Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Steph Plays Tourist

Hi all,
Today got off to a leisurely start. HM said I could catch a ride into work with her, and she was tired so we didn't get going until about 9:45. However, she said I could take whatever shuttle back that I wanted, so I wasn't concerned.

The first thing I did (after buying my last Scimit : ( - sesame coated circular pretzel thingy) was run over to my Turkish class building. Luckily, I planned it perfectly. They had just got out on break and I immediately found who I was looking for. A very nice Italian girl from my course (who's living in Istanbul as permanently as possible). A few days previous she had had contact issues, and had noted how painful it is to buy eye solution in Istanbul. I commiserated, as in Germany I had to go to a pharmacy and pay major euros for a small bottle. Guess who didn't want to lug the extra weight of a full contact solution bottle home?

So, anyhow, she was relieved to see me (the class thought I had maybe gotten sick?) and I filled her in over the tea she insisted we have. She really was a nice girl and I gave her my e-mail and asked her to tell the class and teacher that I'd be gone permanently. So it was nice to tie up that loose end.

Onward and Downwards
I started my trip by taking the funicular (it's going to be sad not having that in my vocabulary when I get home) and the the "historic tram" to where the the Egyptian Spice Market is. I had a little trouble with the signs, and after back tracking once I tried the tried and true: I followed the other group of obvious tourists.

Yeah, so they might have been tourists, but they definitely didn't go to the market. So I tried the other guaranteed method: I turned around and started again. This time, I got it right. I passed the New Mosque (which I didn't go into, I'm over the whole covering my head and not taking pictures thing already...) and hung a left past the Mary Poppins "Feed the Birds" woman. Actually, there were several old women and one old man, but I still hummed to myself.

I have to say, I impressed myself. Even if I got completely walked over by the bargaining system, with some cordiality (I was invited to share tea) and perhaps some flirting (!?!) and a little lie about my finances, I think I may have wrangled a deal. At any rate, a better deal than most people typically get. If nothing else, I at least got the feeling that I did, so I'm happy.
I found a few little things and continued my trek. I decided that I should walk over the golden horn (about 4 minutes of walking, so not at all as impressive as it sounds) and then caught the tram to continue to the tourist trap, um, cultural center.

I MIGHT be Famous
At least, I might have an appearance on one of the Turkish serials. I was perplexed (while realizing that what I thought at first was the palace was the Blue Mosque...which, again, I didn't go in, but this time due to prayer time), when I saw a man running after two kids. Though I'd seen the enormous film hook and camera, I didn't put it together that they were related. The man was almost comical as he chased after the kids, as they split up and he fell on the grass (though I think that part actually WASN'T intentional) and was trying to figure out if it was for fun, or he was actually mad. Then I realized it was being filmed, and I was in the back drop. Unfortunately, since Turkey blocks youtube, (plus the fact I have no idea what all the serials are...) I may never find out if I got to be an unintentional extra...

Sultan Ahmet: Beware of Creepy Men
Now, in their defense, they might be totally nice guys. However, when I am walking around and obviously a young, alone, tourist and western woman, the last thing I really want is to be approached. The first guy came up and almost pounced on me. We were on a crowded street and he just ambled up and said "Hello! Don't worry! I'm not a tour guide". Not sure how I'm supposed to feel about that, he continued...
"Are you from America?"
Deciding to be polite (and ready to kick his ass, or at least scream police loudly in all the languages I know (3, although I think I get some overlaps...) I answered that yes, I was. He continued on and said he was learning English and it was nice to talk with someone who was. Then he started to ask where I was going, and asked what I'd seen.

Then he got weird...
"Oh, I could tell you are not a tourist! You are not dressed like look like...a TRAVELER!" And then he beamed at me.
This was the "Um, this could get bad" moment.
Before I had a chance to answer he bounced in with:
"Your eyes, are they your natural eyes?"
Understanding that he meant color, and knowing that lighter colored eyes are not as typical here, I answered
"Um, yes...yes they are..."
He immediately said that lots of girls wear colored lenses to make their eyes like mine.

Now, I was playing it completely nonchalantly while wracking my brain to figure out how I could politely slip away from him. Luckily we were right by the gate to the palace....
"Oh, I will leave you here. Perhaps we can talk after you are done? Maybe we could go have a cup of tea! Or we could do something this evening!" he declared.
Think fast think fast think!
"Oh, um, (Lie, Steph, Lie...) I have only an hour before my shuttle, so I have to go then. But thank you!"
And then I speed walked away. With no resort to violence or undignified screaming that I am well capable of.

Tokapi Palace
I was moderately impressed with the palace (I know, that sounds SOOO snobbish of me, but by now I consider myself to be a little seasoned...I did take a class on them you know. Although it was in German and I didn't understand much, I still saw them!). Anyhow, it was impressive for three reasons for me. One, the artifacts were actually precious (none of the glass crap), two, they had lots of periodical goodies, and three, it was ENORMOUS. I got bored with reading and shuffling through the crowds, and it still took me a good 3 hours. I did, however, seem some truly god-awful examples of bezel-setting. In gold. I could have done better. However, there were also some truly spectacular works (especially one throne stolen from India) that had truly intricate and stupendous workmanship dedicated to it. So that was nice.

Is really what I'd consider the rest of the day to be. I did get followed, briefly and once again in full public, by another English-speaking man, but this time was fortunate enough to be walking fast enough to completely avoid him. I hopped the tram, spent some time back in Taxsim and then caught the shuttle home. I wound up the night playing indoor soccer, Zombie Attack and of course: UNO. At some point in the day I realized what it felt like to be completely and relaxed and comfortable, and how much I'd missed that feeling the last few weeks.
And now I'm ready to come home.

Hope all is well,

1 comment:

sandi said...

Steph, because of the time change you are probably already on your way back to the states. Paul H says you are coming back to Grand Forks - yeah! I sat in on the jewelry class today. One of Donovan's mentors was here and she showed how to make looped chain. Looked like lots of work to me. Cutting round rings, fusing them, stretching them, then looping them through each other for 18 inches! Yikes! Stop by the library if you can while you are in town.