On the way to hotel I felt a bit forlorn without the buzzing kids, so I concentrated in city seeing. The signboards contained different headings. Turkish language had many words from English, they were spelt differently, I would say much closer to the sound-foto (photo), servis (service), polis (police), teknik (technique), and so on.
Next day after getting our students dressed in their maroon mirpuri tissue katan, we set off for a park for our maiden performance there. We sat on the stairs of the immense gallery. In fact, now I was in a panic. How would they dance on that enormous stage in the presence of a mammoth crowd?
I was pondering. However it was a success in short. But we carried the next day. Our sweet dolls created such a sensation among folks there. Uncountable men and women shot them. And when they sang 'Oyle bir gecer zaman ki…' whole audience sang along with. So loud applause, so spontaneous clapping. We teachers were swaying in happiness and probably flew into the bus.
On 19 April at 9 pm a delegate of one teacher, one student from each guest country with hisher local brother or sister set off by train for Ankara to meet the President and Prime Minister of Turkey, Speaker of National Assembly and director General of TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) the next day with the aid of some selected guides. So 20 April was another free day. Naturally less eventful.
On 21 April, the hotel was animated with the presence of all returnees from Ankara before 9 am. We left the hotel shortly for our school. No, not for any show, for sight seeing. With all eighteen children we teachers departed the school for Hagia Shophia what is commonly known as St. Shophia, and then Topkapi Palace.
Sources say St. Shophia was first built by Roman Emperor Constantius and rebuilt many times later. The glorious church, later turned into a mosque during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet is said to have cost 361 gold coins. This venerable building is the largest and the most beautiful of the Byzantine edifices of the city.
It was lit by very famous Turkish chandeliers. Some where the walls were designed in gold. Inside was so cool at first I thought it was centrally air-conditioned; in fact it was for the extra-ordinary construction it remains so cool and comfortable. I touched one of the colonnades and I just shuddered. A nice co-existence of Islam and Christianity.
Before entering Topkapi Palace we were introduced to the Bacilica Cistern which was the largest of the underground water reservoirs of the city, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in AD 565 to meet the need of the people in case of an emergency.
Anyone will be spellbound to describe the charm of the flamboyant Architecture, the Topkapi Palace. This was something too sublime. The entrance was so rich with different kinds of trees.
A row of maple trees was guarding all the rest. Some birds were twittering, dancing from branch to branch. What a peaceful place for being revitalized after the hard work of a whole week. The blackish wooden benches placed here and there, were occupied by some happy faces whose murmuring filled the skies and airs above Topkapi.
Bit by bit, in course of exploring this enormous area we learnt, the construction of this palace began right after the conquest of Istanbul by the Turks, it was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years. We took some snaps at one pompous garden where tulips- red, yellow, purple etc. grew profusely, turning our back at the Bosphorus Strait we had some more photos standing against the designed heavy wall that encircled the whole palace.
Then we entered the Holy Trust Wing of the building where the swords of the first caliphs, holy beard of Our Prophet (pbuh), some other things belonged to Him were kept with a great care. Verses from the Holy Quran were being recited gracefully for 24 hours.
After enjoying a quick lunch we started for the school. In the bus, as usual the zealots resumed singing from their repertoire. The hottest ones were, Ami Banglar gaan gai…., sravaner meghgulo jaro holo akashe etc. What a joi de vivre! Viewing the settings with songs from home.
We scooted out of school for another journey to hotel after delivering the pupils.
22,April was another day of hue and cry. The children of Marmara School, Egyptian children and our ones were performing together at another grand hall of the same school. Our children were made for the show in a possible short hour, our guide was urging now and then, 'hurry up', 'we're to go shortly' in her usual loud voice. So far I talked much about Turkish food, natural beauty, people but nothing about music there. It will not be doing just.
Now it is time for that. Well, I won't go for any bombastic words, in short I'd say, yes, it is unique. You will feel the surge in your heart. It's too rhythmic. I clapped, swayed as I listened to them along with the audience. By this time we were too accustomed to applause, praises after our performance. No, I am not boasting, we're just basking in their glory.
Anyway we rushed after our guide. She led us to the dining hall, there we enjoyed burger and drinks, and you know, many people shot our fairies.
