so today we went back to the syrian embassy for the 3rd day in a row. this time, finally, we were able to fill out a visa form. when we had come to turkey, our visas had cost us 20 bux each. we didnt know how much the syrian visas would cost, but just to be on the safe side, we brought 60 bux each. well, it turns out that the syrian visas are crazy expensive (for americans. they are cheaper for other countries)!! the visas cost $105 each!!! so, we forked over the money and were told to come back later.
the syrian visa application is pretty crazy. it asks all sorts of questions like what is your religion and what are the names of your mother and father. one of the questions on the applications was whether or not we had been in “occupied palestine”. it’s pretty crazy that syria (and most of the other middle east countries) wont even let you in the country if you’ve been to israel. if you have an israeli stamp in your passport, you’re automatically jacked. most of these countries dont recognize israel as a country at all, and the syrian visa form wouldnt even mention isreal by name. it seems so wrong and backwards to me that a country would impose rules like that… but then i guess our own country has made it illegal for its citizens to travel to cuba, so we have some hatin’ it laws of our own. oh, and another interesting thing i learned about syria: it didnt allow the interent until the year 2000, and even to this day, certain sites are blocked by the government and are illegal including yahoo and hotmail!
anyways, 3 hours after we dropped agfter our applications, we came back and *finally* had our visas!! it only took about 1 million days, but we finally got them. oh, and the other thing that we got today was ISIC cards (international student identification cards). sure we’re not really students, but we were at one point right?? that’s good enough!! these cards can get you discounts in tons of different places, and i hear that in syria especially, the savings can be huge!
so now it’s our last day here in istanbul. although i’m excited to be seeing something new tomorrow, i really did have a good time here. this city is really cool. as i said, it’s super modern, but witha slight middle eastern twist and tham makes it really interesting. the people here are really friendly and really funny as well. we’ve had so m any random conversations on the street w/ turks who are standing in front of their stores. yeah, sure, they try to get you to come and sample their wares, but there’s no high pressure like there was in morocco. they have no problem taking no for an answer. they say random funny stuff like “hello, i am here, let me help you spend your money!” or “you must come in.. you break my heart!!” or “please, maybe you come back tomorrow, you will see us by my beating heart!” etc etc. so many rando lines, and they are alsways smiling and laughing along w/ you. unlike in morocco, where people dont really give you the time of day if you dont buy from them, here everyone wants to shake your hand, help you with directions, give you advice, etc etc even if you dont go into their shop.
we’ve definitely met and interacted w/ some interesting characters. from the waiter at a restaurant “hello, i am here! i am charisma!!” to the people who work at our hostel. for example: for dinner tonight we went to the grocery store and bought pasta, tomato paste, etc. we thought it’d be interesting to eat in for a change. well, the gvy that works in the hostel saw how much paste we were using, and exclaimed that there is no way we could use that much and that we only needed to use like one tenth of it. at this point, he grabs the pot from us, and cooks the sauce, mixing in oil, pepper etc, drains our spaghetti, and does absolutely everything for us! he doesnt take no for an answer, and pretty much wouldnt let us do any of it ourselves. so nice!!
even though we didnt do anything really substantial over the last couple of days, it’s still been really cool. wandering around the ramazzan festival at night, eating at our favorite restaurant over and over again, checking out the Taksim area, and just hanging out. today, while we were waiting for our visa applications, we wandered around taksim (the main shopping district), and i started really wanting to buy some new clothes. here in turkey, everyone dresses all stylish, and the whole place is filled to the brim w/ all sorts of clothing shops: Diesel, Puma, Adidas, armani… you name it, they’ve got it. all i have is the same damn clothes that i’ve been wearing over and over for the last 2 months, and i really wanted something new. i bought some pants, but even that doesnt seem to be enough… i wanna buy hellza stuff. another thing i really wanna buy is new music. i have an mp3 player, but no real way of getting new music onto it. i cant buy cds, since i have nothing to play them on! oh, and i want to buy a cell phone since i miss having one… and i wanna buy…. heh, the list goes on and on.
after the visa place, we went to this outdoor cafe on Divan Yolu (the main stret in the old town) and got some coffee and smoked a nargileh, with honey tobacco this time. this particular shop was really cool. really chill outdoor place, with mellow music, lots of couches and chairs, and it was just really nice. also, lots of other people were smoking nargileh as well, so we didnt feel that weird. we also had some apple tea and turkish coffee. turkish coffee is sooo good! they mix the very fine grounds right into it, so it tastes extra good. of course, that means you cant drink the last few sips or you’ll get a mouth full of grounds!
following the coffeeshop, we came back to the hotel and had the pasta dinner that i mentioned earlier, and that’s pretty much it for istanbul….