We thought we had enough of the old stuff and decided to see how the rest of Istanbul functions.
Took a bus into the ‘new area’ then a subway to some large modern shopping centre. We are consumers at heart. I know I would prefer a Walmart to bartering any day though Narda likes the barter world.
They have a short subway here – I think it was six stops on one line for the whole system. Quite a production. New York City should have this much precaution; bags get scanned and checked, we have to walk through an airport type scanner and past the bored looking police clutching their machine guns. After all there is a world war happening though I think we forget at times. The subway is clean and we get off at the stop in the midst of a shopping centre and we go through scanners and checks to enter. There was nothing special about the place, it was very Western, not many people and it was huge. There were the movie theaters (the Di Vinci Code is playing which seems out of place here) prices are higher than in New York. We had coffee that cost twice as much as our little backpacker type area in the old section where we live, and with our coffee in the old section we got cake too for half the price of the shopping centre. Narda got headphones for her iPod and that was it. We did check the shoe sales but there was nothing worth adding to our collection (well one of our collections and it ain’t mine). On the way back to the bus after going through all the scanners to take the subway I was hustled into getting a shoeshine. I thought it would be one or two lyres but the boy, on summer holiday and last claiming to have had a shot at the eighth grade where he had learned enough English to want to polish shoes, wanted, firstly 50 then 15 lira (about $8 US) and I said no way and thought to offer him ten which was still to much. He was not happy with that but fortunately Narda had my wallet and was in the nearby post office so I went to get her and explained the situation and said I would give him ten. Narda said “no way” and she gave the boy a strong speech (talk about a scolding from a school teacher) and the poor chap was really quiet and looked embarrassed and Narda gave him five and sent him off with a “that is much more than you should get”.
Back home, in our little section that we are really feeling at home in we got a seat in the street in front of a large TV and watched the Australian vs. Italy game with lots of other Australians. There were two large Australian flags on the outside wall (there was no Italian representation). It seemed like a good game. After thirty years of trying to get into the World Cup here was Australia in the second round facing Italy. They controlled the game, had possession for most of the game and it got to full time at 90 minutes with no score and five minutes was added on. As the five minutes wound down to the last seconds an Italian player tripped and fell over an all ready down Australian player and the Italian was awarded a free kick. The free kick was meters in front of the goal, the Australian goalie did not stand a chance. Then it was over and everyone, even the Italians seemed stunned. There was not the immediate jumping around as one does when they kick a goal. It was really a hollow victory. Everyone knew that it was a bad call and with the replay it was obvious the Italian player never touched the Australian but tripped over his own feet.
I do not really like sports competition much anymore and this really cemented it for me. Narda and I have gone for the losing team three times in a row with this World Cup trip; America, the Netherlands and now Australia. Having spent so many mixed emotions with Leigh and his baseball career I really do not find joy in sport competition. I think there should be just individual sports competition with the person competing against themselves. For example, “Today we have the latest Terrell, age 59 competing against Terrell of the 1960s (if you remember he was a bit wobbly in those days and there are those persistent rumours to the reason for those wobbles. Was his sport really ‘enhanced’?) and the Terrell of the 1980s when he was a single parent with two boys. Which Terrell will get the gold? That is the way it should be – not against other people. I feel so sorry when someone gets sent off the field and I hear the cheers from those around me if he is on the other team. I remember when Leigh would have a rough patch in the midst of a game and how bad he would feel after which would make me feel bad. These are young men doing their best. You see the tears in their eyes when it all comes undone or in Australia’s case when they lose after playing the better game because of a bad call. There are young men just like this being killed in Iraq. Why do we do this to our youth? Sitting outside there with a crowd of Australians and Americans and a scattering of Europeans I did have my occasional paranoid thoughts. We are in a world war. We are in a country that borders Iraq and this is a Muslim country with a lot of people that are not that happy with the west. One would be forgiven for thinking that everything is fine. The merchants are happy with showing their gear and we have lots of laughs with the local hotel and restaurant employees but is it all a ruse? We are sitting outside on the sidewalk on a narrow street. I started watching cars that went slowly by. If someone wanted to make a statement about Iraq (America’s war they say in these parts) we are sitting ducks. I felt uneasy in the Grand Bazaar too – I will stop watching the news and enjoy our stay here. We go to Viet Nam in a few days then we will be out of this particular conflict and visiting the scene of a previous one, though that conflict was not a world war. The last world war ended with a couple of large explosions and things are headed that way once again.
That was all quite grim. Another sight that I thought was interesting was young boys that are dressed as sultans being paraded around. We were informed they dressed that way on ‘their special day’. Like a wedding we were told. In actual fact it is the day of their circumcision – I think I will leave that at that.
Today we are going to one of the Princess Islands and have a bit of a swim. Narda has managed to read two books and I have only gotten through the first part of “For Tibet with love” by Isabel Losada.
I am still trying to get my mind around the currency here. It seems most stuff is in the millions. For example 5 million lira is about 22 dollars US. It is comforting to be a millionaire even though it is not really so in US currency.