Sunday in Istanbul is a family day. There is a lot less traffic on the streets – significant enough so that every car passes effortlessly on the street. There are many more women and children walking, there are many more men and children walking and playing in the park. I saw boys playing soccer (football), children running and playing, old men napping on the benches and women gossiping. As I sat and read, a beautiful little girl came up to me and started speaking Turkish, to which I replied that I could only speak English. She nodded in understanding, smiled and ran off. I would really love to know what she said to me. Two women were trying to get my attention by speaking Turkish to me, and only when they raised their voices did I realize they were trying to ask me the time. Rather than try to say the time in English, I handed them my cell phone to read the time. Only then did they understand that I spoke English. They then smiled, and told me “thank you.”
There seems to be a level of trust among the people here that I never experienced in the Bay Area. There are public cell phone “charging stations.” Store clerks walk away from people in the store without surreptitiously watching them, all kinds of wares are on the street with no one in sight to buy from. There doesn’t seem to be an attitude that someone will steal; rather there seems to be an attitude that people will not steal. There is a “polis” station in the neighborhood, but I have never seen anyone arrested, or even stopped for a traffic violation. Then again, I am never out very late on Saturday nights – could be this is when all the action takes place (smile).
I am also enjoying having my nationality be ambiguous. Restaurant hosts ask me to point to the language I speak, Arabic people assume I am Arabic, Turkish people assume I am Turkish (or at least speak Turkish) and there is a total lack of uncertainty about living among the Turkish people. Until I speak, I am one of them. Even when I speak, I am welcome, I am always welcome.