hooka factory in Istanbul

Six years ago today, that’s where I was. A friend of mine and I had, somehow, talked our way into the tour of a hooka factory in Istanbul. Fired up on sights, smells, and what is functionally a city-wide bottomless tea policy, we had struck up one of many conversations in the Grand Bazaar. This one led to a tour of how they did their entire business. Walking through back alleys, we had an insight into the world this man had built.

And there he was, willing to show us all of it. Proud of his team, the creations they were making. Complete strangers he hadn’t known the day before were welcomed in, offered all of the secrets of how his business worked.

That was the same trip we met a smuggler. A young woman from Iran who made monthly trips to Istanbul to buy American bluejeans. She would smuggle them back into Iran to sell. That was her entire business, bringing blue jeans to people who wanted them. People who may or may not support their government, but definitely wanted blue jeans.

She told us about the parties that they had – filling apartments with people smoking and drinking, violating the law as groups. Told us about the acts of rebellion that they had within their nation, the lashing out against laws that they thought were ridiculous. About how, every once in awhile, someone would be punished when these parties were broken up. By her telling, it was never about the party. It was for other reasons, the party just served as the excuse.

From the news Turkey already seems vastly different than the country I caught a glimpse of years ago. It is a nation that has long fascinated me, providing teams of hackers for other nations in modernity while grappling with its unique position. Striding the Bosporus Strait as it tries to balance two continents.

There are always stories like these – the people who are all around us finding ways to live. I hope that both of those people are doing alright. The news we see every day is often bleak, and regularly shows us the worst of the world. Sometimes we just have to hope and work for the small, good things.

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