Istanbul. Day 2-4

You’ve got a friend in me, you’ve got a friend in me,
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed
You just remember what your ol’ pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me
– You’ve Got a Friend in Me, Randy Newman, from Toy Story

 

The last few days with friends have been tremendously joyous and encouraging for me, which is a great distraction from dwelling on the remaining to-dos for my trip. Since I have limited time now, I will only give a brief summary of our days in Istanbul. Nadine, Aaron, or Jess will be adding a guest post soon with all the juicy details. Stay tuned!

In the last couple days, Joel has shown us the best of Istanbul’s sights and the best food in town. We tell him he should start a food tour company because we feel as if we have been eating as kings and queens. Istanbul is full of meat stands and pastry stands everywhere.

P1000072 P1000073

Friday

Brunch: Menemen

P1000078

Sights
– Tool Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Light Bulb Bazaar (each bazaar is located in a different district. there’s bazaar for everything in Istanbul, but the tool bazaar is by far the coolest)
– Hagia Sophia – thousand year old Christian church that was converted to a mosque
– Grand Bazaar
– Cool kids aka hipsters neighborhood overlooking Bosphorus

P1000079 P1000081P1000084 P1000085 P1000087 P1000095 P1000099  P1000102P1000106

Dinner – Mesa dinner with Joel’s Turkish friends, lots of little plates or meat, seafood, and salads

P1000122

Nightlife – Dancing! Played interesting mix of upbeat international music, including our favorites Hit the Road Jack, La Bamba, Mambo #5

Midnight snack – Stuffed mussels and drunk hamburgers

P1000074P1000126

Saturday

– biking on Prince’s Island

– Lunch: kebabs and salad on the island

– Dinner: seafood on the island

P1000136 P1000141 P1000145 P1000150 P1000149 P1000153 P1000154

Sunday

– Turkish breakfast with Peach during her layover

– Lunch: Kurdish food in the Kurdish neighborhood

– More sights: walking through side streets to Sultanahmet, Fatih Mosque, Blue Mosque, Cistern

– Dinner: Asian side kebabs/buffet (notice we’re being Asian on the Asian side)

P1000158 P1000160 P1000161 P1000164 P1000169 P1000171 P1000175 P1000184 P1000194 P1000195 P1000202 P1000207 P1000210 P1000213

Monday

– hamam: Turkish bathhouse, aka getting bathed and massaged by older Turkish women

– sending off Aaron, Natasha, and Nadine to the airport

– got haircut for 20 lira

P1000216  P1000224

People Get Ready

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord,
oh yes we just thank the Lord…”
 People Get Ready, Aretha Franklin (cover)

 

The moment of truth is finally here. In 4 hours, I will be on my flight to Istanbul. The last week has been an emotional one, filled with the joy of spending time with friends but also the sorrow of saying goodbye. The past few years in Boston was the first time in my life I’ve felt like part of a community with the most wonderful friends in the world and it is hard to leave.

I had and still have my doubts and fears. Was this the right time? Should I have waited another year–so that I could have gained another year of work experience, or waited until my friends also had time off? When it became clear that I would be traveling alone on this trip, I was very afraid for myself traveling solo as a woman.

But in the end, I decided, if it wasn’t now, when would it be? If I waited another year, would something else have come up that would thwart my plans? I had been dreaming about this trip for 3 years now, and if it was going to happen, now is the better than living in anticipation, and now is better than never.

As for traveling solo, I thought about the women that inspire me: Annie Londonderry – who cycled around the world in 1896 starting from the Boston State House on a Penny Farthing; Alexandra David-Neel – who spent her life traveling through Tibet in the 1800s; Freya Stark, a British writer who traveled throughout the Middle East and published many travel accounts; and Yuki – a Japanese women who motorbiked solo from Japan to South Africa and whom I met in Kenya. I also promised myself that I would stop and come home if I ever felt unsafe or my gut told me to stop.

With the journey looming over me, I remember the words of my favorite poem:

Be grateful for freedom to see other dreams
Bless your loneliness as much as you drank of your former companionships
All that you are experiencing now will become moods of future joys
So bless it all.
 Time is now a gift for you
 A gift of freedom
To think and remember and understand
The ever perplexing past
And to re-create yourself anew
In order to transform time. 
Live while you are alive
Learn the ways of silence and wisdom
Learn to act, learn a new speech
Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit
Learn to free yourself from all things that have moulded you
And which limit your secret and undiscovered road.
Fear not, but be full of light and love
Fear not but be alert and receptive
Fear not but act decisively when you should
Fear not but know when to stop
Fear not for you are loved by me
Fear not for death is not the real terror
But life–magically–is.
So fear not, my friend
The darkness is gentler than you think
Be grateful for life as you live it
And may a wonderful light always guide you on the unfolding road.
To an English Friend in Africa
by Ben Okri