Title: You Must Only To Love Them
By Line: Lessons learned in Turkey
Author: Ann Marie Mershon
Publisher: Devil Track Publishing
Release Date: 16th May 2016
BLURB from Goodreads
Living overseas is the best way to understand the world and its varied cultures. Recently divorced, Ann Marie decided to pursue her life dream of living overseas and accepted a position as a prep school English teacher in Istanbul. Ann Marie battled loneliness as she tried to make the most of her ex-pat existence, and her forays into the Muslim culture and the stunning landscape of Turkey brought them both close to her heart. This memoir is part travelogue, part adventure, and part romance. Now is your chance to vicariously experience life overseas, glimpse Islam from the inside, and perhaps explore Turkey on your own.
This excerpt is about Ann Marie’s first solo trip on public transportation from Istanbul’s historical district to her school campus, 27 miles away and is headed . . .
After a quiet breakfast on the upstairs balcony, I donned my backpack, popped Libby into her case, and headed for campus. Directions in hand, my confidence faltered. Could I do this alone where so few speak English? I stopped to review Ileyn’s instructions: “Take the tram down to Eminönü (I could manage that), then take the Kadiköy ferry across to the Asian side.” I’d do that much then look at the next step—no point in overwhelming myself. Public transport only cost a lira, but I had only ten left.
I managed the tram and followed the underpass to the ferry landing. So far, so good. My heart pounded as I scanned the stations along the pier, already buzzing with people. I stopped a gray-haired ticket-seller in a captain’s hat to ask for the Kadiköy ferry.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going to the Koç School.” I showed him my instructions.
“There is much easier way. You must believe me. I am knowing Koç School. You do not have to take so many transport. Take this ferry to Harem, then ask for bus to Koç School. There are too many buses at Harem iskele; someone will help you find Koç bus.” What a relief! Why hadn’t Ileyn know this?
“Oh, thank you!”
“Good luck, beautiful lady!” He kissed my hand before continuing down the pier, calling “Ferry ride along Bosphorus! Leaving ten minutes!”
I muscled Libby’s case through the turnstile and climbed the ramp onto the quickly-crowding ferry. People filled the outside wooden benches first, while others filed inside to settle on upholstered wooden benches. I hefted Libby’s case upstairs for the better view. I lifted her out and she sat at my feet, quiet but content—so trusting. A stooped man in a vest and fez came around selling tea, which was tempting, but I passed. No idea when I’d find a rest room. As we chugged away from Eminönü I was moved by the majesty of Topkapı Palace and the mosques of Sultanahmet. Enormous Turkish flags flapped above the rooftops, their white stars and crescents impressive on a field of red. I was feeling better.
At Harem my stomach lurched as I scanned the scene: hundreds of busses –green, blue, long, short. How would I ever find the one to Koç? I approached a man in a chauffeur’s cap. “Do you speak English?”
“Hayir, ama giteceğim,” he answered, then disappeared. Did he want me to wait? I gave it an optimistic try. Soon he returned with a bushy-browed man in a plaid shirt. “How can I help you, Lady?”
Ah, hope! “I need to find the bus to the Koç School.”
“The Koç University?” he asked.
“No, the high school. Near Pendik.”
“There is no bus to Pendik here,” he said. “You must take ferry to Eminönü, then take Kadiköy ferry and train.”
My heart sank. The man at Eminönü must have thought I meant Koç University. I didn’t even know there was one! It would take all day to get home if I had to backtrack. And I wouldn’t have enough lira! Frantic tears filled my eyes.
“Maybe I can help. One minute, please.” Once more I waited, heart pounding. My hair was sizzling, my blouse glued to my back. I’d never felt so alone. Libby cowered beside me in the midst of bus-station chaos as I prayed this man would find me a way home. He returned smiling. “I found bus driver who knows Koç Lisesi. He will help you. Come.”
