Maria stepped onto the bus the same way she had for the past week and a half. That’s exactly how long she had been staying here in Ankara, Turkey, volunteering to teach English to refugees living there. She made her way to the small counter near the front of the bus and placed 3 Turkish coins on it to pay for her fare. Since it was only 10 o’clock in the morning, the bus was fairly empty. Maria spotted an empty couple of seats right behind the driver. She slid herself into the window seat to gaze outside at the buildings of Turkey’s capital. She never got tired of spotting new and interesting features throughout the city. At 28 years of age, she had a heart for adventure and traveling.
She decided it might be a good idea to study a little while she rode the bus. She pulled out her phone and opened her flashcard app to review some Turkish. Since she had only been here for a little while, she only knew a few key words and phrases to get around. And although she was in the country primarily to teach English, she wanted to communicate with the locals in their native language when she went to the market or the coffee shop.
As she was trying to remember how to say, “Where is the bus stop?”, the bus pulled to a stop and two passengers got on. One of the passengers, a middle-aged man wearing what looked like a construction worker’s uniform, saw the empty seat beside Maria and approached.
He gestured to the seat and asked a question in Turkish. Maria didn’t understand the words themselves, but knowing he was asking if he could sit there, she nodded and motioned for him to sit. He smiled and said thank you, one of the few things Maria could confidently interpret. They sat there for a minute, Maria staring out the window again and the man scanning the other passengers. Then the man pointed to the clock at the front of the bus, asking Maria if she thought the clock was a few minutes off. He needed to make sure he made it to the work site on time. Maria, with a confused look on her face, attempted to tell him that she didn’t understand his Turkish. The man looked at her strangely, indicating that she was not saying the words correctly. She then added in English what her native language was, in case he might also speak English.
The man sat up straight excited to hear her speak in not only Turkish but in English as well. He knew only a few phrases in English but wanted to take this opportunity to practice with this beautiful lady. “English! Oh, hello! Hello! What is your name?” he asked in a hurry.
Maria smiled as he quickly switched languages. “My name is Maria. What is your name?”
The man wanted to waste no time since the bus would be arriving at his stop in only a matter of minutes. He had wasted so much time in his life already. As a construction worker, he didn’t make a lot of money. He was relatively poor but was in line to receive an inheritance, but only if he found a wife first. If he could just tell this gorgeous woman about the inheritance, about his need for a wife, he could finally be happy. And he would make her the happiest wife in the world.
He began to speak quickly, hoping she knew enough Turkish to understand (even though she had just told him that she didn’t understand his original question. He was too excited to think clearly). Maria’s eyes went wide as she listened to the Turkish rambles, having no way to discern the meaning of the words. She slowly shook her head and tried to explain again in Turkish that she only understood a small amount of Turkish and he was speaking much too fast.
The man decided to try speaking English then. Surely she would understand then. He began to repeat the words “money” and “dollar”, hoping she would get the gist. However, it only made Maria more confused.
“You want money?” she inquired. “I don’t have any money.” The man looked at her with his own confused demeanor. She repeated the question in Turkish. He shook his head, having no idea why she would think he was asking her for money. He wanted to GIVE her money. But only if she would marry him. Time for a different approach. He needed some help with this matchmaking mission.
He turned away from Maria and towards the remaining passengers. The bus wasn’t nearly full at this time of day, but there were still plenty of others onboard who might be able to help him translate to the American. “Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help! I stand to inherit a large sum of money, but only if I am able to find a suitable wife. I believe this woman here,” as he gestured toward Maria, “who would be an excellent candidate. However, we don’t speak the same language. Would anyone be willing to help me translate this to her?”
No one stirred. No one replied. In Turkish culture, people are relatively quiet and keep to themselves in public, so the man’s declaration of love was foreign even to his own people. The passengers looked at each other, murmured a few words, but seemed to want to stay out of it. They were fairly unconcerned for the man’s failing proposal.
Maria, however, was very concerned. Not knowing much Turkish, she had absolutely no idea what the man had just said to the crowd on the bus. But at least no one seemed terribly alarmed at his words, so that was a good sign. But several seemed almost as clueless as to what was happening as she was. Still, all eyes were now on her as she had been made the center of attention by the man. She desperately wanted off this bus.
The bus was pulling up to the man’s stop. He had run out of time. But maybe if he could leave her with something, some hope, fate may bring them together again one day. He turned back to Maria, who was truly horrified by whatever may happen next. Was the man going to try to rob her? She just wanted to get off and run. A million scenarios ran through her head, none of which were what actually happened next.
The man took her right hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed it, following his kiss with the tender words, “I love you.”
Maria sat there, eyes wide, mouth dropped open, having no appropriate reaction to give to this confession of love. The man was still holding her hand. He kissed it again, saying “I love you,” and repeated the action and declaration once more before backing up off the seat toward the door. He retreated off the bus walking backwards, declaring his undying love for the American woman who could not understand him. As he got back on the solid ground, the bus doors slowly closed as the bus gently pulled away from the curb. The man jogged beside the bus for a few moments, waving to Maria, yelling a reminder of his feelings for her.
Maria glanced around the bus at the people, every one of which was staring at her. Some were mumbling, some simply smiling, a few repeating the echoing words “I love you,” and the lady sitting behind Maria was making kissy noises toward her. Maria wanted nothing else but for her seat to suddenly swallow her whole, but alas she was forced to endure the rest of the ride to her stop. She arrived in the neighborhood and got off a stop early, simply to escape the bizarre looks from the other passengers. She trekked on foot to the restaurant where she was to meet her friends for lunch. As she walked in, her friends greeted her, asking her how her morning was.
“Well,” Maria took a deep breath. “I’m not sure because I don’t speak Turkish, but I think I was proposed to on the bus.”
Based on a true story.