I can hear my mom’s voice in my head with this certain comical tone saying, “So Abbs, what’d ya do in Istanbul?” Well, I walked the streets of Sultenhamet, I saw the Hagia Sophia, I burnt an unplanned massive whole in my pocket, oh yeah and I think I went on a date – all in 4 hours – wahoo!!!” So here’s the low down…
After waiting in a handful of different lines for what felt like a million hours I finally got my visa, passed through customs, exchanged money, and made my way out to find a cab. I told the driver I only had 4 hours and that I wanted to go to Sultenhamet. Well… apparently in Turkish that sounds a lot like “Please take advantage of me, I'm a naive American tourist!” So, he took me to Sultanhamet, walked the streets with me, very sweetly in his broken English tried to share with me random bits ‘n pieces of Turkish culture. I ate roasted chestnuts from a street vendor (so good!) and walked arm in arm through the streets (yeah, that's right, it was totally weird... the cab driver just linked arms with me... I couldn't tell if he was being a sketchy man trying to get all cozy, if he was trying to get in my bag or wallet, if it was a cultural thing, or if he was just being friendly... it was definitely weird.). We stopped by a coffee shop, I got my Turkish coffee, we chatted about his family except for his wife because apparently and rather conveniently that's the only relative in English he doesn't know how to say, and eventually we hopped back in the cab to go back to the airport... or so I thought.
So there we were, stuck in rush hour traffic flagging down all the people in the street who were selling food. I'm not usually too adventurous with foreign foods but I went for it anyway and it was all so good! He kept making jokes about how we were going to go back to his house (um, not so funny?) so I was quick to tell him I just didn't think there was time but, uh, thanks for the invite? As a result, instead of going back to his house he took me to his family's favorite restaurant for kebab. I really wasn't hungry, I didn't want to spend any more money, and I only really wanted to eat from street vendors or hole-in-the-wall type places. Well, my niceness, my American-ness, and apparently my passivity got me into very expensive trouble. Next thing I knew we were having this candlelit dinner at this super fancy restaurant, he'd pretty much ordered one of everything on the menu, and guess who was paying for it...
Ha, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard so many of you joke about how you think I’ll find the love of my life somewhere in Israel this year. Well, don't hold your breath, I'm not quite on the manhunt this year, but I guess if all else fails I’ve got a great Plan B awaiting me in Istanbul :)
After dinner we headed back to the airport, I hopped on a plane to Tel-Aviv and I made it to Sarah's safe and sound (my best friend who lives in Tel-Aviv. I'm staying with her this weekend until my program starts.). It was certainly an unforgettable time in Turkey, and despite the fact I probably can't afford groceries for the next 3 months I would say that the adventure was worthwhile. I think I'm going to quickly come to see that my willingness to talk to anybody and assume the best intentions of them will be my greatest blessing and curse over the course of this year.
Check out the video below from Turkey and keep your eyes peeled for a quick glimpse of my man :) A few more pix are posted below, too.
Shabbat Shalom for now... my jetlagged self is gonna sneak a quick nap before Shabbat dinner and services tonight at Sarah's with a bunch of her friends. Should be fun, beautiful, peaceful, and kinda like the perfect way to kick off my year here :)