Istanbul Airport - Talking to Strangers

Previously: Tirana, Albania's little airport

On my 1.5 hour flight from Albania to Turkey, I got all this! Inoffensively palatable. I can't get over how cute the water cups are.

Then I had several hours at Istanbul's big ol' airport. There's lots to do. You can eat sample of a dozen or so flavors of Turkish Delight at Old Bazaar (but don't buy them there as they're much cheaper anywhere else). They also somewhat aggressively sell ice cream there. You probably don't need to eat here, unless you're too good for airplane food. If you need coffee, there's a Caffe Nero and a Starbucks.

There are some really nice-looking and well-populated bars, but eating there would involve a silly, overpriced sandwich or a premade dessert.

Head on over instead to the large food court, where awaiting you is more Turkish ice cream, a Burger King, a Popeyes, Sbarros (good god), Quick Asia, Sweet Delights (random, premade, sad-looking desserts), Turkuisine ("The kitchen where East meets West), a self-serve, by-the-pound buffet situation that smelled awesome but the caloric responsibility of which intimidated me, another Caffe Nero, and a Freshly Baked, basically a better Au Bon Pain, with Turkish bagels or "simit", Turkish style burek or "boregi", Turkish pizza pies that looked temptingly and repulsively rich and oily, an array of lame to enticing desserts, more pointless cafe subs, and some loaf-ish thing I didn't understand.

Pointless cafe sub - 2 euros

Array of desserts


Oily pizzas
Drink/yogurt/parfait case at Freshly Baked
Some kind of poppyseed spinach pie knish-like thing- 3.50 euro
I didn't not enjoy it. While eating it, a guy approached me and we talked for an hour or so.

Shamsu, or Sham for short. He was from Ghana, was 29 (30, now, on October 27th 2013), and was on his way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, having gotten a one month visa through a friend/connection.

"It's very hard for Ghanaians to get visas to leave," he said.

He was going to get a job, work very hard, save money, hope to get a work visa to stay in Brazil longer legally, then hope to get a work visa for New York, or, at least, somewhere else.

He was the oldest child of his parents, who had one daughter after him. His parents had then divorced, both remarrying. His mother had three more children, his father had four. He was "trying to dodge his responsibilities" to take care of his family, but he did hope to make enough money one day to support them.

He had never been to a restaurant. He had never had a burger, pizza, lasagne, sushi, etc. He said he was confused by all the food here. I gave him a piece of gum, which he seemed a little excessively grateful for, and I regret not offering to buy him his first burger and watching him eat it, or at least giving him a bit of my weird Turkish poppyseed spinach bagel thingy.

His life schedule:

5am: Wake for 3 hours of Muslim prayer
8am: Bathe, then breakfast (hot tea with milk, bread, and a hardboiled egg)
8:30am: Go to work as a "clothing designer," though I assumed he meant a sewing factory of some sort
2pm: Lunch of rice, chicken, vegetables, and spices
8:30: Work ends (So, yes, an 11.5 hour work day)
Dinner at home of casava or yam soup
Usually an American movie
A snack of a banana or orange
11:30pm to 12:am: Bed time (so, yes, that's 5-5.5 hours of sleep every night)

I told him about and encouraged him to try to sell hand made Ghanaian clothing and jewelry at high prices to hipster or artsy or whatever Americans. He thanked me and asked me when I was coming to Africa. I said I probably would in 3-5 years. He told me he'd love to show me around, so I gave him my card and told him to tell me how life goes for him.

This was after I told him I was a lesbian in a serious relationship with my girlfriend, which was after he asked me how it could be that, at 26, I wasn't yet married. In his culture, he said, women were expected to marry at 15 or 16.

I explained about college educated, secular, American cultural norms. I found it fascinating that American movies hadn't taught him what our culture was like to much of an extent at all. I do not know if that says more about our movies or about the brain's interpretation of phenomena through the filter of our cultural understanding.

So we went our separate ways, and he did get back in touch with me. We are Facebook friends (and he's friends with a former coworker of mine now, though I imagine he friended her because of me, and then she accepted because she saw he was friends with me). 

First, he emailed me:
"hi arielle how are you this is shamsu the guy you met in turkey airport am now in brazil i have been trying to reach.please i need to talk to you this is my  mail adress -------- and my fone number --------------- please call me."

Not wanting to engage in anything deeper, I said:

"Hey Shamsu! I think I'd have to pay international rates if I called you, but email is free. How is Sao Paolo? Is it overwhelming? How long have you been there? Are  you finding work?"


