We spent 13 days in Istanbul and were told before we arrived that we didn’t need that much time to see the city. I totally disagree! Istanbul is 5 times as big in land as NYC. How can someone say you can see NYC in a week? When you stop being a tourist and look at these places we visit as a place that people just like you and I live, they just speak a different language or have different customs, your perspective changes. In the end we are all the same and I am starting to treat every city as a new place to live, not a place to be a tourist.
Meeting people that live in the places we are visiting is what this whole journey has become for me. Having our children meet other teens that are going through the same teen challenges they are, just half a world away, is eye opening. The issues we face as people are all the same, we all breath air, we all pump blood, we all digest food and we all are from the same spirit. We are more connected as being than we can ever imagine. Istanbul was filled with people, lots of people, that were alive and just looking to enjoy their lives. Their current political climate is not one that is geared toward to middle and upper middle class, that are non-Muslim, to live their lives freely, but they are doing the best they can to live a fulfilling life.
We saw the same thing in Australia and Greece, and I’m sure we will see the same in all the countries we are about to visit. This trip is no longer about sightseeing and seeing what the country was, I’m very interested in the people and who they are today. I’m looking forward to seeing the history, as it will be right there in front of us in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, The Netherlands, Brussells and France. Europe is so full of history that it will be impossible not to see it, but it is the interactions, the connections with other people that is special.
In Istanbul we left with a few more friends. Among them are Tijen and Ayse Maya, the family that we spent so much time with. We were introduced to Tijen by Binnur, a wonderful film maker who was introduced to me by Ayelet in SF. We also befriended Maxa, the German librarian from the Bridges School. Maxa was so generous with her time and her wonderful cooking. I also enjoyed the family that we rented our apartment from, as well as Daphne, the school psychologist at the Bridges School that was so generous with her time when we were at the school. And finally, the Meshulman family who hosted us for Passover Seder. We will never forget our time with Hemi and Bessi, that was truly an amazing evening.
In addition, I have a whole new set of Rotary friends. Suleyman Girit was a prince from the time we met almost 6 months ago. It is because of Suleyman that I was able to speak at the district conference. In addition to Suleyman, Mehmet, the new District Governor ,was so kind and generous. I also was able to attend a Rotary Club meeting on our last full day in Istanbul and met a number of people that are doing their part to make the world a better place.
I will remember our time in Istanbul for a very long time. After our week in Santorini I thought it would be hard to have an experience anywhere close again on this trip, but just two weeks later we find ourselves thankful for the kindness of the human spirit. I look forward to the rest of our journey, looking for warm souls to light the path and welcome us into their world, as we welcome them into ours.
To a life well lived!