Observations from a City Bus

One of my favorite ways to acquaint myself with Izmir is riding the public buses around the city. Some days my ride is a sleek Mercedes-Benz model, spacious and smooth. Other days I ride a bus long past its prime; that rattles it way through traffic, threatening to dislodge all my teeth as it vibrates furiously at every stop.

Izmir has an extensive public transportation system, that includes buses, subway, and ferries. I am slowly learning the different bus routes, and that number 247 will take me home from the tangle of buses that congregate along one of the main thoroughfares in Alsancak, wheezing and sputtering like old men.

I can tell the time of day by the various groups of passengers that frequent the bus. In the morning, delicate grandmothers with their headscarfs carefully protecting their neatly-combed hair, and elderly men always dressed in a two piece-suit as if they are going to an important business meeting, thumbing their tesbihs (Turkish prayer beads). In the afternoons, school children with their plaid skirts, disheveled khaki pants and lively post-school banter. In the early evening, the buses are filled with workday commuters with their business suits and carefully made-up faces, eager to escape reality by zoning out to their personal soundtracks that come to life through their MP3 players.

These bus scenes that play out are universal, yet as a newcomer to Izmir and Turkey, it is an introduction to daily life here; small details that remind me that I am trying to replicate my life halfway across the world.