Getting lost is rarely the goal.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Although the marketplace was covered by mosaics and completely shaded from the blistering sun, I could feel the heat of the day wafting through the corridors of this maze they call the Grand Bazaar. Bizarre it was indeed, for where there should’ve been a rug shop led us straight out to a hidden courtyard. Few shops flanked the sides with even fewer shoppers, a welcome sight after the claustrophobic madness of the interior. A small cafe stood nestled near the exit, lost between two storefronts boasting the best prices on balloon pants and magnets.
We were hungry. The insanity had drained us all and so we entered without questioning its credibility or cleanliness. The owner spoke broken English, his speech clipped with a heavy Turkish accent. They weren’t used to having foreign customers. The husband ran out to buy some more bottled water for his unexpected customers.
The wife stood behind a galley style kitchen while her young son sat at the counter top coloring in a picture of a whale with purple crayon. There was barely enough room for our family and theirs in the tiny kitchen, a person shoved in every corner. She didn’t speak English, but was eager to serve us as best she could and through multiple gestures and hand signals, pointing and charades we were able to communicate our orders, choosing from the plates displaying food on the counter top. We settled into our dishes when the husband returned. They weren’t used to foreign customers, he said again, but this past week had been exceptionally hard for them all.
The summer of 2013 was a troubled time for Turkey, especially Istanbul. Violent riots against the Erdogan government were taking place almost every night in Taksim Square. Police brutality using tear gas against peaceful protestors was making news around the world and horrifying many.
“This week alone, Turkey lost $8,000,000 in income from tourism.”
His words shook us and I slowed the munching of my lettuce to a halt. We too considered cancelling our three week trip for fear of the unstable conditions. And now that we were there, there was not a whisper of unrest amongst the streets, only grumblings of a media storm on the loose.
This kind man with a wife and child were victims of a media blanket: that every person in Turkey was protesting against the Prime Minister, that every soul took to the streets so their voices could be heard day in and day out. But they were subject to the repercussions.
That day I learned the news is really just there to give a good story.
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