Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chance meetings and cultural encounters

Well, this morning I met a friend for breakfast in Besiktas, not too far from our home. I hadn't taken the metro to that area before, so I got there way early and had to stand around and kill time till she came and met me. The winter has arrived with gusto, and the winds were blowing off the Bosphorus. I was just near one of the ferry stations, and there was a little outdoor cafe there, so I decided to have a cup of tea while I waited. It was a nice view, overlooking the choppy waters, and further on, to the Asian side.

I finished my tea and decided to head back over to the pre-arranged meeting place. As I was getting up from my table, a woman came up to me. 'Please, don't go. We want to take a photo with you!' Forgive my lack of modesty, but basically, the group she was with had all seen my eyes and wanted to have photo documentation of being around a blue-eyed person, I guess.

Anyway, I got my photo taken with about twenty people in turn. The woman who initially approached me sat next to me and asked me a bit about myself, where I was from, what I was doing in Turkey, what I thought about various American presidents, etc. I asked her about herself as well, and it turns out, her and all her companions are Iraqi and work for the Department of Sport and Recreation, or something like that. She told me they were all just in Turkey for a few days, on a work trip. She asked if I could speak Turkish, and said that they found Turkish quite difficult. And they were all quite surprised by the cold and said that it was still warm in Iraq. It was pretty cool. They were all very nice, and shook my hand as they left, and thanked me for the photos.

Then, I headed over to wait for my friend, feeling pretty happy about my nice cultural exchange moment. I stood near the metro station and looked around. A young guy came up the stairs from the metro and asked me something in Turkish. I gave him my now frequent shoulder shrug and look of confusion to express my lack of understanding. He apologized to me in English and asked where I'm from. So I told him, and he told me a bit about his brother who lives and works in New Jersey. He told me that he is a Suriani Christain. I'd just been reading about Suriani Christians, so it was cool to actually meet one! I didn't get to talk to him much more than that, since my friend arrived then, but still. It was interesting. And all of that happened before 10 am! Quite impressive compared to what I've usually done by 10am.

So, that's all for now. Heading for the kitchen to cook up some fresh fish for dinner. Yum.

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