1, 2, 3
where to start this story? In reality, it's more like 3 separate stories,
so I think I'm going to break them up that way.
first story is about my first landing in Istanbul, the second is about
the rest of my time in Istanbul, and the third will be about my time
without further ado, I give you...
don't discourage the boy. Weaseling out of things is important to learn.
what sets us apart from the animals...
day I called my father in Istanbul to say, "hi". He handed
the phone to his next door neighbor's daughter, Idil Vural (A Turkish
Actress and dancer currently starring on a Turkish TV show). She and
I started talking, and after 2 months of talking on the phone a couple
of times a week, we had become really good friends. When I decided to
travel to Istanbul (to meet her, as well as to visit my father), we
made plans to hang out and spend time together.
talking and planning the trip, I decided to also stop off in England
on the way home to see London and visit a friend named Harry
Harris. He's the Premiere expert on Aliens props and costumes, and
a hell of a nice guy.
Idil and I planned on how we would find each other. I told her that
I would be wearing a Purple shirt (check other pages that involve travel,
and you'll see I almost always wear a purple shirt when I go somewhere....
for luck.... or so I thought), and she would be waiting for me with
a single Rose. I asked what color, and she told me she would surprise
me. I made sure she understood that red meant love, white meant friendship,
black meant death, basically that every color had a different meaning
when you gave it to someone. She said she understood, and would surprise
me with the color she would choose. Though I was pretty sure what color
it would be, she assured me that I would be surprised.
brought a ton of stuff with me on vacation for everyone. A bunch of
gifts for Idil (a bottle of Root Beer, a huge jar of Jelly Beans, 2
cartons of her brand of Cigarettes which are really hard to get in Turkey,
perfume, body lotion, and a few other little gifts that I thought she
would like or picked up in Duty Free), some things for Harry (a hat,
a small prop, and one of the Marine helmets that I make as a thank you
for his letting me stay with him while in England), and some things
for my father (2 huge suitcases full of his stuff that I was to bring
to him in Turkey!).
to say, I had very little room left over for my things (clothes, etc.).
But who cares, life is a journey!
the taxi arrived, the cabbie and I tried to lift one of my dad's suitcases
to put it into the trunk. As we got it up to where it would clear the
trunk lip, the handle snapped, the suitcase fell, and the taxi's tail
finally arrive at the airport to check in, and it turns out that one
of my dad's suitcases is over the weight limit. So the nice lady at
the desk informed me that I had to head down to another desk and buy
another suitcase so I can shift 30 pounds of stuff into it. Can you
guess which suitcase was too heavy?
I head downstairs and buy a $20 duffel bag for $50. Gotta love British
Airways! I swapped a bunch of stuff into the duffel bag, and headed
back upstairs to check in. First I have to pay $90 for the extra bag
(which took forever to pay for and to then get my change), then I can
finally check in. After the woman puts the luggage tag on the first
bag, I notice that she's not putting it onto the little carousel like
they're doing with everyone else's luggage. Instead, she hands it to
a guy who then puts it onto a cart. She does this with all my bags,
then tells me I have to go for a standard Security bag check.
How standard can it be? And how come no one else is doing it?
he brings me to another area where they X-ray the bags. All the bags
go in, and then the woman there points out the ones that she wants me
to open. Guess which bag she didn't want to see? The one with my stuff
in it. My dad's bags all had to be opened!
comes the problem. I don't know what's in them. And that's bad. For
safety reasons, you're not supposed to transport luggage or other things
if you don't know what's inside them.
I open the first bag, and the woman tells me there's something round
in it that she wants to see. Round thing? Great. I start digging around
looking for this round thing, and finally find a round block of steel
loaded with ball bearings. What is it? I have no idea, but it's my dad's.
She checks it, and tells me to open the next bag.
the next bag, my dad has speakers. She checks it, and tells me to open
the last bag.
some kind of animal in there." she tells me.
Now I'm freaking out. What kind of animal did my dad put in his bag???
of course, I'm trying not to look freaked out, trying to make it seem
like I know exactly what she's talking about.
that." I answer, as I start to open the bag.
