May 16, 2014

3 Things I Really Notice

...upon returning to Turkey, in particular the southeast, after five days in the Republic of Cyprus.

1. The heat

Before this jaunt to Cyprus, I had forgotten the finicky dampness of the mountains, and the temperature shift that other places experience when the sun goes down. Here the weather is reliably hot. Morning, noon, and night. When I walked down the steps from the airplane in Gaziantep, back into the encompassing heat, I remembered flying into Saudi.

2. The helpfulness

People here are truly helpful. Outside the airport I asked a man how to get to the otogar. He said that the transfer bus should go there, but to check with the şoför, whom he naturally called over. The şoför confirmed, took my bag, and invited me onto the bus. Several people on the bus made sure that I succeeded in getting off at the otogar.

I can't help but compare this to the events the same morning in Cyprus, in which I was stranded in a village because the bus driver opted to drive past me at the village centre bus stop. I was less annoyed with the driver (after all, I was on the wrong side of the street after forgetting about the British system) and more annoyed with the tables full of local men who had observed me sitting on the side of a road with a backpack for 10 minutes leading up to the bus and 10 minutes after it went by, without saying anything.

"Oh, the customer service in Turkey!" someone exclaimed recently. But that suggests that the excellent service is only for customers. It's not. Most of the help I receive is from random strangers who will never benefit in any material way from me. I need to keep reminding myself that the rest of the world is not like this (but probably should be).

3. The ease

Outside the otogar of Gaziantep–I don't even have to go in or ask–a man finds me a bus to Urfa and takes my 20 lira for the ticket price. When I board the bus, an attendant asks for my ticket. I don't have one, I say. I payed that guy outside. Oh, no problem. Such is the degree that you can trust people in Turkey (Note: Istanbul is another country). I am given as much free water as I like. The bus stops for us to rest and eat. The bathroom costs the usual 1 lira, but of course it is reliably clean. The self-service restaurant serves its reliably good stews. Even though I have paid and sat down, it is still not too late to ask for a fresh ayran for which the waiter takes a lira. Fellow passengers and bus attendants let me know when the bus is leaving. Back in Urfa, I walk through dark streets to my apartment without worrying for an instant about safety. I know much of this has to do with speaking some Turkish and having spent time here, but still, still, it's easy.

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