I am happy to say that I have officially been immersed in the political passion and strife of Istanbul. Right outside the apartment our group is staying in, huge crowds marched down the road in a demonstration of support for the family who lost their fifteen-year-old son during a protest in Taksim Square last summer. While walking for bread the young man was hit by a can of teargas thrown by police that was meant for demonstrators and had been in a coma until he passed away a couple of days ago. As a result, people lined the streets and marched on the day of his funeral in hopes of showing the current Turkish government that precautions during protests need to be considered and less devastating actions should be taken. However, the protest turned sour as the police force began to throw cans of tear gas once again at protestors who didn’t disburse when told. Since we’re located only a few blocks from the Metro line of Osmanbey, we stayed inside drawing for a review the following day, taking photos and videos of the huge lines of marchers.
However, hunger called. With no food to prepare, Kayla and I braced ourselves for the aftermath of the afternoon march, hoping that grabbing a kebab from the place two blocks down would be easy enough to accomplish. We. Were. Wrong. As we began our walk to the restaurant, we noticed a definite increase in the amount of people typically seen in the evening on the street. We continued our walk, talking about the long night of drawing ahead and potential coffee breaks, while in the distance I saw bodies running towards us. What the heck? was all I was thinking, when a swarm of people came running towards us, while people who had been walking in front of us also began to turn around and run back towards the apartment. We decided they knew what they were doing and started to book it out of there.
As people started to slow down and stop, we did as well. It was sort of like a weird Simon Says, but way more intense. All around us were people coughing, hacking, and rubbing their eyes. Kayla and I were about halfway to the kebab place, a mere half block to go. We just looked at each other, silently asking each other, should we? As people started to walk back in the direction we had just run from, we gained the courage we needed to finally get our kebabs. Previously eating there before, the owners recognized us and smiled, and as we stepped into their warm shop, we seemed to escape the intensity and chaos of the street. We waited for our kebabs, simply watching the street headed towards Osmanbey and listening to the blaring radio rapidly talking in Turkish we had no idea of comprehending. Their little television was on and one of the owners (I think they’re brothers) pointed to it. We moved closer inside to look at the screen, where a news reporter was ducking and blaring into the microphone, with smoke and people running in the background. The owner then pointed left then right on the street. I pointed to the right, showing we would be heading back to the apartment after we paid for our kebabs. He appeared relieved at this, looked to his brother, who then indicated to the left and kept crossing his arms, pretty much saying to us “not that way.” Kayla and I looked at each other and shook our heads no, while pointing to the right. It’s amazing to think that complete strangers, both young adults with a language barrier, would consider the safety of two foreigners. It just seemed so surreal after the rather cold greetings we would receive in Rome. We thanked them and attempted a “good night” in Turkish, which brought a smile to their faces, and headed back to the apartment; we got there safe and sound.