STATS – Day: 45 | Distance: 9025.6 miles | Location: Istanbul, Turkey | Money Spent To Date – Transportation: $773.72 (includes airfare) | Food: $163.71| Stay: $231.83 | Play: $98.82
I’m out on the sea in a teeny, tiny fishing boat getting tossed around by rough waters. It feels like an out of control rollercoaster. At times the boat literally rocks from edge to edge!
I hang on for dear life and I think “what the hell am I doing?”
I met Şerif (Sheriff) while walking around Büyükçekmece (Boo-yook-check-ma-ja) by the Sultan Süleyman Bridge. He was driving this monster QuadRunner all painted in camouflage with his wolf-dog running happily beside him. Back in Oregon he’d look like everyone else, but in Istanbul, he stands out a bit.
I smiled and said “good!” He smiled and said “where you from?”, I told him the United States and he said “Ah, America Good, Good!” He told me his son lives there, in Ohio. I’m thinking “poor son”.
We say goodbye and I continue walking and enjoying the day. When I get ready to leave I pass Şerif and several fisherman standing and talking. He calls to me and says “Paper, you want tea?”
People think my name is “Paper” here, they even hold out a piece of paper at times to demonstrate. I say “no, it’s Pie-per, I, I, I”, but mostly I just say – “yes, my name is Paper” and leave it.
I sit and have tea with Şerif and the other fishermen and he translates for me. He says his English is not good, he taught himself. It’s pretty good, just choppy and I answer all the questions they have.
Why am I visiting Büyükçekmece? – as it is quite far from the city center. How long am I staying in Istanbul? What is my profession? Am I married? Do I have children? I drop a few Turkish words on them and I get a round of smiles, nods and “good, good!”
One of the fishermen buys me Simic (a bagel covered in sesame seeds which is a staple in Turkey) and we drink more tea.
Şerif points to the row of boats and then points to his. He tells me being a fisherman is not a job. I smile and say “it is life” and he smiles and says “good, you understand”.
He explained that his father and brother both had careers in the military, but he didn’t want that career for himself. He always loved fishing growing up and made his choice to live on the sea.
He writes down his number and tells me to call him when I want to go out on his boat. I say I will.
Now I’m no dummy. I took a big risk meeting a stranger and going out in his boat. I’ve read the stories about people who get robbed, raped or murdered.
But, I don’t want to miss out on this experience, so I prepare. I only carry the absolute necessities and have them in a plastic Ziploc bag, I wear light sandals that could slip off if needed and light clothing. I mentally visualized several situations and planned my strategy.
“Just in case” things got squirrelly and I had to SWIM!
He had told me before he was a “good man”, a “Christian man”. I didn’t go into the fact that religion, regardless of which one, doesn’t make a human good or bad. Or that bad humans don’t typically announce their badness publicly by saying “I’m a bad man”. I let that argument drop.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to swim, and lucky for Şerif , he didn’t have to swim either, because if the situation became crazy I was going to fight my hardest to ensure he went into the water first!
After about an hour we re-docked the boat and switched to his QuadRunner, racing through town at top speed, on the wrong side of the road, zig-zagging around cars and people, over sidewalks and through grassy parks.
All without seatbelts or helmets.
He slows down occasionally to holler greetings to people he knows and tells them I’m from America.
I don’t think many Americans make it to Büyükçekmece.
We stop at his friend’s house. They’ve known each other since they were boys. We eat fruit and drink Rakı (Rack-uh) . We listen to a mix of 80’s music that Şerif brought and enjoy the sunshine.
Next we go to a neighbor’s house and have Turkish coffee and I get my fortune read from the leftover coffee grounds.
It’s time for me to go, and Şerif drives me back to the closest Dolmus (little vans that wait to fill before they leave) stop where I can catch a ride to the metro and make my way back to Taksim.
Take some risks in life, adventures are waiting.
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