On the drive from the Istanbul airport to our hotel, steps away from Taksim Square, there were so many interesting sights, even at night, least of which was large groups of policemen wearing full-on riot gear. The traffic was heavy, and ambulances kept trying to make their way through walls of cars. As we got closer to the hotel, I saw many men and women covering their faces, as they walked normally on the busy sidewalks. Besides that, it seemed (to my new-to-Turkey eye) like “business as usual.” The shops were busy, and even sidewalk cafes were serving customers.
Istanbul is an amazing, fascinating city. It’s where Europe meets asia, Christianity meets Islam, and where new meets old. It is where a tour guide tells us, “This is a new part of town. It is only 500 years old.” As a part of all the “meetings” that are happening here, there have also recently been serious protests in the streets around Taksim Square. The one last night was about new laws that will restrict the internet for people of Turkey. A government official described Twitter as a “scourge” and called social media “the worst menace to society”. We take so much for granted in the US. Would any of us go out on the street to protect our right to share our thoughts and lives on Twitter and Facebook? Some would, I hope.
We’re here in Istanbul for a quick stop on our way to Chad. For the first time, we are not flying through France, giving Turkish Airlines a try. As a part of trying it out, we have to spend one night in this beautiful city, where there are mosques right next to Christian churches, and they even share the same entrance gate.
In just a few hours, we get back on a plane and fly to N’Djamena. Our goal is to make it to the refugee camps as soon as possible. Ideally, we only spend two days in the expensive capital, but I’m hearing that it might take us three days this time around. Not a great start to i-ACT 18, but we’ll make it work. I just can’t believe that it’s my 18th trip to Chad! I have way too many Chad stories. I would be OK with this one being uneventful, and that Turkey and its riot-geared police, tear gas, explosions, and sirens used up our potential danger quota for the trip.
See you from Chad!