|Japanese tourists in front of the Blue Mosque|
And then I'll take a taxi Tuesday morning to Atatürk Airport and fly to Amsterdam, with a connecting flight to Seattle. Finally a three-hour-long bus ride back home to Bellingham by evening. I will be so happy to be back into the routine of my life, I can't tell you. I've learned quite a few things during this adventure.
The first lesson is that I don't ever want to work again. I don't have my mind in the right place any more, and I freely admit that I have been basically useless to Mickey and thought that at least here in Istanbul I could join the writing team and contribute something. But frankly, it seems that I am only counting the hours until it's over. I thought it would be like riding a bike, that I wouldn't forget how, but all I've really learned is that I've changed. My priorities have changed, and wordsmithing a document I don't care about is just a task to be completed.
It's very cold here in Istanbul, but still there are many groups of tourists, such as the one in the picture above. On the right-hand side of the picture you can see benches that are usually filled with tourists during the high season, and all I can say is I'm glad I'm not here during that! Just now I began to hear the first Call to Prayer from the mosque, which occurs five times a day. This one is just before dawn, which is kind of nice from a distance. When we were walking around right under the loudspeakers yesterday, it wasn't so nice and I could hardly wait for it to be over.
At least here in Istanbul at a three-star hotel (instead of a fancy five-star one like before) I feel as though I am in a foreign land. Since I am finally over jet lag, I think I will enjoy tomorrow's tour, but the truth is that I can hardly wait to get home. Most of the people here are very nice, and it's obvious that they have developed a relationship to the tourists that includes hawking their wares and bargaining with us, but basically ignoring us otherwise. Did you know that Istanbul has a population of 15 million? I didn't, but now that I am here, I can believe it. Even now in midwinter, people crowd the streets.
You see every kind of dress imaginable, but with the cold weather everyone is bundled up. I would estimate that about 10% of the women wear head scarves, but not the hijab. I don't think I have seen any woman yet in a burka on the street, although it's obvious which women are observant Muslims because they are dressed in dark long dresses along with their head coverings. Basically we are all jostling each other as we make our way up and down the main street.
Our hotel is adequate, although after I finish this post I will try to take a shower and see how that works. One of our group said the water in his shower varied from very hot to very cold, and he was on his way to the desk to see if he might get it fixed. I enjoyed the food I ate yesterday, and I look forward to going out and exploring the area a little more, given my limited time in this ancient city. Everywhere there are ruins from the past, and I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow that will show what Istanbul is like today.
I have seen little to no evidence of the war raging in Syria, except for a couple with a baby begging on the main street, with a sign in English saying they are refugees from the war. Of course I gave them money, but I couldn't help but feel a stab in my heart for the awful war and all those displaced by it. There are many feral cats in Istanbul, too, but they look a lot scruffier than the ones in Antalya. There are also a few large stray or feral dogs wandering the streets. Nobody seems to care about them, and they look half-starved and it pretty much broke my heart to see them. This is not an easy place to live, I suspect, whatever kind of animal you are.
Another lesson I've learned on this trip is that the entire universe of bloggers have become a virtual family that I can feel even while I am here in this place. I have been able, because of the internet, to continue to read most of the blogs I follow, and I've gotten comments on my own posts from all around the world. I see the names of you all and I feel a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness that you are there, somewhere, along with me on this journey. Almost daily I've been able to video chat with Smart Guy, and it really helps to keep me connected with my real life. This is just a short interlude, one that has taught me that I've moved on, and that my life in Bellingham is full and meaningful.
And now the sun has arisen over the ancient city, and it's time for me to take a shower and begin my day. I remember that although it's dawn on Sunday morning here, you will be able to see this post on Saturday evening in the US, Valentine's Day. It continues to boggle my mind that I am able to travel back and forth in time, so to speak. So, from the future, I send you my most sincere greetings from Constantinople! Until next week, when I'll have traveled back to my comfy home, be well.