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Posts Tagged ‘culture shock’

The weather.  Quito is in the 50s-70s year-round, which I think is just about perfect.  Not too hot.  Not too cold (I don’t own anything warmer than a spring jacket).  And if I want more summery weather, the coast, with its 80- to 90-degree heat and humid ocean air, is only 5 hours away.

Locro de papas

Locro de papas

Soup.  Lunch always starts with a bowl of soup.  There are hundreds of different soups here.  I start to go through withdrawal if I don’t eat soup for a few days.  Guess I’ll be cooking lots of soup in the U.S.

Almuerzos.  As I said, lunch starts with soup.  Then comes a main entrée of protein, rice, and probably some sort of salad.  Then a small desert.  And fresh juice.  And probably coffee if you want it.  All of this costs $2 or $3.  These hearty home-style meals are such a great value.  If I find a $3 lunch in the U.S., it’s probably going to come in a greasy fast food bag.

Cheap taxis.  Most of my taxi rides in Quito cost a couple bucks.  Inconceivable in the U.S.

Seeing the Andes every day.  Sure it will be nice to live somewhere with a little more oxygen, but I won’t see views like this every time I leave my house.  I love the mountains.  They make my heart fill with awe at how grand this world of ours is.

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Buen provecho.  It’s common in smaller restaurants to tell other patrons to enjoy their  meal, even if they don’t know one another.  I love that strangers wish each other “buen provecho.”

Tropical fruits.  I’ve discovered so many new fruits here.  Uvillas.  Pitahaya.  Granadilla.  Tomate de arbol.  Taxo.  Naranjilla.  And other slightly less exotic fruits, like mango and passion fruit and pineapple, are common, fresh, and affordable.  So delicious.

Latin music.  It’s everywhere: in stores, on buses, blasting out of cars and apartments.  My day is filled with a soundtrack of salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia, vallenatos, pasillos, Latin pop, and reggaeton.  I know I can listen to this in the Twin Cities, but it won’t be so prevalent.

Greeting strangers.  One of my earliest impressions during my first week in Ecuador happened when I was staying at the Embassy’s temporary apartment while looking for my own housing.  I was leaving the complex and a little boy ran by me on the sidewalk.  He was maybe 6 or 7, and obviously in a hurry.  But he still said “Good afternoon” when he passed me.  I thought that was exceptionally polite, especially for a little kid.  But I have since learned that people greet each other more than I am used to, especially in more rural areas.  But even in the big city, if you enter an elevator with someone already in it, you’d better say hello (and “see you later” when exiting).  Getting in a taxi?  The first words out of your mouth better be “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening,” even before asking the fare or stating an address.  Got a quick question for a sales clerk?  Same thing.  I really had to work hard to remember this, and STILL forget sometimes.  But as someone who tends to focus on tasks rather than on relationships, this custom has been really good for me.

IMG_3417No seasonal eating.  Seasonal eating seems to have really become a thing in the U.S.  And I think it’s a good idea – eating food that is in season means it tastes better, is fresher, and was probably grown locally or shipped shorter distances.  But I realized that this concept doesn’t exist in Ecuador, because everything is always in season here.  If I want strawberries in November, I can get them.  If I want a tomato in January, I can find a juicy ripe red one.  Do Minnesotans even eat produce in February???  Guh.

Easy travel.  It’s pretty cheap and easy to travel around this compact (and DIVERSE!) country.  I’ve gotten to visit a lot of great places here: Tena and Yasuni in the Amazon region; Quilotoa, Vilcabamba, Baños, Cuenca, and Bolivar province in the Andes, and the Galapagos islands.  There are so many beautiful, fun, and interesting places I will miss having in my backyard.

Physical contact.  Greetings in Ecuador are a small kiss on the right cheek (or a brief cheek-to-cheek touch), often accompanied by a small hug or touch on the back.  When I go back to the U.S. and shake hands to greet people, or, more likely, just smile and nod after an introduction, it feels incredibly cold to me.  Now I understand what my Latino students complained about when they came to the U.S. – it’s cold.  I’m really going to miss these warm greetings.  I don’t know what I’m going to do, since I have such an overwhelming urge to kiss everyone hello or goodbye now.

