Assalamu’alaikum wrt wbt
When i tell people i was gonna study in Istanbul I gotta endure all the “siuk-jua” reactions. I was actually quite excited as well. the only images I had in my mind were all the tourist attractions. I couldn’t help gasping in awe when I first came, and I told myself this is gonna be fun. The first few days went well, and now I’m entering my 4th month, I’m living the reality and things aren’t as good as I thought.
Currently I haven’t got my ikamet (residence permit) while all my friends who did it weeks or months after me have got theirs. I’m slowly learning to ignore the stares in bus, train or even in the dining hall at campus sometimes, and now that I can understand Turkish better I need to endure slight mockery too, though this is not as bad as the former, and don’t make me start on the bureaucracy. Not forgetting the moments when I got lost trying to go around places. I’m still in the process of managing myself in order to survive this city.
Other than those, frankly speaking Istanbul is quite pricey as well. People might get excited to shop at the Grand Bazaar, but seriously that place is the last one we’d go for souvenir shopping. And oh my, the men trying to talk you into coming to their shop or restaurant is just overwhelming. Believe it or not sometimes they even come to the extent of following you around. My friends and I wanted to buy the bus ticket to Ankara earlier. It was our first time, and as we got out of the train station at the Otogar Coach, one of the stations that connect Istanbul to other cities, several men were waiting literally at the end of the escalator, asking everyone where they want to go. The Otogar apparently is also an area where there are tens or maybe hundreds of offices of bus companies that provide transportation services. Just imagine the shops in BSB area but instead of shops the inside are ticket counters of many different companies. I was suggested to go with Metro or Varan (bus companies), but the men was so insistent they would bring us to buy the ticket.
We were overwhelmed and absentmindedly agreed to follow one of them. Took us few seconds to digest everything and I was kinda speechless as we followed him. We stopped for a while, discussed about it and decided that we’d just check the prices first and then compare with other companies. He brought us to one company I didn’t manage to see the name. the price was quite cheap but we still decided to check out if we could find better ones. So we explained that we wanted to check out the other companies but the person at the counter and the man that brought us insisted that they got the best price. We said we’d come again if we haven’t got the ticket, so we went out and checked out at another company, and when we turn around we saw the man waiting for us outside. At this moment i started to freak out. We got out and he insisted us to go with the company he offered earlier. we politely said no but he still insisted that he even reduced the price. We refused and he gave up, but I sensed dissatisfaction in his face. so we continued to go around the place to go to one of the suggested ticket offices and passing by row of offices we got slowed down by the promoters promoting their companies. at one point an uncle stopped us and pushed us to buy ticket from the company he’s working for. he even disallowed us from buying ticket from the company we wanted to buy from saying that they were expensive. When we said ‘it’s okay, we’ll check first’ there was a negative change in his expression, and when we left him he followed us and watched us from outside as we were buying our ticket. Creepy, I know. Along our way back too we got stopped numerous time but it was easier since we got our ticket.
This incident reminds me the situation in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar or anywhere else in Istanbul. You see same things everywhere. In one row of 10 eating houses its not impossible that you will see 10 doner skewers on display. Thing is you will find same things in one place. At the Grand Bazaar one vendor selling souvenirs are literally not more than 5 steps to the next that sell exactly the same stuff, and worse there are like hundreds of them. Same case with the Spice Bazaar, where hundreds of vendors selling same types of herbs and teas and sorts and they are all priced the same. The competition is just too harsh.
Thinking again I’m actually luckier than the others that come here to make their ends meet, because I don’t need to annoy people as much as they do to survive this place unharmed. When even the locals are having a hard life I can’t expect myself to get things done easily like they do back home. I think everyone is struggling here, whoever they are. I struggle, they struggle, everybody struggles. It’s a good experience though, I would say. I have learnt to appreciate things more, and this place really shows me another way of handling life. And doesn’t struggle come to toughen yourself? It does.