A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Saturday, January 19, 2013

On to Istanbul: Part Three

Walking to Asia (Well, Close Enough)

Yesterday travel pal Inge had to get to Istanbul´s cheap flight airport on the other side of the city to meet her friend, Sofia, who was flying in from Belgium. I decided to accompany her as far as the ferry across the Bosporus.
Technically speaking, Asia begins on the other side of the straits, so once the ferry had landed I was proud to announce that I had walked from Portugal to Asia.
"But you didn´t walk, you took a boat," said Inge.
However, as I had walked from the port side of the ferry to its starboard side to get a better view of the city,  as far as I was concerned, I had walked to Asia.
Once Inge had caught her bus to the airport, I thought I would celebrate walking from Portugal to Asia by having a coffee. I was shocked when the bill came, which amounted to 5 Turkish Lire, or more than 2 euros, almost half my daily budget. After all those teas and coffees that were on the house during our walk to Istanbul, that is to say, on the European side of Turkey, I decided to catch the next ferry straight back to Europe.

The Rousing Speech that Became a Whimper

Meanwhile, going back to day 9 of our 12 day walk to Istanbul...
The past three nights we had spent as guests of a security guard/ tea house owner/ possible doctor, as guests of the City of Saray, and as guests of a small village, the name of which I have forgotten, but no matter, let it represent the typical Turkish village. At least on the European side.
Having gotten spoiled by all of this hospitality, I was resolved to spend this night as someone´s guest as well. No more wılderness camping or sleeping in abandoned houses.
So at the end of the day we headed to a tea house in a rather large village to find our next host.
Unfortunately, we were pretty much ignored in the tea house, and no offers came when I made my signals: walking far, very tired, need a place to sleep.
Outside the tea house we sat down.
"Maybe its because we´re not soaking wet from rain. The past two days we´ve been soaking wet. We don´t look pathetic enough."
Inge said nothing.
So I came up with a plan. Inside the tea house there had been a young man playing cards who had said, "Hello, how are you?", just like that, in English.
I would return to this man and ask him for help. He would be happy to help me in any way he could. I would ask him to get the attention of everyone in the tea house. Once they were all listening, I would make a rousing speech. I would tell them all that Inge and I needed their help, that we had walked very far, that we were very tired, that we needed a place to sleep. I would tell them that their countrymen had been very hospitable to us, and that we were grateful. I would tell them that I was sure they would help us in the same way their countrymen had.
The young man who spoke English would translate, and we would be offered a place to sleep, if not several places to sleep.
While I didn´t tell Inge my plan, I did say, "I´m going in there to find us a warm place to sleep."
She smiled just a little.
I strutted in and went to the young man who spoke English. He had just been dealt a hand of cards, but  hadn´t picked them up yet. Perfect timing.
I said, "You speak English, right?"
He shook his head no and picked up his hand.
"I really need your help," I said.
He and his three friends continued their game, ignoring me.
I scanned the tea house, and unlike recent teahouse we had been in, everyone was minding their own business, which is a bad thing when you are looking for a place to sleep.
I returned outside.
"Well?" said Inge.
I shook my head, no.
"It´s getting dark," she said.
In desperation I walked to the place closest to the tea house. It was a butcher. I almost went in to ask for a place to sleep, but some instinct told me not to ask a butcher for a place to sleep.
I walked to the next place, a small diner. I entered it meekly, went to the man behind the counter, and did my signs: walking, tired, need a place to sleep.
I was sure he would be angry or indifferent as he was busy. Instead, he nodded yes, and called over a young lady who spoke English. I explained in English what I normally explain in sign language, but a bit more eloquently.
"We can help you," she said. "There is a wedding hall you can sleep in."
And so we had another roof over our heads.

Camping in the Suburbs

Let it suffice to say that the following night we kept it simple and camped, even though we had a village in sight.
Our final night before reaching Istanbul, we were already on its outskirts, in an industrial zone/ suburb. I tried the mosque, asking about its misafir hane, and we were sent to the next mosque with a name. People at the next mosque sent us somewhere else down the road to find the man whose name we had. as it was getting complicated, and getting dark, I asked a tea house owner, using my signs, which you should know by now if you have been keeping up with this blog. However, for the newcomers: walking far, very tired, need a place to sleep.
The teahouse owner treated us to tea, and I am grateful for this, but we still needed a place to sleep.

I will now digress by writing about the navigational skills of Inge, my travel buddy.
Much of my walk, until Inge took over as navigator, had been a sort of fumbling in the dark regarding navigation. I had once found myself on a wild boar path in the thorny wilderness when I was supposed to be on a nice secondary road, for example. Or in an industrial zone junkyard with big aggressive junkyard dogs snarling at me, being held at bay with my walking stick (really just a stick for holding dogs at bay) when I was supposed to be on a quiet country lane.
It had only taken Inge a few days, way back in Slovenia, to realize my navigational ineptitude when she took over as navigator with my consent.
And now, in an industrial suburb outside of Istanbul, with the sun going down, having failed to find a roof over our heads, Inge took over.
"I know where there is a green zone to camp in," she said.
We turned left down an industrial backstreet I never would have turned down had I been alone. We passed  small dilapidated industrial zone homes. We passed open sewage. But then we found a green zone; a place to camp undisturbed in the industrial outskirts of a city with 13.5 million people.
If I hadn´t argued with Inge about our going a few euros over the budget that day, we would have slept as peacefully as if we were in a country meadow.

So what Now?

So the next day we walked into Istanbul, and we found our hosts, and we settled into an apartment overlooking the Bosporus.
And as I sat on the balcony watching the ferries and ships and seagulls I looked at the hills to the south, across the Sea of Marmara, thinking I should be headed in that direction as soon as possible. Egypt is due south from Istanbul, and a coffee in Istanbul, at least on the Asian side, is half the day´s budget. I cannot delay, I thought.
But then I thought of Thomas, the peace pilgrim that we had met in a small village a few days earlier.
To find a little inner peace I would have to slow down, he had said.
Yet I am restless.
On the other hand, I could use a break, having walked to Asia from Portugal, never mind the ferry.
But then I can´t spend any money. What does one do in a city like Istanbul if one cannot spend a little money? Walk around? Sit around? Write a blog all day?

After Valencia, some 9 months ago, I bought a harmonica when I was down to my last 30 euros thinking I would have to busk for money. Since that time I haven´t had to busk, but I have learned one song. Maybe I could play that one song over and over to earn money?

Anyway, I will at least take enough time here to think, to wait for a sign. I shall not panic, charging southward. Instead, I shall meditate a bit.
And I  won´t order any more coffee.

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