It's funny how, when people are placed in new surroundings and situations, even the most ordinary things can become adventures of great interest. Mundane things such as taking a bus, having breakfast, shopping around town, getting a bite to eat all become challenges with often hilarious or anecdotal consequences.
Ever since my arrival into Istanbul, I've been walking around with eyes wide open, taking in every possible sight and relishing in the daily adventures that have become my life, no matter how ordinary these sights and daily tasks may have been before my arrival. I don't want to miss a single thing that makes my experience of living in Istanbul living in Istanbul.
Taking public transportation around the city has become an exciting daily adventure for me. Did you know that you're not allowed to talk on your cell phone while riding a bus? It's commonly believed that the cell phone connection interferes with the bus' braking system. I didn't know until I answered my phone and people started giving me weird looks. I thought it was because they were surprised to see an Asian girl on the bus but after someone told me that we weren't allowed to use our phones and someone else explained about the "braking issue," did I understand that the weird looks came from the fear of careening into pedestrians or storefronts because I was on my phone. Why they would believe that cell phones have anything to do with braking systems, I have no idea.
Once I was on my way to Taksim and I was waiting for a dolmuş (mini van buses) on a popular street. Numerous dolmuş's kept honking at me to get in but they weren't going to where I needed to go. Taksi's (that's how they're spelled here) were also honking at me but I didn't want to pay that much to get to Taksim so I kept waiting. A taksi slows down and I walk passed, shaking my head. The driver puts the car in reverse and the two guys in the back open the door and ask me where I'm going. I say Taksim and they say "Get in! We're going to the European side too! We'll help you get to Taksim!" Since I was late, I jumped into the taksi with them. We did a quick introduction and then they and the driver started to get into a heated argument in Turkish. I couldn't completely follow along but I knew that they were arguing about me. Soon, the irrate driver started driving like a mad man. I honestly thought my life would end on the bridge as he weaved in between cars and busses, driving at speeds unwarranted for the amount of traffic around. We get to the European side, we pay the driver 5 liras each and as we're getting out of the car, the driver starts yelling at the two guys again before speeding off. They explained that he was upset at them for telling me the fair price (he had wanted to charge me the "tourist rate") and for not telling me to take the taksi all the way to Taksim. They pointed me toward the metro station, which I paid 1.5 liras for with my Akbil (similar to a Metrocard) and I continued on my way to Taksim.
Many of you know that I've never come across street food that I could pass up and while walking through the rather odd gypsy market, I saw a man selling sandwiches from a food cart. I decided to buy one. I asked for the price in Turkish and I thought he said 5 liras, which is rather pricey for street food in Istanbul but Kemal asked again and said it was 1.5 liras. I paid for it and dug into my sandwich. To my dismay, it wasn't beef or lamb in the sandwich as I thought but liver! Ack! Kemal laughed at me and said "I could have told you it was liver!" I guess that's just the chance you take when you try street food: sometimes it's not what you expected but most of the time, it's so darn tasty!
Perhaps one of my favorite daily adventures is having breakfast at home with Medina and İkbal. I wake up later than the rest of the house and come down for breakfast when they're finishing theirs. We have our usual customary conversation of asking how we're doing, if we've slept well and what we'll be doing that day in Turkish. Then we hit the limit of my Turkish conversational skills and resort to pantomime and pointing, with Medina trying her hardest to use her limited English vocabulary to translate for İkbal. It's often hilarious, with me just smiling and shrugging my misunderstanding and İkbal getting exasperated at me. Often she'll just laugh and pinch my cheeks, mumbling something in Turkish that I can't understand.
It's always fun to rediscover the extraordinary in the ordinary and it makes life so much more enjoyable. I invite you to find your own silly daily (mis)adventures and share them in the below comment section with me and whoever else may be reading. Let's stop taking life's precious moments for granted and start documenting them (whether mentally or publicly) as a way to remind ourselves how wonderful life really is.
© Connie Hum 2009