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Friday, April 13, 2012

Good Must Triumph

There is a whole lot of evidence out there that the assertion in my title cannot possibly be true.  Just look at the world and it's pretty clear that things are a big mess. From my own months abroad, I think immediately of the devastating poverty in India and the horrors of the Occupation ın Palestine. Both seem to be hopeless situations without solutions and they are only two examples of immense tragedy out of...hundreds? Thousands? More? It is clear that on a global level, things are a mess.

But then I look at the small picture, the one that immediately surrounds me and I can't help but feel hopeful. Let me tell a few stories from the last few weeks...

Traveling through Israel, I got rides from Americans, Germans, and Italians.  My phone fell out of my pocket when I was in the car of the Americans. I got it back when the driver texted my best friend in the U.S., who passed the message along to me and the necessary connections were made.  She (the driver) didn't have to make the effort to return the phone, but she did.

I was in Izmir, Turkey a few weeks ago.  I was staying with a lovely woman who helped me by giving me very clear directions on how to get to the train station so I could go to Ephesus:  what bus to take, landmarks to look for, etc. When I left the house, the only things I did right were lock the door behind me and get to the bus stop. It was all downhill from there. First, though she told me which bus to take, I was feeling impatient to get on a bus. So when a bus pulled up, I attempted a little Turkish. "Train station?" I asked after looking it up in the Turkish phrasebook I'd borrowed.  The bus driver nodded, so, foolishly, despite the fact that it was not the number my host had told me, I boarded.  That led to quite an adventure... a scenic (and sometimes not-so-scenic) tour of Izmir. First, the bus did not, in fact, go past the train station. It ended up at a bus depot where I had to get off.  There I found someone who looked official and again tried out the words, "Train station?" The official-looking guy started to explain I should take the metro and get off at some stop and then... Well, I've really no idea what he was saying since he was speaking in Turkish.  I tried another strategy: "Taxi?" figuring a taxi would get me where I needed to go. Weeelllll, that fail-safe tactic was not successful, either. I did get in a taxi and was taken...I'm not sure where, but I did at least know it wasn't the station that would get me on a train to Ephesus. So I said, "No," to the driver, trying to communicate that we weren't at the right place.  He then spoke to me in Turkish, not a word of which I understood. So he tried a new communication strategy: he drove us to the nearby motorcycle dealership to find someone who spoke English. Success! The driver explained his story (which wasn't translated, so I don't know what he said) to our new translator, I told mine, and then there was a lot of discussion in Turkish. To get me to the train station, the taxi driver said, I'd have to pay more, but at that point I was going to miss the train I was trying to make anyway.  I asked if there was a cheaper way to get there. Yes, there was, so I paid the driver, who went on his way, and got a set of new directions. These directions included a guy from the dealership walking me to another bus depot and waiting with me until the right bus came. During the wait, he used a translation program on his phone to tell me that he hoped I'd have a good time in Turkey and that I should get a dictionary. Thanks for the advice, dude.  I showed him I had one, though I hadn't explored it enough to use it effectively. He commented that it looked hard to use. He waited with me until the bus came and told the bus driver to let me know where to get off. At my stop I got down and a little Turkish grandma (I don't know if she was a grandma, but she looked the part) started talking to me and was clearly showing me where to go next.  By the way, I still wasn't at the train station.  As I was walking with the grandma, there was a big curb to step down.  I held out my hand to steady her. She held on to my hand until she got me to the right minibus (which I ended up taking to Ephesus). As it happens, coming back from Ephesus, I had a similar experience of not ending up where I expected to and people going out of their way to help me get back to my host's home (including more personal escorts from one place to another).

Then there was Rome... For the most part getting around Rome was a breeze, but my last night I stayed a little out of town so I could spend some time with friends. I also decided to go to an opera aria extravaganza that night... Leaving from their hotel, I set out for the metro station. I asked several people how to get there and, though their instructions were not always clear or particularly helpful to me (not for their lack of effort), I got to the metro and found my way to some lovely singing.  Getting back was the tricky part. I decided to get off at a different metro station, because on my map it looked closer than the one I'd left from. Big mistake. I had thought I'd be able to use the map as well as ask people along the way. Well, the streets were pretty empty, but there were a few people out. When I saw people, I'd stop them, pull out my map and ask for help. Again, though not for lack of trying, most were not so helpful. In fact, they told me contradictory directions... I continued trying to get help.  I finally stopped a woman who spoke English- yay! She started to tell me to take the #whatever bus. I asked if the distance was walkable- nope (so I must've strayed pretty far). I said I'd just take a cab. At that point she said no, I couldn't take a cab, it was too expensive, she'd drive me. So we walked to her car and she drove me to the square I'd been asking her about. I found out she was from Argentina and had been living in Rome about 10 years. She said not to ask Romans how to get anywhere, because they don't know their city!

In big and small ways people have gone out of their way to help me. Have there been unpleasant experiences along the way?  Yes, a few, but the positive encounters greatly outweigh the negative...

And so I live in hope that ultimately good will win...

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome Corry! I admire you for doing this trip. All of us have a great amount to learn about our neighbors, close and far away.

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