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Friday, November 5, 2010

First Impressions

           I began my stay in Istanbul just hanging out nervously at the airport. Huma had told me that I was to wait for Yeshim in the lobby at "the cafe" where she could easily find me.  However, there were three cafes.  Looking around at all of the people, I felt sure that I would not recognize my new "house mom" in the crowd of tourists, businessmen, beggars, and chauffeurs, so with a sigh I sat down near the closest cafe where it was a bit less crowded.  After more than half an hour, I was very uncomfortable.  Huma had also said that Yeshim was arriving by an international flight, but since I could not understand any of the arrival announcements, I had no idea whether or not she could have been delayed.  If worse came to worst, I figured that at least I had enough cash to take a taxi all the way to my new home, but I still needed some way to communicate with Yeshim... ( now I'm not so sure if 350 TL would have actually been enough to get me all the way out to Kemerburgaz).  
          When 18:30 had come and gone, I gathered my possessions and tentatively approached the information desk.  A young lady behind the glass window looked friendly enough, so I walked up to her confidently and said, 
          "Merhaba..." Then, "Sorry, but do you speak any English?"
          The lady smiled, raised her eyebrows with a questioning look, and finally answered, "A leeetle." 
           Inwardly I groaned. Wonderful; and welcome to Turkey. Here we go! Then I made an effort to explain as simply as I knew how that I was supposed to meet a woman called Yeshim Esmer at 18 o'clock, and that I would be very grateful if someone could call her name over the intercom so that she would know where to meet me.  
          With eyebrows still raised, the lady dialed a few numbers, and then handed the receiver to me.  Miraculously, Huma was on the phone. She explained apologetically that Yeshim was running late, but should arrive in about an hour and would look for me at Starbucks.  I thanked her, gave the phone and a huge smile to the information lady, and feeling quite ready for a delicious drink, I worked my way through the crowded lobby to the familiar coffee shop. There I did some more waiting, but this time I was sitting comfortably in a huge armchair, with a delicious cup of my first Turkish apply chai. 
          Yeshim finally arrived, and I only knew it was her because she looked around the Starbucks from a distance, smiled when she saw me, and walked up to where I now stood nervously by my beckoning, comfy Starbucks chair.  After the customary cheek to cheek greeting, she politely asked how everything had gone with me trip, and apologized for being a bit behind schedule.  Then she offered to help with some of my luggage, and we swiftly exited the airport.  I noticed with envy that she was only travelling with a little purse, and wore light, stylish clothing and heels.  Here was a woman who was definitely accustomed to flight travel! Together we lugged my baggage through a line of honking taxis and buses, bouncing on and off of a little dirty sidewalk until we came to a very dusty, tiny red car.  The man waiting beside it inclined his head, squeezed my stuff carefully into the trunk, and handed the keys to Yeshim. 
          The 40 minute ride was quite an experience... Cars were packed on the road with no regard to  dividing lines, bumper to bumper at 50 - 70 mph!  Horns beeped continually, in a brilliant pattern of communication that would have been an insane nightmare to the most skilled New York City driver.  Yet I saw no accidents, even with the motor scooters dodging round everyone or barreling down the shoulder of the highway.  Yeshim maneuvered her little car expertly, and we were soon driving through the securely monitored entrance of the Burgaz housing complex.  Silently, I vowed to never sit behind the wheel of a vehicle during my stay in Turkey.  
          When we arrived, I was greeted by the curious, bright faces of Naz and Rana, who escorted me down to my room, and then helped me unpack and get settled into my new home.  

          Merhaba;  Hello          Chai;  Tea

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