Kebab, Baths and the Perils of Denim

2 May

Now that I’ve recovered from continuous meat ingestion, partying with kiwis, and gallivanting around Roman airports on one hour of sleep, let me tell you a little bit about last weekend.

Dylan and Matt and I decided to spend our last weekend of the Geneva program in…Istanbul!

This was a great idea.

On Thursday, we said goodbye to our friends and jetted off to Rome.

I know what you’re thinking: Oh, Rome is such a convenient jumping off point to Istanbul! What clever planning!

Are you on drugs? Because Rome is not close to Istanbul.

And yet, we found ourselves there because it was $50 cheaper to fly to Rome, wait in the city for an awkward eight hours, and then fly to Turkey.

This made prefect sense to us.

Once we decided we should probably not arrive in Rome and wander the city like a bunch of homeless, adolescent ducklings, we conducted some serious Roman hotel research.

Luckily, we stumbled upon the Hotel Romantico – a gilded hotel that I can only imagine was – at some point – Liberace’s guesthouse.

From bidet to breakfast buffet, this place had it all…

Except for a working shower. (Which is probably why the room was so cheap.) This made for an interesting shower experience.

And by “interesting” I mean an “I’m a grown woman flopping around in a tub made for koi fish” kind of experience.

(I would later find out that this weekend would involve a lot of unexpected bathing situations.)

So that was my impression of Rome…well that, and also having to walk TWO MILES to get to our gate in the airport.

Seriously, it was a two-mile walk. I felt like I was at fat camp.

When we finally got to the gate, they loaded us all onto a tiny bus like a bunch of cattle. I was one cowbell away from mooing and growing black spots.

Again, feeling the fat camp vibes. (Is that a Snickers under my pillow?)

Wait. What was that loud rattling noise? Why is the bus shaking? Why is half the bus slanted?

Looks like the fat campers popped a bus tire.

In case you were wondering how many Roman police officers it takes to point out that a tire has popped, the answer is 7.5. (Seven officers, one security guard.)

They all gathered around the tire like it was a rare mouse lemur they were observing in its “natural habitat.”

Thanks to their little National Geographic spectacle, we were stuck on the bus for quite a long time…

At least the airline had good crackers.

When we finally left Rome, we were on our way to Istanbul!

Istanbul is an incredible place. They have giant shanks of meat everywhere you go! Seriously, just giant pieces of meat begging for your consumption.

(Yes, that is the only way I could think to phrase that sentence.)

Istanbul also has kebab. And seafood. And Turkish candies.

And mosques…

But also kebab. And apple tea. And these little cheese-filled wonder sandwiches that they serve with the apple tea.

Did I mention the kebab?

All-in-all, it is a great place to go if you like to eat. And drink. And smoke “the sheesha.” (As we call it in The Community.)

So that’s what we did!




(You can tell I only do this for the hipster pics and the myriad Instagram opportunities.)

After a day of “sheating” (sheesha-eating), we decided we would venture out for a night on the town.

(Laughable that I described this act as a “decision.” More like a natural part of existence…like brushing your teeth or looking up Beyoncé videos when you’re supposed to be studying for the LSAT.)

We didn’t make it out of our hostel before meeting a group of rowdy New Zealanders with a taste for beer and an affinity for arson.

Seriously. We met a guy who made us watch a video of him lighting his own mohawk on fire.

I know, right? A MOWHAWK. Can you get any more Simple Plan circa 2003?

The arson aspect was also disturbing.

This was the kind of guy who made everything seem lame. Seriously. EVERYTHING.

Oh really, you’re a twin? Well I’m one of the octuplets from John and Kate Plus Eight. SUCK IT.

You like nature and hiking? That’s so cute. I once ran up a mountain in shower shoes while carrying an orphaned tiger on my back. GET ON MY LEVEL.

Wow, you went bungee jumping? I once jumped into a rushing body of water sans bungee and didn’t even get WET. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

So you see my point. This was the kind of guy who would ask you to tell him something interesting about yourself, and you’d be so taken aback that you’d concoct some deranged story about that one time you were eating a burrito in Macy’s and you spilled beans on the carpet and a mall cop called you out for “disturbing the peace,” so you spit on him and ended up spending the night in jail next to a fat lady named Beatrice who didn’t have fingernails.

