The Untold Story of Steve the Saz

Wouldn’t you know, this whole time I’ve been holding back the greatest story of the entire trip. This was a slow-cooking story, one meant to take some time, but honestly, it’s gotten to a point this so-called story’s end might not come. Ever…

Let’s go back.

It was Saturday, August 27, 2011, and two girls went to the Grand Bazaar. Not much in their pockets, not much on their agenda. They’d been up until five a.m. the night before, talking to friends from home, awake for the morning call to prayer. They look at lamps, rugs, belly dancing costumes, the like. But suddenly, they’re spotted. The sazes. Hanging above our heads, beautiful, never seen by us before string instruments. And the wheels start turning. For fun, we ask how much. Shocked by the (cheap!) affordability, confident of our haggling ability. But how to get home? For me or someone else? It would look great on my wall someday. A real piece of art. But, no, for someone else. Someone who might appreciate it for what it really is.

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How do you ship home? Oh, for less than $30 we’re told. I’ve spent that on bar nights. I can CouchSurf. But no, this is irrational. This is the magic of the Grand Bazaar. Where I’ll never be again. Where I’ll never have the opportunity to do something like this again. Phrases like “bucket list,” “once in a lifetime,” “unforgettable” come to mind.

And I ask Andrea. Who says, responsible friend or fun friend? Well, responsible friend says shop around. And at the next vendor, fun friend says “you can’t just get the plain one, you have to get the striped one… You know it’s SO MUCH better!” And she’s only supports this because she loves who it’s for, so with a confident “I’ll take it,” I leave with the lightweight saz (also referred to interchangeably as baglama) on my back.

It feels fantastic. I just did something really, really fun, and it came with a how-to-play book, extra set of strings and soft case.

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And immediately around the corner, signs for the post office. Andrea and I look at each other. It was meant to be!!!

Except the post office was closed. I mean, it’s Saturday. We might have to wait until Monday. So the baglama comes with us through the bazaar, through town, up and down side streets. That night, we’d leave Baglama at home for cover bands and karaoke. When I come home, I write an Istanbul postcard to its recipient and tape it to the face of the saz. I tie a note and a Horace eye, a symbol of good luck, to the case’s strap. It’s cute.

We knew better than to try on a Sunday. Plus, we saw a FedEx logo on the closed business next to our hostel. Tomorrow, we think. FedEx would be nice. Tracking.

Monday, we took Baglama with us next door. The woman looks at us, looks at baglama, shakes head. No, no, no. We take it to the Air Cargo store two doors down. They look like they ship stuff. The man that speaks English just looks at Baglama and says “Problem.”

We figure we’re bound to find a post office on the way to the bus station where we’ll buy our Cappadocia tickets. Who cares if it takes two months to get there – cheap, and I’m still gone then! Bus stop. People mail stuff when they leave places, right? No. 130 bus terminals, not even a mail box.

Baglama rides two legs on the tram, goes through turnstiles. Honestly, Baglama gets bonked around. Nothing nowhere. So I say Andrea, I KNOW from Semester at Sea there’s a post office at the port. I’ll pay your tram fair. So we go, and we pass the men holding air rifles and enter the port. The post office is closed. I start cracking up as the tourist information lady tells us this and can’t shake the laughs as she tries to explain. I feel terrible when she asks why I’m laughing.
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We’ve been informed all government buildings are closed, as it’s the end of Ramadan. From Monday to the following Monday. We’re told the only luck we’ll have is a DHL or FedEx. Baglama goes home.

Tuesday, baglama, now being referred to as Steve, takes the trek up an 800m steep, painfully steep hill, because we’d Googled FedEx locations and found one in Taksim Square!

And dripping in sweaty, sweaty Saz, it’s not only closed, but there’s an iron gate pulled down over the entrance. The teenager working at TurkCell tells us “tomorrow.” Steve comes with us shopping for shower sandles and tanks, sits with us for coffee.

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Wednesday. Steve, Andrea, Janae climb the damn hill again. The iron barricade is lifted. I rejoice, I run up the to FedEx door.

Closed. “Baglama is becoming kinda a bitch.”

Steve is coming with us. To lunch, and on an overnight bus to Cappadocia.

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As we sit in the Stray Cat Hostel for our last time, the owner finally says something. “I see you come and go with it everyday. It has become a part of you. Are you going to lessons?” With embarrassed, ridiculous laughter, we tell the story. And he takes the case, sees the note, gives a side “you’re a cornball” glance. Opens the case, sees the saz, sees the postcard, again, rolls eyes. You’re cute.

Remember the trauma tram on the way to the bus station? Where I got in a bit of a predicament with a too close male in a stifling hot mob crowded car? And forced my way off it? Go ahead and picture Steve held high over my head as we escape. Like a child being held above water. Steve almost got sacrificed.

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Stressed out yet? Look for Part Two.

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