Sixteenth Turkey Epistle
The Farewell Blog
It is almost time to leave Istanbul and Turkey – 2 more days and we fly to Rome.
What are our thoughts? I think it is too early to really assess our time here – we are ready to leave – but feel we have thoroughly lived our days to the full.
The Bosphorous and Black Sea Cruise
To end our time in Istanbul we asked our travel agent to book us on a cruise up the Bosphorous as far as the Black Sea. It was an opportunity to see a few last places on our “list” and to at least dip a toe in the Black Sea. The boat was smallish and owned by a private company and there were about 30 people on board. The guide was a delightful rogue – always addressing us as “dear guests”. The 3 helpers worked so hard to make things nice for us – donning plastic gloves as they served soft drinks and light snacks. At about 2 pm they served us a hot lunch featuring grilled chicken cooked on board. What was most impressive was that the whole crew was fasting because of Ramadan! They do not have ANYTHING from 3 am to 8:30 pm – not even water. And, here they were, serving us food – always with smiles and warm hospitality.
The day was perfect – but – as is always the case – the best part was the people we met. One couple were from New York and we fell in together as if we had always known each other. We didn’t ask the usual -‘what do you do’ questions because we were enjoying sharing this adventure together and joking around, teasing one another in such a natural way. One woman and her 20 year old daughter had just come across the border from Iraq. They had been helping set up a library for Kurdish children! Their organization had taken over 900 books. What an adventure. They had been 45 minutes from Mosul but were only aware of a problem because of the gasoline rationing. She said people lined up for 2 days to get 10 litres. They would mark their spots with rocks and everyone respected the ‘reservation’.
At the Black Sea, we dropped anchor and we went to a tiny beach where Murray went in for a swim – just to say he had. He has now been in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Marmara Sea. On the way out of the Black Sea we were entertained by a group of dolphins. The brochures say this is a possibility so we were delighted when it actually happened.
Our Church Experiences
Murray was able to preach at Christ Church and then race over to concelebrate at the Church of the Resurrection on our second last Sunday. This past Sunday, our last, we attended Christ Church and the rector and people were very warm in their greetings and farewells. The rector had taken us out for lunch at the most interesting restaurant down a warren of lanes, and invited Murray to do a locum some time in the future and stay at his house. (Side Bar: When we were walking away from the restaurant we passed a mosque with a crowd surrounding it, lots of big black cars and men in black suits plus police. i went to one of the guys and asked who was there and it turned out to be the President of Turkey because it was the first Friday of Ramadan).
Murray preached at the Church of the Resurrection for one last time and everyone was very gracious. The wardens presented us with two lovely books – and even provided delivery to Toronto so we didn’t have to figure out how we were going to pack them.
Over the past 3 Sundays we developed the habit of going to the Pera Museum with Ros after church. They have an outstanding art deco salon type coffee shop that we love. This past Sunday we went for one last time with Ros, had a light lunch and then talked for hours before going our separate ways. Ros has become a lovely new friend and it would be nice to think we could keep in touch in some fashion.
Kim and Nurhan live only about a 10 minute walk from us and invited us over for a lovely visit on the Friday evening. It felt very ordinary to walk over to their place – a small feeling of belonging.
Another young woman from the States who is here on a 2 year mission trip has become a friend. She and I have had coffee chats and on Sunday she came with us to hear Murray preach. For reasons that are always mysterious, these serendipitous friendships are always delightful surprises.
On Monday evening we were taken out for dinner by our local travel agent! A charming young woman – we just clicked from the very first. She took us to a rooftop restaurant near the Blue Mosque and we enjoyed finding out more about her. Life is always different in other cultures and we valued hearing about what it is like for her to simply live from day to day.
Tuesday evening we met some people from the Church of the Resurrection near the Galata Tower. The Archbishop of the Middle East was in town and we had dinner with him and his lovely wife Nancy. It was very interesting especially at this time in history. (And it was! More to report when we get home).
I now know what it must have been like on Noah’s ark. We have a favourite outdoor restaurant right on the water in Moda. It is a pleasant one hour walk along the sea wall or through the winding streets from here, and is a nice destination when wanting a walk. But it is outside. One day, I had 3 cats surrounding my chair. Then a lady sat at the next table with her dog – and guess what! There is a reason for the expressions – ‘fighting like cats and dogs’. Finally, things settled down and the waiter brought a basket of bread. Before we knew it, sparrows were all over it. The man next to us just took a piece of bread and put it on the ledge – all very normal – for him.
All along the wharf, flower ladies sit with buckets of flowers, calling out to all the passerbys. Most just sit but a few take a bunch of roses and walk up and down the promenade trying to get the young men to buy one for their sweeties. One woman was especially persistent. A young couple were having a cuddle and she went over and started tapping on the guy’s shoulder. He ignored her but she wasn’t going to be deterred so she just kept tapping. When they parted a little, she stuck the flower between them and continued to make her sales pitch. It was going to be interesting to see who won this battle of wills – in the end she lost!
I never know whether to be relieved or disappointed because they NEVER approach Murray to buy one for me – what is that saying?
Apparently Turkish dentists are particularly good. Sabine was telling us that people from Europe like to get their work done here because the Turkish dentists are particularly adept at small motor control. The other procedures that people come here for are hair transplants and plastic surgery. It is not uncommon to see men with their heads wrapped in surgical swaths – looks ghastly. You also see bandaged noses – one fellow had had both procedures done. That was quite a sight.
There is a painting technique called ‘marbling’. I had thought of trying a course – but didn’t – but yesterday at an exhibition of Arts and Crafts I had an opportunity to try it out. Very interesting but requiring special chemicals and paints. I do have a lovely picture of a tulip!
Yesterday we decided to have a snack at a little cafe on the water near the ferry depot. A little Syrian girl came in – all about 8 years old with her little purse across her shoulders and a little plastic shopping bag with packets of kleenex for sale. You need to imagine a dark, curly headed Annie! She had the same mischievous glint in her eye and the cutest little pouty mouth. A beautiful young Turkish woman at the table next to ours started to talk with her and the little girl wriggled in beside her. then the young woman ordered a drink and chicken wrap for the little one. While waiting for the food the two of them chatted away in the most amicable way. Meantime, the young waiters would tousle the little girl’s hair and tease her – very good naturally – but watching to make certain she wasn’t being a nuisance. When the food came, the little girl tucked it away in her bag – obviously to share it with her family. Then the waiters started to urge her to get on her way but she would dance this way and that, going from table to table asking for “just one lira”.
Farewell to Kadikoy
On our last afternoon, after our snack on the wharf, we had our final ice cream cones at the “Victor Hugo” Bookstore – and splurged with their version of Turkish coffee. I am certain they put chocolate in it – and they always have a chocolate covered piece of Turkish Delight alongside.
Then, in the evening, we walked through the familiar market streets to find Mojo. He was in his usual spot outside the little cafe – we greeted one another in the usual Turkish way and explained via a translator that this was our last night and we wanted to have a final glass of wine and say goodbye. To our surprise, Mojo returned with double glasses of wine and a lovely fruit platter. Pictures and shared family photos followed. Finally, when we had to leave, Murray gave him a 30 lira tip (it should have been 2L). In response Mojo offered us Turkish coffees and we knew we couldn’t say no even though we had reservations for dinner at the Franz Kafka Terrace. When we had finished the coffee, Mojo presented us with the handmade corded bracelets he always wore – talk about being undone – it was just too moving. What can you say to that kind of hospitality?