May 28, 2013

May 28 arrival


On Turkish Airlines plane, I surprised myself for being able to read the menu and understand it! The food was amazing… I had ayran, there was biber, dolmates, patlican, on the menu (pepper, tomatoes and eggplant)


the mediterranean

the mediterranean

I sat there very well behaved reading my book, eating my food, then I looked outside, we had come down below the cloud level and I saw the land and it was different… and as we approached I realized we were above Turkey, then the Mediterranean appeared on the horizon and I was sitting there looking at all this, taking it in, unable to repress a smile on my face.


the approach to Istanbul

the approach to Istanbul

As we approached I started to make out the outline of the coast that I had looked at on google maps so many times… then the Bosphorus, then the city… I cannot yet quite explain what or how I feel… I kept taking photo after photo as we coursed above the southern part of the city, then I saw the bridges that I’ve seen in so many pictures, the heavy traffic on them, the endless rows of habitations, the red roofs, the minarets from the mosques … I am here. I made it.. I left LAX Sunday… it seems such a long time ago… Europe, Frankfurt, Vienna, seem just a strange illusion that took place while I forged forward.


gigantic city

gigantic city

We land… taxi down the runway to the airport. Stop and everyone gets up. I have a window seat so I am stuck in my seat for a while. A little girl looks at me, she is so beautiful, great big dark eyes, I wave at her and she is smiling back. When I can finally extricate myself from my seat, I grab my saz, my guitar and head out of the aircraft. It’s sunny, and the light is right. Up in Germany it felt too cold, too northern a latitude, it makes me uncomfortable to be too far from the sun. This feels right. We came out of the airplane onto a platform outside. I filled my lungs, I’m here. I made it… we all hop on a bus, it’s so different, cars, busses, trucks zip around aggressively, cutting each other off with… a kind of grace, I can see how north americans are freaked out by the driving, the closest to this is what we see in Montreal, but Montreal is mild compared to this.


more of the city

more of the city

We are dropped of at the terminal where we’re all herded towards the passport check. I go through a long line up only to realize that I had to get my visa in another line. I turn back, line up and the process is incredibly fast, no questions, just a fee… A long, long way from a US border customs interrogation procedure… I give $60 and zap, got my 3 months visa. I go back to the long passport line up. I hand my passport to the official, as she looks at it, I peer beyond this “border crossing” it seems it won’t be real until I get to the other side… She hands me back my passport, I say “Teşekkur ederim” (thank you) she looks at me and I think she duplicates my excitement and smiles gently.


Now I have to find my suitcase, there are numerous luggage carrousels when I finally find my suitcase, it’s the lone one left on there, an employee helps me lifting it up from there, I get loaded up : shoulder bag, saz, guitar, 50lbs monster suitcase and I head towards the exit.


I remember to get Turkish liras at an ATM, first card does not work, the second one does. When I am done the man behind me asks if I left any money there for him as it took me a while with the card not working out, I burst out laughing. Next step is the shuttle. I had read earlier this morning about the Havataş shuttle bus, and there it was. 5 Euros to get to Beyoğlu.


Everything is so different. Some buildings are so run down, standing right there near the road so close to the airport, it makes me think of Canada and how nothing looks like this, especially near an airport. On my right, a body of water, at this point I’m not sure which one it is, I’ll have to study maps and orient myself soon.

I struck a conversation with a lady in the seat next to me. She is italian, living here, doesn’t work. She is critical of the place and the people, but she has been living here for 5 years, she was just coming back from Italy.

“You must be careful.” she says. Everyone says that to me.

The trees are beautiful, along the water there with the tankers it has a slight Vancouverish look except that it’s impossiby bigger and busier. There is even a park that could be reminiscent of the Seawall but again it’s so big… The bus winds its way closer and closer to Beyoğlu and the traffic snarls to a crawl. Tons of taxis, tons of people, old walls, buildings built on top of other older buildings, way more women with scarves on their heads than I expected. We climb, zig and zag and get to Taksim Square, the driver drops us all off.

Where am I? Not sure, which way to go. I try to consult my GPS, I wrote the hostel’s street and it comes out with nothing. Not surprisingly, not having a Turkish keyboard on the phone… I stand there for a while trying to figure things out without success. The sun is out. The drivers from the taxis parked down the steps keep repeating “ Taksi… Taksi..” Across the way there is a Starbucks… the old stable datum from my North American travels… if they have Wifi, I’ll be fine, I can call my teacher as he had asked me and I can look up google maps. So I order a double espresso sit down and try to log on. No success. I need to have a Turkish phone number to get a code to access the internet… OK then. I pack everything back up, put on my sunglasses and go to plan B.

Outside there is a flurry of taxis again, I hail one, he stops, I show him the address and he says no! An older man approaches, he looks at the address and I ask

“Uzak mı?” (is it far?)

He launches into a fast response from which I gather that I have to go over and turn left and go… He grabs my suitcase, pulls it off of the road and goes over to a man manning a food stand and asks him something about this street, he looks at me and speaks fast and I then said to him that my Turkish is somewhat poor… he grabs the suitcase and says lets go and he pulled the 50lb monster all the way to the hostel which was at least a KM down the street. He walks fast, negotiating the massive human traffic effortlessly stopping once in a while to ask one man or another about the hotel’s street. He is wiry, brown, dressed like men would dress in the US in the fifties, trousers and shirt. I have to hurry to keep up with his pace, he is strong, his body language speaks of a proud man. He gets me all the way to the hostel’s door. I want to give him something but I have no idea what money is worth here. I have 20, 50, 100 lira bills, that is too much… so I hand him all my change, maybe 4,5,6 liras… I don’t know if it’s OK, I don’t want to disrespect him… but he really helped me…

At the hostel I get my room. It’s super relaxed, student like atmosphere. I will likely crumble with fatigue later, but I’m good now. I’m glad I won’t have to lug that suitcase for another 6 days!!! I will go out and look around a bit tonight. Tomorrow I will meet with my teacher. We talked on the phone.

I am so elated. It feels so good. I cannot explain. All is well. All is well and amazing. I’m here.


One Response to “”

  1. Heather Bejar Says:

    This is the best summer read EVER!!! I was hanging by the edge of my seat 😉 I’m glad you are safe and sound and on your Turkish journey.

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