Why is this woman, a gypsy traveling by ferry (somewhere between Eminonu and Sariyer), smiling with a peanut in between her teeth? And how about that expression on her face–what was she thinking/feeling? And how the heck did I, a nonsmoker, end up smoking a couple of cigs with her–and yeah, eating some of her peanuts?
Read on to find out just what led to Random Travel Moment 11.
How It Began
At first, I simply wanted a photo or two of the woman and her family. They intrigued me because of the intense looks on their faces–especially hers. Their clothing got my attention, too.
Also, the daughter sat too close to the edge of the ferry a few times and her mom got upset with her. That little bit of drama definitely got my attention.
After a while, our eyes met (the mom’s and mine). At one point, she cracked a smile. I smiled back. She kept looking and so did I. (Maybe she was just as curious about me as I was about her?)
Where? On a Ferry in the Bosphorus
We were on a commuter ferry that travels from Eminonu in Istanbul up to Sariyer (near the Black Sea), making a number of stops along the way. I would be getting off close to the end of the route. I had no idea where she and her family were going. All I knew is that I enjoyed the connection we were making.
Who? A Family of Gypsies
I didn’t realize they were gypsies at first. But when I saw the plastic bags full of stuff–peanuts, cigarettes, paper plates and plastic utensils and other things–I figured it out.
She offered me peanuts
The more smiling there was, the more interesting it got. She started to snack on peanuts and offered me some. I accepted. They were great, too.
We tried to chat
In between cracking peanuts open, I tried to speak to her, using sentences from my Turkish phrase book. Unfortunately, that didn’t go well. I kept asking, “Where are you from?” She didn’t understand, even when I pointed to the phrase. I showed her a map, too. And she finally said, “Istanbul.” I’m not sure if that was the case, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we were connecting somehow.
I learned, with help from nearby Turks, that she had two children. I recall finding out their names, too, but now I can’t remember (this happened a couple of years ago). I could see that she loved both of them (and her husband) very much.
And then we smoked
After a chat with her daughter about something that looked serious, she rejoined me. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered me one. I don’t smoke, but every once in a while (like once a year), I’ll have one and do it Bill Clinton style–only inhaling.
So that’s what I did.
And with the wind coming off of the water, the smoke dissipated quickly. It was pleasant. And as a former smoker, I know that it’s a way people sometimes bond. The ritual of it, the shared moment.
I recall having a second cigarette and her looking pleased. I got the feeling that it made her happy to be giving something to me. That’s why I didn’t mind smoking despite being a nonsmoker. I wanted to accept her gift.
What Made This Experience Special
I love to connect with people in other cultures. Nothing makes me happier. And in this case, it was tricky due to the language barrier. Even so, we found a way. And even though our time together was brief, it was special nevertheless. I believe it came from the heart.
Maybe words aren’t always necessary.
Can’t help but wonder…
The family got off the ferry before I did. The son took some photos of me with his cell phone. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we’d gotten off at the same stop.
Do you think we would have continued to ‘communicate’? I think we might have–unless they needed to get to work, which is possible.
Your Thoughts? Reactions? Two Cents?
Have you ever met strangers while on public transportation and attempted to communicate with no common language? If so, where were you and what happened? Were you able to make the connection?
PS: I have another version of this story, told very differently. In that version, it’s more a tale of a ‘namaste’ sort of encounter–ie, when two people meet and the light, or spirit, of each honors the light in the other. If you’d be interested in reading that (it’s a full length story and much deeper than what you’ve read here), let me know. Maybe I’ll post that one, too.
Hungry for More?
If you enjoy reading about random encounters with the locals, then check out my book, ‘Magic Carpet Seduction.’ There are many stories about going off the beaten path, being in the moment and going with the flow—and the cool stuff that happens along the way.
Meanwhile, feel free to sign up for my newsletter (click here) to be kept up-to-date re: future books and to learn, in advance, about upcoming discounts on my book.
And, if you’d like, check out some more ‘random travel moments‘ from ChickyBus.