My metro adventures successfully landed me at the steps of the Grand Bazaar! It is a pretty impressive place, with so much energy and history wrapped into it. Luckily, though, when I arrived I was on my obligatory phone call with my mother so I was able to just walk past many of the vendors with no problem. When I got off the phone and realized that I was suddenly lost in the middle of the bazaar, they DESCENDED. Given that I was still three days from my final destination, I just didn’t have time to be told that I need a new rug or to be offered the “friend price”. So I put my bitch face on and got out of there as quick as I could.
After a few rushed minutes, I found myself on the steps of a university. It also looked beautiful (I would soon learn that EVERYTHING in Istanbul looks awesome) and more importantly…it looked QUIET. So I let myself through the gates (the guard didn’t seem to care) and started aimlessly wandering the campus.
At some point, an older man came up behind me and asked if I was a student. I was really on edge about being Taken (too), especially because my dad is awesome but he’s no Liam Neeson – so I quickly assessed the situation and figured it was best to at least reply than to come off as too bitchy and risk being Taken out of revenge. I replied that I was just visiting. The charade of “from where” “Ahh..America! Obama!” followed, and he even added that his brother lives in Louisiana. Siblings/friends in America never live where you’d expect them to (i.e., desirable places).
We continued chatting for a bit until I decided that, since I found a seemingly nice person who speaks English well enough to talk with me, maybe I could have him help me get a Turkish SIM card. I figured a Turkish SIM would be helpful when I returned to spend 4 days in a city with no local contacts. This started an adventure…he quickly grabbed some guys that were hawking stolen phones on the sidewalk and asked them about SIM cards. It seemed that the only route to do it would be the legal route, which required going back down through the Grand Bazaar to the Turkcell store. I figured he’d leave me here, but instead he showed me all the way there and then translated the whole interaction with the agent. A copy of my passport and $25 later, I was activating a Turkish SIM on my African Nokia. Success!
As we walked out of the Turkcell store, he told me he was hungry and motioned that he was going to order from a street vendor, asking if I wanted any. My answer was ABSOLUTELY. The food in the area all smelled SO GOOD, but I had no idea how to go about ordering anything, so I was psyched that he offered to help me out with this as well.
Then it got awkward…because I offered to pay. I figured I’d try to avoid the imminent request for money for all his help by buying his sandwich. He kind of accepted my offer, but then insisted on buying me tea in exchange. This sounded like a good idea to me…I mean…it was 7pm…the touristy sites were shutting down…I had nothing else to do before going back to the airport in 2 hours…and Turkish tea sounded like a thing to do. I also figured that this guy was pretty harmless…I had met him on a university campus, he HELPED ME GET A SIM CARD (I mean…if his plan was to Take me, he wouldn’t want me to have a SIM card) and he spoke better English than anybody I had yet interacted with in Turkey, airport attendants included.
Off we went to get tea…
And I wasn’t Taken…so there’s that!