Terms of endearment.  Sure we have these in the U.S. (hon, sweetie), but they’re just soooooooo gosh darn prevalent in Ecuador, particularly on the coast.  I love that sales clerks and taxi drivers call me mi niña (my child), mi hija (my daughter), señorita (miss), mi princesa  (my princess), mi preciosa (my precious), mi reina (my queen) or mi vida (my life).  I once got this text message from an admirer: “Hola mi reina como q chevere q viene esta semana mi vida y q tiempo se queda ha mi princesa asi q podemos salir cuando llegue si y como esta q hace mi princesa soy alexander mi amor este es mi otro numero mi vida y disculpe xq recien le escribo si corazon bello un beso mi vida.”  That’s a lot of affection squeezed into a few lines of text.

The salsa scene.  In December 2010, when I was still in Turkey and preparing to move to Ecuador, I made a list of resolutions for myself.  One of the goals I wrote in my journal was “I definitely want to find a place in the salsa community!!  My goal is to have friends to go out dancing with, help me practice, and improve as a salsa dancer.”  And I can proudly and affectionately say that I accomplished this.  I really have.  I can go to any salsa club in Quito and be confident that I will know at least one person there.  I know a lot of salseros.  Most of my friends are salseros (whom I will miss dearly).  I’M a salsero.   And while I know that there are lots of opportunities for salsa dancing in the Twin Cities, and I look forward to getting involved in THAT community as well, I also doubt that it will be the same.  From what I’ve seen in the metro area salsa clubs, falta sabor.  I will fiercely miss salsa dancing in Quito.

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Estephy.  Man, this one is hard.  This one…  it encapsulates just about everything on this list, and more.  When I first came here, I noticed that people often shortened my name to Stephy (pronounced Estephy with the Spanish accent).  It originally struck me as odd, since I hadn’t been called that since kindergarten.  But I learned that Ecuadorians are quick to diminutize names to show affection, and I now love this.  Almost everyone here calls me Estephy.  I no longer feel that it’s childish – I find it endearing.  In fact, I feel like Estephy represents the Ecuadorian me, as if I now have two versions of myself.  Estephy speaks fluent Spanglish.  Estephy rides the bus and negotiates with taxi drivers and shops in markets and likes hearing  Latin music everywhere.  Estephy takes time to greet people and says hello with a kiss on the cheek.  Estephy wears leggings and skinny jeans and large earrings.  Estephy is flexible with ambiguity and sometimes a little late.  Estephy speaks with Quiteño intonation.  Estephy loves to eat fanesca and encocado and ceviche and chulpi chochos and empanadas de viento and mote con chicharron.  Estephy has a lot of friends in Ecuador (voy a extrañarlos una bestia!).  Estephy whips her hand to show emotion.  Estephy dances like a Latina.  And I feel like when I move back to the U.S., I will go back to being Stephanie.  Estephy will always be a part of me, but I worry that she will fade away.  In Ecuador, Estephy has thrived.  In the United States…quien sabe?

“Familiarity does not breed contempt. On the contrary the more familiar it is the more rare and beautiful it is. Take the quarter in which one lives, it is lovely, it is a place rare and beautiful and to leave it is awful.”
— Gertrude Stein

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Cultural Bumbling

I had a lot of cultural misunderstandings last week.  Let’s examine three vignettes, shall we?

“I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie”
When I travel for work, it’s hard to exercise regularly, and my diet gravitates toward carbohydrate-heavy Ecuadorian meals, so I often feel like I gain a few pounds on the road.  When I recently returned to Quito after a week of eating way too many plantains on the coast of Ecuador, an Afro-Ecuadorian friend commented that my butt got bigger while I was in Esmeraldas.   Wow.  I was BUMMED.

In some cultures, the Hanson Ass is actually a good thing?

Now, you might think it’s rude to talk about someone’s weight.  But weight isn’t really a taboo topic in Latino culture – I can accept that.  And you might also think it’s chauvinistic for a guy to comment on a woman’s body parts.  But that’s part of machismo culture – I don’t necessarily like it, but I understand that’s how it is here.  These things didn’t really bother me.  What bothered me was that I was feeling a little chubby, and someone noticed and critiqued my weight gain.  

Except my Vice-Minister of Ecuadorian Relations then informed me that if an Ecuadorian, particularly an Afro-Ecuadorian, says my butt looks bigger , it’s a COMPLIMENT.  And she verified it with the guy.  Yep.  It was a good thing that my butt was bigger.  WHAT?!?!  He thought he was giving me a compliment, and I thought he was giving me an insult.  How’s that for a total cross-cultural misinterpretation.  Wow.

