Trip Start Sep 15, 2010
29Trip End Jul 23, 2011
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Perhaps it's the sheer size of Istanbul (population 18 million) or it was just a bad experience, but the first few hours in Turkey did not make for an easy adjustment. While coming into the city on a crowded airport tram, a man standing six inches in front of me slid his hands down his pants and started masturbating. Having completely lost my voice while in Greece and unable to move or speak any Turkish, I just turned my head away and slowly started to cry.
I then spent 45 minutes in the rain trying to find a hostel while dozens of men asked if I needed help or wanted an umbrella. I finally got directions from a Turkish-American business owner who proceeded to give me a lecture about being careful or it costing my life
Sometimes the good thing about bad experiences is that you can only go up from there. It's taken me at least a week to fully come back around, but I've learned at least one good lesson from that day. It may be completely against my nature, but I have now mastered the art making no eye contact, keeping my jaw shut and walking straight ahead. Of course sometimes I walk right past my hostel, but for the most part no one bothers me.
After three days in Istanbul, I took a 12 hour bus ride to Cappadocia. This magical place is located in central Anatolia and consists of unusual lava rock formations and fairy chimney houses. It is also were the first Christians settled while escaping persecution from the Roman Empire. On the first day I explored the valleys until sunset with two nice Dutch guys. I also slept like a rock in my cave hostel. ;)
After Cappadocia, I took a quick trip off the beaten tourist trail to the conservative business city of Kayseri. This is were the U.S. embassy houses one of it's "American Corners." These corners are designed to be resource centers for local residents wanting to learn about American culture, history and politics
Despite the website saying the center was "Open to the Public," I showed up only to find it closed. I knew I might run this risk but I also wanted to know what an ordinary Turkish person might encounter. I asked a security guard for assistance and he found a friendly English teacher to let me in the room. It was a pretty bare bones office with four bookshelves, a dozen DVDs and two computers. I talked with the teacher for 20 minutes and she had a very positive view of U.S.-Turkish relations. I found this encouraging, however when I chatted with a young student helping me find my way back to the bus station she said relations between the U.S. and Turkey are poor, especially because of our policies in Israel. I inquired if the American Corner is a place where people would even go and she just scrunched her face and said "not really." Analyzing these two viewpoints may be somewhat trivial, but it does makes me look forward to visiting more American Corners and spending the next six weeks in Israel.
After two more overnight buses, I was happy to spend my final days meeting six friends of friends in Istanbul. I enjoyed rich Turkish cuisine, burned it off with a belly dancing class and asked so many questions about head scarves, political freedoms and E.U. membership that my face might as well have turned Bosphorus blue.
All in all, my time in Turkey was slightly challenging but also rewarding. I find the less I try to plan things and the more I allow the Spirit to lead me the better the journey unfolds.