“Gülüm Sokak, Basīnevleri,” I tell the cabbie as I rush into the first cab I see. I’m running late, and I only have 15 minutes to get from one side of the city to the other to meet my old host family for dinner – a massive feat, Ankara sprawls in every direction for miles.
The cab takes off, and going a block, the driver asks for the address again – I tell him, but I notice something. His accent is different, and his Turkish is clearer, sharper, and more sing-song than any other Turkish I’ve heard before.
“Where are you from,” I ask him.
“Oh! That’s on the Black Sea, right? I have a friend teaching there.” And so, whatever little bit of ice there may have been now broken, we start to chat the entire ride as I’m anxious to practice my Turkish and he’s…well, he’s just Turkish, welcoming, and happy to talk to anyone about anything.
Slowly the conversation turns to his daughter working in D.C. and how he wants to visit America. I’m not all that surprised, as I catch glimpses of his super blue eyes in the rear-view mirror. Black Sea people are stereotypically known for being clever, tricksters, and loving to travel.
We make good time, and get close to my area when unbeknownst to me, we take a wrong turn. Suddenly the neighborhood looks unfamiliar, and the cabby pulls up to 212 Gazin Sokak.
“Here we are,” he announces.
“This isn’t right, is this the right address?”
“Of course…well, Gülüm Sokak doesn’t exist, but Gazin does.”
“This isn’t right,” I tell him again. We end up driving in circles, eventually going to the police station to ask for directions. We were in the wrong neighborhood the whole time. Finally we make it to the right address, the fare being 10 lira more than it should’ve been. Im still not sure if that cabby just didn’t know the extreme residential outer fringe of Ankara, or if he was just living up the stereotype of a someone from the Black Sea.
On the trip home, I decide to push my luck and hail another cab. This driver was the exact opposite of the first cabby, and much more stereotypically Turkish looking – if such a thing exists, I’m no longer sure. The first cabby was short, blue eyed, gray hair, smoothly shaved with goldenish skin – this cabby was tall, thick mustache, black hair, and extremely tan. His Turkish was much gruffer.
We rode silently for a few minutes, before he inquisitively threw me a glance in the rear-view mirror, “where are you from?”
“Oh! Wonderful, are you a student?”
“A teacher,” I tell him.
We talk for the rest of the ride back to the hotel – a good twenty minutes – about all sorts of things: what America is like, are there Turks there, where was he from (Erzurum in the east, though he moved to Ankara 54 years ago), why he moved, his father, and the city in general as we cut quickly through its sprawl.
He took me straight home.