Today is the last day of my first week of work in Turkey and below are some things I’ve noticed in my week here:
1. Cats are the new squirrels
I haven’t seen a single squirrel roaming the sidewalks since I’ve been here, but I feel like T.S. Eliot because there are cats everywhere. You’ll find them on the sidewalks, lounging by buildings or under trees, playing on the side fo the street. And often, people will leave open jugs of water and food for them–almost like feeding the brids. They’re the city pets.
By the school where I work, I’ve also seen many stray dogs. I’ve learned that the ones with tags in their ears have seen the vet and had their immunizations. Personally, I’m more partial to the dogs, but unfortunately, the cats seem more abundant. I have yet to pet either.
2. Tea is essential to making it through the day
There is a tea room on almost every floor, in every building at my school. People drink tea in the morning, they drink it at breakfast, they drink it after meals and before bed. You’d think there would be a bigger British influence here with all the tea they drink, but perhaps the Turks started that trend before the Brits…
3. Traffic laws are arbitrary
I learned to drive outside of DC, which isn’t an easy task within itself, but I also learned to drive in DC in a Durango. If you know anything of DC driving, you know that you have to drive like you’re always running late and no one else on the road matters. If you don’t, you are run over by assholes who are running late and think they’re the only ones on the whole Beltway who matter. And you must go at least 10 miles over the speed limit when you aren’t stuck in a traffic jam.
Thank God I learned to drive in that environment so that I’m not completely scared riding the bus to and from work every day, because these people don’t care anything about traffic laws. A one lane road may contain a few lanes of traffic, and brakes are not necessary unless you are one foot from the driver in front of you or about one foot from hitting a pedestrian. Also, though seatbelts are a fantastic idea in this country, you hardly ever see people wearing them. And I’ve often seen children or babies just sitting on parent’s laps, without a seatbelt. It’s an eye opener, for sure.
Oh, and red lights? Those don’t necessarily mean stop. When I hit the crossing button and it says I can walk, I always make sure to check twice, because while most cars will stop at a red light, some will simply drive around the line and straight through the light. Other things such as turn signals and automatic transmissions are also not commonly used or found here. But horns, well those are used plenty.
4. The world wide web is not as wide as I thought
I thought I might run into the issue of blocked websites when I got here. And there are certainly those, though far less than I actually thought. However, what surprised me more was that some websites, which I consider to be quite global, have not reached global status yet. For example, I’d heard that YouTube was banned. Apparently that ban has been lifted. (Thank goodness, because I need to continue stalking the Lizze Bennet Diaries.) But both Netflix and Pandora are not in this country yet. What gives? I haven’t been able to figure out a way to make my computer still think it’s in the States, but I hear that it’s possible.
5. Brand recognition withstands language barriers
I may not know Turkish that well, but I do know what a Coke is, or say, Dove Shampoo, or MacDonald’s, or Olay or Nike or a million other brands. Now I’d like to think that says a lot about my recognition and memorization skills, but unfortunately, I think it just says more about my consumerism and culture.
Also, what I have been most surprised about seeing here is a Little Caesers Pizza. I mean, are those even still open in the States?
6. As long as you try, most people are willing to help
I know approximately 20 Turkish words and phrases and remember about 10 of those when I actually need to use them. I’ve learned quite a lot about talking with my hands and gesturing or making up a gibberish of key words from different languages to get what I need. But I’ve often found that people are not just amused by my antics (because they certainly are; though I don’t understand their antics, I can understand their friendly laughter), they are willing to work with me. Where I am is not exactly a tourist area and often if I go to the market or the phone store or something, the employees do not speak English. But I have not gone somewhere yet by myself and not been helped, despite the language differences.
Overall, I’ve found the Turkish people (with very few exceptions) to warm, inviting, good-hearted, and welcoming. Ok, perhaps the exception is when they’re driving.