Saturday, December 11, 2010

51 Going On 15

Adding on to my thoughts about teaching high school students, another benefit that some teachers glean from the close proximity to youth is a delayed or even retrogressive aging process. At least this seems to be the case for teachers who enjoy what they do, and for the most part, most educators I have met fall into in this category. For me, I am certain it keeps me a lot younger than my law practice would have, had I stayed on that career path.

Case in point: last night, against my better “adult” judgment, I joined my seven intrepid Model United Nations ambassadors on an adventure in Istanbul. Never mind the fact that it was freezing cold and raining rather heavily and no one had hat, gloves or umbrella. Forget that we had no clear destination in mind. There was a ferry that crossed the Bosphorus from the Asian to the European side of the city and there were some great restaurants to be found! Hello, what else did I need to know? Staying in the warm, dry hotel with its lure of a glass of red wine and a decent night’s sleep would be the old lady way to spend the evening. So out I went, gloveless, hatless, umbrella-less, and instantly at least ten years came rolling off my back.

Taking the ferry across the water on such a cold and rainy night would probably have been a rather mundane event, had I been just a daily commuter. We saw several people who clearly did this trip on a fairly regular basis and they did not look much different from a DC subway rider…no looking out the window, head buried in a newspaper. But that’s not the way a gang of seven teenagers travels! Loud, laughing, and infinitely curious, my group constantly went in and out of the heated covered area of the ferry to look at the passing city, to pose in Vogue style tableaus for the endless photo shoot and to simply enjoy the fact that they were together and not at home. I posed in almost as many shots as the kids, except for when I was the photographer. No sense in getting warm and dry now…we were just going to get soaked again once we reached the far shore! I was closing in on 30 by the time we stepped off the boat.

Once on shore again, we made a b-line to the street to grab a couple of cabs to take us to Taksim Square, a well traveled pedestrian thoroughfare with hotels, restaurants, stores, a metro stop and lots of people, even on such a dreary night. It reminded me a little bit of Times Square with its lights and activity. Luckily for us, one of our contingent just happens to be Turkish and fluent in the language! Cansu was able to navigate and negotiate like a pro and wrangled us two cabs, chatted up the drivers, and got us safely and quickly to Taksim Square where two of our group marched immediately to the closest shwarma vendor and downed a pre-dinner snack. If only the benefits of hanging out with teenagers included obtaining the hummingbird metabolism of a 16 year old boy!

On a Friday night at 8pm, the city was hopping with young Turks out for a meal or coffee or shopping, and it reminded me of when I was in my mid-twenties--getting out of work, we all tumbled down to the newest restaurant or our favorite watering hole to get a start on the weekend. Similarly, weaving in and out of the crowds, my gang made our way down the cobblestone street, bought cheap umbrellas (two of which immediately inverted and broke) and discovered a wonderful, traditional Turkish restaurant serving lamb kebobs, a creamy yogurt sauce pasta dish, and meat and cheese filled “pancakes” made with thin Turkish flat bread. We giggled and laughed too loudly, like I used to do with my college buddies when we went out for pizza.

After eating too much, and finally getting a bit sleepy, we ventured again out into the wind and rain and were ready to call it a night until we were saved by the discovery of a store selling cheap gloves, hats and earmuffs. After trying on almost every variety of knitted woolen hat, each of us settled on something to keep ourselves warm and, newly fortified, managed to discover some of the side streets, whose establishments seemed to be mostly bars and clubs. As we walked past the wranglers trying to give us free entry and free drink coupons, I nearly forgot that I was, in fact, old enough to take advantage of such offers…instead, I walked as quickly and directly past these spots as the rest of our group, looking into the dimly lit spaces like an underage teen wondering what it would be like to go in and order a beer, as if I had never been in a pub in my life.

When we finally had our fill of walking, and were thoroughly worn out, we let Cansu work her linguistic magic to hail two more cabs back to our hotel. On the way, the driver’s radio played American pop songs, to which I knew all the words and joined the girls in singing along with Shakira and Bruno Mars…transformation complete, albeit temporary. However short-lived, the ability to be psychologically 15 again certainly makes being chronologically 51 much easier!


  1. Your level of adventure must be higher when you are the only chaperon. I don't recall you going out in D.C. when it was 25 degrees with a group of rowdy kids who were yelling for ice cream. That cold turned me 51 years old.

  2. True...but I also don't recall you making any reservations or writing letters to parents or arranging transportation or monitoring bill paying. Since I didn't really have to do any of that this time, I felt obliged to take them out Westmoreland style. And, I just found out there is a Crispy Cream Donut shop near the other conference hotel, so perhaps another adventure is in the works!!

  3. I took all the fun jobs. The kids are going to Italy this year with Webster and the new Ben. I hope they lose one or two.