Turkey: Day 3 (An Indecent Proposal)

What can you say about people?  Sometimes, people are just plain weird.  On my third day in Istanbul, we headed to the Spice Bazaar which I kept calling the “Spice Bar.”  I had missed the tour bus because the driver said I was so late.  He left me.  I ended up waiting a bit for another driver to come and pick me up.  I sat in the hotel lobby, fuming, but not really.  I wasn’t sure I was that interested in seeing a bunch of spices anyway.  The backup driver arrived and I got on the little bus.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who missed it that morning.  When we got there, we didn’t have a lot of time because we had spent our time waiting in hotel lobbies.

Voila! Enter the Spice Bazaar.

When I walked inside, it was insanity.  So many people, so much “stuff.”  As I said, I didn’t have much time so I was just trying to rush through.  What was I supposed to buy?  Well, I guess spices.  I walked through, and as usual the shopkeepers were trying to get people to try their “stuff.”  And since I was dressed the way I was dressed, they assumed that I was Arab so they spoke Arabic to me.  It’s always fun to see the confused look on people’s faces when they speak Arabic and I respond in English.  They kept asking, “Are you Saudi?”  I responded, “Um, no I’m not.”  Everyone was trying to tempt me with Turkish Delight, but such effort was wasted on me since I don’t like it.  I kept wandering like a lost puppy.  I didn’t know what I wanted yet I felt the need to buy something.  I finally stepped into a shop and I even tried the Turkish Delight.  I wasn’t impressed, but whatever.  I bought some.  I figured I could give it as a gift.  So, I bought two boxes, choosing different mixes as if I knew any better.

The next stop was yet another shop with the usual, spices-a-plenty, Turkish Delight, all kinds of tea and some other stuff I didn’t really notice or care to notice.  But this time, I decided I’d get some tea.  I know that their goal is to sell, but what was this man selling?  He showed me lots of fancy shmancy teas which smelled absolutely divine.  There were teas for multiple things.  So, I chose one for a friend and waited impatiently for him to bag it.  He offered to make me some tea, but time I had not so I thanked him and said I didn’t have time for tea.  But he kept talking.  I could have left but I had paid the man so I wasn’t about to leave without my purchase.  He went on to say some strange strange things.  He said, “Please don’t tell me you have a Turkish boyfriend or worse, a husband.”  I laughed.  What else could I do in this situation?  He continued, “Cause I’m looking for a nice Muslim girl to marry.”  OMG!  But I quickly replied, “I’m not a girl.”  He was left speechless.  I took my tea and left.

Silly man, who offers marriage to random strangers in a store?  Just another day in the life I guess.

Turkey: Day 2 (Tour of Istanbul: Rustem Pasha Mosque)

On our tour, we stopped to see another mosque called Rustem Pasha Mosque.  Don’t worry, I didn’t get lost or lose my group or friends this time.  I made sure to stay close since I really couldn’t afford any such frustration.

So, there we were, Rustem Pasha Mosque.  I remember the guide told us that it was more blue than the Blue Mosque which it was.  The blue inside of this small mosque was brilliant, just beautiful.  I tried my best to get better shots but those darn tourists were everywhere.  If I turned right or left, they were there.

In any case, the beauty of this mosque is still apparent as seen below.

Our guide was talking but honestly I wasn’t listening.  I just kept looking around, admiring what I saw.  I attempted, again, to get more of the mosque.  My apologies for what’s about to come, lol.  But you’ll see what I mean, hopefully.

Rustem Pasha

We were only there a short time but I am glad that I had the chance to see it.  From the outside you may not guess that it’s as beautiful as it is.

Special Report: Bravery in Action

We interrupt this series on Turkey for a special report…..

Once upon a time, I mentioned that KSA had taught me bravery, courage.  And today, I was given the opportunity to show this courage.  The story goes something like this.

