Istanbul, a new perspective on the Islamic world

Turkey Part II

-That was the night when I arrived back in Istanbul. The airline did not send my luggage along with me, well, I did not expect that they would in such short notice. I had nothing with me but a jean shirt, some cash, my phone, my ipad, and my notebook. To my own surprise, I was not scared. After some struggling with the border control and with the lost and found office, I threw my backpack on, and got on a bus, heading towards Taksim.

Lights wander, roads meander. A man with no plans, nowhere to stay. This moment, even though I was slightly disappointed by, but still gave me the chills of actually traveling without rules, restrictions or plans. I could do whatever and go wherever I want. How cool.

I met this Turkish guy who lives in Italy. He is around my age, hip, with a sense of artistic and rebellious vibe. He gladly guided me and gave me suggestions of where to go and how. I complained about the horrible day that I’ve just had, and he was very considerate and comforted me. “Everything will be fine.” He said, with a polite smile anyone would give to a stranger. But that was all I needed.

The first day traveling alone, I did not really plan it. I thought, now that I have no pressure from anybody, I got my music, my cigarettes and my phone that takes beautiful pictures, discover is all I need to do. I hopped on buses, not knowing where it goes. I laid down my back, and enjoyed being the strapless animal in a strange world.

I reached the Bay Area of Bosphorus. An area called Bebek. The smell of richness and money immediately gave me a very nice impressions. There are sometimes massive islands in the water between the two sides of the banks– Asia and Europe, with nice bars, restaurants and children’s playgrounds. The luxurious houses along the banks, some modern, some are beautifully Turkish. People fishing, loitering along the bay and drinking tea, seems like nothing can ever trouble them when they are having the lovely afternoon now. The gorgeous neighborhood with a lively environment, with the smell of the ocean and seagulls’ squeaks, it seemed like nothing could ever bother me either. So I sat at a cafe by the water, and watched the world goes by.

Another day, I decided to take a ferry to a city nearby called Bursa. After I got off the boat at the harbor, it was a very peaceful little seaside town. I realized that Bursa city center is still a one hour bus ride away. So I decided to stay. Being the only Asian in town really drew the attention of the residents. But it is not a weird attention with segregation or judgement opinions. People were surprised that a guest from far far away in the east would even stop by and visit this town that they have lived for generations, away from the city. I wanted to sit down by a seaside cafe and do some writing. My encountering made the boss very intrigued. “Where are you from my friend?” He asked. He invited me to sit down with his family and introduced me to almost all his relatives. His two lovely sisters who are shy and nervous when they shook my hand, his big brother who has the arms so strong that it feels like he could lift a car, and his caring wife and their new-born baby girl. They were all very thrilled to have met me and were very interested in the life and opinions of this foreigner from the orient. The boss brought me Turkish delights that tasted like little drops of heaven, Turkish Ottoman coffee, his own homemade meatballs with grilled cheese and vegetables and unlimited amount of tea. We talked for hours in the sea breeze. He asked about my story and shared his life. He told me that the one and only thing he hates in the world is hate itself. Being in a muslim community, he says, everybody has no opinions or judgements for anybody. They love each other, care about each other, and even good guy friends can walk on the streets holding their arms together. I realized that biased opinions towards Turkey and the islamic countries is still quite strong from the rest of the world. People only see what others tell you, not what it really is. If we only see the American side of the story, yes they were the victims and they deserve and have the rights to execute the muslims. But the real terrorism only lies in the small extremists’ minds. And moreover, if any armed anti-government movement is terrorism, then wouldn’t Sun Yat Sen be the terrorist of China? There are troubles in this country still, as I was told by some Turkish people I have met. The wealth gap, the class struggles, the conflicts between nations and so on. But here, I see people living together in harmony, young people fighting for justice and freedom at Taksim square, and a land of thousands of years continuing to impress the world with its culture, history and their hopes for a better future.

At sunset, I had to leave and catch the boat. The boss of the restaurant only charged me a little bit of money for all the things he had fed me. Then he said that he would walk me to the harbor, because otherwise I would be lonely. When we heard the horn of the ship getting ready to leave, we raced, and ran with our lungs out to the pier. We laughed, he said goodbye in the Turkish way by kissing me on the cheek three times and watched me ran to catch the last ferry back to the city. I waved at him, waved at this land where I had my escape from anything I have ever known growing up. And I stared at the sun, shattered into a million rays of light, spilled on the silver water like countless fragments of a broken glasses.






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