My rugged intellectual friend, Ryder, is in town and his beard is turning a lot of heads. He has a booming voice and an unmistakable American accent, even though he’s been living in England for a while. I had expected him to have a little bit of an English accent. People on the street can’t tell if he’s Turkish or American because, according to several people, he looks Turkish.
So far, I’ve taken him to Kadikoy and to Sultan Ahmet: Kadikoy for Iskender, (a dish of thinly sliced beef with bread, yogurt, tomatoes, and melted butter) and Sultan Ahmet for all the main tourist attractions. He’s a medieval history doctoral student, so he appreciates all things historical, the older the better. In the Hagia Sophia, we walked around and gazed at the Christian mosaics and Islamic patterns and calligraphy and he pointed out things I hadn’t noticed: the lines of arches in the walls that looked like they had once been windows, places rude people had carved their names into the marble, and the styles of painting in different parts of the church/mosque/museum, which gave clues about who painted them at which time in history.
Ryder is the first person I’ve shown around and I took a few wrong turns. I don’t go to the European side that often. In the Hagia Sophia gift shop, I found an unusual necklace that looks like a medal. The silver medallion has a squiggly, tangled line as a design and a tassel on the cord, which looks like it was fashioned from a scrunched up silk scarf. I bought the necklace, thinking I should have a gorgeous medal for being an excellent tour guide. The squiggly line represents our route, as I got us lost a few times, and the tassel represents my knowledge of all the places we visited. I’m being facetious, of course, because I often wasn’t able to say anything too interesting or factual. I would have to admit that I never knew if what I was saying was true or if I’d seen something similar in a movie and somehow got it mixed up with the truth. I wouldn’t make a very good historian, but oh well.
Later, it was back to my home in Uskudar, where Ryder gave me a sampling of blues music and we talked and ate wine gums. (I requested he bring these from the UK.) I’ve known Ryder for almost ten years. It’s lovely when my friends wander away from home, just as I did, and we can still meet up in a new place and take up where we left off. Our lives have changed, but we are the same people.