At some point earlier that week I must have mentioned that my foremost priority for Istanbul excursions was to feel the wind rising off the Black Sea where the water narrows into the Bosphorus.
Evidently she had taken the comment to heart and was about to facilitate my wish – in a big way.
We embarked on a city bus. It would be our chariot for the next ninety minutes as we wound our way northeast along the Bosphorus strait. We passed mosques, churches, flower markets, kebab shops, fruit stands and parks.
I sat beside a man who reeked of sweat and had mucus accumulating in his eyes. Banu was seated across the bus aisle. Within minutes of our arrival the man began yelling at a couple of girls standing near the bus exit door. Banu quietly translated to me. He was demanding that the girls stand still because their motions would lead him to seizure. If there was any doubt from his appearance the request confirmed that he was not mentally well.
I didn’t think much of it and we continued to chat as we passed the Bogazici bridge – one of two roads that span the divide.
Beside Banu sat two off-duty soldiers. With her as the interpreter they asked me questions about my travels and Canada. They were slightly distraught after hearing of my plans to visit Iran. I smiled at their concern, but wouldn’t have expected any other reaction from members of the Turkish army.
Part way through the bus ride the man beside me began conversing with me. No, it wasn’t jibberish and no, I didn’t learn Turkish over the course of the week. His English was impressive. Doing my best not to appear taken aback I answered his questions. When I turned back to Banu, she was slightly horrified. I smiled and nodded to confirm that he was in fact speaking English and that she shouldn’t be concerned that he had overheard our hushed conversation about his mental state.