Day two in Istanbul began with us thinking our flight was later that day. Thankfully, we had our days mixed up. Part of the reason for going to Istanbul was having the opportunity to see my, for all intents and purposes, first college friend/proprietor for joining my fraternity/mentor/that one amazing person you meet who changes your life for the best. His name is Michael Oghia, or Ogie for short.
Quick background on him, he graduated from UofL and went to school in Beirut. Lived there for a few years, moved to India and is now in Istanbul. These details are significant because he was my first friend to move away and attempt something much larger than himself. He has had an amazing adventure and whenever he would return to Louisville I did my best to see him. While we aren’t the best of friends, I believe we have a good relationship of checking in once in a while. Through my time with him in Istanbul we discussed the life abroad and the pros and cons that come with that territory. It’s a shame how difficult it is to express some of those emotions.
John, Ogie and I had a fantastic breakfast on a rainy day. We embarked towards the same area we were in the day before. We explored the bazaar a little more, picking up some gifts. We then took a boat across the Bospherous to the Asia side of Turkey in the neighborhood called Kadakoï. While venturing through these streets I walked into a shop. I was looking for a fan of sorts. As I exited the shop, my ears picked up on the tune playing. It was Cuban music. Pump. The. Breaks. What? Why? How? Huh? I was thrown off… Not two minutes later walking down the street I see a satirical banner with Hitler and a swastika. I snap a picture, look to the right and there blowing in the breeze is a banner with none other than Che Guevara’s iconic face. We round a corner and there is a Cuban bar. We had stumbled upon Communism central. Graffiti, banners, flags, posters. It was bizarre. Streets were near empty and fairly quiet aside from the Cuban music escaping the bar. Pretty sure I have some pictures of much of this – I’ll be sure to caption those photos when I upload them.
I enjoyed some baklava, although it was definitely not John’s cup of tea. The rain was a nuisance all day long and soon enough we made our way back to the Europe side. Let me take this opportunity to express how absolutely confusing the Turkish public transport system is. If it wasn’t for asking random Turks where our bus was, we would have been stuck there for more than an hour.
We made our way back to the apartment. I grabbed a Turkish hair and beard cut that changed my life – I learned how to properly trim a beard. Not sure if I already mentioned it, but Turkish men can grow some beautiful facial hairs. My beard was jealous. Numerous times I was asked if I was Scottish or Irish, and when I said American they laughed. One man told me I looked like a member of ISIS. Ruhroh. Needless to say, this prompted my visit to the barber. Our thoughts were – if they think I’m ISIS here in Istanbul, even jokingly, what would this mean in Jerusalem. My beard was pretty untamed, but I saw many more wild ones than mine both in Turkey and Israel.
One man told me I looked like a member of ISIS.
We had a beer with Ogie, his roommate Kenny and Kenny’s girlfriend, continued onto dinner followed up with some nargile. Nargile is hookah, and this was the best I had ever had.
The next morning, while snow fell upon Istanbul, we departed for Atatürk and made our way to Israel. As we found our check in gate, we were met with questioning. Nothing to out of the ordinary. We checked in, found our gate and waited.
There’s something to be said about a beautiful woman with a loaded weapon. Our Israeli flight attendants had looks to kill and “I will kill you” looks. I was writing in my journal on the flight and took a sentence pause to write,”Sorry, whoever is reading this sometime in the future, this flight attendant might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen”. Prior to getting on the plane, John and I had been thoroughly impressed with the Turkish stock of women. Yes, I will take a second to sound like a pig, but really I am just complimenting them. I claimed Israel would be similar to some extent, while John claimed we’d see a bunch of nuns and hijab wearing women. We were both wrong.
The flight was pretty comfortable. I have to admit I was nervous when I arrived at the airport that morning, but after hearing other passengers speaking American English my nerves settled. Even on the plane, landing and walking through the airport in Tel Aviv, I can’t say I was nervous. More so excited to see what would be on the other side of the gate.
More on that shortly.