Saturday, 5 July 2014

Back to the Roots: Turkey

After a long journey from Delhi, I arrived to Istanbul on the night of 3rd of May 2013. It was wonderful to see my parents at the airport. I felt completely safe and happy surrounded by the love of my parents in the country I was born. My mother was shocked to see me so skinny after losing 4 kilos within 3 weeks in India. So, the next couple of days were spent recovering from infections and reconnecting with my family. It was wonderful to eat anything I wanted without being paranoid about getting sick. A big thank you to my mother and father for all the love, care and refined dishes they prepared for me.

My adorable nephew
After recovering my strength, I caught up with my cousin and her family in Istanbul. It was fantastic to see my adorable, 2 year old nephew for the first time. We enjoyed an incredible, traditional Turkish breakfast hosted by my cousin. I felt joyful and grateful to see them again after a long tine.

I also met up with a high school friend, Emre and his family. Although we don’t see each other often, we managed to stay in touch even after 18 long years. Also thanks to Facebook, I managed to was able to reconnect with two of my former students, Eda and Can, from Sydney.

Dinner with friends
4 days in Istanbul were enough for me. Personally, I don’t like metropolitan cities and Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey with more than 15 million inhabitants. Although it is an amazing place to visit with all the historical sites, it can be very hectic, crowded, and tense. Some major tourist attractions in this lively city include Aya Sofya Museum, the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, the Grand Bazaar, Ortakoy, Taksim, the Basilica Cistern and of course a tour of the Bosporus. If you have more time, you can visit some of the nearby islands by ferry, especially Buyuk Ada (Big Island) is worth seeing. Here is a link to Istanbul city guide for more tips.

Despite all the wonderful sites and entertaining tourist attractions, Istanbul is not a place for me to live. The traffic is a nightmare and whenever I am there, I feel lost in a big bubble. Hence driving towards my hometown felt great! 

With Dad
We arrived in Eskisehir after 4 hours of drive. It is a much smaller but vibrant city (around 700,000 habitants) with lots of students, cafes, music, and cultural activities. It is a very liveable city and I still feel peaceful when I come back to here even after 18 years. Here is a nice article at Huffington Post about this beautiful city.

My days in Eskisehir were very relaxing. I spent a lot of time at home with my parents. It was wonderful to reconnect with them and share my journey. I also met up with some of my high school friends, Volkan, Derya, Tuba, Berkay, Bora and Alper. I am always grateful to see my old friends after many years.    

Some of my time was dedicated to improve my Spanish in preparation for our South America trip. I found BBC's free online course very effective and entertaining and can recommend it if you are planning to learn a new language. 

I visited my aunties and grandmother several times during my limited time there. My grandmother was 84 years old at the time and she had developed Alzheimer’s disease in the last few years. She was born in 1930 in Istanbul, had a very difficult childhood. Her parents had to migrate to Turkey from Skopje, Macedonia because of the increased political turmoil in the region. Her father died when she was three years old and her mother remarried a few years later. After primary school, she started to work in a tailor shop and dreamt of creating her own fashion business. However, she married my grandfather at a young age and could never realise her ambitions. 

When I saw her this time, she had lost a lot of weight and had problems with her memory. She looked very delicate and could hardly walk without help. She still knew who I was but seemed confused and detached most of the time. Sadness was the main emotion to see her in that state. We often seem to forget about the old age and death. Seeing my grandmother in that condition made me appreciate the limited time I have in this world. 

Life is to be experienced fully so that we don't have any regrets when we come towards the end of our journeys. Lets make the most of our precious time NOW!   

I spent as many memorable moments as I can with my grandmother without knowing if I would ever see her again. Unfortunately, I found out that she passed away 5 months later, when we were in Peru. I feel grateful to have seen her before she crossed over. May her soul find peace and serenity she did not have in her lifetime.   

With my dear grandmother

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