I stay in London for three nights (which costs about the same as a week in Southeast Asia, sigh) but it only takes one before blowing my nose leaves black gunk from the pollution on the tissue. This city gets inside of you that quickly.
I am lucky enough to have friends in London who take me to pubs and try to talk me into staying. And while the tourist side of England is nice—the central bit is surprisingly compact (and the museums are free) and this might be the first city where there are some historical things that I’m actually vaguely knowledgeable about—I like this pub culture more.
Despite prices and weather and the general lack of British friendliness, I could live here, I think.
I arrive in Istanbul when the protests are starting, closing the public transportation and presenting me with a long, confusing, and expensive journey to my hostel. On the way, I pass fully decked-out police officers with massive automatic guns, riot shields, and armored vans, and I wonder why it is that only America has such a negative reputation when it comes to police and weapons.
If the British toe the line of being too unfriendly, the Turkish are on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am told that tea is an essential part of their culture and never to refuse an invitation, but I am also warned about the blatant womanizing. And so, as expected, this leaves me too often in an uncomfortable position. This might not be the time or culture to try out rejection without using the excuse of having a boyfriend. By day two I am exhausted, and I start sticking to silent tight-lipped smiles every time I’m approached.
I’ve been looking up flight tickets every day, trying to find the right time and location and price to buy. I think I have it almost worked out, this last frustration of travel planning before I find myself back at home, but I’m hesitating. There’s still so much left I want to see.