I am studying abroad next semester and am nervous that I’ll be lonely. How do I find romance in a place I’m unfamiliar with?
I snuck out of the shop to distract my anger just in time to run face to face with a striking Turkish man. We exchanged smiles, I tried not to let my eyes linger too long but I could not help myself — he was too handsome not to stare.
“Would you have a cup of tea with me?” he said so effortlessly I felt annoyed with myself.
“Sorry, I’m actually waiting for my dad. He is trying to tell the Turkish rug man ‘No thank you’.” I blurted out.
“Please, it is only a cup of tea,” he said, still standing confidently next to his scarf shop at the end of the bazaar.
Before I knew it I was standing in the cool of his store, recovering from the Istanbul’s summer heat and drinking apple tea, pretending to be OK with anything. I had sworn to myself and to my leather-bound journal on the plane I would be bold and try new things.
That is exactly what I did that summer — I experienced life in a new way.
By sundown I was meeting my handsome new friend outside of the hotel and we started to walk in a direction unbeknownst to me.
I remember we trekked around and I weaved my arm through his on the elevator and after that we were inseparable.
I managed to have perfect days with him as I was vacationing in Turkey that summer. I remember when he grabbed my hand with anticipation and walked me up seven flights of stairs until finally we sat on the most magical rooftop terrace café.
We talked for hours through broken English and laughter while admiring the spectacular view of the city. Pot after pot we drank of delicious apple tea and I remember the distinct feeling of freedom nibbling my veins that night. I was gulping down my youth in all its marvels.
I was free with my affection for him, I was wild with joy and purposefully forgot that our time together had an expiration date from the beginning. We met in the cool of the late morning and always kissed goodbye long after the city went to bed.
I remember the permeating smell of salt as we sat beside the Bosphorus smoking nargilah. He was so new to me I felt like every conversation was interesting and our relationship made me confident. He told me stories of his Kurdish family and dreams of living beside the sea.
During the thick of night I fell in love with Istanbul and with the idea of him.
I remember sneaking on and off the tramway never paying the fee and making it to the palace gardens just behind the Topkapi Palace where we gazed at giant old trees and thought of new ways to dismiss the gypsies asking for money. We made a bench in the park our own and sat taking in that perfect summer day lacing our fingers together and chatting.
It was easy, despite what seemed a world of difference between us and I found myself memorizing his face while he talked.
It was an unbelievable summer, but all good things must come to an end.
The entire landscape was drenched in the day’s rain and we slowly walked for the last time back to my hotel with our hands glued together. The longer we delayed our goodbye the heavier our clothes became with rain water.
Finally we arrived to the dreaded door and I threw my arms around him with unabashed tears. I whispered, “Askim” (Turkish for ‘my love’) in his ear one last time until he finally kissed me like Clark Gable in the pouring rain.
He was my summer love.
So, yes, it is possible to find love abroad. The best of wishes to you and your love to come.