I am elated tonight.
I will tell you why in a moment but before I get to that I need to give you a little background.
As a young 23 year old, I traveled through Europe largely on my own for a few months. At the very tail end of it I headed to Istanbul and was befriended by a young female medical student. I can’t even remember how we met but she took me under her wing, showed me her city, introduced me to her friends and took me to places that I would never have found including a beautiful last hurrah of a day swimming on the Princes Islands.
That night, after a day of salt water and sun, reluctant to let the day end, we stayed on for dinner and she read my future in the remains of a Turkish coffee. In darkness we caught the last ferry back from the islands to Eminonou, the main ferry port of Istanbul, and to this day that ferry ride is etched in my memory and I say to every one I know who goes to Istanbul “If you do nothing else, have dinner on the Asian side and catch a night time ferry back to the old city.” (I’m feeding you pearls here)
If you’re lucky you’ll hear a call to prayer.
A tanker, a wall of darkness on its way to the Black Sea, might slip past you in the night.
But always, that skyline of minarets will be waiting for you and it is truly one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
So that was 1985.
A few postcards in ensuing years. Then a gap. A very long gap.
Until we made the decision to take the kids overseas in 2007 and visit Turkey.
So I dug out my old address book. And hit Google. And I found my old friend, now a doctor in Adana in the far south of Turkey. But do you think I could find an email address! So I did the next best thing. I sent her boss an email. And explained my story, and said I don’t know if I’ve even got the right girl but would you pass this message on to her.
So she gets a call from her boss. You have to come and see me.
“I’m busy. Can’t it wait?”
“No you will want to hear this.”
So she wanders over and he starts telling her the story … “Once upon a time there was this young Australian girl who met a young Turkish girl….” and well, you know the rest. So great happiness and disbelief all round at re-finding one another after nearly 20 years!
A month or two later we arrive in Turkey and for one reason or another we miss each other. It just doesn’t work out.
Fast forward three years.
Our daughter Maddy is in Europe, traveling for a few months after finishing high school.
We decide to meet her. In Damascus. (If you want to see a different Syria to the one currently on the night time news you might be interested to read this or this.) But back then, in November 2010 we had the most surprising and joyous two weeks in Syria, eventually tearing ourselves away to head north from Latakia on the coast into Turkey, to Antakya.
To meet my friend.
But emails had gone awry and once again our plans went wrong.
But we made up for it in Adana.
After 25 years there we were, face to face, on her doorstep, welcomed into her home with the most sincere generosity, so typical of middle eastern/Turkish customs.
And she spoilt us. Big time!
As did her brother when we arrived in Istanbul a couple of days later.
And seeing this is going on for ever and you’re probably asleep, I might as well mention that the Haydarpaşa Railway Station (below) had a massive fire four days after we visited it. It’s still standing but the interior was gutted. It’s the main terminal in Istanbul on the Asian side. A stunning building.
After our visit I sent a little package of things from Australia and never heard a word. We had a momentary unsuccessful crossing on skype a few months ago before we lost the connection but other than that … nothing.
And then this niggling feeling started to creep in. After all those years had I been a bit of a disappointment? Was I not what she expected? Did she hate me because I put her cats on the verandah because they kept sitting on my face while I was trying to sleep?
I wasn’t obsessing about it (maybe I was when I read this back) but you know the sorts of thoughts I’m talking about…
Then tonight. There she is on facebook. And then on skype. Well kind of on skype. She can hear and see me but I can’t hear and see her. So I’m sitting here talking and chuckling away to myself while she’s madly sending written replies and questions on facebook. Communication tools obviously aren’t our thing.
The point is, suddenly ALL of those weird feelings and worries washed away. Because there had been emails sent and never received. And that sense of connection was still there and so very real.
And that is why I am elated tonight.
Because I have an old friend in Turkey who’s door and heart is still open.
As is mine if she ever makes it to Australia.
So Gulşah this is for you.
I’ll send you an email and hope that it gets through so that you can enjoy this long, silly celebration of a lost and found friendship.
Our love to you and your family.
I’m so glad I sent that letter to your boss 🙂
And you know what else? Everything you read in that coffee cup came true 🙂
I’d like to take credit for the photos above of the Süleymaniye Mosque but I think
Maddy actually took them. Actually I think she took most of these. Good job hon x