I understand it’s the culture in Turkey to welcome people into their stores and offer Turkish tea to visitors, but I have had an abnormal amount of tea as well as interactions with the Turkish people since I’ve arrived.
It all started on the airplane on the way to Istanbul; somehow I started talking to three girls during the layover. Actually, only one attempted to speak English to me on the flight the others were just along for the ride. We exchanged all sorts of information and by the end of the flight they offered to show me to the tram and even paid for my ticket. When we parted ways they wanted me to come to their house instead of my hotel, I took their information and assured them I would email if I needed any help while I was in Turkey.
Then there was the guy at dinner one night who offered to drive me to Cappadocia. The only caveat was that we would have to stop to visit his sick momma on the way…He settled to take me for coffee the next day and tell me his travel suggestions for the area; I’m a terrible person and stood him up for our one o’clock date. Once in Cappadocia I proceeded to spend the following two days having dinner and breakfast with the people at the little hotel. Only one of the three spoke English, but they welcomed me into their circle and showed me amazing hospitality.
Sometimes after a bit of tea people will let you do almost anything if you just ask. In Istanbul I really wanted to eat at one of the tourist places where the ladies make the flat bread in the window. Once I ate my delicious, highly glutenous flat bread I asked if I could sit in the window and try my baking skills. Without hesitation they handed me a ball of dough and the long, thin rolling pin. On one of my tours I somehow ended up being the person chosen for the pottery demonstration. I was given the big babushka pants and a few words of encouragement for my pottery debut. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a job opening at the little studio in Cappadocia, but I gave it my best shot and made a mess in the process.
Then there was the guy standing on the street trying to lure people into his restaurant; It’s normal practice for guys to stand outside the restaurant beckoning people for a meal. When he started talking to me in Turkish; I just smiled, nodded and kept walking. I reached a dead-end and had to walk past him again, I wasn’t as successful at dodging his questions when he started speaking in English. In the States when a man of his appearance starts talking to me I promptly turn and walk away. In Turkey, it’s not so easy. Of course, he sat me down, offered me tea and told me about his relatives in California and DC. He was appalled that I hadn’t seen much of “his” village and then proceeded to show me the local fish market that was around the corner. In his dark jeans, long black leather jacket and black turtleneck the man escorted me through the market to meet his cohorts and the various catches. Thoughts ran through my head, in my paranoia, that they were in cahoots and any minute the tea which was laced was going to kick in. I wondered how fast I could actually run before they had a chance to drag me to the back and divvy up my organs for the black market. Luckily, the only thing he wanted was for me to take his cell number and promise to return to Turkey as his “guest.”
The best had to have been when I arrived in Selcuk. I had been on a 12-hour bus ride when I was shuffled onto a little mini bus with an older woman. The woman was a full on native babushka with flower print mc hammer pants, head scarf, big saggy boobs (covered by a cable knit sweater) and deep lines around her eyes showing she’s lived a hard life picking olives. When we got onto the bus the driver instructed us both to the front row and the proceeded to stack her “luggage” on the side of the seats. She started to freak out because he was stacking her potato sacks and boxes on top of one another and then placed my not so light bag on top of the heap. This is when she absolutely lost her shit! Of course, I don’t speak Turkish and she kept talking to me and motioning to do something. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and repeat (in English) no Turkish, No Turkish. She found this completely unacceptable and continued to yell at the driver and grab my arm. Seeing as I was wedged in between her and the boxes I actually laughed out loud at one point because she was so upset and there wasn’t anything I could do to help. Once she calmed down she actually had her hand/ arm on my leg and was patting me like I was one of her own.
Maybe it’s that I scream Americana with my running shoes, jeans and bright blue jacket? Maybe it’s the off-season and people are bored and desperate for money? Maybe it’s that Turkish people are abnormally welcoming and inviting? Whatever the case may be it’s a good thing WC’s only cost 50 cents because I drank a lot of Turkish tea during my two week stay!
*Photos do not accurately depict the actual people in my stories, except for me of course!