Sign Language

  • Updated
  • Posted in Travel
  • Published

I mentioned in an earlier post that this trip is a new experience for me, that of traveling where I don’t speak the language. I feel so American. LOL. It hasn’t been much of a problem. Not because I found lots of English speakers – perhaps one in three encounters were successful in English – but because in the course of normal tourist travel, one’s needs are rather simple, and gestures can communicate a lot. I found locals and fellow tourists very helpful overall. I did have some struggles, as with my suitcases when a taxi dropped me two-tram-stops-plus from my hotel; but the kindness of strangers is not to be underestimated. I do try to be on the giving end of this type of exchange, every chance; karma, after all …

I got quite a pleasant lift from the staff at my final hotel. A woman on the staff, who spoke not a word of English, seemed to take quite a liking to me. She was smiling and gesturing and somehow just wanting to engage. I didn’t always understand what was going on with the staff. My first breakfast at the hotel, I served myself a bit of food from the buffet, including some scrambled eggs that had sat a while – but they weren’t bad, as they hadn’t been overcooked to start with. One man came to me and said, “Eggs”, pointing at my plate, “OK?” and I was baffled. Of course what was on my plate was eggs. I said, “Yes, okay.” “Omelet,” he said, leaving me clueless as to what this was about. In a little while they brought me a small plate with a nearly crispy fried egg. Didn’t know why, but okay, ate it as well. The next day, that man brought a photo-card menu to me with pictures of a fried egg, a browned omelet (oh why do so many places overcook eggs?) and scrambled eggs. And then I understood. They were letting me know that they would prepare eggs freshly upon request. How sweet, when there were fried, scrambled and hard-boiled eggs on the buffet already. And odd, because I didn’t see him take that card to any other table, nor did I see fresh eggs arrive elsewhere. I indicated scrambled, and later out they came with a big pan ready to serve up as much as I wanted. And the eggs were delicious.

The next day, that woman brought me a plate with two pieces of very fresh baklava. Nothing like that on the buffet. I don’t have a great sweet tooth (though I do need chocolate at least weekly!) but thought it would be hurtful to leave it, because she had offered it so proudly and happily. So I ate one piece, which is all I could manage even though it was very good.

That day, it was cool and cloudy and I chose to catch up on things with my laptop until early afternoon, seeing as it was the first hotel with an internet connection that held up (until night; can’t win ’em all). So I wasn’t ready to exit when housekeeping came around, and told them no cleaning was needed, with gestures and “no,” and just traded my trash for a fresh bag. The next day, I was concerned that they could take that as always declining room cleaning and I certainly wanted clean towels. I found the staff two flights up and showed my key card and made gestures of polishing or wiping and the woman – my fan – indicated she would be the one to clean my room. Then she made gestures referring to my figure – first up and down – for height or posture? – and then a bit for curves and then again straight up and down, and she was beaming approval (from behind her Covid mask, but very obvious). She was saying things in Turkish I didn’t understand at all, but the compliments were clear. Of course I was pleased and flattered, and I pointed to myself and then used my fingers to communicate my age, and did a little “yay hey” move – celebrate, I am feeling good! – and she signaled 38, which made me laugh, and then she applauded me. Make my day.

Yes, I left a nice tip when I departed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.