November 15, 2010
What a trip. I arrived safely in Istanbul and it took me a few minutes to look at a map and figure out where I was. Apparently, there are two airports in Istanbul and I flew into the Asian side, on the other side of the city (European side)! But thankfully, Okan sent me maps and gave me bus numbers and navigated me to his home on the European side all by email!
The journey into the city would require two bus transfers and was supposed to have taken me about 2 hours but fortunately, would only take me about an hour and a half. I also got lucky because there was an older couple that was on my plane that just so happened to be going on the same metrobus that I needed to be on. I actually was really lucky. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t know where to get off on the first bus and would have NO IDEA how to walk to the metrobus station, up the stairs and about 200 meters from where we got dropped off.
The language in Turkey – Turkish – was not really what I expected it to be and for some reason, I was excited about the fact that I would be able to go to Turkey and hear Arabic again. I assumed this because of the many Muslims in Turkey but I was completely wrong. There were only a few Arabic words used – Inshallah (God Wlling), Marhaba (Welcome), Alhamdulillah (Thank God). Other than that, I didn’t understand anything and couldn’t commit it to memory either…it was a really difficult language!
With the help of the couple, I got off at the station and then quickly got lost without them; I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn. I decided I should call Okan to see if he could guide me but I didn’t have a phone and didn’t see any pay phones around. Just then, a guy came up to me to see if I needed help. I noticed that he had an iphone so I asked if there was any way that I could use his phone to make a call. He generously agreed. So I went through my phone and quickly realized that I didn’t have his number! I didn’t save it in my phonebook…I assumed I would be able to view my messages from facebook but since I had no internet, I couldn’t pull it up. I was screwed. I had no phone number, I didn’t know exactly where I was going and I had all my bags which made me so immobile! It was starting to get dark and I was getting worried. I asked him if I could use his phone to check my email to get the number. He agreed and let me retrieve the number. So nice! So with that, I got the number and called Okan. Turned out, I was going in the right direction and I just needed to go down the street.
Okan left the keys for me with the shopkeeper at the corner so I needed to go there to pick it up. It was like I was a contestant in the Amazing Race! I found the shop okay and Ibrahim didn’t speak English but more or less understood what I was saying.
So I finally get the keys to Okan’s apartment and find my way okay. I had to lug up all my luggage up several flights of stairs. I didn’t know which exactly was his apartment so ended up climbing to the top of the steps. But that didn’t look right. Finally, I figured it out! I still cannot believe how AMAZINGLY GENEROUS Okan is to allow a perfect stranger into his home, especially when he’s not there! I am so grateful!
Okan told me that his room was the biggest room....but I didn't check all the rooms, instead I found the last room with his nametag on the door so I thought it must be his room...I go in and there's a big laundry hanger rack....with clothes hanging and you can't get into the room; the room also smells of mold. Oh well, I thought, he must have been busy...I'm not going to complain, I have a place to stay...
So I moved some things to the side and slept there and made my way around the mess. Tidied up a bit, folded some clothes...Then today I get the wi-fi password emailed to me from Okan so I connect and give him a call...I'm telling him that I can't find his laptop...he's telling me that it's under the table but I don't see any table...did he forget that he put the table away? Because I see a table folded up leaning against the wall. So, anyway I call him on skype and I'm telling him, there's no table...then I say, 'there's only the bookshelf with the tv'. Then he says, 'wait are you in my room?' HUH? He tells me it's the first door...so I open the first door, with him still on the phone...OH, NOW I SEE THE TABLE! OH MY GOD! I was sleeping in the wrong room! Then I tell him, 'but your name was on the door!' And he's like 'really? hmm..I don't know.'
So anyway, clear out all my stuff and go to his room...go back to look at the door and look at the nametag again..I read it (probably like the 5th time I've looked at this nametag) and it says: O-K-V-A-N! Not, O-K-A-N! SO EMBARASSED! Oh my God! It turned out that I slept in his brother’s room! I laughed and cried when I retold the story to Simone over email. I really felt like Goldilocks, just walking into the home of the THREE bears (Okan and his roommates – brother and cousin) and just making myself at home, sleeping in their beds. Thankfully so far all the Turks that I have met have been so kind to me! Really.