Sunday, February 12, 2012

From Istanbul to Ankara

I was hellbent on going out last night to experience a taste of the Istanbul nightlife. I went back to the room at 7pm to rest up and I set an alarm for 9:45. 9:45 came and went and I was too tired to move. Finally, at 11:45pm I got up and went for a walk. Sultanahmet, the place where I'm staying in the Old City, was fairly dead at that hour, even on a Saturday night. So I went for a walk and ran into the same man that I thought might be trying to scam me a couple of days before. He was driving the same car and stopped to talk to me at the same bend in the road. It was definitely a scam. Eventually, I got back to the hotel, sat upstairs in their pseudo restaurant, and had a good thinking session.

I woke up and felt sick. I left the hotel anyway and traversed to the bus station on my way to Ankara. A man approached me and with no English (and I speak no Turkish), I managed to get a bus ticket for Ankara at a fairly reasonable price. The bus probably wasn't great, but my standards are so low from my time in India that it felt like a bus for a pack of sultans

On the bus, I met a guy named John, or at least that's what I thought his name was until he wrote in on a card and it's spelled differently. I don't have the card with me. He is a camera man for Turkish movies and is from Antalya, but now lives in Ankara. He was visiting his girlfriend in Istanbul.

Before I talk more about him, the bus ride was cool. The snow covered mountains watched over the glistening Marmara Sea. The cookie cutter towns surrounding Izmit were memorable. John told me this was a Kurdish bus. It was headed for the eastern city of Van. No one except for John spoke English and John's was limited.

At one point, the bus stopped for prayers. John said Muslims were a problem in Turkey. Problem was his favorite word. Finished came a close second. Finished described an ex-girlfriend and his dead father. A few times John locked arms with me while we were at a rest stop and at one point he playfully punched my stomach a few times. He was always on the phone.

When we got off the bus at Ankara, John took me to the metro. Though he lives here, amazingly he knew less about the Ankara metro than I did. The entire time, I was trying to figure out if this was a scam. If it was, how did he know I would be on the bus. Was the man in the station who directed me to the bus in on it? Couldn't be. Could it?

We got to our metro stop and he began looking at women's clothing in a store. He'd stroke his salt and pepper stubble and rub his rotund belly and round face examining the clothes. He was wearing a comical green frog winter hat and had lent me his smart blue winter hat. He was very paternalistic towards me. He offered to buy my mother some clothes. "Money is no problem." We went to another shop and he got his ear pierced yelling "FOCK!" at the girl punctured his earlobe. 'What kind of guy is this?' I thought. He had offered to take me to dinner before and we were supposedly on our way.

We walked to a secluded restaurant in a tall building by the metro after he had made a call. I began to worry. He introduced me to two friends, older gentlemen. Virtully no one was in the restaurant. I was starving as it was 8pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. A woman began to sing for the three people in the audience. John made more calls. No food was coming. No one took our order. I began to worry. John left the restaurant twice with his phone. I started freaking out. At the very least, I wouldn't make it back to the hotel until late. And I didn't have a room yet. John offered me money. "Money is no problem." I saw an image of me being tied up by several large men and robbed of everything I own. John asked me for my last name, phone number, and email address. I gave him phonies.

John left again. I grabbed my bag. Out in the hall, John's friend introduced me to a Turkish woman who lived in America for 27 years. She asked me what the hell I was doing in Ankara instead of being in Istanbul. Everyone in Istanbul had said the same thing. Then John came and saw me leaving. I apologized and told him I was so sleepy. He was ok with it. That led me to believe this wasn't an elaborate scam.

I managed to make it to the hotel in my usual stumbling way. I got the price for the room knocked down from 80 to 60, which is still more than I wanted to pay. One last thing. While walking around the metro, I couldn't believe how many beautiful women there were. It was worth noting.

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