Yesterday afternoon, after Crossfit, I decided to try and get lost and explore a new area on my way slowly back home. My idea was to discover some new areas of the city and to find somewhere enticing to chill, read my book and grab a bite to eat.
I turned left and right down various side streets, my decision based on which streets looked the most interesting. I finally found my way into a really busy suburb packed with coffee shops, bars and restaurants that spill out onto the narrow streets that service pedestrians only. It’s Saturday afternoon and every establishment is almost at capacity. Some people drinking beer, while other tables contain groups of people drinking chai and playground cards or backgammon.
I find a small, very busy restaurant and decide to try it based on the food that I see on the tables that I can see from the street. The food looks like it is mostly tapas style, small dishes of a variety of different flavors, a way that I like to eat.
I am directed upstairs onto the balcony and take a seat. The young, very enthusiastic waiter brings me a drink and his colleague brings a tray containing a variety of small dishes, each containing a different variant of Turkish cuisine. This is their menu the waiter tells me, smiling.
I choose one dish containing hummus, something that looks like taramasalata, and a third that contains fish of sorts.
The waiter starts a conversation with me. In broken English, I let him know I’m that I’m from South Africa and find out that he’s from Azerbaijan. I establish that he’s a student here in Istanbul, but language fails us when I try to find out what exactly he is studying. I get the usual “Africa, not black?” observation which has happened a number of times since I arrived in Turkey. I respond with “many black, some white” trying to keep my speech as simple as possible to be understood.
Javat, seems to be keen to get to know me despite the obvious language barrier and he doesn’t feel the awkwardness that I do when we run out of conversation as he stands next to my table just smiling at me while I eat.
In the two weeks that I’ve been in Istanbul I’ve noticed that in bars and restaurants the ratio of men to woman is heavily skewed towards men, I’d say as much as 80/20 (perhaps even more). I decided to ask Javat what the deal is.
“Where are all the woman? Mostly men?” I ask, pointing to all the table in the restaurant I’m seated in and the tables in the restaurants below that contain about forty males guests and not a single woman.
What transpired is the start of something that I don’t think I’ve seen the end of yet.
“Discotheque”, he answered and the more he spoke the more I realize just how little English he speaks. “Discotheque”he repeats a few more times before he heads off.
A few minutes later he returns smiling and doing his now signature move of a thumbs up.
“Waaaaachap?” He asks getting out his phone.
“Yes”, that sounds like Whatsapp.
We exchange numbers.
“Discotheque, Taksim”, are the only words that I pick up in the sentence he sends my direction. Taksim is busy suburb in the city, that has many restaurants, bars and night clubs.
I’m unsure of the next few minutes of exchange between Javat and myself but I think that he thinks that I’ve asked him where I can find a girl and he and I are going to a discotheque together to find some.
As he left my table he said something to the other waiter in Turkish and looked back at me and winked while at the same time using both his hands to cup imaginary boobs on his chest.
I paid my bill and left the restaurant. While I’m definitely not planning to go to a club to find woman with my new friend, I don’t think that I’ve heard the last from Javat.