But, tonight I made an exception and took a taxi home from the mall. The reason is pretty silly but here it is. I had a lot of shopping bags and I was really self-conscious about the quantity. It's one thing to carry home a lot of grocery bags...kind of a symbol of martyrdom. But I was Christmas shopping, not X-mas shopping as the mall displays called it, and I was carrying a few more "wants" than "needs".
Anyway, I hopped in the taxi at the front of the line and said my accent-laden "merhaba." At this point in the past I would have stopped talking, pulled out my cell phone, brought up my name under "contacts" and pointed to phone to show the driver where I wanted to go. But tonight I was feeling brave. I had just found some great Christmas gifts. It was time to actually be an adult and say my address in Turkish. I took a deep breath, said my street name and the name of the mosque that I'm near. And guess what? It worked. Even better, the driver replied with some pleasantries is Turkish. In the past, I would have frozen and said in English, "I don't speak Turkish" which, by the way, doesn't work at all because the Turks in Malatya don't usually speak English. But tonight was different. I remained calm. I remained calm even when the driver turned up the radio to blare some American rap music making it even more difficult to hear. I listened intently. I asked him to repeat or say more slowly. I replied in Turkish. We carried on a conversation the entire drive home. Here's what I learned: He's got two children. The oldest son is in high school and speaks good English. Yes, he could give me a special price to drive me to the airport. Would I like to stop and have tea? (no, thank you) Could I come back tomorrow and have tea..etc. etc. Yes, I am proud of myself!
Do I speak Turkish? I still say "chok az" or "very little." But, yes, I can speak a little Turkish. Was the taxi ride worth it? Absolutely!