I find these small animal statues that my dad used to have in his apartment
in NY. They had little motion sensors on them, and whenever you passed
in front of them, they would make noises. The ducks quacked, the chicks
chirped, the roosters... roostered. Whatever.
show them to the woman, and she says, "Nope, not those."
dig deeper in the bag and find a huge steel cut out of a Coyote. This
is a sculpture my dad made back in his sheet metal days. It's 3 feet
tall, and easily 1/4" thick. Again, all steel. That explains why
that damned bag was so heavy!
they take my suitcases and I head to Duty Free.
small shopping spree later (gotta love Duty Free!!) and I'm in the airport
bar. I start talking with the South African guy next to me, and then
a South African girl comes up and talks to him (I guess she heard his
accent). He leaves, and she and I start talking. About then I notice
that I have 5 minutes until my plane leaves!!
run towards the gate as a woman is running towards me asking if I'm
me. Yes I am! She grabs me and runs me to the gate yelling into
her radio, "I found him, put his suitcases back on the plane!"
flight to England, a 1 hour wait in Heathrow, and then it's off to Istanbul.
We sat on the runway for an hour because our co-pilot got sick and we
had to wait for a replacement to come from the other side of the airport.
Fine. But an hour to get across Heathrow? C'mon! Finally we took off.
started talking to the girl sitting next to me (after we had both taken
a nap). I gave her some advice on Turkey, and when we landed I showed
her where to get her Turkish Visa ($45!!) then went with her to Passport
where the story gets freaky. Or should I say, freakier.
gave the guy my Passport, and after he typed the info into the computer,
he started asking me about my father. His name, where he was from, etc.
I told him everything I knew, but he didn't seem happy. I was getting
worried that something bad had happened to him. Then he asked to see
my Turkish ID card. I told him I didn't have one.
about 10 minutes, another Police Officer arrived and closed the line
I was on and moved everyone to another line. Then he and the Police
Office I had been talking to took me to the Police Station in the Airport.
I was getting freaked out.
I didn't know was that Idil had snuck her way into the baggage area,
gathered up all my luggage and was waiting for me holding not one Rose,
but 3 dozen red Roses waiting for me. I feel so bad!
in the Police Station, they showed me a print out from the computer
about me. It gave some info on me, but there was a lot that I couldn't
read as my Turkish isn't that good. They asked me to sign some forms,
but I refused because I didn't know what they said.
an hour, I finally convinced them to find my father. They kept asking
me about him, and I finally got them to understand that he was in the
airport waiting for me. So they assigned an Officer to me, and he escorted
me into the Airport to page him.
he finally arrived, he was limping. I asked him what happened, and he
told me that he had broken his toe two hours before.
took us back to the Station and questioned us both. I took out my camera
to try and get a picture in the Station, but they yelled at me and told
me no pictures were allowed. My dad finally just took my camera to "look"
at it, and "accidentally" snapped some pics.
little while later a beautiful girl walked in carrying 3 dozen Roses,
looked around, saw me in my purple shirt, and came over to talk to me.
Idil and I finally met. I swear, that girl can talk her way into anywhere!
How she got into the baggage area, I'll never know, but to get into
the Station was just genius. I guess it's good to be famous. :)
gave me the Roses and asked if I was surprised.
having me arrested part of the surprise?" I asked.
told her that I was sure they were going to be red, but was surprised
that there were so many.
talked a bit while my dad talked to the Cops, and we found out finally
what was going on. I was on my way to the Turkish Army.
I'm a dual Citizen. Even though I was born in the US, since my father
is a Turk, that makes me a Turk, and means that I'm also required to
serve in the Turkish Army. I never had a problem before because the
Turkish computer systems really weren't up to par. But now, I was finally
other Officers came in and escorted me out of the Airport to another
Police Station with a holding facility. With one guy in front of me
and the other behind, I was able to snap a few pics as we walked.
they're a little blurry, it's not like my hands were shaking or anything!
in the Station, things got crazier. They wouldn't let me smoke, wouldn't
let me get any water, and I was stuck in a room with Cops and other
detainees (some of whom were in for the same thing I was). They kept
getting me to sign forms, and I kept refusing. They finally let me call
the American Embassy, but since it was so late (like 7 pm by now) they
really couldn't do anything.
