees to honey offering to take me wherever I need to go.  Nice change of pace...  Within minutes a minivan pulls up with the door open (or so I thought at the time, but in actuality, there was no door) and a small sign that says "Tasucu".  One of the taxi drivers who must have witnessed the earlier exchange of charades ran over to me nodding, pointing, and saying "Tasucu".  Well thank you, kind sir.

I knew that it was about 7 kilometers, and by this point I had figured out that I wasn't getting dropped off at a bus station, so my plan was to get myself to the center of "town" and find a taxi or, if I was lucky and my shore-side hotel was in walking distance, get pointed in the right direction.  However, this minivan was very, um, local. People would just shout to the driver and he would stop. It didn't look like he would be pulling up to town and telling us we've arrived at our destination. I estimated what was about 7 kilometers and sure enough, shops and cafes began to appear and the ocean was in near distance. I hopped off the next time the bus stopped and to my surprise there was a sign nearby with the name of the street I was looking for...(yay!)...aaaand an arrow pointing away from the water...(boo!)  Now I don't have the greatest sense of direction but even I knew that couldn't be right.  I decided to show the address to someone passing by and he pointed me towards the water (whew) and kind of, you know, to the right.  I ventured that way for a bit but it wasn't exactly a neat little grid and there were zero signs on the smaller streets so I stopped again and asked an older gentleman with his wife and what appeared to be grandkids.  He motioned for me to wait, disappeared into his shop, and reappeared with keys to his scooter. His little grandson hoisted my bag on the front and his wife helped me on.  Normally, I wouldn't have been too keen on this situation but seeing as his nearly 70 yr old wife and grandkids were in on it, I figured - why not? (Besides, how fast can a little old man drive a scooter on these tiny little streets? I could definitely jump off into a tuck and roll.) Three minutes later, we were in front of my hotel and he was refusing the few lira that I offered in thanks.  Wow. Once again - thank you, kind sir.

Tasucu is a beautiful little port city, very tranquil, and seemingly a vacation spot for locals. At this point I was starving so I found my way to a cafe for something to eat.  I'm going to reiterate here - 'vacation spot for locals'.  No English. No menus with pictures. Not even the Turkish looked familiar (regional maybe?) so I didn't recognize a thing.  The waiter recruited someone from a nearby stand who didn't speak much more English than him but was better at charades. He somehow understood that I was fine with whatever they brought me. When they walked away, the son and daughter of a family sitting at a table nearby came over and said (in English!) - "If you need help, we are right here, we are Turkish". Wow, so sweet.  Lunch came, it was chicken and veggies in a pita. Perfect. When I went to leave later, I thanked the young girl for her kindness and the family invited me to have tea with them.  Now, Turkey and Egypt may have some differences but I'm pretty sure it would be just as ungracious to turn down the offer of tea here as it would be in Egypt.  So I sat. With the mother, father, daughter, uncle and 2 cousins.  Yep, one big happy family...and me.  It turns out some of them are living in London and the 2 kids speak perfect English so they translated as we chatted and drank tea and enjoyed the sea breeze.

And that was all before 3:00pm.

~ N