Our boys were also recommended. Soon it was time for gala rehearsal. We entered the gigantic hall. One side cannot be visualized properly from the other. An oval auditorium. The center of the floor was highlighted for performers in a big square shape. Now we were definite about our children's perception: they can cope, so they did when it was their turn. Our guide ushered us to the seats restricted for us. Each and every country had its own.
Finally it was the Gala Day. We took our seats at the auditorium at around 2 pm. The cheering, maddening crowd whistled, clapped, pranced, broke into laughter the moment the hosts emerged. They spared some time for the audience to calm down. The show began with host country. Audience settled down. Four kids in the guise of humanoids were capering about the floor throughout.
Our serial was twenty-two. Each country exhibited their rich culture. The Chinese enticed all with their multicolored appearance. But Bangladesh won in kaleidoscopic success. Our costume, jewelry reflected our culture, society, and tradition very positively. Girls and ladies irrespectively were interested about nose pin, tip, tickli, sari, above all salwar kamiz. It's definitely good news for one and all Bangladeshis. We did not show up in jeans, rather we could spread our culture, the degree does not matter.
We were picnicking at the immense Marmara Educational Village compound the next day. A handicraft fair gave additional zeal to it. I assume the crazy shoppers from almost half of the world emptied their purse in a blink on silver jewelry, precious stones, towels of different size, shawls, bedcover, tablemat, showpieces, shoes. The place was bustling with vitality.
After picnic we enjoyed a river cruise from Kadikoy for three hours We stood motionless staring at the shore, sometimes at the horizon. A shoal of jelly fish of various sizes were swimming undisturbed just under the surface. Weather was windy. We stretched our heads out of the shade ignoring the cold. A flock of seagulls flew off being disturbed by a speedy boat.
Dinner was served up on the ship at 7 pm. The sun was still bright outside. I forgot to say I was so surprised to hear Maghrib Azan at 8 pm. However dinner was really exquisite, having dinner before sunset was a fresh experience for two of us. Once again the extraordinary palaces came into view as if they were beckoning us.
The cruise was over exactly at the time of sunset. The crimson sun spread shades of red and orange before saying goodbye. I heard, some people from far off feared Istanbul was in fire looking at this city during sunset. Someone beside the street was playing a plaintive tune by a Darbuka. In the twilight we posed for photograph against the background of setting sun.
Next morning was a day of mixed feeling. The festival was over. We left hotel lugging our suitcases and reached school. There children were waiting for us. Our children were handed over formally in the presence of the principal and vice principal. They presented us a bagful of gifts quite ceremoniously. Lot of goodbyes, some emotional outburst, some weeping, sobbing.
Our tough guide was in tears, host mothers were in tears, our children as well. Human tie. Same affection, same fellow feeling. After all they are 'the children of the world.' We also felt a tinge a sadness but not for a long time. Because now we were with our children.
The bus dropped us at a place called Chamlica Hill. We put our luggage in another bus, not that elephantine but enough for us. We entered the Chamlica Tesisleri. It could be named Tulip Garden. At times for their extraordinary charm they looked unreal. Many people asked me seeing them in photo, "Are they real?" We relished some snacks there and posed for photos.
We visited the tomb of Hz. Yusa (as) after Johr prayer. Said Fatiha. A great many ladies encircled us and exchanged greetings with us. Don't be amazed, cordiality has its own voice. We talked mostly in that language for the rest of the days. After our daylong errand our children were dropped at two different houses, girls were in one house in the same way and boys in another. All the girls were tremendously excited.
They were shinier than the red tulips when they shouted in chorus, hurray!!! We'll be together now. We were housed in another hotel on an alley. Room was quite cosy. Most importantly we only spent nights here.
This part of the city had another look. Roads were narrower here. I found some sort of resemblance with some exuberant parts of our old town. Next morning we saw whole Turkey in three hours. Not only Turkey some adjacent countries too. Guess how? Well, we had a visit to Miniaturk. The sun was very mighty that morning. We saw what not. The model of Izmit Clock Tower, The Temple of Augustus, Ishak Pasa Palace, The Stine Bridge, The Great Mosque Of Diyarbakir, The Halil-ur- Rahman Mosque and the Fishy Lake, Bursa Grand Mosque, Aspendos Amphitheatre,, The Anatolian Fortress, Pamukkale, Rock Houses of MardinYaliboyu Houses and many more. Next we walked along the famous model Bosphorus Bridge.
