So there we were on the ride home yesterday, proud of ourselves for having found the right bus after venturing out on our own to the other side of town where we're going to take our teaching certification class. The bus was pretty full, so we had to stand, but Sarah got a seat after a while. When an old Turkish lady got on the bus though, Sarah gestured and volunteered her seat while the lady thanked her in Turkish. When the seat next to the lady opened up, Sarah sat down and endured the awkward silence next to the lady (when she probably would have conversed very amiably if she had known Turkish). The lady was very nice and even used her piece of paper to fan Sarah because of the heat, but not a word passed between them.
As we got closer to our apartment, we started craning our necks out the windows to try to spot where we would get off. You see, this was our first time taking the bus home and we didn't know where they would let us off, and at the time every street looked similar. In our obvious nervousness we unknowingly started a chain reaction...
**NOTE: I will attempt to retell the story putting English words to what I think all the Turks were saying to us, but I will keep our responses genuinely Turkish.**
- The nice old Turkish lady tries to help first: "Oh, do you need some help finding your stop?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." ("I don't know.")
- Lady: "I can help you. What's the name of the stop you're getting off at?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." Sarah's hands also give the half-"I surrender" posture to reinforce the "I don't know." At this point the ladies in the seats in front of Sarah also turn around and chime in...
- Other Ladies: "Who are you meeting?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum. Turkce konusmiyorum." ("I don't know. I don't speak Turkish.")
- All the Ladies: "C'mon. All you have to do is tell us what stop you're gonna get off at. What's the name of it?"
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum."
- All the Ladies, to me now: "Do you know?"
- Me: "Bilmiyorum."
- All the Ladies, plus the guy across the aisle: "Oh, you probably can't say it, but you can write it down. Here's some paper and a pen."
- Sarah, with the "I surrender" hand posture: "Bilmiyorum." Meanwhile I'm still standing, holding on to the handrail, and craning my neck out the windows to notice anything familiar. By now all 27 passengers on the bus are looking at us. The bus driver stops the bus, opens the doors, and turns around. The ticket taker looks at us.
- Bus driver and ticket taker: "What stop are you getting off at? What's the name of the street? Can you describe what it looks like to us?"
- Sarah and me: "Bilmiyorum. Turkce konusmiyorum." Thankfully the bus starts moving again, but people keep trying to help us in Turkish while we spit out every single Turkish word we know. Sarah steps it up a notch and tries to say that the stop is near a bakery.
- Sarah: "Ekmek. Burada." ("Bread. Here.")
- Everyone: "Oh, you want some bread? You're getting off here? You want to go to a bakery?"
- Us: "Bilmiyorum." At this point it looks like we'll never get anywhere talking with these people. But we can't just stop talking and look for the right bus stop. THEY KEEP TRYING TO HELP. We have no choice but to try to talk with them. Sarah then gets the idea to say it's near the train station.
- Sarah: "Train station." (yeah, in English)
- Everyone: "Oh, the train station. That's over there."
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum."
- Lady in front of Sarah: "Wait, do you want the train station or the tramway? There's a difference you know."
- Me: "Evet. Tren!" ("Yes. Train!") Apparently that thread goes nowhere. So Sarah throws "train" into her string of Turkish words...
- Sarah: "Ekmek. Burada. Tren. Burada. Ekmek... Bilmiyorum. Turkce Konusmiyorum!" ("Bread. Here. Train. Here. Bread. I don't know. I don't speak Turkish!")
- Everyone: "Uh, are you guys even on the right bus? Do you know if you're supposed to go to Zeytinburnu? 'Cause this bus is in Zeytinburnu now." (Zeytinburnu is our neighborhood)
- Us: "Evet. Zeytinburnu."
- Lady: "Okay, here's that paper again. You know you can just write down the name of your stop for me."
- Sarah: "Bilmiyorum." Then Sarah remembers she has Allison's cell phone and we can call for some backup. She hands it to me and I speak with Eric, who tells us exactly where to get off. Duh... we could have done that 20 minutes ago. I tell Sarah I know where to get off, so we awkwardly ignore everyone's comments and stares for the next 3 minutes until we spot our stop.
- Us: "Burada! Tesekkurler!" ("Here! Thanks!") And yes, it was the right stop. We got off right next to the bakery (of which there are hundreds throughout the city) and got home safely.
Whew! Our first major language adventure with a bus full of Turks!
**Sarah's note: As the situation increased in awkwardness, I noticed Jonathan smoothly fade into the background and look out like the window, trying to avoid any sort of affiliation with me due to the fact that I was making a fool of myself. This isn't the first time he's hung me out to dry. He also abandoned me to the mercy of the bread man a couple of days ago. I looked to him for support when I couldn't understand the bread price, and I saw him a good 20yards away, watching from a safe distance. He confessed to me yesterday he saw the man trying to follow me with my change, but I just walked off. Good thing I'm used to these things happening.**