On my second night back home from Istanbul, my family and I had a little night on the town in Chicago planned to celebrate Mother’s Day. We went to a nice Turkish restaurant followed by a B.Y.O.B. painting class which we were all pretty excited about. We were all shoved into a stuffy little studio with paint fumes all about and I thought my head was going to explode. I decided to step out and head back to my sister’s apartment about a mile away (this little migraine turned out to be a fun little flu virus that I picked up on the plane…but that’s another story). I was a little too confident in my directional abilities and once my phone died I was left completely disoriented in this part of the city that I had only been to once or twice before. So I wandered a bit longer and asked a group of guys walking down the street for some directions. One of the guys looked at me almost laughing and said, “Dude…just google it.”I was a bit taken aback and after I explained my phone situation they were able to help me out, but I think it was at that moment that I really realized what a drastically different place this city was in comparison to the one I had all been living in for the past 10 weeks. Most of us were completely without any sort of electronic map with us and we hardly had any trouble getting directions from shopkeepers or people on the street if we weren’t able to navigate correctly.
After my encounter with those guys I was reminded of a time when Caitlin, Morgan, and I were on the way to the airport to pick up a friend. About a half hour into the bus ride to the airport we realized there weren’t any upcoming stops called “Ataturk Airport” and we had no idea which stop to get off at. We asked for help and immediately the people around us began asking everyone else on the bus if they could translate and help us find our friend. No one was really able to help us out, so instead an old man made some hand gestures and made it clear that he was going to take care of us. It turns out that the bus was only one leg of the journey, and we also had to take a train a little ways in order to get all the way to the airport. Eventually the stop came and this man who couldn’t speak any English whatsoever just grabbed us and walked us almost all the way to train to ensure that we made it there ok. That sort of genuine care for a stranger was something that I don’t think I’ve witnessed in the states before, and it gave a character to Turkey that I didn’t really expect. This is what I think I miss most about Istanbul right now, and something that I’ll be excited to back to if I ever get the chance to go back to that fantastic place.