Dear Forum Folk, Recently I received a PM from an individual who wanted to share a very positive experience he had with a taxi driver in Istanbul. This individual suggested that we might want to create a thread of positive experiences we have had in Turkey.
I have pondered how to start this for several weeks, because I would want to begin with an example or two and there were so many I really do not know where to begin. I truly believe I could write a book on Random Acts of Kindness in Istanbul.
In the US it seems to me that kindnesses among strangers are rare and growing even more rare. If someone is not rushing ahead to capture a parking place then they are tramping on my toes to reach the head of the line at Mc Donalds. The clerk at the drugstore is annoyed when she has to interupt her personal cell phone call to take my money, and the butcher at the market takes a deep sigh and rolls his eyes to the top of his head when asked to prepare a specific cut of meat.
I am quite confident that the concept of random acts of kindness was born in Turkey. At least I have never visited any other country when so many strangers went out of their way to help us in ways big and small. So I am going to write of a few experiences we had, and I hope that others will include their experiences as well. Would'nt it be great for first time visitors to Turkey to know what they can expect before they arrive?
When we got to Turkey we were whisked through the airport and into our waiting car so quickly that I did not even see anyplace to exchange currency. When we got to the hotel I asked about a place, but was told I was "too tired to do that now so not to worry". The following day, a Sunday, we used the 100YTL my son-in-law had obtained at the airport. On Monday the owner of our hotel, and a former tour guide, offered to take us through Sultanahmet. My first request was a place to exchange currency so I could pay for admissions, meals etc. This charming man said we should not take time to do that, and then he reached into his wallet, removed 300YTL and said he thought that would be sufficient for our needs for the day and we could pay him back anytime we wished to.
Our hotel was ground zero for random acts of kindness. Tea or coffee were always offered in the afternoon when we returned from our adventures. Our quest for directions to a restaurant were always provided with a guide to take us. From a can of Coke to a farewell dinner, the staff of our hotel displayed a level of generosity we have never before experienced.
On the first Thursday we were in Istanbul we had dinner at the Moziak. My husband left his brand new $3000 camera at the restaurant. We had walked about half way back to our hotel when we were stopped by a server in the restaurant. He told us that several servers were fanning out all over the area to look for us because we had left our camera behind. Shortly there after the server with the camera delivered it.
Almost every time we asked anyone for directions they stopped what they were doing and personally guided us to our location. In Bursa a man walked with us for eight confusing blocks to deliver us to the Ozdelik towel store. In Istanbul a man got off of the tram and walked with us to a camera store, and then got back on the tram to resume his journey.
Tea must be the liquid of random acts of kindness. I remember from the years we lived in Turkey that we were offered tea several times in every block, from every home and shop in our village. It was no different in March if I paused for a minute to lean against my cane and catch my breath someone came out with a chair and a glass of tea. In Sirkeic, when it was completely clear that the lady in the camera store did not have what we needed she nonetheless insisted on sharing a glass of tea before we left, permitting me to rest for a few minutes before resuming my walk.
My favorite tea story happened after sunset in the park between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia. My husband was off somewhere taking pictures and I waited for him on the benches in the park. It was quite cold and there were only two or three other people there. After about ten minutes an old man came and sat by me. He did not speak a word of English, and I spoke no Turkish but he smiled and waved down a waiter and ordered two glasses of tea which we shared together. The waiter, translating for the old man, told me the man ordered the tea because "...it was good I should be warm on a cold night."
In reality acts of kindness in Turkey do not seem to be random at all. They seem to me to be part of everyday behavior, but I know that some of you will remember behaviors that were particularly unusual. So share them with us.