“Let’s Get Straight To The Point.  Or Not.”
At 8pm on Friday night I received a text message from a guy I met a few weeks ago while salsa dancing.  He was inviting me out to dinner.  Then.  Like, RIGHT then.  Now, I know that Ecuadorians don’t tend to plan things much in advance, but this seemed ridiculous.  So I wrote back “Now?!  I already have plans.  Maybe another time.”  And he said ok.  But later, my Vice-Minister of Ecuadorian Relations informed me that my message was REALLY direct.  Too direct.  I didn’t MEAN for it to be direct/rude.  My intention was to indicate I was busy, but open to doing something later.  Sigh.  Sociolinguistic fail.

I learned how to make coconut milk, and other life lessons.

“Waste Not, Want Not”
I had some Ecuadorian friends over to teach me how to cook encocado, a coconut seafood stew.   Now, you have to understand – these friends make minimum wage.  I make an American salary, which goes a loooooooong way in Ecuador.  These friends each pay $70 in rent.  I pay $700 in rent.  (This, unfortunately, was all revealed because prices and salaries are not taboo in Ecuador.  So, when they entered my elegantly furnished apartment located in a ritzy part of Quito, the topic of rent came up.)  When some water spilled in our pot of sunflower oil, there was concern that the oil would splatter when we started frying the plantains.  So I dumped out the oil, thinking it would be easier to clean out the pot and start over.  They were DISGUSTED with me.  The oil could still be used (which I didn’t understand), and it was horribly wasteful in their eyes to dump out a cup of oil (which I never even considered).    I felt like a world-class jerk.  A rich, snobby, wasteful gringa.  A cup of cooking oil wasn’t a big deal to me.  But this incident opened my eyes to the fact that, for many Ecuadorians, a cup of cooking oil IS a big deal.  I got much more than a cooking lesson that evening. 

These 3 misunderstandings all occurred within 4 days of each other.  I was feeling pre-tty culturally incompetent by the end of the week.  But at least I’m learning.

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Rediscovering America

I was out of the U.S. for approximately 447 consecutive days (a record for me!).  Now I’m seeing America through fresh eyes.  Things of note:

  • Walmart has so much STUFF.  And it’s all so CHEAP!
  • People keep telling me I can drink water directly out of the tap.  I remain skeptical.
  • Drinking fountains!  I forgot all about drinking fountains!
  • I don’t feel like a giant here.  All sorts of people are bigger than me and taller than me.  Even if I wear heels!
  • Just about every business seems to have free wi-fi.
  • I was throwing everything away for a couple weeks before I remembered that recycling is a really easy and common option here.
  • Water takes FOR-EV-ER to boil at this elevation.
  • I find myself still hoarding small bills, but I don’t need to, because the stores can all make change.
  • I keep thinking I don’t have any $1s because I don’t have any Sacajawea dollars.  But I actually have all sorts of dollar bills.  (I guess all the dollar COINS are in Ecuador.)
  • But I don’t even need to use cash – I can pay for almost anything with a credit card!
  • Plumbing here can handle toilet paper.  And public restrooms HAVE toilet paper!  It’s magical.
  • I have to remind myself to leave tips at restaurants because it isn’t automatic anymore.
  • I was eating lunch at a little Asian joint, and the waitress brought my bill without my asking for it, WHILE I WAS STILL EATING.  My immediate thought was “That’s so RUDE!”  And then I remembered it’s not really rude here.  It’s efficient.
  • I had forgotten how much I like the freedom of having my own car.  I can go anywhere I want, anytime I want, without waiting for a taxi or a bus.  And I can control the radio.
  • Cars keep stopping for me.  I stand there, confused about what they are waiting for, until I realize they’re waiting for ME!  Imagine that – a car yielding to a pedestrian.  I’m worried this may lull me into a false sense of security when I return to Quito.
  • These law firm commericals are everywhere, and they’re obnoxious.  Is our culture really this litigious?
  • There is not nearly enough hugging or kissing in North American greetings.  It feels kind of cold.  Now I understand what my Latino students always complained about when they came to the U.S.

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On homesickness

In the last 3 years I’ve lived in 4 different countries, and worked short-term in a few more (the U.S., the Caribbean, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Ecuador).  And for 9 years prior to moving abroad, I lived in 5 different cities in 4 different states in the U.S.

