I always keep a journal and pen with me while traveling to jot down anything interesting - people, quotes, cocktails, etc. Later on the post-worthy fragments are expanded upon and edited, but some just remain scrawled half-pages or less. These narrative scraps are the sorts of things that I would normally tweet about or text message to my best friends at home if I weren't trying to minimize my data usage. But enough strange things happened within my first not-even 24 hours in Istanbul that I thought it was worth compiling. Below, a few would-be-phone-blast vignettes.
So this just happened...
About halfway through the flight from Casablanca to Istanbul, an announcement came on from the flight crew. No, it wasn't to please fasten your seatbelts and remain in your seats, but rather that the sun had set and it was time to break the fast. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity as people spilled out into the aisle, overhead bins were opened, and cartons of milk, bottles of juice, loaves of bread and plastic containers of food materialized everywhere. And dried dates, always dried dates. A very literal feeding frenzy ensued.
I was aware that travelers are exempt from fasting during Ramadan, but from the looks of it no one had decided to take advantage of the special circumstances. Up in the cockpit, I wondered, were the flight attendants serving the pilots banana milkshakes and bowls of harira?
The meal lasted a mere twenty minutes, before everything was quietly (okay, not so quietly where I sat in row sixteen because the family around me was traveling with three children) packed away and the lights dimmed once more. Like the secret Dîner en blanc**, you'd never know what had just happened moments earlier.
I stopped for a pity meal (the kind that results from you being too tired and hungry to put up a fight when a host shoves a menu in your face) near the grand bazar and seated myself on the terrace facing a tree. Since I don't particularly like to stare at bark, the only thing to do other than sit there twiddling my thumbs was to look left and right. In the course of doing so, I accidentally made eye contact with a waiter at the restaurant next door, who happened to be extremely good-looking. After about the fourth time our gazes met, I began to feel awkward because I knew he thought I was staring at him. How?
Like any demure lady of the 21st century, I pulled my phone out to give myself a distraction (read: draft a text message about how awkward the current situation was), and the next thing I knew he was coming over to chat me up. He was on the verge of getting my phone number too (or rather the number of a boy I know from university and don't particularly care for), when he was called back to his post.
I ate my meal staring determinedly at my plate, then paid and exited quickly when he wasn't looking. Lesson learned: never remove the Ray-Bans.
I had it in mind that I wanted to get more piercings and that, between Morocco and India, Istanbul would be the place to do it. Google had shown me several options in the laid back, cafe-filled neighborhood Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city, so I picked the one that had an English version of the website, thinking that someone there ought to speak my native language.
When I arrived however, it became evident that the sole employee did not speak English. I tried explaining what I wanted, and in the end settled for changing out a stud for a captive bead ring, figuring that needles and a high risk of miscommunication don't really mix well. As I was sitting in the chair a teenaged boy came in with his family. The piercer used him to translate that I had a little infection while his younger brother stared at me.
At least the new earring was half the cost it would have been in the states.
My current bedroom has an automatic air freshener attached near the point where the wall meets the ceiling. Every time it emits that saccharine artificial smell it sounds like a chihuahua farting.
**Since I've already been skydiving, a top item on my bucket list is to attend one of these invite-only dinners. Hint, hint. Wink, wink.