I had meetings to attend in Istanbul, and so late on Friday afternoon I found myself on the public bus that goes from Sarıyer to Taksim. The bus route is mostly on the shoreline drive along the European side of the Bosphorus, and whenever I’m in Istanbul I am fascinated by the scenes along the water.
My colleague Mustafa spotted them, and tried to help me see them, but at first I couldn’t believe it. Then I saw something black arch out of the water, and then another, and then another.
From the way they played and sometimes leaped out of the water, there was no doubt what they were. They were so unexpected among all the fishing boats, tankers and other traffic in the center of Istanbul, that their presence transformed everything.
The dolphins were swimming in the same direction as we were travelling in the bus, and I was grateful that the congestion on the avenue slowed us down to the same speed so we could watch them longer.
For a quarter of an hour we kept pace, and by watching closely we were able to count at least eight, possibly ten or twelve, of these creatures as they surfaced, turned, and leapt, mostly moving in twos, but occasionally one would circle back as they gradually made their way together toward the Sea of Marmara. Then I noticed something else that was remarkable.
Nobody else on the bus seemed to care.
Mustafa and I were fairly public in our admiration of the dolphins, and I pointed out to several people around me what we were looking at. They would glance, see nothing (since the dolphins spent most of their time below the surface), and go back into a locked stare at the traffic jams ahead.
Afterward, we talked about other rare creatures; Mustafa told how he had seen a wild squirrel once, but had never seen a deer. It intrigued him to hear me tell how squirrels are commonplace back home, and how frequently I saw white tail deer while growing up in rural Michigan. His amazement reminded me of how Michigan could be as exotic and full of wonder to a Turk as his country is to me.
We all experience the mundane, and would sometimes rather nap on the commute home than keep an eye out for miracles. But after our conversation I wondered how the routines of my own life have dulled my perception, and I challenged myself to stay alert for other wonders unseen.
Postdata: Radikal newspaper last year ran a story about a pod of about 14 dolphins residing in the Bosphorus, and published this photo, which is a fair representation of what I saw (click on the image to enlarge).