All this moving around means I get to have amazing experiences and meet great people in really interesting places.  But it also means I’m repeatedly starting over, resettling, creating a new life in a new place.  And it means a lot of goodbyes, and growing to miss people and things and places.

Which brings me to my topic: homesickness.  I miss home.  And I’m often not even sure where that is anymore.

Sometimes I miss bits and pieces from my international homes, like

  • The pure enthusiasm, eagerness, and willingness to try anything that my students in China shared with me.
  • The scenic beauty of Indonesian rice paddies.
  • Turkey’s sidewalk café culture.
  • Evening swims at my neighborhood pool in Central Java.
  • More types of dumplings than you can possibly imagine in China.
  • Turkish food, which I sometimes crave with an intensity that no other cuisine has rivaled, and which I fear I will never be able to replicate outside of Turkey.
  • Cruise ship life: working and living with people from 80 different countries, my 2-minute commute down the hallway, the food, the excursions, crew discos, evening walks around the promenade deck, feeling like a college student again.
  • Texting with all the ELFs about our shared trials, tribulations, and triumphs in Indonesia, and meeting up with them for workshops and travel throughout the archipelago.
  • Finding kindred spirits (Carrie-canim and Jennifer-canim) in Ankara.
  • Evenings calls to prayer.  I’m not Muslim – I’m not even religious – but in both Indonesia and Turkey I found the muezzin’s singing at nightfall a soothing way to end the day.

“When you leave a country, you leave behind something of your heart.” -Belgian Proverb

Sometimes I miss general features of life in America, and sometimes I miss specific things from specific places I’ve lived in the States:

  • Having a car.
  • Target.
  • Knowing exactly where to go when I need to buy something.
  • Being able to easily buy clothes or shoes in my size.
  • Pandora.
  • Thrift stores.
  • Summer, and all it means in the US: berry picking, small town parades, barbeques and picnics, farmers’ markets, sweet corn, road trips.
  • The county parks in and around Bloomington, IN.  And Aver’s Pizza.
  • Hiking in the Colorado Rockies, Denver’s Cherry Creek Art Festival, the view of the flatirons in Boulder, the contagious national pride that all the students I worked with at CU exhibited at the yearly international festival.
  • The awesome ethnic grocery store in Champaign, IL; and the fun group of friends I grew to be a part of in grad school.
  • Thursday night wine tastings in Ithaca, and pub quizzes, and my book club (and book club ladies!), and the Apple Harvest Festival, and the changing autumnal colors in the hills and gorges of upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region.

But usually when I’m homesick – really homesick – it’s for the people and places most familiar to me.  HOME-home defaults to my family and friends in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and doing things with them like:

Laughing hysterically with my sister until my eyes water, my sides ache, and neither of us can breathe.

Enjoying an evening cocktail with my mom while watching the sunset on the river behind her house.


My grandpa’s cholesterol-laden home-cooking: pot roast, sauerkraut, knaedels and gravy; fried fish; glorified rice; banana cream pies.  And all the produce he lovingly picks, cleans, and delivers fresh from his garden.


Playing DJ during road trips with my dad and sister to visit relatives in Stoughton, reminiscing with my crazy cousins about our antics, and adding new memories to the list at each family gathering.


Curling up in my mom’s living room with whatever cat or dog happens to want a nap at my feet while I read a good book.

Making homemade pasta with my dad and sister.


Having lunch and window shopping with Brittany.  And picking up right where we left off, talking, talking, talking, as if it’s been only days instead of months since we’ve last seen each other.

Catching up with Becky and Laura at various coffee shops in the Twin Cities.

While I usually count my transient lifestyle as a blessing, sometimes it weighs on me.  And having now been out of the U.S. for over a year, I find myself missing home a little more than usual.

But I’ve chosen a lifestyle (for now at least) that forces me to craft a home wherever I find myself.  While I certainly get homesick at times, wanderlust is still winning out, and I’m happy to report that I’m renewing my contract to work in Ecuador another year.  So, from January-November 2012, you’ll still find me calling Quito home.

