Looking at those photos from 2002 last week reminded me of a lot of things, including Turkey.
Even though I worked with an extremely diverse population in my home in East London, both India and Turkey had, in different ways, become countries and cultures of focus for me. Going to India in 1993 had been one step in the path of getting me to London, but in 2002 when I realised I’d be relocating back to the States, I still hadn’t been to Turkey.
I had become accustomed to traveling all around Europe at very low costs as a London resident, by visiting and staying with friends in these other countries, and by flying budget airlines. So, probably not long after I truly decided I was moving back across the Pond, I also decided I needed to take one more trip. I thought about Italy, but I didn’t know anyone in Italy, and besides, everybody goes to Italy. If I were going to make European trips ever again, from the United States instead of from the United Kingdom, it was far more likely that I’d make it to Italy than to Turkey. Besides, I knew a British couple living in Izmir at the time. So, I reckoned, I could probably stay with them. They reckoned so, as well.
What I hadn’t reckoned on was the fact that either I couldn’t get a flight to Izmir, or else I couldn’t afford one, so my British-Friends-in-Turkey recommended I fly into Istanbul and take a bus (coach) to their city, and then reverse the trip on the way back. This probably wouldn’t have been such a terrible idea, except that if I was going to be in Istanbul, I wanted to see Istanbul. I can’t really remember how it was I decided to bite the bullet and schedule myself two nights in a small hotel in the Old City at the beginning of the trip, and two more nights on the way back. I bought my tickets and booked the hotel, which I had discovered after some research on Backpacker.com, and at the beginning of May 2002, just a few weeks before I left London forever as a resident, I left London temporarily as a tourist to Turkey.
“Be careful,” said my Turkish and Kurdish women friends. “You will love Turkey. But be careful of the men.” They said that last part a lot. “Be careful of Turkish men.”
“Don’t go down any alleys with anyone,” quipped . . . actually, I don’t remember who quipped that. But I know someone did. I remember the quip because please. Who actually goes down alleyways with someone they don’t know?
My British-Friends-in-Turkey told me what I had to do to get from my hotel to the bus on the second day and warned me about scam-artist cab drivers.
“Be careful,” said everybody.
Of course I was going to be careful. I wouldn’t go out after dark, and I don’t talk to men on the street anyway, so that wasn’t a concern. I was maybe a little naive, but I wasn’t stupid, and I was just nervous and yet determined enough, that probably, with God’s help, I was going to be just fine.
I’m going to say God’s help was the clincher, but I’m at more than 500 words, so you’re going to have to wait until next week to find out how the trip went.