I asked what was going on, they would just tell me that in the morning
I was going to be joining the Turkish Army. Literally, first thing tomorrow
I was to go to the Army Recruitment Center, and from there be put on
a plane to start my Basic Training.
my stepbrother, Alpay showed up. He spent the entire time on his cell
phone calling anyone he knew in power, yelling at the Police in there,
and just generally trying to save my ass. My dad arrived a little while
later, and we relaxed in the waiting room.
of the other detainees were taken out to cells, and again I tried to
take a picture only to be told I wasn't allowed to. So again, my dad
grabbed the camera and got these:
was finally informed of what was going to happen to me. Since the Army
Recruitment Center was closed for the night, I was to stay here until
morning when it opened. So they took me to another room to inventory
my stuff while I waited.
emptied my pockets, and in them the Police found an NYPD patch that
I brought with me in the hopes of trading it with an Istanbul Police
Officer. It's a common practice. Well, once they saw that and I told
them that I used to work with the NYPD, they're whole attitude changed!
brought me into the Police break room, let me smoke, brought me some
tea, and let me take pictures!
the Cops gave me their home addresses and asked me to send them copies
of the pics.
let Idil in so we could see each other (many of the Cops recognized
her from her show), and I'm sure they thought it odd that this draft
dodging American is hanging out with a Turkish Actress, and Alpay returned
with some Burger King for me because I hadn't eaten in a while and was
ready to pass out. Hadn't actually slept in a while either!
likes to ham it up for the cameras.
went up to the Police Captain and asked him what the chances were that
I would be allowed to go home for the night, then return in the morning
to be transported to the Army Base. The Captain informed him that not
even if the Prime Minister of Turkey himself called, would I be allowed
to leave. I think Alpay took that as a challenge, and started making
more calls. About an hour later, the Governor of Istanbul called the
Station and told the Captain that it was OK for me to go home, and assured
him that I would return in the morning.
to say, he was shocked. The Captain came up to me in the break room
with a slip of paper for me to sign, and I told him once again that
I would not be signing anything! My dad looked over the note, and told
me it was OK for me to sign it. I did, and my dad told me to grab my
stuff, we were leaving.
the way out, all the Police Officers stopped me and asked where I thought
I was going. I showed them the slip, their eyes popped out of their
sockets, and we walked past them. Apparently, this is something that
has never happened before.
the guard at the gate with the submachine gun was shocked. Well, at
first he thought I was trying to escape!
went home, had something to eat, and tried to relax. My dad fell asleep,
so I had to get some pics of him and his toe!
and I relaxed after dinner and talked for a while.
then we went upstairs to my room to talk some more. I had brought a
whole bunch of gifts to Turkey for her, and my plan was to give them
to her a little at a time as we got to know each other better, but since
I'm shipping off for my 18 month tour in the Turkish Army in the morning,
I figured it best to give it all to her now.
I opened up my bags (no real point in unpacking) and started handing
her stuff. At one point, when my carry on bag was open, she looked in
and saw what she thought to be candies. So she reached in and grabbed
one. I looked up in time to see her just about to put it into her mouth,
and I guess the look on my face scared her that maybe these were special
candies, or ... well, I really don't know what, because she had a look
on her face like she was being sneaky or devious.
course, the candies turned out to be foam ear plugs, so I stopped her
from eating them! Lucky for her I'm a nice guy. I'm now kind of curious
what would have happened if she had eaten them...
had to go home, so she told me to call her tomorrow when I got out,
gave me a kiss and left.
night I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering what the hell was
going to happen the next day. So when we got the Police Station at 7
am the next morning I had now been awake for 40 hours with only a couple
of 15 or 20 minute naps. I was pretty exhausted, but couldn't have slept
if I wanted to.
are the Istanbul SWAT Trucks outside the Station.
the Police Station I saw the other people who had been there with me
the night before, they had all slept in the Station the night before.
we first got there, I headed for the waiting room that I had started
out in the night before, but the Cops took me and led me down the hall.
I thought they were bringing me to the break room, but we passed by
that as well. They took me into their office, and gave me a seat.
didn't occur to me until later, but in their eyes, here's this American/Turkish
draft dodger who has a famous actress coming to visit him, and who has
the Governor calling on his behalf. They probably spent all their time
trying to figure out who the hell I was.
brought me tea, and told me I could smoke, and then one of the Officers
stood up from his desk, walked towards me, and took out his pistol.
