Just wanted to let readers know that I am alive and well; it’s been a bit difficult finding an Internet connection since most wireless networks here require some type of password. Oh, how I wish I was able to have the free Internet found in American Starbucks. In a way, however, the experience is quite liberating in that having no access to the outside world, whether by phone, text, or data, I have no choice but to focus on that which is in front of me. Unlike Cairo, which is my main destination, the municipality of Istanbul requires little preparation in the form of reading up on how to get around sans guidebook/local help. Perhaps the easiest means of transportation is the city’s metro system that includes a mixture of light rail and trolley cars linking the Ataturk Airport (where I am writing from as I wait to board my Cairo flight at 5:45 AM local time) and the heart of the city. Over the span of almost eight hours I managed to grab some doner (similar to shwarma, gyro, but with French fries, pickles, and tomatoes), decompress with a Turkish bath, pray in the Blue Mosque, and visit the neighborhood I stayed in last January. Something more exciting than these things was meeting several different people during the course of my evening here. For instance, while sitting in the park neighboring Sultenahment neighborhood a young Turkish man approached me and we got talking about his business ventures and his family’s history in the city. Additionally, I met three Irish medical students who were visiting as a celebration of completing medical school. Lastly, as I walked away from the Ortakoy mosque, which sits along the Bosporus on the European side of Istanbul, a young Arab businessman asked me in Turkish for directions (score one for me looking Turkish!) and it turned out he had just returned from seeing his family in the UAE and a week in New Mexico and Arizona. What is most riveting about these three encounters is that they all came at moments when I felt most alone and uncertain as to why I chose to travel by myself. One might attribute this to pure luck, but not me – I see it as God showing me that being scared/uncertain is part of the journey and She/He/It will intervene when it appears I may waver from the path laying before me. Still, though, I wish my girlfriend and my closest friends were along with me so we could experience things together and not just try to live through photographs.
Well, I am off to find some food before the stalls shut down for the night (it’s 1:15 AM here), and I should probably see if I can determine which gate I need to be at in a few hours. Cairo and Cairene friends, I will be seeing you soon!