And you know what? That would STILL be a lame story compared to this guy’s life!

(Let the record show I would never lie to a stranger about burritos and mall cops and missing fingernails. Only a whack job would make up a story like that to impress a stranger. Plus, it wasn’t a burrito; it was an enchilada…)

This same guy also introduced us to the game of “Double Denim.”

Here’s how it works: if you see someone wearing both denim on top and on bottom, you quietly lick them on some part of the denim and then run away and hope you don’t take a bottle to the head.

I imagine you would get extra points if you simultaneously licked the person and set your hair on fire.

Any volunteers?

You can bet Matt and Dylan volunteered as tributes.

You can also bet they put all our lives at risk when they decided to lick the MOST aggressive looking, double denim-wearing bear of a man I have EVER seen.

They may not have taken bottles to the head, but they didn’t make friends with this guy.

I think the only reason he spared them was because they started giggling like little school girls on Valentine’s Day after they managed to get a lick in.

So, besides the fact that Istanbul is a food haven, I also confirmed what I’ve always thought, which is that laughter can get you out of any situation involving awkward bar situations and double denim.

The other thing I confirmed was that Turkish baths are, in fact, nude affairs.

This could have been made clearer when I Googled “Turkish baths nude or no nude.”

On our last night in Istanbul, we had two options: go to a bar and risk bumping into arsenic kiwi man, or go to a bath and get massaged and scrubbed like royalty.

I’m still in shock that we chose the second option, but we did…call it “maturity,” or something like that.

The bath was an interesting experience. When we arrived, the owner did a lot of fast-talking and pointing and smiling…so none of us had any idea what was going on. All we knew was that we were in a bath house and it had “shower shoes for people with big or little feet.” Thank GOD for that, am I right?

When we finally gathered that it was time to put on towels and head into the sauna, we were three of several bathers…the others of which were rather…large. And hairy.

I could just picture the look my mother would make if she saw me laying in a towel next to a fat sweaty man with enough chest hair to craft a shag carpet or an indoor mini golf track.

After sweating out everything I’ve ever thought about putting into my body, an angry old woman entered the room and said, “Lady! Big scrub time.”

I assumed she was talking to me because I was the only one without chest hair.

She then led me into a room and proceeded with the “scrubbing routine.”

For how weird an experience this was, it felt pretty…weird.

I guess I’m just not used to people aggressively scrubbing my body and then yelling at me to “TURN TO LEFTY SIDE!”

Every time she wanted me to move or to do something, she would kind of hit me in the right direction.

Maybe she meant for her physical aggression to come across as friendly locker room exchanges…like how guys whip each other with towels and stuff…I didn’t really sense any camaraderie, though. It was more like Fight Club: Sauna Edition, if you ask me.

Despite all the aggression and confusion, I felt really good afterward.

Especially because I got to wear this cool towel hat!


I think even the Flaming Kiwi would have appreciated this hat.

When we got back to Geneva the next day, we’d slept for a total of 1.5 hours and had missed the snacks on the second flight.

So we were in perfect condition to look for Dylan’s mom – who was DEFINITELY, 100% supposed to arrive in Geneva on that day – in the airport.

We scoured every waiting area; we asked every car service to check their records; we used a pay phone to call the hotel to see if she’d checked in (using a pay phone made me feel like a cool detective from the 50s who was trying to solve a kidnapping mystery…or like a dummy who had forgotten to pay her cell phone bill and who was forced to use a pay phone); we even shouted her name at random intervals to lure her to us.

All of these tactics worked really well because we found her, all right!

…in the U.S. Where she was staying until her arrival in Geneva. The following day.

This made me laugh.

But it also made me want to cry because I was so happy to play the role of helpful, supportive friend and not my usual role of hysterical, hungry mistake-maker just looking for a break and a bite.

I also wanted to cry when we had to sprint off of our bus home because the transportation po po mounted the bus and my pass was expired.

Again, mostly hunger-induced tears. But also tears because my “supportive friend” role had been so fleeting…no time for Oscar nods with that one…

By the time I finally made it home from the airport, it was time to meet my grandparents and begin the next chapter of my post-Geneva journey.

In case you’re wondering, I am beginning this chapter with really smooth skin.

And also a new take on double denim.




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