January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve in Istanbul a Bust
Istanbul, Turkey

We said goodbye to a teary-eyed Neşe yesterday. Our CouchSurfing hostess had been quite excellent, but it was time to move on. A new year was upon us, bringing with it a new host and new side of Istanbul to explore.

It was a rather stressful relocation from Neşe's place in Üsküdar over to our new host, Hakan, who lives in a northern district of Istanbul's European side of town.

One of the more annoying aspects of our travel yesterday was the choice of our host to meet us in shopping mall nearby to his home. It wasn't a problem of coordination or finding each other, but one of entry into the structure which was controlled both metal detector and x-ray.

After over two hours of running between ferries, light rail trams and underground metros, Tatiana and I had zero patience for these rent-a-cops. They made me put my pack through the x-ray twice, and I flat out refused to open up Taitana's backpack for them when the male and female guards insisted on such things. After a few minutes of resistant hoop-jumping I just picked up our things, placed the bag on Tatiana's back, turned our backs on them, and walked off. It's a shopping mall for Christ's sake.

Plans for New Year's Eve

Let me just start by saying that I'm a big fan of New Year's Eve—I love having a good time on this night (just look at 2007/8 and 2006/7). But this turned out to be one the lamest I've had in many, many years.

Hakan had written to me earlier in the week, back before I'd discovered that festivities at Taksim Square had been canceled:

I am the worst kind when it comes to special days. I generally don't do anything special! But perhaps can do some CS thingy that the little guy can be around too, not sure though :).

Actually to be honest, there has been really crazy stuff happened on Taksim Square past few years, (some female tourists getting harassed by some Iranian & Arabic and some Turkish men) which I don't really like the environment of. Ufkum, a friend of mine who is a CS Ambassador, was talking about having a party at her place, so you guys are definitely welcome too.

We Could've Stayed at Home for This

It was nearly 11:00 p.m. when we finally stepped out of the 1+ hour bus journey, shortly followed by a text hitting Hakan's mobile: "Not feeling well. Are you already on your way?"

Yes, we were already on our way—we were already there! And an hour before midnight is certainly no time to cancel a New Year's party, if that's what she's doing. WTF?

Hakan, unsure of where Ufkum even lived (he'd only been over to her place once before), tried to get a hold of her, but she wasn't responding to either text message or phone calls. Meanwhile, we all idled in the mini-market of a gas station, wondering if this is where we'd enter into the New Year.

Hakan, busy with the phone, contacted a female friend with a car with the hopes that she'd be able to swoop in and whisk us off to celebrate someplace that didn't involve standing outside in the freezing rain or idling next to cans of engine oil and candy bars.

Ufkum finally called us back and gave the short directions into the small maze of nearby apartments.

But there was a problem—Hakan got the gist of it, but when it came time to actually find her specific building, he had no idea… and Ufkum wasn't picking up the phone again.

This is a blurry photo of Tatiana bundled up in the rain, wishing that we'd just stayed home. By evening's end, I think we all pretty much wished as much.

When we finally got a hold of her (again) and met the woman at the door, she looked like she'd just woken up and rolled out of bed with the flu (though she's ill with something, I don't think it's a common cold that's plaguing her—something long-term).

The party we'd been told that was happening most certainly was not. There wasn't a soul to be found, save for the ailing hostess. Tatiana gave me a look that I understood all too well.

Aidric _was_ the party

Eventually, Hakan's friend showed up and joined us. We were five, plus Aidric (who was certainly the center of attention in the room).

We idled the evening away with a glass or two of wine and cans of beer that we'd bought at the gas station. A corny, live in-studio Turkish television program counted down the dwindling seconds of 2008 for us before we embraced. Sometime later, Tatiana and Aidric left the room and fell asleep in the bedroom while some magician award ceremony dubbed into steady overlay of monotone Turkish nearly put me to sleep myself.

Beer Tantrum

Easily one of the most entertaining moments from last night was Aidric's little beer obsession.

The kid loves the taste of beer and wine, and every few weeks or so I might indulge him in a little drop off my finger, which he quickly demands more of.

Last night Aidric managed to latch onto my still-full can of Turkish beer and wanted to have his way with the contents… getting into a laughable tiff when things didn't go his way:

( video: Aidric's New Year's Eve Beer Tantrum )

Moving On…

Hakan is nice, intelligent kid, but has seemed pretty disinterested in us. Perhaps it's the semester exams that he's starting to finish up, or maybe it's that he hosts so many people that he just automatically disconnects himself from folks that are going to come in and walk out of his life. Whatever it is, we've been comfortable, but not sought-after for company.

As we prearranged with Hakan, tonight will be our last night with him—just these two nights are what he told us he was available for.

But I've been corresponding regularly with our soon-to-be third host for Istanbul, and he certainly comes off as the type that all three of us can make a connection with. Thankfully, he's just down the road—close enough for a taxi ride, which will make our egress to his place much simpler than that of getting to Hakan's yesterday.

Happy 2009!


The United States


March 2nd, 2009

My New Year's Eve: Spent making the trek from Phoenix to Athens. I assume I was somewhere over Canada aboard the SFO-FRA segment when the clock struck midnight in whatever timezone I was in. It's entirely possible I missed midnight completely though, crossing a timezone at 11:30pm into 12:30am.

In any case, the business cabin of our Lufthansa flight was fairly empty and while I could have enjoyed endless champagne I was instead asleep at that point. Ah well. :)

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