[Not using last names to protect identities of people in this blog.]
I arrived last Tuesday in the early morning dusk on a baby-screaming, sleepless Turkish Airline’s flight.
My fixer Mohammed kindly picked me up at the airport to guide me to my hostel. Mohammed, 24–he celebrated his birthday this past week,–and I got acquainted over breakfast and laid out our game plan for the week.
When I arrived at my hostel my host, Hamiyet, greeted us as she rushed off to work to The Pera Hill Hotel. I settled in and intending not to sleep, I snoozed for an hour. I awoke and called Mohammed. We met to begin our work in Fatih, the Syrian community within Istanbul. That first day we spent about six hours trying to visit various non-profits that work with refugees to see if we could schedule meetings and talk with some of their beneficiaries. We walked for an hour from one organization headquarters to another.
Later in the week, I managed to interview the Director of Project Lift, Leyla, and one of her employees, Bashar. See their stories and more in one of my upcoming freelance pieces. I also had the chance to interview Amer, a 30-year-old Syrian who just finished his bachelor’s degree and is searching for his master’s degree program thanks to the help of Small Project Istanbul sponsors.
I took Saturday off to explore my surroundings with the help of a friend from Spain, Ramon. Ramon showed me the quaint neighborhoods surrounding the main street of the city, Istiklal [Independence] Street. He told me about the various art museums and exhibits to see, the Wi-Fi accessible cafe’s, and a bit of the history of Turkey. We walked for hours around neighborhoods from Cukurcuma [pronounced Chu-kur-chu-ma] to Galata to Karakoy to the Suliman Mosque. We ended our day with a spectacular view from the Suliman Mosque overlooking the Golden Horn and all we had walked that day.
Sunday, I had the opportunity to go to an English mass at St. Anthony’s Church right on Istiklal Street with people from all over the world South Africans, Filipinos, English, Nigerians, and more. Finally, Monday and for most of this week is a holiday week, so I am spending my time transcribing interviews and pitching editors. I hope to be able to publish something by the end of September or early October.
For now, keep reading.