Turkey, 21 years later
Fred Hardin Class of '77

It wasn't until we were strapped in our seats on the Delta jet at J.F.K. that I really began to get excited. Next stop Istanbul, Turkey! It's June, 1997 and it's been 21 years to the month since I was last in Turkey. Was I finally going to see this country I love so dearly again? Our family spent a total of five years there, and left Turkey in June 1976. I've often dreamed of Izmir and the places I used to wander and explore; the ancient ruins, beautiful beaches and the always mysterious Konak with all it's side-walk vendors, strangely calling out the names of what they were selling. I've had many interesting dreams of being lost in the Konak, wandering it's mazes of streets and alleys. I cannot imagine how my life would be without the influences that living in Turkey has had on me.

I don't remember the last time I felt as excited as I was when the jet started taxiing down the runway for our turn to take off. My wife, Teri, has never been to this part of the world. We went to Europe in '92, but I knew this was going to be a lot different to her. Our children, Kevin 14, and Kristen 9, have never been out of the states. It was sure to be an experience for them, I hoped a good one.

My biggest concern was going to be the driving. We were to pick up our rental car on the third day. I remember how crazy the Turks drove when we used to lived there. I know that now there are a hell of a lot more people in the major cities than there were in the middle 70's. I just can't see there being a big change in their driving habits. My parents had a great trip to Turkey a few years ago when they traveled around with a tour group. They warned me about the congestion in the cities.

It was to be a 12 hour flight and after the endless day, night and morning on the jet, we finally see the blue waters of the Black Sea. It was not long before we were over land dotted with minarets and hundreds of red shingled houses. It all looked so wonderfully familiar to me. We finally touched down about mid day in Istanbul. It's a gray wet afternoon as we get settled in to our hotel room, located on a very loud and busy street, about 3 miles from the Blue Mosque.

Although we had been on such a long journey, jet lag and all, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to sleep for a while. As my wife and Kristen caught up on sleep, Kev and I hit the streets. We wandered into various stores, shops and side streets. It was so good to be able to use my Turkish again. I was surprised at how much I still remembered. We bought some sodas, bread, fresh pistachios, and hot sesame seed sticks just out of the oven. The cost was over a million lira, which is only about $6. Goodness! What has happened to the lira? It was only 14 or 15 to the dollar when we left Turkey in '76. Now you have to stop and count all the zeros to make certain your not ripping yourself off. The largest bill they have now is only 5,000,000 Lira, which is around $30. Changing a couple of hundred dollars to Lira literally puts millions in your pocket.