It’s the Final Countdown

Lauren and I just climbed three flights of stairs. By the time we reached our room, it felt like we had just reached the summit of Mt. Everest. Though I was panting heavily and trying to avoid an asthma attack, I was still able to gasp, “Why is it so hard to walk?”

“Because we’re fat.” In large part courtesy of TAKASBANK. This financial institution, which we visited last week, is Turkey’s primary settlement and custody bank for the Istanbul Stock Exchange. Apparently, we made such a good impression on them with our excellent questions that they later invited us to dinner. [Time Out, Zack Morris style] At the TAKASBANK site visit, we were served Turkish tea. The tea here is very strong and usually cut with boiling water and sugar cubes. The woman suggested I mix my cup of tea with water, but I was young and foolish. Confident that this tea would wither in comparison to my caffeine-IV drip, I sat down and took a sip. I could immediately feel the enamel on my teeth burn off. [Time In]

The restaurant chosen sat on the northern part of Istanbul, along the Bosphorus. It had just opened about a month ago and had gorgeous bay windows that opened up to views of the water. Three hours after first sitting, and three hours of never-ending lamb courses later, we were finally served dessert and Turkish coffee. [Time Out] There is a custom where your coffee grinds can tell your future. Lauren read mine: “I see a crown. You’re going to have a crown. And a fish, like a goldfish from a carnival. And a horse. Oh! You’re going to ride on a horse and eat a goldfish!” [Time In]

But our day is not over yet. Our final presentation to the Istanbul Stock Exchange is tomorrow morning. Groups spent 3 hours this afternoon working on slideshows, and many will be up late tonight rehearsing and memorizing. [Time Out] At one point, one of our title slides read, “Istabul”. Similar to math and science, spelling is not a strong point. [Time In] As our IRP draws to an end, I can honestly say I’ve learned more about Turkish culture, financial markets, and food in the 12 days I’ve been in Istanbul than in the 7 weeks I was in DC Wikipedia’ing “raki”.

The financial institutions have all been gracious and accommodating hosts, and the executives we met with went above and beyond by answering our endless questions. [Time Out] Yes, I am a fat kid and love food, but serving tea and coffee and small pastries was standard at all of our meetings. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we were trained to salivate the moment we heard the elevator ding to announce our arrival. The one anonymous institution that just gave us bottled water was judged. Judged like the house that gives out toothbrushes on Halloween. [Time In]

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