While I was in that wonderland I was regretting that due to lack of preservation I could not say much boldly about our golden past. My eyes were wet. It's such a pain. We know we had our ones, by now most of them are demolished so no proof. Let bygone be bygone. Hopefully we have started with our Heritage Park.
We could not be extravagant about time. We set off for our next course of action. To the Samanyolu TV Station. I told you of the fame of our little jewels. The canaries trilled away two songs at a live show. I want to express my heartiest gratitude to the people for they spent their precious time for showing our kids the key rooms there. Not only there, in fact at every place we learnt how precious, how worthy children are.
One ice-cream seller amused our children in such a way while selling some to us. It was a busy place, but he did not care about time. I salute him from here. Another chocolate seller treated us with quality chocolates, and then opened the door of his huge refrigerator after offering free drinks. Guests, especially children mean so much to them.
We passed our afternoon at a ladies' fair where outstanding handmade stuff were being sold at the cheapest price for aiding the Tsunami victims. We learnt they do such generous act off and on. These benevolent ladies were so warm and cordial. You may think I am exaggerating, but not really.
Initially I wished to see the typical restaurants and houses. That also came true. That very evening we landed at a place called Gazi Osman Pasha We entered a round shaped conical wooden restaurant. Inside was comfortably warm. We took the stairs up. Soon the place filled with a throng of people. A bevy of ladies joined us and in a short while we got too closer as if we knew each other for years.
Eight barbecue oven was lit up at a time. The room was now tepid. I still crave for the salad made of cucumber, tomato, carrot, sweet chili and olive oil. The izgara kofte was simply fabulous, if only the bread might be a little softer.
For rest of the days various families in utmost homely atmosphere entertained us. The houses were decorated very artistically. Neatly and intricately woven carpets spread all over made the difference. Even the passages were covered with long small carpets. Curtains were exclusive and were a must see. By this time we managed to learn some dialogs in Turkish from a sheet given to us. 'Nasilsiniz? (how're you)? Memnun oldum (pleased to meet you)? Chok lezzetli (very delicious)."
All these produced immense friendliness. Needless to say we easily reached the hearts of their heart with this much knowledge in their language. They would reply back with all the smile of the world. The words we used for most of the time at the shops was 'Bu pahali (very expensive).' We got so much used to it that we uttered the very words even knowing that the price was quite reasonable.
We visited two ideal schools. One was the Fatih School & College. Well decorated and richly equipped. Students were fairly nurtured. We moved about the rooms for pre-school and junior level. The computer room was the most noticeable and undoubtedly most modern. We were so sanguine to learn that in the nearest future our school is going to offer all the facilities that had appealed us immediately.
Luck brings luck. We had had another picnic at Belgrad Forest, at the outskirt of the city. That was a real 'bonbhojon'. The journey to the picnic spot was most enjoyable. We had a drive for an hour. Road was so smooth. At one place the branches from both the sides made a long archway. Somewhere it was so dense that sunlight could not reach. It was almost dark inside the bus.
We spent the day in the greenery. Weather was charming. Neither cold nor hot. Some other picnickers were here and there. A team of school children was also there with their teachers (out door activities are very much in practice in Turkey because everywhere we found some school teams). Our children enjoyed horse rides (some for the first time) in a high spirit, we filled a pail with fountain water coming from some underground source.
The Blue Mosque that is widely known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque was worth visiting. We entered it carrying our shoes in plastic bags. Not only Muslims a great number of people from other religions pay regular visit here. This is the only mosque in Turkey that has six minarets. It was moderately crowded yet so tranquil, so serene. At many mosques the Imam's stairs during Jumma prayer were very inviting. There, in Turkey ladies amass pray at mosques beginning from Fazr. Social security was at its zenith. The jewellery I could not wear here fearing hijackers was worth using there.
Everything has its end. At last the day of departure came. I felt mesmerized by the scenic beauty of Istanbul on the way to airport. What an unforgettable memory! A unique experience! We are departing but the rich memories will ever remain awake in out heart. I felt too thankful to my dear institution for giving me this wonderful opportunity to see one of the oldest cities of the world, where so many historical events had happened for ages after ages amidst such incomparable festival launched only for children. From the boarding bridge I looked out once again and said, adieu(gule gule)!
The writer is Head of section of International Hope School, Uttara preschool & primary section
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