My mom was worried when I told her I was going to Istanbul, Turkey for six weeks. Most everybody knows Turkey is right next door to all the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
My Mexican friends wondered if I was going to get a bomb dropped on my head. Some American friends were more worried about my head being separated from the rest of my body.
Then I reminded everybody that I live in Mexico…and not only in Mexico, but in one of the most dangerous states in the republic – Guerrero.
As if to prove my case, the week I was to leave protestors had tried to take over the airport once and were making plans to try again. These are the same ones who have effectively shut down the city government offices. If they picked Wednesday, I wasn’t going to get out of Zihuatanejo.
Then less than two hours before my flight left a man walked up to the counter where I was paying my internet bill at the cable office, pulled out a gun and robbed the place.
Some parts of Turkey might be dicey – I don’t know – but Istanbul probably wasn’t going to be any worse than where I was leaving.
In fact, so far it has proved to be just the opposite.
First, I managed to leave my backpack on an airport shuttle bus with a laptop computer, a camera, an ipad and nearly $1,000 U.S. and got the backpack back with everything in it when we showed up to the station about 30 minutes after the bus dropped off its passengers there.
In Mexico, that backpack would have been long gone. In China, where my travel buddy Genessa has been living for the last three years, it would have been long gone. In Istanbul, Turkey, it was set aside in the office to await my arrival.
When we hurried up to the bus stop, asked for the shuttle from the airport, pointed to Genessa’s backpack and pointed to the bus, they knew exactly what we were talking about and led us to the office.
That may have been a one-off, but I don’t think so.
Right after that we hailed a taxi so we could just get to our final destination without trying to figure out how to do that by other means of cheaper public transportation. As soon as we showed the taxi driver the address, he in his halting English made us understand that it would be a very expensive trip with the meter running and traffic as bad as it was. Better that he take us to the subway station so we could cross the bosporus underground for 4 Turkish liras apiece instead of letting the taxi meter run up a 200 TL bill while sitting in traffic on the bridge.
On the way to the subway station he explained to us what stop to get off on and what connection to make there.
In Mexico, I’m afraid, the majority of taxistas would be happy to take us for the 200 lira ride. Genessa said the same would be the case in China. By the time I got done with the evening, I was more than a little impressed with the Turks we had encountered for their general honesty.
In fact, I’m having a hard time believing it wasn’t just good fortune that we ran into such honorable people.
I guess I’m too programmed by 16 years of living in Mexico.
Can Istanbulites in general really be this nice?
I guess I have six weeks to find out…