Last Night in Istanbul

Six young Iranians were also lined up to board the boat for our cruise of the Bosphorus Strait. They were speaking a strange language, but we didn’t think that young twenty-something Turkish males would be lined up for a two-hour cruise in their home city.
“Where are you from ?” Brenda asked them. A lot of the fun of travelling is the people you meet. Doesn’t everyone in the world speak English ?

Their English was limited; not so their generosity. One of them handed us a bill worth 10 000 Iranian rial. We smiled, but handed back their gift. “We can’t accept this,” Brenda replied. She’s more outgoing than I am and doesn’t mind the pantomiming, the gesturing and the inevitable misunderstanding that goes with trying to communicate in the Tower of Babel. Despite the number of countries I have visited, if they are not a fan of the Montreal Canadiens I soon get bored with the conversation.
He shrugged, and smiled. “Won’t go back,” is what we understood him to say. He and his five friends had left Iran under the pretence of going on holiday and their plan was to make their way to London and see where they could move on to from there. Their sense of adventure was not as limited as their English. I’ve often thought about this encounter since returning to Canada. I still have the 10 000 Iranian rial note on my dresser. I am mercenary enough to look up its worth. Maybe I could use it to make a downpayment on a cottage or something. I found out I could….if I was playing Monopoly. The bill was worth almost twelve and a half cents Canadian.

Our last night in Istanbul was spent in Taksin Square. I walked in the middle of the cobblestoned street, my eyes straight ahead, hoping that my gaze would not accidently glance towards any lounging carpet salesman. Patting myself on the back as I made my escape I was soon tracked down by a couple of tiny gypsy girls who made off with most of my baklava. Like taking candy off a baby.
“Alright, that’s it,” I exclaimed in frustration to my wife and daughter. I blew my breath out heavily as I said this, as my father always did when he was fed up with all the bullshit. It always scared the hell out of me. I guess that I didn’t inherit the proper gene… even our pet dog Jasper, as timid a soul as exists in the universe, is not intimidated in the least by my theatrics. “We have a flight to catch tomorrow.” I wanted to show that I knew at least a little of our itinerary, even if I had contributed nothing at all to the planning. “What’s the name of that place where we pick up our rental car ?”
“Goeme”, Brenda answered, as she looked around. I recognized the lost look in her eye; it was my usual condition.
“We’re lost, aren’t we?” Not being able to finish off my baklava, the tastiest one ever, had darkened my mood.
“Not lost … just off track,” was my wife’s rebuttal.
We were in a Muslim country, so I had to guess that Allah was sitting in for God when he led four young Muslim men directly into our path. They were just heeding the minaret’s call to prayer and were on their way to the mosque, which coincidentally was on the way to our hotel. As we climbed another of the steep streets that abound in this ancient city we came across a dance of the Whirling Dervishes, performing for the crowds that were out celebrating the nightly breaking of the fast during Ramadan.
Tomorrow I would be driving the unfamiliar roads of Turkey, but once again my thoughts returned to my stomach. If everyone was breaking their fast, maybe I would be able to find another baklava stand that was open for business before turning in for the night ?

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