Friday, March 29, 2013

Grunt, Point and Sign Language

Barb, from Barb's True Stories asked how Tanya and I communicate in Turkey. Where we vacation, everyone speaks Russian. Where the Germans vacation, everyone speaks German etc.  The resort areas specialize.  The tour companies for those countries feature those resorts.

It was different in Usak. No one speaks anything but Turkish, other than Murat with whom I work and his co-worker Hakim at the company office.  Even the folks at the hotel had virtually no English.  The first evening we were there we went wandering looking for some place to have supper.  We like to try small local cafes just to get a taste of real Turkish food.

We walked past this one place about three blocks from our hotel.  Very small downstairs but most seating was upstairs as it extended over the shop next door which was not a restaurant.  Clever use of street space.  I had no idea what they served but it looked interesting and smelled wonderful so we went in.  There was a man and two boys working downstairs which was the kitchen.

They served submarine type sandwiches made from rotisseried lamb tripe, wrapped like ribbons on a spit, then chopped up fine on the sandwich   With or without lots of hot chili powder.  (I had with).  The younger boy brought us  and gave us menus.  The older boy understood the situation.  He came to our table and held his hands apart to show the sandwich sizes.  Worked like a charm.  We asked for tea (chai in every language) but he brought us ayran which is a fermented milk drink, very popular in Turkey.  So that was new to us both, too.

We had no luck getting our tea so finally we finished and went downstairs to pay and the man says "What about your tea?"  So we sat and visited with him at the downstairs work table and drank our tea.  He asked where we were from and we said Canada and Ukraine. Tanya didn't think he looked very Turkish and wondered if he was from Armenia or Azerbaijan.  So we asked him.

He said he was Turkish and I said where is your moustache.  Many Turks wear a heavy black moustache. He dug in his wallet and showed us a picture of him from several years back and he looked Turkish.  Typical haircut and moustache. Then he showed us a picture of his wife, a lovely woman, so I showed him the picture of Masha which was on my mobile phone.

This whole conversation is with no mutually understandable words other than tea, Ukraine, Canada and Turkey.  If we are ever back in Usak, we will go there again as we are now friends.

The bill was $9.

Murat said there were only three places in Usak that served this style of sandwich and we had found the best one.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful adventure! And a new friend.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

  2. Not many people take the opportunity or have the chutzpah to travel to places where there is no common language. Good on you for both.

  3. An adventure and delicious food into the bargain. Sounds like a success to me! :-)

    1. Rob, Barb, and Diane, it was a great little adventure. Little shops, cafes and markets are the best way to meet people and learn the culture. If you are friendly, they are friendly.

  4. I've never been to place where English wasn't spoken, although even in this country, it's definitely spoken better in some places than others. I very much like the face over the shepherd art-piece. Can you tell me anything about it?

    1. That is Taras Shevchenko. He is to Ukraine what Shakespeare is to England. Painter, poet, songwriter and minstrel. I love his paintings and wish I could read his poetry. Poetry by and large does not translate unless it is more ballad or story but even then you miss 80% of the subtleties of the natural language.

    2. Thanks, Fodder. I liked it enough to use it as a desktop.


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