It is strange how your state of mind can affect your perception of your surroundings. Gaziantep seemed aggressive, but how can a city seem aggressive? I was thinking of Turkey differently at that point. Even though I had visited there many times before, now I am not a visitor, and, to make it worse, did not know what was about to happen to me.
I was thinking of the biggest issue I might face here; racism and anti-Syrian sentiments. I remembered the sufferings of my Iraqi friends in Syria, where people are friendlier than the people of Turkey. But then I thought, homosexuals don’t have the issues of the ones who like to call themselves straight, and it was true.
I arrived to Istanbul, wanting to stay in Istiklal Street because it was the closest point to where my fellow gay men spend their evenings. I was looking for cheap hotels with the little money I had, and I bumped into a gay Syrian I had known for a while back in Syria. Out of more than 19 million people in Istanbul, I ran into a gay Syrian who was excited more than I was to have a friend in the city.
I stayed in a shitty room, and I received the sweetest message from someone I had never met before offering to help. He introduced me to great people and I ended up being hosted for a while in a strange flat in Kadikoy where I met the most amazing young women in Istanbul.
Things appeared to be going to the better. I got a job and I got paid within 11 days of arrival, but later, everything dried out, but a ride on a taxi one day gave me an idea that worked well for me.
An old taxi driver asked me where I came from, and once I said Syria, he started reciting Quran for me. That’s it! Go on a hunt for those simple religious people. Some might want to learn Arabic. I went hunting, and the perfect place is always a mosque.
I didn’t really want to pray, so I used to wait for the prayer to be over before I came inside to start reading Quran loudly enough for everyone to notice me. People used to come and recite Quran for me, and I correct them mimicking the way sheikhs might do it, but I didn’t get any students. However, I was always invited for free meals once I said I was Syrian. That got the worry of having to pay for food in expensive Istanbul. It went on for a while.