The Dynamite trip: Turkish culture clash

Day 1 of The Trip To See Dynamo Lawfully Wedded: Who’d Have Ever Guessed He’d Find A Woman Crazy Enough To Marry Him.

Our connecting flight was in Istanbul, with a 10-hour layover. We got ourselves temporary visas and exited the airport, for a day of sightseeing: our goal was to visit 2 key areas of the city – Taksim square and the Grand Bazaar & Blue Mosque.   

3 landmarks: Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and KFC

 As we were taking the train into the city, a local citizen overheard our plans and told us of the suicide-bomber that had attacked Taksim square earlier that day. 

It’s a funny thing, reacting to bad news. My first impulse was to bust out my phone, and check the news for context, safety warnings, parameters to help me process this sad piece of information. Of course, I couldn’t do that, not without incurring crazy data roaming charges. I felt off-balance, unsure how to react when armed only with “suicide-bomber” and “near you, today”. I realized that usually, when I hear these violent sound-bites in the comfort of my home, I relativize it: oh, ONLY 5 were killed. Oh, only ONE bomber, not multiple attacks. Oh, not ISIS, not so bad then. It’s quite different processing bad news when in its proximity, with no access to information.  

We decided to skip Taksim square, but continue with our plan to visit the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. Dangerous? Stupid? Maybe. Those are key areas in Istanbul, just as likely targets for a terrorist attack as Taksim square. Had the suicide-bomber been part of a team, with multiple attacks planned, those would have been areas of high risk. But what to do? React in fear? Or accept the notion that it is impossible to predict terror, and continue living life as best one can? We chose option #2, but our moods were somber.

As we travelled through the city, I noticed I was getting many odd looks from men. Some were hostile. Some were confused. Some were just unable to comprehend what they were seeing, turning to look at me over and over again. It took me a few minutes, but then I understood: women don’t have short hair in Istanbul. It’s not a thing. My hair cut made me an oddity.

I found this amusing until I walked past a group of 3 guys, selling their wares at a kiosk, and one of them pointed at me, turned to his friends and loudly asked them, “What is this?! Is this a woman???”

Le fuck off, bro. Cultural differences be damned, you are stuck in the Stone Age.

(Dynamo thought this was the highlight of his trip.)

We visited quickly the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and heard their echoing calls to prayer from the Blue Mosque’s courtyard. I found it oddly comforting to hear the age-old chants and watch people trickle into the mosque for their evening prayer, in stark contrast to the violent events of the day. A moment of serenity. 

The Blue Mosque

 And so ends my eventful first day. Flying out to Beirut soon, let’s see what unexpected events happen there!

P.S. The food! The food!!!!!  

Street food vendors include chestnuts, and grilled corn cobs, covered in butter and salt. That’s Dynamo, btw.

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7 comments

  1. The KFC picture killed me.

    Cultural differences are always very interested and often frustrating to hear. When I was in Portugal, I was constantly made fun of by locals because of my Canadianisms aka apologizing for everything.

    Liked by 1 person

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