أشهد أن لا اله إلا الله
Like music notes floating down from tall minarets in the early morning air, the call to prayer reminds me that it is only 4:30 am. “Allahu Akbar… Ash-hadu an-la ilaha illa llah…” Prayer is better than sleep the call tells me, though being jet-lagged and tired makes me want to do anything but.
I’m in Istanbul in the Metropolis Hostel room with 5 other people. I want sleep but I can’t sleep. Birds chirp outside and a roommate snores loudly. This is the draw back to international travel… Jet lag and other uncomfortable sleeping situations.
It was difficult to sleep on the first part of our plane ride here, since the timing had been when we usually would be awake in Seattle. The layover in Amsterdam provided us with a tease of a reprieve, about ten minutes of sleep, and the second leg of the journey gave us an additional 1.5 hours or so to sleep before waking up over the Sea of Marmaraas we began to land.
When Kat and I arrived to Ataturk International Airport, it was 4 pm Istanbul time. All we wanted was sleep, but our journey wasn’t over yet. We had to navigate the metro system and then the unmarked back streets behind Haiga Sophia to finally get to the Metropolis Hostel. By the time we had arrived, we were wide awake–the senses being stimulated by the sites, sounds and smells of a strange place. We had finally arrived to Istanbul, cross roads between East and West.
Having stuffed ourselves on plane food (We flew business class so the food wasn’t bad at all–a four course meal of soup, salad, steak and desert, all served with ample amounts of wine and champagne.), we were not starving when we got to the hostel, but we felt we needed to go for a walk. We walked down toward the water, meandering our way through restaurants, traffic and ruins to finally get to the mighty Bosphorus. We stood at its European edge looking towards Asia. Large cruise ships and cargo ships passed by. A mustached man and snorkeler swam in the waters below us. Feral cats sitting along the rocky edge were being thrown bones and meat by cars and pedestrians. A traffic jam along the road was backed up for miles as people were trying to load their cars onto ferries. (Coming from Seattle, where the ferries are pretty efficient and effective, it was strange to see the system of cars waiting for so long to load up on small ferries to cross over to Asia.) Men were standing a midst the traffic trying to sell everything from pastries to water. One man was even trying to sell light up bunny ears–flashing and sparkling as he wore a pair. We walked back to our hostel. I still couldn’t sleep, the curse of changing time zones, so we went to the balcony and I drank a beer. The view was great and sleep was finally here at 10 pm. It had been over 24 hours with almost no sleep, but at 4:30 am I am now wide awake again… Time to go exploring!