Today, October 3, was my first full day outside in Istanbul. I don’t expect many of you to know that I’m in Istanbul since I dropped off the face of the map a few weeks ago, but this is where I am: Istanbul, Turkey.
To say that the last few weeks have been hectic is an understatement. I packed, finished my internship at Etsy, saw friends, packed some more, had to visit and rearrange storage, helped my uncle out with his future blogging project and slept my little heartbroken self to avoid processing the pain my heart was, and still is, undergoing.
Traveling is one of my favorite things in the world. It allows me to pack up, see new things, feel refreshed, meet new people, discover more about myself and my future, and spend some much-needed time alone. I am staying with a good friend in Istanbul and she has been amazing, so I’m not really alone, but after she dropped me off in the main artery of tourist Istanbul, I was very much alone.
My first stop today was the Spice Bazzar. It’s got quite a history and is gorgeous, packed, and full of confident Turkish men selling spices, Turkish Delight, teas, and many other Turkish goodies. I spent a good 30 minutes walking around the Bazzar and bought some delicious dried fruit, but that was only after being stopped by one guy, who stuffed me full of Turkish Delight, told me I look Moroccan, kept putting his arms around me, and then asked me to take a picture with him. He was in fact the guy who said, “So how about You, Me, Tonight?” When we took the picture together, the guy taking the picture told me to kiss him, Khalid, and I promptly said, “No kissing! I just met you!” The guy who had been buying items from the camera man laughed when he heard me say that. After the photo, I thanked everyone kindly and then walked away.
In the same Bazzar, the attention I continued to get was enough to make me laugh nervously. I have never considered myself pretty. That doesn’t mean I am not conceded, because I can be and have been, but I definitely do not walk around thinking I’m pretty. I think I look like my father, who was a good looking guy, but I tend to think my face is too wide and my nose non-existent and my forehead too big. Anyhow, I am confident in who I am, which is this slightly awkward, kind of loud, sometimes aggressive girl (because I’ve never really felt like a woman), who likes to laugh, flirt (on my terms) and doesn’t shy away from her real feelings. It hasn’t always worked out for me dating wise, but I can honestly say that I am not walking around hiding who I am just so that some guy can like me.
Alas, as I maneuvered my way through the Bazzar, I got tons of smiles, many hellos and my personal favorite the, “are you Paradise?” to which I quickly replied, “Yes, I am!” and walked out. Of course, this did not properly prepare me for what was to come two hours later as I walked around to the Blue Mosque.
When I got to the Blue Mosque, prayer service was about to begin. In Istanbul, the city announces prayer time through song (or at least it sounds like song), where a man’s voice is projected all over the City notifying the Muslim population that it is time to pray. I’m not sure how to describe it and was told that when my friend, who I am staying with, was younger, it was actual song, not a prerecorded announcement. Either way, I love hearing it. It makes me smile and oddly enough brings a sense of peace to me while I’m walking about.
Anyhow, back to the point, as I made my way over to the park between The Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya, I noticed a guy walking toward me with postcards and books about Istanbul. I politely smiled (lesson learned) and said I wasn’t interested. However, that simple response got him to ask me where I am from and I responded so as not to be rude, but then got asked if he could join me to the Mosque gardens. Of course, I couldn’t say no, but then he asked if I would walk to his office with him while he put his books and postcards away. I told him no, but that I would wait where we met. Which I did. And then realized that that was just unnecessary encouragement.
Alas, we walked through the gardens and he asked me if I’m married and why not as well as my age. I have to admit that these men while quite aggressive are some of the most flattering I’ve ever met. I have repeatedly been told I look 23 or 24, which is nice. I, naturally, feel like I look my age and the cold I’ve managed to catch is showing my eye wrinkles and my exhaustion, but nevertheless, it is flattering to be told I look pretty, young, and nice.
