I’m writing this blog post as I sit in the Chicago airport, waiting for my last flight to reach home. My nostalgia has already set in, because I decided to watch the thriller Taken 2 starring Liam Neeson on flight across the Atlantic. I decided to watch it not because it’s a particularly good movie, but because it takes place in Istanbul and features a lot of familiar scenery (the final fight scene takes place on the marble slab of the Cemberlitas Hamam that we experienced our last night).
As I sit here, I try to think of how I could possibly begin to explain these incredible 3.5 months to anyone that didn’t experience them right there with me. Although I will default to referring the “big things” that we saw as the highlights of the trip, I’ve realized that what truly makes the experience of Istanbul are the small things. I do love seeing all the famous landmarks, but what made Istanbul so special for me were the small things that we experienced every day. This topic is obviously way too broad to try and sum up in one blog post, so I will focus on what I consider to be one of the top highlights of the entire trip. Kayla and I frequented the convenience store beneath our apartment and developed a connection to the guy who ran the store. They weren’t extended interactions but we would always greet him on the street even if we didn’t stop in and we developed a strong sense of friendliness with him. The second to last night, we took a picture with him to communicate that we were leaving soon since he didn’t know any English. He obviously got the message, because last night, as we were getting back late from the hamam, he chased us down before we got inside the apartment and handed us each a small gift. He gave Kayla a music box and necklace, and I received a clock and a bracelet. It was evident that he had been waiting for us to walk by to give us these gifts. We had no idea that he had appreciated our simple relationship with him so much, and it was a truly touching moment to be our last experience in Istanbul, as we left for the airport an hour later. Before leaving, Kayla and I wrote a short note of appreciation on a crisp US dollar bill. Someday when I return to Istanbul, I have a feeling that he might still have our dollar bill.