One of the most wonderful aspects of living overseas was the opportunities Chad and I had for vacation travel. And the best of all possible vacation stretches were those we spent in Istanbul. The magic! The history! The romance! The sounds! The food! The bazaars! The beer! The views! Oh, Istanbul, how we loved you.
The Hotel Empress Zoe was our home away from home away from home. It's where we went for our honeymoon, accompanied by our 18-year-old Jessica, our dear friend Susan, and Chad's dissertation supervisor and his wife. A great time was had by all, although that had to be one of the weirdest honeymoon groups of all times.
So at least three times a year, Chad and I would fly out to Istanbul and for a week or two or three, just melt right down into one of the world's most magnificent cities. Since we'd always stay in the same hotel, we got to know many of the local shopkeepers and street vendors in the Sultanhamet area. One of those vendors was a nice little dude who sold lightweight cotton clothing.
One day, Chad surprise-purchased for me from the nice little dude a matching cotton loose-fitting blouse and pants outfit that was perfect for the local climate and the hot Central Asian summers too. The asking price was $20 USD, although Chad only had a $10 bill on him. Nice little dude recognized us from our regular wanderings through the neighbourhood, and told Chad (through much sign language-y gesticulating) "no worries, drop the remaining $10 next time you're around." The next day, we were taking a walk and went to find the nice little dude to pay the outstanding $10, thank him once again, and went on our merry way - a few days later, we were back to work in Kyrgyzstan in time for the start of the new academic year.
A few months later, we landed back at the Zoe for a lovely Christmas break. And while walking around the neighbourhood, we came across our friend the clothing salesman. I was wearing the outfit Chad had purchased earlier in the year, and we stopped to "chat" (I use the term loosely, since we shared no common language and only a very few Turkish / English words amongst the three of us) with him. He recognized us, and the outfit I was wearing - lots of smiles all around. Then he reminded Chad that there was still $10 outstanding. We were a wee bit confused, but what the heck, the use I'd already gained from the outfit made it well worth $30. Lots of happiness, well-wishing, and "until next times" to go around, then we went on our merry way.
Fast forward back to Kyrgyzstan, back to work, back out in June for a couple of weeks in Istanbul. Out we wander, all through the neighbourhood, and we see our friendly neighbourhood clothing salesman. make our salaams, hello hello, and Chad is reminded that he still owes $10 for the outfit he'd purchased the year before, etc etc etc. So Chad, ever the polite Canadian, exchanges a quizzical look with me and takes $10 out of his wallet to pay for the ever-more-expensive outfit. But hey, no worries, smiles all around, and we go on our merry way. Travel stateside, quick visit to Canada, back to Central Asia, new academic year, etc etc etc.
Come Christmas break 2001, we had booked a two week stay in Istanbul and were so excited to be back at the Zoe. That had been a particularly exhausting and difficult term, and subsequently we spent most of the two-week break in that beautiful city largely decompressing in our beautiful room, wasting hours playing Age of Empires on our laptops. But of course, we did have to go foraging so as to have a meal from time to time and, more importantly, keep us in wine. And on our foraging venture, we (of course) come across our nice little dude selling cotton clothing. We wave, wander over to exchange salaams again, and (wait for it, wait for it...) Chad is asked to pay the outstanding the $10 owed from the outfit he'd bought for me a couple of years prior. Poor Chad! He pulls out his wallet, hands over $10, and on we go to find (at this point) a desperately needed bottle or two of wine.
Fast forward to our 2002 summer break at the Zoe in Istanbul. Out and about wandering, and we see that our favourite cotton clothing salesman has relocated on a new street. With military-like precision, and needing no words between us, we quickly spun around and walked the other way.
And that is how Chad paid $50 for my favourite $20 cheap cotton outfit.