Living in a country where I do not speak the native language has called for some creativity when it comes to communication. Whether I am taking a bus or ordering a sandwich, speaking with someone who does not understand you is tough! Imagine saying, “Thank you,” to a waiter at a restaurant or a teller at the bank and realizing that they have no idea what you have said. Although it can be tricky at times, the language barrier is one of the most exciting challenges that I face daily here in Turkey. One of the best places to experience this thrill is in riding the most popular form of transportation here: the dolmuş.
A few friends and I decided to go to a neighborhood on the other side of town on Saturday afternoon. In order to get to the neighborhood called Taksim, we had to take a dolmuş, a metro bus and an underground metro that is very similar to the subway in New York City. It is always an adventure and this trip was no exception! After living in Istanbul for a little over a month, we not only considered ourselves public transportation professionals but also assumed that we could get to our destination with little effort. We were in for a big surprise!
After we successfully hopped off of the dolmuş at our stop, we immediately saw our connecting metro bus and ran to grab our seats. Although we had each only been to Taksim a few times, our group collectively agreed on where we should get off of the bus and find the underground metro. When we began to tell our bus driver which stop we were going to, he laughed and rapidly responded in Turkish. We stood there for a moment, pretty bewildered, but repeated our stop with nodding heads and smiling faces. He repeated the stop, “Haciosman,” laughed again and began to drive.
Hoping that our driver was just in a good mood, we sat down and anxiously waited for our rapidly approaching stop. Not only did our metro stop appear, but it also passed! We ran up to the driver and told him he missed our stop, but he kept driving and shaking his head. Again we repeated, “Haciosman, Haciosman lütfen,” and he responded reassuringly in Turkish. We say down dejectedly and agreed to just get off at the next stop when suddenly the driver waved us over and said in broken English, “Here, here,” pointing outside of his window. Lo and behold our kind bus driver had taken us to a Metro stop much closer to our final destination than the one we had previously intended to take! We laughed (I think I even cried a little) and happily got off the bus, waving to our driver who just kept laughing as we drove away. None of us knew he was helping us out or even know where we had wanted to go, but our creative communication skills won in the end! We had a lovely afternoon in Taksim after that and told everyone we knew about our “totally cool” new bus-driver friend. A journey is that much more exciting when you don’t know how it is going to end, and this was one exciting journey!