STORY TIME

GATHER AROUND, KIDS!

Today I thought I would mix things up a little and share with you a story from my own travels overseas and give some advice about what to do in an..awkward situation…

I had been travelling for a couple of months around Europe on my gap year and was heading home when my best friend convinced me to extend my trip and go with her to Turkey. She’d been there for a few weeks and had fallen in love with it. At first I was a little hesitant…Turkey was really unknown to me and scared me a little, but I figured, why not? how often do I have this opportunity?!

We met up in Greece and spent a week frolicking around the Greek Islands (more on that another time) before heading to Istanbul where we stayed with her family friends.

I absolutely fell in love with the city. It was so completely different to anything I had ever experienced and it was amazing. Our friends took us around, showing us all the local spots, haggling in the Grand Bazaar (where shockingly I purchased that beautiful Turkish Tea Set…), catching ferries between Europe and Asia, eating amazing food, and drinking…a lot. It was great having locals show us around, not only because they took us to great places untouched by many tourists, but because they could speak the language and knew the culture.

One day after heading back from one of our adventures, the trams were in chaos and had been delayed for a couple of hours, which meant that the next one to arrive was PACKED. Like we were literally sardines in a metal box. I was crammed in the middle of the tram and only had a loose hold onto my friends shirt. I kept my bag on my front knowing that in such close proximity people might be tempted to steal from the obvious tourist.

As the tram made its way through the streets, we struggled to balance and often bumped into the people around us, followed by apologetic smiles…

The tram came to a sudden stop and everyone fell into each other when I felt a hand in my..uh..lady region? At the time, I thought it was just a reaction to the fall. I turned to the middle aged man and smiled apologetically, thinking ‘geez that was a sudden stop…he really just grabbed anything to stay standing..’ His hand lingered a moment before he stood up straight again. Feeling a little embarrassed I turned a little to the side so that I wasn’t facing him directly. The tram made another sudden stop. People fell. His hand was back. Still a little naive, I brushed it off on the fall. He lingered a little longer this time. I blushed and smiled at him again before turning a little further away. The third time it happened, I had the passing thought that this maybe wasn’t an accident, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t want to offend him. I didn’t want to cause a scene on public transport. I didn’t want to make an issue out of something that might have been an accident…

Our local friend/tour guide/saviour looked over and saw me standing there uncomfortably wedged between sweaty men with a hand in my crotch before pushing her way through people and grabbing me on the arm and yelling in Turkish as she pulled me away. Luckily our stop was next, and as she dragged me off the tram I explained that I thought it was an accident because you know…crammed trams…people fall…no big deal…lol what a funny situation. She stared at me with her jaw dropped before explaining that no, it wasn’t an accident and then she dropped a knowledge bomb…

That kind of behaviour was totally unacceptable in their culture, and that if it were to ever happen again, I should yell at them and embarrass them publicly and leave…if they got angry, other people around would help me. 

The experience taught me a lot, but mostly taught me that that kind of behaviour is not tolerated anywhere, and I don’t need to be taken advantage of just because I’m a tourist. Letting people treat me like that made me a wanker in that moment, because I was passive in letting someone violate my body.

While the thought of yelling at strange men in a foreign country seemed a sure-fire way to cause aggression, it was really the best advice I could have been given, and I took it with me on the rest of my travels.

LESSON LEARNT: Don’t be a wanker by not speaking up for yourself.

Do you have any advice for what to do in that situation? Or have you also been unsure of what to do in that situation? Let us know in the comments below…

TS

Disclaimer: I LOVE TURKEY! I had an amazing time there and this event has in no way sullied my trip and I will 100% return in the future. Rather than let it stop you from travelling, make sure you are prepared in a situation like this and know how to handle yourself. 

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