“There are two ways of getting home, and one of them is to stay there.” -G.K. Chesterton

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Ecuador vs. Indo

Since I was involved in the English Language Fellow program in both Indonesia and now Ecuador, I find myself comparing the two experiences a lot.  Not so much in terms of the jobs (because those are fairly different), but in terms of general living.  A few comparative observations:

  • Sometimes I wish I had heat in my apartment (usually on rainy nights when temps dip to the 40s in Quito).  I never, ever, ever wanted more heat in my home in Indonesia.
  • They eat a lot of rice in Ecuador, but still not as much as in Indo.  Ecuadorians mix it up a bit with potatoes and corn as their other go-to carbs/starches.
  • Ecuadorians, por lo general, walk faster than Indonesians.  But still on the slow side for my tastes.
  • Quito is loud, but I think Indonesia is even louder.  In fact, I consider my time in Indo a training period that helped me adjust to higher levels of noise pollution.  However, I do have a lot more traffic noise where I live in downtown Quito than I did in my gated community in Indonesia.
  • Ecuadorians like to honk their car horns the millisecond that a light turns green, and are also quick to honk if there is any hint of gridlock.  But Indonesians honk more in general: to let you know they are turning/passing/stopping/arriving – basically for anything they think might require some sort of audio notification.
  • Ecuadorians are way more flirtatious than Indonesians.  Yes, this one was predictable.  And also welcome.
  • This may surprise some of you, but Ecuador is a lot more dangerous than Indonesia.  I always felt perfectly safe living in Central Java.  Sure, theoretically there was a possibility for terrorist attacks, but in my day-to-day life I NEVER felt threatened in Indo.  And I can’t think of anyone in Indonesia who was pick-pocketed, or mugged, or robbed in their own home, or express kidnapped (when a taxi driver takes you around to multiple ATMs and forces you to withdraw money until you max out your limits for the day).  Unfortunately, these things are all too common in Quito, and I know  people who have been victims of each of these crimes.  I exercise a lot of caution here  but know that there is always a chance one of these crimes could happen to me.  I never had to be this careful or aware in Indonesia.
  • I blend in more in Ecuador than I did in Indonesia.  In fact, some Ecuadorians are fair-skinned and/or blond and/or blue-eyed.  I think Ecuadorians often assume I’m a foreigner, but they aren’t completely sure until they hear me talk.  In Indonesia I never ever blended in.  And no one EVER thought I might be Indonesian.
  • People called to me more in Indonesia.  Usually this was because they were excited to see a foreigner, and wanted to shout something to me in English.  I never felt this was a pick-up; it was more because I stood out as a white person.  In Ecuador I sometimes get called to (though not nearly as much as in Indo), but the intent here is almost always the pick-up variety, which I attribute to the strong machismo culture of Latin America.  In both countries my typical response is/was to ignore it.
  • The $5 pedicures in Indonesia were waaaaaaayyyyyy better than the $5 pedicures in Ecuador.
  • Ecuadorians dress much more formally than Indonesians, at least for work.  It’s really common for men and women alike to wear full suits to work in Quito.  A full suit would just be too dang hot in Indonesia.  Indonesians usually wore nice pants (or a long skirt) and a dress shirt or other loose top.  I’ve also noticed many businesses require their employees to wear uniforms (which are matching suits).  Bank tellers all wear matching suits.  High school teachers all wear matching suits.  Office secretaries all wear matching suits.  It’s very formal.  And very matchy-matchy.
  • I dance way more in Ecuador than I did in Indonesia.  This is a very good thing.

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After living in Indonesia for 10 months and then Turkey for 4, I apparently became somewhat accustomed to Asian/Muslim culture.  Accustomed enough that I now find myself surprised by western things that I used to think were normal.  Por ejemplo:

Public displays of affection. Holding hands, hugging, kissing – these things aren’t taboo in Latin America, or I guess America, period.  But in Turkey hand holding and hugging was kept to a minimum.  And in Indonesia it was downright disgraceful.  So after not really seeing PDAs for a year and a half, I feel a little bit scandalized when I see couples in public now.  What’s more, the standard greeting here is a quick peck on the cheek.  In Turkey I did this a bit, but in my experience it was mainly women greeting other women this way.   In Ecuador, however, kissing is an equal opportunity greeting, both among women AND between women and men.  Friends, co-workers, bosses, people I’ve just been introduced to – there’s a whole lot of smooching happening here.  A bit shocking to always be kissing people hello and goodbye after living under Islamic rules of conduct. 

Pork, it’s what’s for dinner.  And lunch.  And breakfast. After living in Muslim countries, it’s strange to see so many pig products readily available (and cheap!) here.  And Ecuador seems to be pretty big on pork – sausages, hot dogs, sliced ham, bacon, pork chops, roasted pork, pulled pork, fried pork, fried pork skin, fried pork fat – they eat it all.