He led me through a sea of busses to a blue mini-bus similar to those I’d used with Jana. I settled behind the driver with my purple backpack on the floor and Libby’s case in my lap. It was tight, but I felt safe. The driver nodded at me knowingly. “Do you speak English?” I asked. He shook his head. “Koç Lisesi,” he said.
“Yvet,” I answered. Yes.
It took fifteen minutes for the bus to fill, and we were finally off. We drove and we drove and we drove. Body odor permeated the bus as it filled and emptied numerous times, mostly with men. A few smiled at me, while most avoided my gaze. I wasn’t alone, just caught in the isolation of the wrong language. We drove forever. “Don’t worry, Libby,” I whispered. “We’ll get home.” I hoped so, anyway.
An hour later the driver pulled over under a bridge and signaled me to get out. He wasn’t going to abandon me there, was he? He said something to the other passengers, then motioned me to follow him up a stairway to the overpass. He crossed the bridge, jay-walked through traffic, and led me to a crowded bus stop. When he paused to light a cigarette, I said, “Teşekkür ederim” (Thank you) and handed him five of my remaining lira. He pushed my hand away, indicating that I should wait. I shook my head and pointed to his bus. He looked back at his stranded passengers and nodded, then strode over to some men standing nearby. I heard “Koç Lisesi” and “Tepeören” (a town near the school). He returned and indicated that I should follow these men; he would go back to his bus. I tried again to tip him, but he shook his head resolutely.
A grizzled man with a crocheted scull cap strode over and asked me something in Turkish. “Anlamadım,” I said. I don’t understand. He repeated himself, more loudly this time. “Anlamadım!” I repeated. He tried a third time, even louder. “Anlamadım!!!” I boomed. Was he deaf? He nodded, nonplussed, then stood silently beside me, my aged protector.
The men chatted among themselves, occasionally nodding toward me. Each time a bus came they shook their hands at me. After twenty minutes another bus pulled up and they all nodded. Two men spoke to me, one gently guiding me onto the bus and explaining my plight to the driver, who nodded as I climbed aboard with Libby, now back in her case. Though ferries were dog-friendly, I wasn’t so sure about busses.
After an hour of driving and stopping, the last passengers got off. I was the only one left, and the driver scolded me in Turkish. Apparently the trip was over, but we weren’t at Koç. I was confused—and devastated.
I climbed off the bus and spotted two boys in red school vests. “Koç School?” I asked. They smiled and nodded, indicating that I should stand with them. They were fascinated with Libby, first teasing then petting her. When a blue mini-bus finally came, one insisted on holding Libby’s case as the other helped me on the bus. They sat in front of me, asking me questions in Turkish. “Anlamadım,” I repeated, wishing I could speak their language. Though I’d spent months withTeach Yourself Turkish but still knew only a few phrases. I vowed to work harder.
Before long I spotted the school gate. Relief! I couldn’t remember the words for getting a bus to stop, but the boys took care of it for me. I disembarked, four hours after leaving the hotel. “Teşekkür ederim!” I called as the bus pulled away, the boys waving through the back window.
I was finally home, and I’d had my first taste of Turkish hospitality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A retired English teacher, Ann Marie lives on a wilderness lake with her husband Jerry and their two dogs.
She grew up in Minneapolis, and in her mid-twenties she and her husband moved north to the wilderness they’d always loved. She has two grown sons who live in California and Puerto Rico. After 30 years of teaching English in Minnesota, she moved overseas to complete her teaching career in Istanbul, writing weekly e-mail missives and posting blogs about her experiences there.
Ann Marie discovered her passion to write in the late 1990’s. She wrote a weekly newspaper column for five years, wrote numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, and published two books. Her first was Britta’s Journey~An Emigration Saga, written about the emigration of a family that settled near her home. Her second book, Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours, was a collaboration with Edda Renker Weissenbacher, a Turkish woman who guided small groups on walking tours through Istanbul.
Ann Marie writes every day but always finds time for hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, or snowshoeing in the wilderness she calls home.