Let’s talk about hostels. Megan and I have been living in the Orient Hostel for almost a full month while we tried to create a life for ourselves, and the place is something of a parallel universe. It’s located in an area of the city that is filled to the brim with historical places of interest- the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar are all within walking distance. Obviously having one famous, ancient building in the area is wildly insufficient. And while I walked around in a sundress absolutely baking in the Middle Eastern sun, I marveled at the women wearing head coverings and floor-length coats with sleeves. I considered carrying a ShamWow around with me to absorb the copious amounts of sweat I produced, but I’m not sure that’s socially acceptable yet. At least we have the delightful ice cream sold on the streets to ease the heat.
The hostel itself is an interesting dichotomy. It’s become our home, but in the beginning it was sort of sucking our souls out. For example, achieving semi-important goals like getting a job and a place to live and other such acts of pulling one’s life together become difficult when a group of Australians at a neighboring table think that snorting vodka on a Tuesday evening is the right decision. These were the moments when we were desperate to escape the time-warp vacuum of the hostel. On the other hand, now the idea of leaving is nothing short of tragic. We’ve built relationships with the live-in workers here and by moving out, we’ll be leaving our only friends in Turkey. We are, after all, surrounded by arguably some of the greatest hostel workers on earth. On day one, the front desk worker, who encouraged us to call him Joey Fatone, donned a safari hat while checking us in. Obviously, safari-strength protection is necessary in the wilds of this rugged, rural city with a population of over 13 million people. The next day when we told him that we went out the night before, he protested in outrage, “Why didn’t you tell me?? I have my chicken suit!” Another worker, Chris, enjoys bursting unannounced into our room and climbing in our closet. He’s even taken to abandoning his own bed and sleeping in the extra one in our room. But the most uniformly favorite pastime of everyone here is mocking our wretched attempts at speaking Turkish, even though I’ve expanded my vocabulary to include kangaroo and cucumber.
This past week, we traveled to Marseilles, France with Chris. Our flight from Istanbul had a layover in Amsterdam and when our flight out was delayed until the next day, the airline put us in a 5-star hotel for free. Our luggage was lost, and Amsterdam was freezing and rainy, but of course we wanted to go out in the city, so we snuck the complimentary bathrobes outside and climbed into them in the taxi before we got downtown. Megan took an orchid from a bouquet in the hotel to put in her hair and I fashioned a headband from the free socks provided by the airline. As crazy as Amsterdam is supposed to be, we were certainly the spectacle of the city that night. We flew into Marseille the next day and spent a few fantastic days devouring cheese, stumbling through French, and celebrating Megan’s birthday.
And, more profoundly, we have jobs! After much deliberation, we’ve opted to take an English teaching job in a smaller town two hours from Istanbul. We were a bit uncertain to say the least about this funky little town, but it’s a half hour from the Black Sea and the job includes free accommodations in a two-bedroom apartment, 3 meals a day, and access to a doctor, fitness center, and sauna. Most importantly, our schedule allows us time to travel. Megan and I have made a pact to be gone every weekend, whether we’re traveling back to Istanbul to visit our friends, exploring other parts of Turkey, or making a larger trip to other countries. This coming weekend we’ll come back to Istanbul, and the weekend after that we’re looking into a trip to Olympos (in the south of Turkey) with Chris where we’ll be staying in these tree houses- http://www.olymposturkmentreehouses.com/. So, although we’re city girls to the core, we’ve gathered the mental strength to bear a small town since it offers so many benefits. Admirable, I know. It goes without saying that the biggest draw by far is the sauna. I start work tomorrow morning, the 20th. The idea of working after this month-long break is slightly terrifying, but the bank account is crying out for attention, so we’re embarking on the next branch of our Turkish adventure.