I was about 2 seconds from freaking out.
then ejected the magazine, and gave me the gun to look at. He was so
proud. What was I to do? I told him it was very nice. Then the other
Officer did the same thing, and then the third.
now I'm in a Police Station, surrounded
by three Cops, and I have all their guns! Should I run? They can't shoot
me. But then again, I don't really run that fast, or that far.
were trying to impress me because in Turkey, the Police have to buy
their own guns, so each one gets whatever gun they can afford. As a
result, all the Police have different side arms. One had a Ruger, one
had a Czeck gun, an the other had a Beretta.
thanked them, gave them back their weapons and waited for whatever strangeness
was coming next.
assigned an Officer who speaks English to me, and he, I, and the other
Draft Dodgers all headed out to the Army Base to start our tour of Duty.
Istanbul's Finest, 2 in Uniform, and the other 2 just going in to start
imposing sign outside the Army Center, huh? It was even nicer since
a few feet to the left of the sign are 2 guys in Army gear holding AK-47's!
I didn't want to risk trying to take a picture of them.
entered the Army base, went through Security checkpoints, and headed
upstairs to the main office. We signed in and took a seat.
noticed over to the right is a window looking into a huge office with
an Army Officer (who I later found out was a Colonel) sitting at his
desk. On the other side of the desk talking to him was Alpay and my
waiting there I started talking to the other Draft Dodgers. One was
much further in the process than I was, and was literally waiting here
to get on a plane to start his hitch. The other was a German fellow
who it turned out was not a Turkish Citizen at all. He just had a Turkish
name which happens to match the name of a Draft Dodger. Needless to
say, he was pretty pissed off.
turns out that in Turkey there is no such thing as a Social Security
Number, or any other form of mass ID info. You're basically known (Your
Full Name), son of (Your Father's First Name), who was born in (The
City Where Your Father Was Born). That's why they kept asking me for
that info at the airport. They wanted to confirm who I was. Had I said
my father's name was Oogly Boogly, I probably would have been let go.
the main office area was three women working. One older woman, and two
younger ones. They were all looking at me, and were trying to fill out
my forms with me, but my lack of Turkish was kind of holding that up.
By the way, I do speak a little Turkish, and understand quite a bit
when it's being spoken around me. But I learned long ago, when it comes
to Turkish Authorities, it's best to pretend not to speak one damn word.
And that's what I was doing!
about 9 am, the first Draftee left to board his plane. By 10, the German
guy had sorted out that he wasn't the guy they were looking for, the
Police and Army guys apologized and sent him on his way. So now there's
dad and Alpay came out a few times to let me know how things were going
and by about 11 am they had gotten the Colonel to agree to give me a
3 month extension so I could go and prepare my things before joining.
What a relief. They were going to let me go back to NY and coordinate
with the Turkish Embassy when I would be starting my tour.
all the Army needed was proof that I was an American Citizen.
reminded them that they had my American Passport, and I was told that
a Passport is not sufficient proof. So I put in a call to the American
Embassy in Istanbul and told them the situation. They understood and
explained that a Passport can be revoked or suspended after issuance,
so the Army just wants confirmation from the Embassy that I am an American
in good standing as it were.
he needs is for me to read off the information on my Passport. But I
don't have my Passport, the Police took it when I was at Passport Control
the day before.
I go up to the desk and ask one of the women for my Passport, and she
hands it to me from my file. I read off the info to the guy from the
Embassy, and when I'm finished I skim through the Passport just to see
what's in there. And what do you know? My entry was stamped. What does
this mean? Well, this is what I was on line to get when they nabbed
me yesterday. This is the stamp that says that I'm in Turkey legally.
I was so tempted to just take it and run! Little did I know how futile
that would have been.
no one was looking when I went back to the desk, I just slipped my Passport
into my pocket and went back to sit down. I just felt a lot more comfortable
with it on me.
