Before I left for Istanbul, I visited my good friend and first working mentor at her home in Vermont. It was a wonderful weekend and while I was there she talked to me about her trip to Istanbul a few months before. She expressed her desire for me to meet her friend Mehmet, an owner of a hotel next to the Blue Mosque, and exchanged emails between the two of us. Just before leaving NYC for Istanbul, we reached out to each other and discussed my meeting up with him on my first official day out and about in the City. That didn’t exactly happen, but only because wireless in the City is in abundance, but all private, and I didn’t have the address for his hotel written down anywhere. It was only available via email.
Anyhow, on Thursday, the 4th, I made my way over to his hotel after visiting the Hagia Sophia and ended up sitting down for what was the rest of the day. I ate dinner in the hotel, talked to him and the guys, and quickly realized that I loved this hotel. Mehmet kept telling me, imagine that this is your home, we want you to feel welcome and safe here. I did and the guys did an excellent job making sure that every need of mine was met.
There are three guys that work there, at least that I know: Mehmet, the owner, Tarik, who works the reception desk, and Mamy, the jack of all trades. Mamy has taken a liking to me and he’s really sweet and I know there’s a reason why we met. Last night, he walked me to the train, helped me load money on my train card and then dropped me off at the train with a kiss on my right hand. He is teaching me all that is great and good about men, even as my heart misses and yearns for the boy (because he’s not a man) back in Jersey that left behind. By misses and yearns, I mean the guy that keeps me awake at night (I did not sleep well Wednesday or Thursday), who enters my brain at random moments during the day, to the point where I tell myself, “STOP!” and “M! Get out of my head!”, or who I find myself crying over at odd times.
Mehmet used to live in NYC and speaks clear and amazing English. He can talk about his love for everything American and at the same time switch back to Turkish and be the Turkish man that he is. After sitting with him for a few hours that first day he said, “Sara, I’m so glad you came! You have a great energy, you can stay here forever, as if this is your home!”
Tarik taught English to Turkish students here in Turkey and speaks pretty fluent English. He and I have had some interesting conversations about books and movies and music. I always appreciate connecting with locals when I travel in this manner. He reminds me a lot of my friend from Naples, Italy, Valerio.
Mamy, speaks poor English. Our conversations are often littered with, “What did you say?” or “I didn’t understand.” It’s kind of cute, but often times frustrating. He’s been a gem. Mehmet allows him to walk me around and sit around talking to me. On Thursday, he’s the guy who put together my dinner and made me a Turkish Coffee and read my palm and my ground coffee grinds after drinking my coffee. He’s adorable and sweet and calls me “my lady.”
Since Thursday, when I went to the Hotel and met the guys, I have visited with them every day for about 2+ hours. I don’t do very much but sit around drinking tea or coffee, practicing English with Mamy, using their wireless connection and talking with them. Friday night, I went to the restaurant down the street with Mamy and Mehmet and watched them play backgammon, drank some tea, ate some delicious food, and smoked hookah. It was a beautiful night and it was a great time.
I am debating whether or not I will visit them today. I know that it is expected that I will visit today and I don’t want to disappoint, but the distance between where I’m staying with my friend and where the hotel is located is about an hour or so. The weekends in Istanbul are incredibly busy. I’ve also developed a cold that has left me exhausted and losing sleep. I’m not sure where the cold came from, it could be from a variety of factors including the man who coughed directly in my hair Wednesday night, or the woman who coughed without covering her mouth on my legs that same night. It could also be from the hot afternoons and the cold evenings, or the fact that I was on an airplane for 10.5 hours Monday and Tuesday and with my emotions all over the place have a week immune system. Either way, being surrounded by the globs of tourists and the locals has been almost too much for me at times and so I’m not sure I have it in me today to go from metro to funicular to tram with hundreds of people just to visit my favorite guys in the hotel.
When I first started thinking about visiting Istanbul, I had an expectation that is different from what I’ve experienced. It could be the result of a lot of things- my heavy heart, my place I find myself now, unsure of where I am and what I’m doing, or maybe even just the cold I have – but I know that I like Istanbul a lot, I just don’t love Istanbul. Maybe, much like Paris, I’ll love it the second time I return, but for now, I walk around enjoying the sites and smells and sounds, but unmoved in the way I thought I would be moved.
Friday night, while we watched for Mehmet to come back from an errand before dinner, Mamy, Tarik and I were sitting around talking and they asked me what I do and how I’m traveling and why I’m going to Japan. I explained to them that I had quit my job and finished my internship and wanted to follow my dream of learning paper making for my business. They asked me my age and I told them 32, to which they both didn’t believe. Mamy swears I’m really 23 or 24, but Mehmet thought I was 29. Go figure! When I answered their questions, they looked at me and said, “So you’re 32, not married and you’re homeless?” What are you doing with your life?! I told them, I didn’t even know, but I knew that this is where I’m supposed to be right now.
Tarik and I continued talking about heartbreak and love and he said to me, I understand that you’re hurt, but “if you love someone, then you allow them to hurt you. It’s to be expected and respected.” Never have more profound words been spoken. It reminded me of a sentence in an article written recently in New York Magazine about Michael Chabon’s recent novel. The author of the article in talking about Chabon’s love of hope and hurt themes in his novels wrote, “Yes, we hurt most the people we love best.” It’s true. we rarely ever hurt or are hurt by people that don’t matter to us. Or rather, we may be hurt because our pride and ego are hurt, but it’s always temporary. It fades faster than the hurt of a deep connection and a true love.
That same night, after the smoking and the eating, Mamy walked me to the train and as we walked he said to me, “My lady, you are crazy and wild and I like looking in your eyes. See you tomorrow!”
I smiled and laughed and told him that we would be great friends, because it’s true. I like Mamy a lot. I don’t always enjoy when he tells people I’m his girlfriend or baby, but I know that we will be friends and I like that he already knows that I’m crazy. Crazy enough to give up everything to explore a dream. Crazy enough to give up a job I didn’t like. Crazy enough to bear my emotions to all. But there’s still a lot of crazy left inside. Only time will tell just how much more crazy.