Why Are Muslims the Nicest People? Four Food Experiences

That title may seem random, but actually it is Muslim people who are always feeding us :)You all will probably be surprised to learn we are still in Istanbul! This is because we are waiting to get Jacob’s Independent Study American Heritage test proctored. Don’t worry though, there is still plenty to occupy us here in ISTANBUL.

Food Experience #1

Eating with Mohammed and his friends from Malaysia. They served us a typical Malaysian soup to be poured on top of rice. Jacob and I ate with our hands for the first time, and let me tell you we are not NEARLY as adept at those guys of agilely picking up rice with our fingers. It was a funny experience! But I think eating with chopsticks is even harder for me. If I had known that we would be eating with our hands though, I would not have poured so much soup on the rice! It was hot!

Food Experience #2


This store is on the way to their apartment.
Jacob, on his way to work out every day, passed these guys from Senegal. He struck up a conversation with one, and Mamadou, which means Mohammed, invited us to dinner for some authentic Senegalese food.

Yum! It was rice and chicken with very soft carrots and sweet potatoes. The chicken was flavored with something verrry yummy, which Jacob says people on the islands in the Pacific used too! They spoke French the whole time and I really must learn French. People are much more likely to know English and German than English and French. We all ate out the same dish which I am finally starting to get used to. The guy on the far right made the dish.

Here are the good friends at Mamadou’s sales spot:

Food Experience #3

This one was very dramatic… it started with Zarah, the housekeeper from Turkmenistan, absolutely loving my haircut and insisting that I take her to get it cut at the same place. I was very flattered–no one’s ever asked that for me before, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever liked a haircut as much as I have this one! Well we set out one day this week. I forgot it was quite a long walk, and I tried to tell her, but she doesn’t speak a word of English. I speak some Turkish though :) Like 5 words. Anyways she and I went arm in arm, as the women here are prone to do, all the way to the barber. She really liked her haircut, fortunately, though I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was someone different, actually, than the girl who cut my hair.

We walked toward home and I bought some burek along the way. All of a sudden, when we should be turning left, she tells me to go with her right. She keeps saying “Jacob Problem Yok?” and motioning her head as though going to sleep. She dragged me over to these salespeople and asked them to translate. Unfortunately their English was very poor. All they told me was “Zarah wants to go home.” I thought, okay… Finally deciding she just wanted to show me where she lived. Next thing I know we’re on the same street as the Senegalese apartment. They are next door neighbors! When I walked inside, I was literally bombarded with attention from five people, all from Turkmenistan, all very excited, gesturing, and talking loudly, and not a one of them with a word of English! Except for “I love you” haha.

Meet Umer. I remember his name because he repeated it to me over and over. Before I knew it I was sitting down on the couch, a little uncomfortable. I started to eat my burek because I didn’t realize I had been invited to dinner, probably as a thank you gesture on Sarah’s part for taking her to get her hair cut. So I ate my typical meal, becoming more and more uncomfortable. It occured to me Sarah had gestured the way she had because she wanted me to sleep over, and kept asking if Jacob had a problem
with that.

I felt like I had been kidnapped! Haha, it could have been funny, if only they could speak English. Or, if they didn’t speak English, at least they could have left me in peace instead of gesturing wildly and shouting to get my attention. It was an absolute madhouse there! It was tiny, they all shouted when they spoke to each other, and I couldn’t believe they all lived in that place. There was a bedroom with three beds, a living room, and a kitchen. Also a cramped little bathroom. And six people lived there? And they wanted me to spend the night? Without my husband? I kept asking to call Yusuf, our hostel owner. But Zarah kept telling me no! that there was no problem, and that Yusuf would tell Jacob I was spending the night! I continued to ask periodically to use someone’s phone for the next couple of hours (I probably arrived there at 5 pm). Meanwhile, most of them went out to the market to get food. One stayed home named Laila to cook the dinner.

She kept the TV on at all times with a music TV station on. When a song came on that she liked, she and another lady would force me to get up and dance. Seriously, they dragged me off the couch by force. It was actually kind of fun at first. Until they wouldn’t let me stop dancing!
Dinner was at around seven or eight. I finally got across to them that I would like Jacob to come to dinner with me. Although they wouldn’t let me use the phone still, two of the men offered to go pick Jacob up themselves. I figured Jacob would be done working out by that time, so I agreed. Unfortunately, an hour later, they came back empty handed.

I tried to eat my dinner, which was very meat and potatoey, but I had just eaten burek and ayran without knowing that they were planning to feed me dinner. I left food on my plate which was probably offensive but I couldn’t pick, chew, and gnaw the unknown meat like the others were doing. They kept bringing me more stuff to eat. Candy from Turkmenistan, a Snickers bar, fresh peeled fruit until I was about to pop. I had been there about four hours when I really started to want to leave, or at least talk to Jacob, who I was pretty sure had no idea where I was. I finally convinced someone to let me call Yusuf. He assured me he would tell Jacob to call me. Later it would turn out he wasn’t even at the hostel to tell Jacob where I was.

After a crazy Turkmenistan dance party, where people dropped to the floor shouting and slapping the ground (Turkmenistan was a former member of the Soviet Union, and their dancing style seemed kind of Russian), people started to get ready for bed. Three mattresses were rolled onto the living room floor. Everybody was putting on pajamas. I had no idea where these people were expecting me to sleep, but I sure as heck knew I wasn’t sticking around. For one thing, I had my contacts on and needed to take them out. I tried to explain that to them. Someone got out some ear drops. I insisted that I talk to Yusuf. He told me he would call me back soon. He didn’t. I knew it was too late to walk home by myself at that point.

I was so frustrated. One of the men led me to an internet cafe downstairs to use their phone. I felt so relieved to be free at last that I convinced Zarah’s friend and internet cafe owners to drive me home without saying goodbye to anyone. I was near tears by that time. Quite a stressful experience! I arrived home to see Jacob on his computer like always, and just waiting around because Yusuf told him someone was going to drop me off! He’d had no idea they were planning on me spending the night. It’s a funny experience now, but I sure wasn’t laughing then!

Food Experience #4

We went to a Mexican food restaurant in Turkey. I ordered a burrito, served cold sandwich style, that came with 5 chips and a tiny little cup of salsa that actually was pretty tasty, and Jacob ordered seafood pizza which ended up being tuna. Well, we didn’t expect a REAL Mexican experience all the way out here! But it was funny, the service was a little too good, they kept taking our dishes just as the last bite was being taken. I had eaten only half of my burrito, planning to take the other half home as Americans are wont to do, when I looked down and it was gone! I immediately began to ask, “Where’s my food? Did you take it? Did you hide it?” which I certainly wouldn’t put past Jacob. Meanwhile, he found it very funny and took pictures the whole time as the waiters were called back, questioned, and went to look for the missing burrito. It was recovered at last. Hooray!
For your amusement, the sequence Jacob captured (observe the waiters in the background):

I ate the burrito the next day for lunch. Problem solved!

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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