I have to confess that even after commiserating with Jim’s last blog about our uncertain situation, we are still managing to enjoy ourselves while we wait in Turkey. Not that the last few days have not had their faır share of emotional ups and downs (with Nakia shouldering the brunt). Here’s a brief (ha ha) recap of our last few days’ experiences:
June 26, Thursday — After spending the night on the sidewalk with other would-be travellers to Bulgaria, Nakia waits in line while we wait on the curb until 12 p.m. when they tell us there will be no more people admitted today. “Come earlier tomorrow,” the guard says. Peter doesn’t appreciate that comment and points out clearly that it would be difficult to come any earlier as we SLEPT OVER THERE ON THE SIDWALK! His persuasive techniques coupled with Nakia’s threat to get her money back finally allow Nakia to get in to apply. We sigh with relief and celebrate with icecream and pizza–we have to wait for a week.
June 27 - July 2 — We spend the weekend hanging out with our new Turkish friends and playing music on the street in Taksim Istanbul without complaining when people throw coins in our open guitar case. At first we are angry about the week wait, but we realize the signs are lining up leading us to focus on music:
1.) We meet a student named Fatih who hears our music and tells us we have to play on the street!
2.) We are staying in a house full of artists and musicians for the week, who introduce us to their friends who are also street musicians. We play with them on Saturday night and watch how it’s done.
3.) We have nothing to do but wait in Istanbul for seven days.
4.) Our first attempt to play on the street yields genuine interest, good conversations, and around $100 USD in change and bills! We are elated…
Our debut on European streets: Taxim, İstanbul
July 3, Thursday 12 p.m. – We go to pick up Nakia’s Bulgarian visa only to find out they have denied it. She tries to ask but gets no explanation — only doors closed on her, literally.
We sit with thick anxiety as we brainstorm our options over lunch. After making several calls and spending some time online, we decide to leave Istanbul for the border town of Edirne at 5:45 p.m. By 7:30 we are out of the city and shopping in a small town for our usual bread, yogurt, and jam dınner with tomatoes and cucumbers when we are invited to stay at a house. Doa, a twenty-eight year old career woman with great English, invites us to her beautiful country home suggesting we can camp in the garden. We have a hot shower, tea, pleasant conversation, and breakfast with the Dad (an uncommonly proud Turk with a warm heart) before we continue into a beautiful sunny summer day.
July 4 - July 7 — We pedal up and down big hills. The first day we are hailed by some construction workers while we stop to gaze out across the Black Sea. They give us three of the “constructıon worker lunches” — chıcken, yogurt, peach juice, bread, rice pilaf — and big smile. We eat with a couple of them and are on our up-and-down way. We camp in the woods. Then we camp in a field. A friendly cafe owner gives us utensils to eat our watermelon, coffee, and finally Turkish books as a souvenir (mine is seriously bigger than most Bibles but I managed to stuff it in my pack after smiling thank you).
July 8, Tuesday — We make it to Edirne border town just before 12 p.m., when we understand the Bulgarian consulate there closes for applications. We are hopeful after Netzy’s conversation with the Consul a few days earlier that Nakia’s visa will be no more than a two day affair. I call at 11 a.m. along the road to make sure they know we’re coming, but am warned that no visa can be issued if Nakia doesn’t hold a visa for the next country on our journey. Boom–pıt ın the stomach.
At the consulate the story is the same. We spend the day trying to call and do research about our optıons. If not Bulgaria, then what? Greece says you must be a Turkish citizen to get a visa from them at their consulate. Germany says the same. We are tired and frustrated, but not without hope. I am reminded of a parable Jesus tells from Luke 18 about a persistent widow who gets justice finally from an uncaring judge. The moral of the story is to be persistent in prayer, because God is not uncaring like the judge. We pray. A few moments later, half-way through lunch we are greeted by a middle-aged man with a moustache and a good-natured frown. He speaks to us in Turkish and we respond as best we can. He is interested in our musical ınstruments, and before I know it he has me by the arm and is towing me across the square toward some unknown destination. “See you later,” I call to Nakia and Peter as I am hurried away. The man turns out to be a music shop owner who wants us to play at a bar, I think. My Turkish is slowly improving out of necessity–but cannot actually be called Turkish because I can make no real phrases. After about an hour I figure out that we should meet him at 7:00 p.m. and call a bar we will go to later to play music. Okay–it’s like a scavenger hunt, and we’re getting the clues. “Go to the music shop at seven and get the next instructıons.” Seven hours later at 10 p.m. we are playing completely plugged-in at a music pub, and people are digging us. We meet a young man who is also a musician and speaks good English. He helps us find a host family.
July 9, Wednesday — Nakia and Peter manage to get in to the Bulgarian Consulate (a significant achievement in itself in our experience) and apply for the “quıck” visa–2 days– for 120 Euro. Ouch. But this is our path and time now is of the essence.
We are able to spend the day using internet at our friends office to contact anyone we can think of who might be able to pull some strings — Bulgarian officials, US senators, Moms… you name it. We wait to hear the news on Friday.
July 11, Friday (a.m.) — I finish up this blog in the apartment of the Kahya’s as we wait for breakfast and wait for 12 noon to find out about the elusive Bulgarian Visa. We have been treated as family here, having a place to wash clothes, sleep, shower, and sharing traditional Turkish meals with the family twice a day.
The Kahya family: Naciye, our adopted mother, Volkan (far R), Aşkim a close friend, and Gurkan (back center)
It has been emotionally draining turning through hope and uncertainty like the pages of the latest Harry Potter novel, but there is this thread of glistening hope and direction and blessing–as strong as steel–leading us along the way. Whatever happens today, I am grateful to be a witness and recipient of such generous providence and unexpected adventure here in Turkey.
As for our next step… TO BE CONTINUED ~~