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International House Istanbul Turkey

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International House in Istanbul- Vagabonds find a base

I unintentionally found myself living in an international house in Istanbul. Chaya and I moved in with a Syrian student of Ottoman studies a week ago.

The fellow hardly speaks any English, but we give him impromptu lessons throughout the day, for which he has reduced our rent to only 300 Turkish Lira a month. He also teaches us a little Arabic.

Upon moving in, Chaya and I sat around his coffee table drinking Arab tea and eating dates shipped straight from Saudi Arabia. I inquired about his age and he bursted out laughing.

“My age, I don’t know” he spoke in simple English, “I was not born in hospital. But my mother says I am 25 or 26 years old.”

I had never met someone so young who did not know their age. I was beginning to like this Arab fellow.

For the first week it was just him and us, and the two bedroom apartment was comfortable. I would work on the internet in the morning, go for a walk in the afternoon, and return in the evening for tea and English lessons.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Istanbul, Turkey- February 22, 2009
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Life became surprisingly regular for a few days, until last night.

Last night Chaya and I came home to find a French girl sitting on the couch eating dates and drinking Arabic coffee, just as we had when we first moved in. I thought that she may have been our roommate’s girlfriend, but realized quickly that I was incorrect in my assumption.

She was our new roommate.

Our Syrian friend seems to be renting out every corner, couch, and empty piece of floor space in this small apartment. I have the feeling that he is not going to stop with the French girl. A week from now Chaya and I are going to be living in some kind of weird international house.

English, Turkish, Arabic, and now French will be spoken with only a partial sense of mutual understanding.

I do not yet know where this French girl is going to sleep, but she should be arriving today. It seems funny to me that she would be moving into an apartment and sleeping in the same room as a Syrian guy that she does not even know. But alas, this is none of my business.

The French girl is only around 19 years old and comes from a wealthy family, so I can excuse her from any flight of common sense. She had a sort of fly by night international sort of childhood, living in Paris, Spain, Morocco, and now, for the past two years, Istanbul. She needed to find a place to stay fast as her parents closed down their Turkish factories and jumped ship to Marrakesh. She needed quick shelter and Majid, our Syrian roommate, took her in without delay as he had Chaya and I.

There is a story here that I have not caught yet.

But I cannot complain. I like the Arab’s way of doing things. I have no obligation to stay in his home. If I do not like something, I can just leave. Chaya and I paid from February 15th to March 15th, and if this month does not go as we like, we can just make our way to another abode without hassle or delay. We have no lease, no binding agreement, and absolutely no commitment. We rent a room, but it is the Arab’s apartment. I am growing a liking for a clear chain of command when entering into business arrangements. Majid makes the rules, if I do not like them I can leave. It is simple.

I find it annoying when people try to pretend that there is no such thing as hierarchical structures. I find it annoying when groups try to decide everything by consensus: “What does Sally think of this? What does Wally think about that?” “Flutter your fingers if you agree with what someone says.”The give everyone a chance to speak mode of decision making is a hassle. If I am making a business agreement, I want to know who I am dealing with. I don’t care about the wishy washy ebbs and flows of every residual member of some group; I care nothing for consensus; I want to know who is in charge and then make a deal for myself.

The Western idea of democratic decision making has been perverted into a system in which everyone thinks that they are sanctioned to have an impact in everyone else’s affairs. I have never felt more oppressed in my life than while living with libertarians and other self-toted advocates of freedom. I would much rather be ruled over and oppressed by a single person than by every member of society.

I do not like dictators, and would rather only have one than a million. Consensus decision making is just a system in which every person is both an oppressor and an oppressee.

I don’t want a group making decisions for me; I don’t want to filter my ideas through a tribe; I want to make decisions for myself. If I do not like something, I am not going to complain in some meeting: I am just going to make the changes myself or leave.

The world is a big place. I find no need to vote with a ballot, as I know that I can always place a far more active and pertinent vote with my feet.

This international house in Istanbul should get very interesting very soon. The Arab makes the decisions, ad I decide if I like them enough to stay.

“Istanbul is a very interesting place,” the French girl said as we sat around the living room eating dates and drinking Arabic coffee, “you never know what is going to happen. It is like the weather here: one day it is cloudy, cold, and raining, the next is warm and sunny. You never know what to expect.”

Photos of apartment in Istaanbul


My command center, otherwise known as the living room: the place where I can plug into the internet.

Our neighborhood in Osmanbey.

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International House in Istanbul- Vagabonds find a base

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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Turkey

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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