The trip to Istanbul was a long one. 9 hours through the night on a bus. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact the the bus had Internet to keep myself mildly entertained. It was a bit of a shame, because I didn't get to see much of the country side, but you can't win them all. Ceyda joined me the trip to the big city because she was on a job hunt. I too had some job interviews lined up while I was there to teach English. I figured it might be a good chance to put my TESOL certificate to use, make some money, and stay somewhere for the winter time that was not 30 below zero with 3 feet of snow. I really want to see Europe in the spring/summer time, so I was thinking this might be a realistic option. More about this later on.
As we approached the city, Ceyda woke me up. She wanted me to see us crossing the bridge between Europe and Anatolia (Asian side). It wasn't exactly the best weather with some over cast, but I managed to snap some pictures just as we were at the halfway point of the bridge
. Directly between continents. At the bus station we transfered to a smaller local bus that would drop us off in the city center, where we would proceed to a small flat we had rented for out time there. It is almost the same price as getting a hostel, but much cleaner and safer....or so we thought. We hopped in a cab, gave him the address, and off we went. Shortly after we were at our destination. We looked at the numbers of the buildings, and looked at our piece of paper....the numbers didn't match. We scratched our heads walking up and down the street looking to see if for some odd reason, the number took a weird jump. We asked a man sitting watching a parking lot if he maybe knew where the address was. He told us that the previous day, a girl had come and asked about the same address, and informed us that the building number we were looking for, didn't exist! Son of a ..... We had been had! Not exactly the way I imagined my first day in Istanbul. It was time to go into crisis control and figure out what our next course of action would be. We found a Starbucks, cracked out our laptops and started looking for something....anything.... that was in a reasonable price range. It was at this time that I thought of posting a message on the Couchsurfing forum for Istanbul. I wasn't expecting much, since it was 8 am and knew that most people would still be asleep. Surprisingly enough, within ten mins, I had some locals giving us ideas of budget hostels to check out, and what step we should take
. Amazing. Even in the early morning hours, people were reaching out to help complete strangers. We headed to the hostel after some quick calls and settled in to rest and recoup from our hectic morning adventures. Now the neighborhood we were in , Taxim, is the center of the city. Not exactly the safest area, but there is lots to see around here. Walking out of our hostel, we were greeted and yelled at by some mid afternoon male cross dressing prostitutes. Lovely. We headed back to our room to find something more concrete for the rest of our time there. While sitting in our room, i could feel a rumble under my feet. I thought it was the subway at first. But feeling a subway up on the 5th floor seemed a little odd. In fact, it was a 4.4 magnitude earthquake. Ceyda jumped up and said that we should get out of the building as soon asap, since many of the buildings are quite old and not exactly structurally sound to withstand a big earthquake. We proceeded out and killed time walking the streets, staying away from anything that could potentially fall. What a hell of a first day in Istanbul. I was beginning to wonder what the next few days would have in store if all this happened in a mere 15 hours!!
As I mentioned at the start of this entry, the main purpose of the visit here was to look into the prospect of a job. When I first told my parents about my plans, they were supportive of the idea, but also thought it was a little funny of an idea
. Me.....Matt Svadjian....a teacher?!? My parents were both involved in the education system for their entire careers, and out of my siblings, I am the least like in my family to be a teacher. It was because of this, I never ended up getting much sightseeing in. We walked the water front, which is a spectacular view. It is a really cool feeling to be standing on the European side of Istanbul and staring off into the Anatolian side (Asia). For those of you who don't know, Istanbul is the only city in the world that is on two continents. Threes your little fun fact for the day. Some of the places that I had time to check out included the Blue Mosque, and Ayasofya, both are amazing. I just wanted to stay and take pictures all day here.
Another great experience I had while here, was I wanted to meet the couchsurfers that had come to my rescue on my first day in town. I thought the least I could do was buy them a drink to show my appreciation. A fellow by the name of Irfan organized a weekly meeting in the Taxim at a bar for local people, and anyone traveling through town to meet and chat to share stories. Irfan is a very happy guy who wants to do nothing more than show visitors a good time. There must have been 30 people there, from every continent. You could turn to either side and have a great conversation with anyone since everyone was a couchsurfer and very open minded and easy going. I am very glad that I did go to meet them. He even invited me to join them in a weekly pick up game of soccer at a local field that they rented. I was dying to get out and get running. It too was a blast. I met even more great people, including a very friend guy Mickeal. Turkish of decent but born in France. He and chatted and it was a great chance for me to practice my very rough french. He told me my french was rather good....for a canadian. :)
One of my most funny/memorable moments in Istanbul though was when I went for a haircut
. I figure with some interviews lined up, perhaps I should make myself presentable. We found a small barber shop on a side street close to where we were staying. I sat down and he began to shave my head. Now I will admit, I am a hairy guy. Nothing like Bigfoot or anything, but there is no denying the fact. Just as I thought that this barber was finished shaving my head, he reached for what looked like a cotton swap on a copper rod. He dipped in into an alcohol solution, which I figured was to rub my head down for sanitary purposes, or at least be used something like after shave.....Wrong! It was then when he lit the cotton swap on fire, and began to dab my ears and the back of my neck. I felt like I was being turned into Turkish kebab. I mean it works to get rid of any tiny little hairs, but jeez....some advance notice would have been nice. The look on my face was priceless. Jaw wide open. I didn't really have much of a say in the matter either. Final product, clean cut Matty, with no 1st degree burns. Usually when you think of visiting a barber or hairdresser, the word fire is not in the vocabulary. Only in Turkey. Even walking down the street you have to be on your feet here. Looking down at my ipod for a second, I looked up to see a car coming down the sidewalk, two tires on the road and two in line with me. Now it wasn't going 60 kms/h, but still goes to show you....keep your chin up!
To make a long story short and not bore you all to death with small details, I ended up getting a teaching position here
. I was just as shocked as anyone that they actually agreed to take me. I was happy that I had options, but I guess I really hadn't put enough thought into it. Did I really want to stop my travels now and stay put in one location for 8 months?? It had nothing to do with the fact that it was a foreign country, but I just feel that if I was to take on a challenge like this one....I should be there to give it 100%. Who knows. Perhaps when this all said and done, I may go back to try it. I have several friends that have been teaching English abroad for years, and they all seem quite content doing so. We me though.... you just never know what is around the corner.
Thanks again for checking this out and reading, I am getting all caught up on everything slowly but surely. I am currently writing this from Athens, drinking a nice glass of wine, smoking some shesha, and looking down on the Acropolis. I will connect the rest of the dots for you all up to this point very soon.