After a quick walk around the garden, the guy asked me to go out and I told him I had to get home to my friends for dinner so I could not go out with him, but I did agree to meet him the following day, yesterday, at 2pm. I did not meet him, but that was because I didn’t have to. At first, I had every intention to meet him just to be polite, but instead, I went to the Aya Sofya and walked around. Then I went to visit my new friend Mehmet at his hotel (more on that later).
It’s not that I don’t trust these men exactly, but the fact remains that I don’t trust them. I get along with people in general, especially when traveling, but in Istanbul, I feel like one yes is too much and could lead to something that I’m not exactly looking for. Yes, sure, I’ll flirt, but that’s where the great American conservatism comes in….I flirt to a point, a point where I feel safe. After that, I can and will give you the cold shoulder. I have never believed in playing games when it comes to feelings of the heart, nor do I want to lead anyone on. You know where you stand with me and that’s that.
Anyhow, as I we parted and I walked into the Mosque when it opened again after prayer, I decided to appreciate the lesson I was learning from these men…No, is not a good enough answer. And when no comes up, keep pushing on.
I don’t agree with it and I could never sell my products that way. I don’t feel comfortable in situations like that and it’s exhausting, but in order to even get on someone’s radar, you have to be pushy. At least that is what Turkish men will have you believe. Or rather the Turkish salesmen. Not all Turkish men are like this. I know this because yesterday afternoon, I spent the entire afternoon and evening with three very wonderful men at my friend’s hotel. They were at my beck and call and offered me everything they could under the sun, including laughter, which my tired little heart much needed. (More on this soon!)
After I left the Mosque, I had two more run ins with Turkish men, one where a guy told me as I paid to use the bathroom, “you have a funny face.” I asked him what he meant and he said, “you’re face looks like you like to have fun” with a smile. I thanked him and told him I’d take that.
Another guy selling carpets just outside of the Mosque, in the garden, asked me where I was from and then told me “please don’t misunderstand me, you look like a sweet girl, and I only want one dinner.” Yes, he said that. I graciously thanked him and went about my evening.
Finally, a guy, who looked like the guy I was supposed to meet yesterday, appeared and I said, “didn’t I just see you?!” and he replied with, “no, but I clearly look like someone you know?” I told him that he did, excused myself and told him I just wanted to take some pictures, but he kept talking to me, explaining that he isn’t a tour guide, but that he’d like to take me out for a drink. I looked at him and said, “that is very nice of you, but I have been asked out many times today and I need to just go for a walk by myself. Thank you again.” He said, “I understand, but you are very pretty, you know.” Again, I thanked him and scuttled myself back to the metro to get home. I couldn’t take any more conversations about my face, my prettiness, or going to tea. I mean really, how many teas can a girl drink in one day?!
This post almost sounds like one of those “white people problems” memes, but it’s not. As I explained already, I don’t always find myself pretty (and no, I’m not trying to make you feel bad for me, thinking your pretty and thinking you’re the shit are two different things–I tend to be in the later category), so I understand the lesson behind my first day in Istanbul and even yesterday (next blog post), but I also realized why I’m not the best salesman. Why I prefer to say greet customers and make them feel comfortable, while being distant, and maybe that’s why I’m the same way in my dating life. I can be quite aggressive, but I choose not to be in my every day life. Maybe that’s my Istanbul lesson…learn to be a bit more aggressive, not too aggressive, understand that no, means no, without any hard feelings (I don’t think any of the men I said no to, were too hurt by my easy let downs), but throw myself out there without any fear.
In my heart of hearts, I already know this lesson and I mean come on, I’m sitting in Istanbul, I know what throwing fear out the window is, but these men, these men, are something else all together. While I may not love their tactics, they’ve got some method to their madness and I’d be smart to pick some of it up and step up my salesmanship just a little. We’ll see how it goes.
Today is my third full day in Istanbul. I have three more days and the day that I arrived, Tuesday, was a wash…full of relaxing and adjusting to being in a new City. I have some sites to see, another visit to my new favorite Hotel and maybe some Hookah to smoke. I’ll be posting again tomorrow, I hope, to cover days two and three.
Happy Friday wherever in the world you are!