I was sitting in my friend’s office talking about nothing, as usual.  Out of nowhere, my friend showed me a teeny tiny black “object.”  “What does this look like to you?” she asked.  It wasn’t a matter of what it looked like but what it was.  I told her, “It’s mouse poo.”  It wasn’t really surprising since we have seen these “gifts” around campus.  We saw one mouse run from one office around a corner and another set up camp in the librarian’s office.

She asked me where it was and I told her with confidence that it probably left already.  Perhaps it had left a present and left.  So we continued to chat, and like something out of a movie, I looked to my left and saw the mouse walking on the chair.  It felt like it was happening in slow motion.  It was so close that I wasn’t sure if it was on the chair or on me.  And being that I was now this courageous woman, thanks to KSA, I screamed bloody murder.  My friend, startled of course, started screaming, “What?  What is it?”  I said frantically, “It’s your mouse!”  And she jumped up out of her chair and we both headed for the door.

Fortunately, one of the cleaning ladies was nearby.  My friend called her name and she ran.  I guess so, my friend sounded like she was freaking out.  She said, “There’s a mouse in my office, can you kill it?”  She got her broom and went in.  That psycho mouse moved like he didn’t have a care in the world.  It was as if he was taunting us.  All the while she was swinging and banging the broom all over the place trying to kill a seemingly suicidal mouse.  And being the brave souls we were, we screamed and ran down the hall.  Sadly, there were a couple students around.  I put my finger to my mouth and said, “Shh, don’t say anything and don’t tell anyone.”
The mouse finally met his demise when he made a run for the door leading outside.  Soon, life went back to “normal.”

I am as brave today as I was before.  I’m actually quite proud of myself.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…..

Turkey: Day 2 (Tour of Istanbul: Hagia Sophia)

After I managed to catch my breath and move on from the Blue Mosque ordeal, our group walked a short distance over to Hagia Sophia.  What’s interesting about it is that it was first a church, then a mosque and now a museum.

Being the tourist, I first had to stop and snap a few pictures.  Here it is from outside.


Interestingly enough, I didn’t learn my lesson from the Blue Mosque incident.  I managed to get separated from our group yet again.  I was so proud of myself.  Fortunately this time I wasn’t alone.  My friends were with me.  We scrambled looking for anyone from the group or the guide, but no can do.  So, we stood in one place while my friend’s husband went looking for the group.  He found them and we were reunited :D.

So we got inside and learned about the interesting history of the now museum.  What interested me most was that so many things were still intact today, after all these years.  There seemed to be something from everywhere.

From the period under Christianity


When it was converted into a mosque, such images were covered in plaster as in Islam images are prohibited.  Amazingly, removing the plaster didn’t cause much damage to the original work.

From the period under Islam


Amazing how well all of these things have stood the test of time.  I don’t know if anything today is of the same quality of these past generations.

Anyway, other than the mishap when we first got to this place, this particular place on the day’s tour list was uneventful.  I was just happy to see all of these places, many of which I had either learned about in school or later from friends.

We left for our next stop which was a stop at a carpet weaving outfit and then a walk through the Grand Bazaar.

Turkey: Day 2 (Tour of Istanbul:The Blue Mosque)

I woke up the next morning, well rested obviously.  I wondered to myself, “Is it normal to suffer from jet lag when you travel three hours in the same timezone?”  Oh well, I got up to pray and then I sat preparing all my touristy supplies, iPad, camera, backpack, bottles of water and of course my phones.

When 7 o’clock rolled around, I headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.  I sat in front of a window with a wonderful view of the Bosphorus Strait.  The window was open so I also felt a nice cool breeze.

In the distance you can see one of the bridges that goes to the European side of the country as well as some mountains.  It was hard to even eat when this is what I saw.  I hardly ever see things like that any more.  I snapped back and remembered that I still needed to get cash.  I quickly finished my breakfast and ran downstairs.  That’s a lie.  I ran to the elevator.  I walked down the road and down the steep hill toward the ATM I had seen the previous day.  I got my money and headed back to the hotel lobby because the tour bus was supposed to be there by 8:00.  I waited in the lobby like a good tourist until the bus came.