"hey arielle am very glad to here from you how is bostton and your ok here am now in brarazilia,i have not found work trying to get some papers first.can you send me your number i would like to talk to you on fone please thanks for replying"

This was the day after the marathon bombing. The next day:

Him: "hi arielle how are you i want to find out how you are doing i saw a news on the net,there has been a bombing attack in boston am very worried are you and your family ok please let me here from you" - April 19

Me: "Oh you saw that? Yes, it was kind of scary, but I am safe and so is everyone I know. It looks like they've caught the people involved now too. Hopefully all will be back to normal soon."

Him: "hi arielle it's been a while how are you,areyou ok" - May/4

Him: "i have sent messages in to your mail box i hope you saw them" - 6 minutes later

Me: "Hey, I know, I've seen them and responded. Maybe they're not getting back to you in email. I'm great! How are you doing?" - 5/9

Him: "hey arielle how are u,thanks for letting me know u are ok i can now relax i thank God for that, i was so worried about u, i think about u so much, but sorry for not replying u for the past few days i having problem accessing net,am also great am i only want to here your voice please" - 5/11

Me: "But, seriously, Sarki, international calls are quite expensive." - 5/12

Him: "hi arielle,nice to here from u, i understand u perfectly, gust send the number to me i will find a way to call u, are u on whatsapp? if u are we can use it to chart any time" - 5/12

"hi arielle how are you i hope you are ok, am very sorry i went off line the last time i saw you online, there is something i have been wanting to say to you,it's something am keeping inside me from the day i met you,i don't know how to say this but i have say it because i can't help it any mori hope it does't break our friendship, arielle i love you so much i know it might sound crazy to you, but i really mean it and am serious about it too,ever since i met you i cound't stop thinking about you, i see you i my eyes all the time i can still hear your voice in my ear whe you mentioned my name it was so nice i will always remember it, am in love with you arielle" - 5/26

So that's when I started to feel like it was no longer racist if I think maybe he's going for some kind of scam.

Him: "i wrote you a message about two weeks ago i hope you saw it" - 6/9

Me: "i did"

Him: but you did not replyed, why"

Me: "i don't know what to say besides that that's crazy
and if not crazy, then sweet, but anyway, im a lesbian in boston, and you're a guy in sao paolo, so don't work yourself up about it"

Him: "the distans does not matter and am not working my self up is something am feeling for you"

Me: "okay, well you're welcome to have whatever feelings you have"

Him: "i really mean every word i said
you sound absert
don't be offended"

Me: "im just doing stuff. trying to find a present for my sister's wife
im not offended. it's cute"

Him: "since i saw you i coud't stop thinking about you
i hope what i said does't stop the friendship we have

Me: "well, it doesn't really matter to me"

Him: "can i ask you a question"

Me: "sure"

Him: "should i tell you what to do?
why did you deside to be a lesbean?"

Me: "tell me what to do? what are you talking about?
it's not a decision. that would be like me asking you why you chose to be straight"

Him: "you are very beautiful,any man will be happy to have you, like i do"

Me: "i'm not attracted to men
i'm attracted to women
i fall in love with women
i love my girlfriend"

Him: "i respect the way you are but i still can't bileave it"

Me: "lol okay
that's because you're from a culture that doesn't have the same concepts"

Him: "we also have lesbeans where i came from"

Me: "and how do you thnk of lesbians there?"

Him: "it's now developing there people are not use to it
i wish i can design an african wear for you to give to your sisters wife as present
are you busy"

Me: "sorry, i was eating dinner. yeah, i have to go, ill talk to you later"

At Caffe Nero (the one in food court), starving, I wanted something healthful and filling enough for 4 hours but still light, and I found that in the form of a 156 calorie salad for the ransom of 7 euros.

Vegetables, feta, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some olives. Fuck it, it did the job. They also had some interesting juices at Caffe Nero, such as a milky looking mint and a mulberry and blackberry one.
You could also get beer anywhere there. You could have a glass of Efes with your Burger King meal.

Next up: The flight home

I've since been back to this airport for two more layovers, one of them 10.5 hours. I've had enough fucking Turkish Delight samples for one lifetime. Good god. I don't think I can ever go back to this airport. Little tips: There is fresh squeezed orange juice at the Starbucks all the way down at the end past all the duty free shops. Don't get espresso at Freshly Baked.

At least is you pay in USD (for which I believe they are grossly inflating prices, like, way worse than they do for euros, it was $6.15 for this. Jesus. Espresso rating: 6/10 - stupid LaVazza shit).

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