July 3, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

When I told the handsome Armenian-Turkish brothers at Sevan, a Middle Eastern bakery near my home, that I was going to learn some Turkish, they both informed me, “You can’t do it.” (This was also what they'd earlier announced when I said I was going to learn to make the Turkish dessert ekmek khadayif. I see a pattern here.) Well, I did learn Turkish, biraz, a little, just enough to make me feel comfortable when I visited Istanbul. (I like to learn some of the language before I visit any country. I feel it’s respectful, and it often opens a door to a smile, to get to know someone a little better.) “I want a scrub and a massage.” “Where is Sultanahmet Square?” “I only want to go shopping.” I practiced with the Pimsleur Language Course Basic Turkish CDs. I also took a beginners’ conversation class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, but the students were so scattered in their interest and unruly in their demeanor, there was not much chance to learn the language. Though I did pick up some valuable cultural information. Like the fact that Istanbul taxicabs charge a higher rate after midnight, a fact that came in handy when a driver started his meter on this late-night rate at 7pm and I was able to tell him to switch to the standard rate...in Turkish. And, begrudgingly, he did.

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