Embassy tells me that they'll look me up on the computer and fax over
whatever they find. So everything seems taken care of. I know I have
no warrants or anything out for me, so it's a done deal. But Alpay and
my father went back into the Colonel's office and continued arguing
with him in Turkish.
little while later, noon rolled around (as it always does) and all of
Istanbul closes for lunch. So we leave with my Police Escort and get
something to eat.
and my shadow. Literally. Istanbul's Finest, Serdar. Really nice guy
who kept giving me his Beretta to look at.
other shadow and my hero, Alpay. Without him, I'd be in the Army right
lunch we headed back to the Army Base, and Serdar went to the desk to
chat with the girls behind the counter. They all kept looking over at
me and giggling, and it was getting really annoying. I gave Serdar a
look of "What?" and he gestured that he'd tell me later.
came up to me after getting off his cell phone (he was on it pretty
much constantly every time I saw him) and asked if I had a copy of my
College Diploma. Yeah, that's something I always carry with me. He then
asks if I have proof that I work in New York. Again, not on me.
ask if there's someplace to smoke in here, and Serdar brings me down
to the Army Mess Hall. Over a smoke and some tea he asks me which of
the two girls upstairs do I like. What?
tells me to pick one, and he'll arrange or us to go to dinner tonight.
They both like me, but I have to choose. Of course, neither of them
speak English, and my mind isn't really in a dating mood right now.
I'm in an Army Base Mess Hall having a smoke with my assigned Police
Escort who is there to shoot me if I try and run.
thank him, and tell him to inform the girls that I'm not really in a
dating place at the moment.
head back upstairs and a little while later everyone is back from lunch
and back to work. The fax finally arrives, and the Colonel forwards
it to Amasya (the actual Army Base that I will one day be reporting
to). They are in charge of me, but since that base is 13 hours away
by bus, the Istanbul Office is taking care of it.
the meantime, I have to go and get my Army Physical. Serdar, Alpay and
I take a taxi to the Dr.'s Office. It's a Municipal one, so there are
lines of people and even Police waiting to be seen. Serdar walks me
past the line and brings me up to the Doctor. He explains the situation,
and the Doc asks Serdar something in Turkish. Serdar turns to me and
asks, "Do you have anything wrong with you?"
say no, and he tells the Doctor. The Doctor takes my paperwork, stamps
it, signs it and hands it back. He never even looked up!
Serdar takes me to another Doctor in another part of the building. OK,
so I'm figuring that was just the preliminary. Now comes the exam.
new Doctor does the EXACT SAME THING! He never even looked at me. I
mean, is it too much trouble to at least take my pulse? Just to confirm
I'm even alive? So we jump back in the taxi and head back to the Army
about 3 pm Amasya finally replies asking for more info on me. They want
my Diploma and proof that I work in the US. Alpay knew this was coming
(he had already asked me), so we go back and forth with them trying
to convince them to wait the three months for that info because it's
not something I can get while in Turkey.
everyone is in the office yelling at each other, yelling on the phones,
yelling, yelling, yelling. It's about that time that I fell asleep in
the chair. 48 hours is my limit on sleep deprivation. When I woke up,
Alpay and my father were getting papers ready for me to sign that would
ensure that I could leave the Country when the time came (yeah right!).
They told me that basically, the Colonel finally called Amasya and told
them that the papers from the Embassy were enough for him, and should
be enough for them as well. They agreed and we finally left.
got into the car and headed to Alpay's office. There I took another
little nap while Alpay made more calls.
about 6 pm Alpay and my father filled me in on what was going on. The
average Turk goes into the Army for 18 months. A Turk with a University
Degree goes for 12 months. A Turk with a Degree from a University outside
of Turkey goes for 6 months. Alpay and my dad had gotten me a deal that
requires me to stay in the Turkish Army for 28 days. It's like rehab!
was a huge weight off my chest, let me tell you. Now all I have to do
is when I get home, head to the Turkish Embassy and pick the 28 days
I want to spend in the Army. I've also been assigned to the Army Base
right outside of Antalya. If you've seen my pics of Bodrum from the
other stories, you should know how nice it is on the South Shore of
Turkey, well, Antalya is a little further East, and much nicer. Also,
during those 28 days, I get weekends off. So it's really only 20 days.
And during the weekends I can go party in Antalya!
such a bad deal.
after 24 hours in Istanbul, I was finally on vaction in Turkey...
1, 2, 3
page is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Debbie, who passed away
while I was in Istanbul. My family has since informed me that I am no
longer allowed to go on vacation since on my last two trips, we lost
family members. So, to Debbie, wherever you are, I'm sorry I went to