First stop, the always talked about Blue Mosque.  I was surprised to learn that it’s not blue, at least not outside.  I was walking and fell into a tourist trap with a man trying to sell me a book about Istanbul which I bought.  As usual, he spoke to me in Arabic since that’s what people assume I speak.  I told him, “I speak English.”  I don’t know why I don’t just speak Arabic and make everyone happy.  Then two ladies asked me if I spoke Arabic to which I said yes.  Their chit chat caused me to get behind and I couldn’t find my group.  Great!  The last thing I needed was to be lost in a foreign country on my first real day out.  I ran frantically looking from right to left, front to back.  No sign of my friends or any other members of the group.  Good job!  I was starting to sweat and get nervous but still had the time to snap a few pictures.  I walked to an area outside the mosque and finally decided to call my friend who tried desperately to direct me to where they were.  I got inside, out of breath, and started snapping.  That’s what I do.  Turns out the “blue” they’re referring to has to do with the inside of the mosque.

Outside view


I have to be honest, my shots could have been better.  I’m not a photographer.  I’m only pretending to be.  My camera was on manual focus, as if I knew what I was doing.  In any case, it was really nice to see the mosque that I had heard so much about.

Inside views


If you ever visit Turkey, and I recommend that you do, be sure to visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  It was amazing to see it especially since it’s from about 1609.  I’m guessing it’s as beautiful today as it was when it was first built.  But do remember to keep up with your tour guide and/or group.

Up next, Visiting Hagia Sophia

Turkey: Day 1

Well, I managed to make it to Istanbul despite the extremely bumpy landing. We got off the plane and headed toward the counter to pay for our visas. Fortunately for me I had some American money in my wallet or I might have been in trouble. We then headed for passport control but the only signs we saw were for Iraqis, Indians and South africans. There were other nationalities but I don’t remember which ones. All I knew was I didn’t see the USA and we didn’t see the UK, Poland or Malaysia either. When we asked we were told to stand in the same line. The lying jerks! We were almost in front when someone informed us that we needed to go “over there.”

Over there was an extremely long line. But I have to give them credit for moving people through quickly. They’re better than the states, but don’t tell anyone. We got through immigration with ease and went to collect our luggage. I watched the conveyor belt go round and round but mine wasn’t there. Come to find out it was in lost and found. Why? Who knows? And the fun of trying to talk to someone in English while he’s talking in Turkish was out of this world.

It started to rain a little as I was on my way to the hotel which was quite refreshing. After all, I was coming from inside a volcano. The view was spectacular. The beautiful blue waters of the Bosphorus Strait, people having picnics in the park, historical buildings all around. Life!

I got to the hotel and sat. I was tired, apparently from nothing. My travel agent stopped by and walked with me to my friend’s hotel which was just down the road. I later walked around looking for an ATM. I stopped by a shop and being a stereotypical American, I asked the guy if he spoke English. I was in Turkey and had the audacity to expect people to speak English. I laughed at myself as I pictured being in a YouTube video making fun of that very thing. Anyway, thank God he did speak English and I asked him where I could find a bank machine. He looked at me like I was crazy and his friend told him, “She means cash machine.” In my head I was saying, “I’m American and I mean bank machine.” But then, what did I care? I just needed some money. They pointed me in the right direction and off I went. Unsuccessful in my attempt to get some money, I headed back to the hotel and on my way I stopped at a camera shop. I asked for a memory card and the sales guy gave me a price in Turkish liras. i told him, “Talk to me in dollars.” Fortunately I had enough American dollars to pay for it. I left.

Walking up the hill I was approached by an old lady “selling” tissues. I gave her the change I had in my hand and another one came. She was begging in Turkish and I was steadily replying in English that I had nothing to give her. Hey, I needed some money myself.

I went back to my room, drank some juice and collapsed on the bed. It must have been around 7:00 or 7:30 that I fell asleep. I woke up apparently after midnight, but I was delirious. I couldn’t figure out why it was dark when it was after noon. Didn’t matter, I got back in the bed.

Next, a tour of Istanbul.

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