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Heidi Reimer
Do You Want a Cup of Tea, Do You Want a Boyfriend?

Here I Am

Wednesday - 14 Mar 2001
Istanbul - Turkey

In the Istanbul airport I feel stares on my pale face, my black cords, my uncovered head and bulging backpack. Other women wear western clothes, mingled with the robes and headcoverings, so perhaps it is my backpack. Outside, I approach a row of yellow cars emblazoned “taksi”. They are empty; I wander through the chattering, yelling, robed throng until a cluster of smoking men asks, “You want taksi?” I say yes, and animated discussion ensues between them in Turkish. After a moment, a man with a black mustache breaks from the group, advances, and announces he’ll take me.

“How much to Sultanahmet?” I ask.

He grunts and points to a sign. Eleven million.

We honk through the crowds, Middle Eastern music blaring from the stereo. The driver pulls out a slim packet of cigarettes. “Cigaretta?” he asks. I say no thanks, and he clutches the wheel with one hand, strikes a match with the other and puts the flame to the cigarette clenched between his lips.

We drive with one window open. It is warm and humid.

We do not talk. I don’t trust him, and believe he intends to rip me off. We reach the Sultanahmet district and, peering out the window, I forget my uneasiness, enraptured at narrow streets and historic buildings lit against the night. I can’t stop smiling.

We park in front of the Ali Baba Hotel, where I have booked a room. The handle is missing from one of the taksi’s doors, and when I try the other it comes off in my hand. As I wonder what to do about this, a young man emerges from the Ali Baba to open the door for me.

“Welcome! You are from Canada! Welcome to Istanbul!”

The driver wants to overcharge me, or so I presume from the dispute that erupts in Turkish between him and my rescuer. He especially wants to overcharge me when he sees the broken handle. The young man assures him I couldn’t have broken it--or so I presume. I say nothing, not having found the phrase “it came off in my hand” in my Turkish guide book.

The young man makes the grumbling driver count the right change into my hand. Then, chivalrously, he escorts me--not to my room, but to a carpet showroom, every wall piled high with folded stacks of carpet, where he offers me a seat and a cup of apple tea. He sits on the floor opposite me, and we drink from small clear glasses with matching saucers, two sugar cubes offered on the side. We talk, he shows pictures of his mother’s home in Eastern Turkey. Offers me a cigarette. At this rate I just might pick up the habit. It’s almost midnight and I’m not tired. We walk, past the floodlit Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, along the narrow streets where he knows everyone and passersby call out to us.

Finally I sleep, in a simple room opening onto a tiny terrace with views of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and a gleaming Sea of Marmara.

Turkish Men and Other Hassles
  Heidi Reimer - Bio and Journals
  Do You Want a Cup of Tea, Do You Want a Boyfriend? - Intro Average Rating of 35 Viewers
Chapters of Do You Want a Cup of Tea, Do You Want a Boyfriend?
  Here I Am
  Turkish Men and Other Hassles
  Paranoid in Turkey
  Beware the Tall, Dark Foreign Woman
  Culture Clash
  Chok Guzel
  Heads on Mountains, Snakes in Tunnels


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