As rough a day as I had on Friday – my Turkish completely failed me, my bank account got closed out, and my internet ceased to function (compounding the other two problems) – Saturday was the exact opposite.
There is a type of a mini-bus/taxi hybrid, that functions like a subway, in Turkey called a dolmuş. These buses always look extremely sketchy – small white vans, sliding side doors, tinted windows and clusters of people huddled in the back – and stop when someone waves them down on their route. As Danielle, Fabio and myself were on the way to the univerity’s main gate to ask whether any buses were going into the city center on Saturday’s, we saw a dolmuş and hailed it.
“Are you going to Malatya?” I asked the driver as soon as he pulled up and opened the side door?
“Huh?” I had forgotten technically everything around me is Malatya.
“Oh, sorry. Are you going to the city center?”
“Yeah, get in.”
We rode for a while in silence, before the drivers phone rang and he began to instantly tell a story involving an honorless man to his father. Suddenly, we pulled off the road, into a dingy side stop. The man gets out, talks to a few other loitering drivers, jumps back in the car and speeds away still talking on his cell phone. Soon, we pass the turning for the city center.
“Sir, are we going to Malatya’s city center?” I ask him again. He nods.
Soon after, he pulls over to the side of the street, at the bus stop for all the buses heading towards the university. “You can get out here, the city center is two hundred meters to your left,” he says smiling.
“How much?” we ask.
“Don’t worry about it. You’re students?”
“No, we’re English teachers,” I tell him.
“Oh! I work at the hospital. Please, come by sometime and we’ll have tea!” He said in a mixture of Turkish and miming before driving off. We had inadvertently flagged down a hospital shuttle, and the driver was kind enough to give us a lift.
The road we walked down towards Malatya’s center was dusty, and definitely a place that never received tourists. Stopping briefly in front of a bakery, the three of us debated buying some pide – baked flat bread with cheese and parsley inside it. The owners saw us, heard us speaking English, and before we knew it we were inside the store.
“Please, please, take a photo. Take it, put it on Facebook!” the owner insisted as he started making fresh pide for show. They ended up selling us three pide for 1 lira – three for the price of one. They insisted we come back.
After exploring the city for a few hours, the three of us headed back towards the main bus stop to try to catch a mini-bus to Battalgazı, the site of the old remains of Malatya dating back thousands of years. Stopping at a Turkish BBQ place, the owners once again insisted of us taking pictures, taking pictures of us, and making sure everything was shared on Facebook. After they found out we were teachers and we would be living in Malatya for the next nine months, we were made to promise we would go back every day for lunch and tea, which they insisted on bringing out. They seemed genuinely sad to see us go.
The most extreme act of the kindness of strangers, though, came from Mehmet – the nephew of the mini-bus driver who took us to and from Battalgazı. That story, and a description of the sites within Battalgazı, will be in the next post. Safe to say, though, Turks are the most hospitable and generous people I have ever come into contact with.
As a side note, they also love Italians – as Fabio can attest – due to what they keep saying is their shared Mediterranean heritage. Very cool, moving, stuff.