Alcohol on menus. I could get alcohol in Indonesia, but it was pretty expensive and often not that good.  In Turkey the domestic wine was actually decent and reasonably priced, but not every restaurant served alcohol.  Here, however, pretty much every place I have gone at least has beer on the menu.  Not that I drink beer, but it’s still surprising to me to see it so widespread.

America vs. The U.S. I have known for a long time that South Americans don’t like it when people from the U.S. say they are American (because South Americans are also American).  It’s a cultural issue that I try to be sensitive to, especially when talking to Latinos.  But in Indonesian, the word for the U.S. is Amerika, and I always told people Saya dari Amerika (I’m from America).  And in Turkey it was the same: Amerikaliyum (I’m American).  Plus I’ve found while traveling that people generally understand the word “America” more easily than the phrase “the United States,” so I altered my vocabulary accordingly.  But now that I’m living in South America I have to re-train myself to stop saying “America” when I specifically mean the U.S. so as not to offend the South Americans I’m interacting with.

It’s potty time. Whenever I stop at a public bathroom in Ecuador, I open the stall door with a slightly resigned sigh, wondering to myself “is this going to be a squat toilet…”  But you know what?  IT NEVER IS!  Because they don’t HAVE squat toilets here!  So I am always pleasantly surprised.  Even when the plumbing isn’t that great.  And there’s no toilet paper.  Or soap.  They still have western toilets and thereby automatically score at least one point on my international bathroom rating system.

 

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In an attempt to meet people (and do something fun), I’ve been searching online for information about the Latin dance scene in Ankara.  I was put in contact with a young woman who used to salsa and is now into tango.  After exchanging a couple messages on Facebook, she invited me to come to her tango practice in downtown Ankara, and even offered to pick me up at the bus stop.  We both faced traffic problems getting there, so she called and asked me to meet her in front of a bank on a parallel street.  I knew how to get to the street she was talking about, but wasn’t sure which way to walk to find our bank meeting point.  Time to use my limited Turkish to accost a stranger.

I’ve learned to be strategic in choosing who to approach.  I decided on a man who looked to be in his 20s (reasoning he might speak some English) who was walking with a woman who appeared to be his mom (making it much more acceptable for me to approach them – wouldn’t want to play into the stereotype that we Western women are loose, which is, unfortunately, something I have to seriously consider in Turkey).

Me:  Afedersiniz.  Ish Banka nerede?  (Excuse me, where is Ish Bank?)

Mom & Son: [discussion in Turkish, then a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand, coupled with hand motions that the bank was really far down the street to our left]

Me: [pantomiming if Ish Bank is in the other direction?]

Mom & Son: [more Turkish discussion, which I gathered meant that there may be another Ish Bank in the other direction but they didn’t know for sure]

Just then the girl I was meeting called, so I asked her to talk to the mother/son pair.  I figured she could explain to them where I was trying to go, and the mother/son would be able to figure out where that was from where we were standing.  It worked!

So the mom and son walked me to the meeting point and then WAITED with me until my ride drove up.  I would have told them they didn’t need to wait with me, but I had no idea how to say that in Turkish.  Instead we chatted within the very small limits of the Turkish I do know:

Son:  I don’t speak English. [he actually said this in English though]

Me: Türkçem çok iyi değil.  (My Turkish is not very good.) [I say this phrase A LOT!]

Son: Where are you from?  (in English again)

Me: Amerikaliyim.  Ya siz?  (I’m American.  How about you?)

Them: Türk.  (Turkish!)

Me: Ama Ankarali?  (But from Ankara?)

Them: Hayir, Amasra.  (No, Amasra.)

And that pretty much exhausted our conversational abilities with one another, so we stood and smiled at each other and waited.  Then I thanked them profusely when my ride pulled up.  And my dance contact was super friendly, introduced me to a bunch of Turks at her dance studio, and put me in contact with some more Americans in town.  She also likes to cook and takes pictures of food.  I really hope we can hang out more.

Being a newcomer in a country where I don’t really speak the language and don’t know many people forces me to sometimes rely on help from strangers.  This can be awkward, but also incredibly rewarding.  None of these people knew me, but they all went out of their way to help me, making me hopeful that I will be able to make more connections in my new environment.

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