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First Trip to Istanbul

by clhyman (12/16/2009)

Worldview Changed

My visit to Istanbul was one that forced me to confront some very real attributes of myself which I had been ignoring and may never have known.

I love to see new things, new people, new places! Especially in the form of beauty, antiquity, and extreme hospitality which Istanbul is the embodiment.

I had a connection in Amsterdam (Schipol) and this was my first international flight. Of course I outed myself as a first time international traveller by taking a photo of the Amsterdam Schipol Sign but oh well... I just could not resist. At any rate my layover was 4 hours which gave me ample time to mentally explore the possibilities which lie ahead for me in the beautiful, enchanting city of Istanbul.

I met a very nice fellow traveller by the name of Rinpoo who was so gracious enough as to talk with me and alleviate the boredom of waiting in an icy  cold airport. He told me about his native India. He explained to me about his faith (Sikh) and we exchanged philosophies on religion. He was on his way to Texas. We shook hands and exchanged emails before he walked away to his gate. Left alone and waiting for my KLM Royal Dutch flight I began to get more nervous. My Turkish is non-existent. How will I find a ride? Will someone help the lonely American (who would mostly likely be mistaken for Nigerian or Ghanian)? I told myself that it would be fine and to use all my anxiety on whether or not my passport would be accepted. (I am such a tense person)

When it was time to board the flight I said a prayer and commenced to sit down, put on my eye shades and go to sleep. Wonders would await and I could feel my jet lag taking over me...........

As I looked down from the window of my seat on the plane, I saw the sights.. I saw the beautiful Bosphurus and all other exotic architecture that so typifies wonderful Istanbul. As I got off the plane and followed the signs to visa registration, I was aware now that I had made it. I was finally in Istanbul! The line was extremely long, but I remembered to smile at all times and be very patient as I waited to pay my 20USD and get my passport stamped.

Once I entered into the center of Ataturk, I saw many kind Turkish fellows who wanted to interest me in  tours and taxis. I kindly shook my head no and proceeded to inquire about shuttle service. Everyone there spoke decent English (which was a godsend!) and they set me up with a shuttle van to my hotel in Sirkeci. The men were so kind. They asked me if I was Nigerian and  I kindly said no and explained that I was American and from North Carolina. They smiled and engaged me in polite conversation until it was time for me to go.

On the shuttle van, there were four jolly young fellows whose accents were all New York or Boston and it was evident they were tourists by their constant photo taking of almost everything we passed by. I could tell they were very excited as I was. The difference that they had each other to show off their energy too while I only had my innermost thoughts in my mind. I was the last to get off and I thanked the driver and entered the hotel. I walked in and said Mer HAH- buh BEN-um AH-dum Christy. The receptionist looked at me and said "I don´t speak German". I realized that I had failed already in my Turkish delivery. I laughed and commenced to speak in my native tongue since the receptionist was an excellent English speaker.

By the time I got to my room, I was so terribly exhausted I almost passed out on the bed without changing into my lounge attire. But I found time to undress and put on  sleep wear. I made one call to my Turkish connect and left a message. THen I instantly fell asleep.

The phone rang maybe 3 hours later. (I had no idea of the time and my cell phone was stuck in US  Eastern Standard time) I mustered an  "AH-lo". It was my Turkish connect. There were arrangements made for me to see the nightlife of Istanbul! But I still needed more sleep. It was actually about 9:00pm so I had 1.5 more hours to sleep.

As I stepped into the taxi that would take me to Taksim to meet my party I was again nervous. Of course I had my Turkish friends to help me along, but I had not been out since I was 18 yrs old. I am 30 now so that was a long time. I loved people and I can talk to anybody but somehow in my mind I knew that going out in Istanbul was nothing like going out anywhere else in the world....

The night was glorious! My friends and I danced traditional as well as "urban" style. Some beautiful Turkish ladies eyed me with curiousity and proceeded to touch my braids. I gladly obliged and they joined hands with me and we all danced together in the traditional Turkish style. Forgive me I don´t know the name of this lovely dance but it involved swaying hips and holding up both arms and moving the fingers... That may sound odd, but it looked good ....


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