Thursday, June 7, 2012

Turkey: Istanbul

 It´s been a few years since I have been in a city of 15 million people.  My first moments in Istanbul were a spot on recreation of my time in Kolkata: a hot and sweaty round of How Many People Can We Cram onto a Metro?  We are talking tight, as in don´t bother holding onto the overhead pole, because you are packed in so well you aren´t falling anywhere.  Aaron barely made it on.  But I married a fighter.

Istanbul has beautiful history.  It has been used as a center of kingdoms for 1,500 years.  But the impression  left on my heart was not it´s history.  Anytime you gather 15 million people into one city, a panorama of human need is created.  I hadn't had to brush up against the poor yet on this trip, but Istanbul reminded me.

We were sitting in a park after our long day's tour.  Eating a little baklava, because our Turkish motto had become, "Why not eat baklava?"  A old man with a grizzly beard wheeled up next to us.  He had no legs.  My first thought was, "Oh no, he is coming to beg."  But no.  He was coming to offer his wares, little packets of kleenex and wet wipes.  Nathan searched around in his pocket for some spare change.  All he had left were some small coins, amounting to less than 1 liyra.

"How much?" Nathan asked him.  One liyra each.  Nathan gave him the change and motioned for him to keep the wet wipes.  A gift.  The man touched his tan, wrinkled hand to his mouth.  A blessing.  But Drew had already opened the packet of wet wipes.  The old man smiled broadly at him and handed Abby a matching packet.  And then, without a word, he turned his chair around and headed off to sell to other benches.

I was overcome.  The old man gave us more than we had given him.  We were the privileged ones, we were the ones sitting with both legs, filling our already full bellies with baklava, and he gave out of his poverty.  It was the same  beautiful, deep, tremendous lesson I learned in Kolkata five years ago.  We think we come to serve the poor, to give to them, but the poor are often the ones who give to us.  Oh, how much we have to learn! 

May the Lord bless you, Gentle Old Man.  May the Lord make His face to shine upon you.
Thank you for humbling me,
for exposing the hard and selfish that is still in my heart,
for wheeling me around to face things that I would rather forget.

The Hagia Sophia 

Aaron and I inside the Hagia Sophia 

 One of the amazing mosiacs from the Byzantine era inside the HS

Sultan´s palace overlooking the Bosphorus Strait - how would you like to live there?

A gorgeous example of the Iznik tilework all over mosques

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque, covered in tiles like the one above

 Fifty cent ice cream never tasted so good

 Aaron is brought back to his childhood

 Rachel finishes first

 Reading the map around the city

The underground Basilica Cisterns, used by the Byzantine Empire to store their water

1 comment:

  1. my first thought was ... no way it's been 5 years since you've been in India...but yep, I did the math and that's about right:)
    Love the sweet pictures...especially Rachel's funny face of finishing the ice cream first:)
    STil in Switzerland?