So here I am in Turkey now, and yes, Turkey does have some similarities with Mexico. First off, parts of it look similar, especially insofar as its infrastructure. Each day Jena and I walk past an apartment building that is under construction. Bricks are being laid for an outside wall as far as three stories up. There are no cones to tell one to step around the immediate area below. There are not signs suggesting to watch for falling material. When we first arrived there was this humungous piece of see-through fabric covering part of the wall--as if that could save someone from a fractured skull--but it has since gone by the wayside. During the day, as bricks are being laid, buckets of gray sand (what I presume is an ingredient for the mortar) are hauled up by a jury-rigged pulley system. These buckets swing a little too wildly overhead. Because I haven't seen this sort of construction craziness in many other places, save Indonesia where things are actually a lot more dangerous, I don't blame myself, then, for presuming my interactions with the people here in Turkey would be similar to interactions in Mexico as well.
But today I'm here to say that my interactions are not similar, and I've come to realize that I am not giving the Turkish tourism industry credit where it is due.
Thus far, I have had many experiences where someone has spoken to me regarding their services, and while I have initially presumed the person has an ulterior motive of duping me out of some money, I have been quite wrong. Tonight for instance, Jena and I were walking through an alley on our way home from the waterfront. In our neighborhood there are a slew of little alleys where restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are crammed into interstices. These off-the-path establishments have a bit more character than the ones on the main pedway, and if I were a permanent resident here, these would be the places where I'd want to be a regular. The clientele doesn't necessarily look friendly, but they certainly look cool.
So we're walking through this alley, and a host outside one of these restaurants greets us in English. He says, "Hello" and "Welcome," and tells us that his restaurant has cheap prices on drinks and food. In our neighborhood Jena and I get this sort of greeting a lot from hosts on the pedway since we're obviously tourists, and hosts seem to have a desire to show us that they can speak English. My default reaction, which has become a habit from experiences in Mexico, is to a) ignore the person or b) say no thanks in whichever language comes out first--Turkish or English--and ignore the person. I feel like I've been hardened by all the tourism interactions of my past.
But this interaction is different. The host is telling us about the perks of his restaurants, and meanwhile Jena and I are ignoring him and walking away. And then the host tags something onto the end. He says, "If you want come in, I can help you." From his tone and his words it becomes clear that he actually wants us to make us a good decision for ourselves, and that if we have any questions, he'll be happy to answer them. If we want to have a seat at his restaurant, he's the guy to see.
I have begun to realize here in Turkey that my defenses are going up, somewhat unjustly, during the first moments of my interactions. The pattern seems to be that that hosts and others simply want to announce themselves to you. And once they do, you can just tell them what's on your mind like, "I'm just looking" or "No thanks" and they'll leave you alone. There's less badgering, chasing, and unwanted negotiation than I've experienced in Mexico.
Experiences such as the one that happened tonight has happened more times than I can count during our first two weeks in Turkey. I credit the warmth and respectfulness of the Turkish people at large. My intention is to make an effort to be a more fluid in my interactions with vendors, to lend them a little more patience because there's a good chance they won't be irritate me. They'll say what they have to offer, and I'll be free to say what I'm thinking. Then, depending on how I'm feeling and what Jena and I want or need, we can all go on our ways.