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Public Transportation

May 27, 2011

I come from a very small town were public transportation does not exist (unless you count the school buses from the public school).  I was very aware of this fact before coming to Turkey.  Surprisingly, my use of public transportation has not increased all that much since coming here.  However, there are a few types of transportation here in Turkey that I am pretty sure don´t exsist in America.  Mainly dolmuş (dool-mush).

First let me mention the transportation modes we do have in the USA.  Buses, taxi (rode my first in Ankara this year), train, walking (very popular), planes.  Basically the same in the USA and in Turkey.  Taxis tend to be a lot cheaper than the USA; the price was often under 10 lira (about 6 or 7 USD).   There is a new train in Samsun that is just used for commuting throughout the city.  Planes are about the same…just that everything is said in Turkish and English on the flight.  Another note about long ride buses and probably planes as well: men and women who are not married or related can not sit next to one another.  Well, it is not exactly against the rules, but the reservation system won´t allow a man and a women to be seated next to one another.  I don´t think this happens in the States.  Even though I don´t use public transportation a lot, the people who do are satisfied.  But the point of the blog is not to tell about transportation you can find in America.  Let´s talk about dolmuş.

Today I was sitting in the middle seat of a minivan as it swerved throughout the traffic of the streets of Samsun.  There were three older men and a woman wearing a headscarf also in the van.  I am sitting next to the covered women.  When I got on I sat down next to a man, but he had to move when she got on.  One of the unwritten, but very well known rules of dolumş: covered women do not sit next to men.  Like, ever.  I look over to the side door that opens every time we stop.  It is not closed all the way, it just doesn´t close for some reason.  This is not for all dolmuş, just unique to this particular van.  As we make the way along the already known dolmuş route, the driver honks (twice) at every person who could possibly want a ride…this is about everyone.  Drivers either honk (twice) or flash their lights if their is room in the van.  This driver is a honker.

When I started thinking about dolmuş rides, I realized that dolmuş is probably the safest way to travel in Turkey…if you know where you are going.  Then I thought that maybe that could be wrong; dolmuş drivers are very helpful when you don´t know where you are going.  Then I changed my whole thought around and realized that maybe dolmuş are just not safe at all unless you really know what you are doing.* After this thought process, I realized that dolmuş are dolmuş and I don´t really know what I think of them as far as safety goes.  I know how to ride a dolmuş and that is all that matters to me at the moment.   I also concluded that a lot of un-Turkified Americans are not riding dolmuş.  Therefore there is no need to worry about them getting lost.

For me, the Samsun dolmuş system is one of the easiest to understand.  That is because I know where the white dolmuş goes and that the red dolmuş drives on 100. Bulvar.  Those are the only dolmuş I every have needed to use on my own.  In most cities the dolmuş will have a sign in the front window telling where the van will go.  In Samsun, they are color-coded.  Easy if you know what color you need to ride…you don´t need to look at a sign.  Hard if you don´t know…explanation nessasary?

I have a feeling that this post is going to be a bit anti-climatic.  Therefore, I will just bring it to a close here.  Interesting note about something that doesn´t have anything to do with my life here: my American school´s last day was today.  Well, right as I type this.  Our school ends June 17th.   I guess the fact I started in the middle of October evens it out a bit. Have a great summer break everyone.  I´m coming home soon. 😀

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