One thing that was on my “definitely do” list for Istanbul was wake up to watch the sunrise over the Bosphorus. The icky weather was a bit of an obstacle to that goal, but luckily, the weather got better and better during the week. If I was going to wake up early to see the sunrise, it was going to be on a clear morning.
Well, time was running out. With only two more mornings, I checked the weather, and it looked good for the morning of Easter Sunday. I thought that given the day, it was an extra fitting start… watching the sun rise on the day when the Son rose. (That gave me a good giggle for at least half the day.) I was, of course, running kind of late, which meant that I was literally running to get to the water before the I missed the whole thing. I forgot about the fact that the published “sunrise time” is when the sun breaks the horizon, and that’s the worst time to watch because it’s when you start going a bit blind. Oh well. I ran and made it there with plenty of time to watch pre-blinding.
Honestly, I had some high hopes, and it was pretty magical. There wasn’t another person in sight, the world was quiet, and the orange sky was reflecting off of the water. It was a good time for some reflection (pun absolutely intended) and prayer. Sometimes it’s nice to just press pause on the chaos of life.
That was the last pause of the day because after that, I had my aggressive sightseeing plan for the day. I was going to church at 11, but before then, I worked out, ate breakfast, and had a few mosques that I wanted to cross off my list on the way there. My mosque sightseeing plan was basically this: visit any that someone specifically recommended and then visit any others that I found on google maps or happened to walk by. Very specific, I know.
My first stop was Yeralti Camii, an underground mosque that wasn’t terribly interesting except for the fact that it was underground. It was good though because I was still getting used to visiting mosques, and since it was quiet, I didn’t feel like I was in anyone’s way.
I happened to walk by another mosque, Kilic Ali Pasa Camii (camii means mosque, in case you haven’t guessed that yet), so I popped in there because why not. This one was more typical than the underground mosque and equally empty which meant I could take my time figuring out the layout and get a system down for taking off my shoes and covering my head. After that, I felt pretty comfortable and confident that I could manage more mosque visits without doing anything disrespectful, and that’s good because I had a mosque-filled day ahead!
I wanted to squeeze in one more mosque before I headed to church, but it looked like it was locked. As I walked by, the groundskeeper called me over and started speaking to me in Turkish. One negative about looking like you fit in is that people don’t automatically assume that you can’t speak the language. Well, he figured it out pretty quickly anyway from looking at my wide eyes and bewildered face. The facts that I couldn’t speak Turkish and he couldn’t speak English were apparently not a deterrent to him, though, because he persisted in inviting me into his groundskeeper hut thing for tea. I refused, he took that as a yes, and that’s how I found myself sipping tea (horrible, horrible chai which I attempted to improve by saturating it with sugar… didn’t work) with a random Turkish man.
I’m certain that he knew I couldn’t speak Turkish, but that didn’t keep him from trying. What I gathered from our conversation is this (I’m giving a 5% guarantee of accuracy): He asked if I was married. I said no (I wasn’t wearing my fake engagement ring, unfortunately). He proposed that I could marry him. He said that he already had three wives. These are all things that I’m making up now because I have no clue what he said, but if I had to guess from the hand motions and the few words I knew in Turkish by that point, that’s about what I would guess.
When I finished my cup of tea, I pointed to my watch, signed that I had to go (because I really was going to be late to church if I waited much longer), and said goodbye. I think that he told me to come back at 4, and I said no. He told me to take a picture of him. He asked for my phone number, and I told him I didn’t have one (I am getting a little better at the whole “no” thing).
The tea stop eliminated all of my “leisurely walk to church” time, so I had to hustle up a ridiculously steep hill and showed up at the church sweaty and out of breath. I attempted to make myself look presentable and like I wasn’t about to pass out, went through security, and entered into the tiniest church on the planet. That’s an exaggeration of course, but it’s VERY small and has more pews crammed in than I ever would have imagined possible. I found a seat somehow, and my pew was so close to the one in front that I couldn’t even straighten my legs to stand up properly.
Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, I’m so glad that I went. They played all of my favorite songs, and you should be able to sing your heart out on Easter! And I did! And the sermon was good, and it was nice to be surrounded with Christian community. I love going to churches internationally because it’s a little taste of what heaven will be like, with people from all the nations gathered together and worshipping the Lord.
To keep this from being an endless post, I’m going to cut it off here and leave it to be continued tomorrow!