Somehow it is already mid-November and I am almost two months into my new life as a Turkish resident. Obviously, I’ve been miserable at writing and updating my blog and now so much has happened that it would be impractical to efficiently describe my life in one post. Alas, I will make an attempt. I think my friend Rachel wrote it best in her blog (http://anyidiotwithablog.blogspot.com) when she says,
“I've seen so many amazing things in my life, sometimes I worry that I'll never be able to appreciate them all properly. Who thought I would get to do these things in my life?...Even the ordinary day to day of my life as a teacher is made more exciting by the fact that I live abroad. I'm not just grocery shopping, I'm grocery shopping in Czech… I'm going to try to be better about recording it all, so that later when I look back on it I'll have another chance to appriciate just how fantastic it's all been.”
Thanks to Rachel’s inspiration, I will now try to do the same.
First, Istanbul is beautiful. I know, I know—obviously. But, it’s not just beautiful, it’s like really, really, really beautiful. I’ve lived in Paris and Seoul, I’ve traveled through some of the best places Europe, Asia, and North America offer, and I really don’t think there is a comparable place in the world. There is something spectacularly unique here. Something completely foreign yet familiar about hearing the call to prayer from my open window, about the skyline of minarets at sunset, about the way the Bosphorus changes colors from gray to blue to gem green depending on the weather, about the old men playing backgammon in back alleys, about the smell of a simit cart in the morning, about the stuffed mussels sold on the streets, about the unparalleled, gleaming teal in the ceramic tiles, about the tea served in tulip glasses after every meal, about a special je ne sais quoi in the red of the Turkish flag as it flaps over the streets, about the simple, yet mouthwatering fish sandwiches sold at the iskelesi (port), about the genius shared taxi system that should be in every city in the world (the dolmus – which quite accurately translates to “full”), about the colors of the headscarves some women wear, about the market streets spilling over with colorful fruits and fresh, shiny, fish, about kumpir-the stuffed baked potatoes that I make a point to eat at least once a week, about the food, the people, the smells...
I’ve done some fabulous tourist things such as cruise down the Bosphorus on a boat tour from the mouth of the Sea of Marmara all the way up the straight to Anadolu Kavağı where the Bosphorus opens into the Black Sea.
View on the Bosphorus Cruise TourI’ve also done my share of shopping at the Grand Bazaar, the Sunday Market at Ortaköy, and the Monday market in my neighborhood. I’ve been quite lazy about museums, but as soon as the weather turns, I plan on spending my time looking at the amazing collections around the city.
I’ve enjoyed walking around the old city near Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque where I wandered around the Hippodrome and toured Basilica Cistern.
I could go on for paragraphs about Istanbul and how much fun I’m having here, but just so you aren’t jealous, I’ll point out a few of the not so great parts about the city as well. To begin with, you can’t go anywhere without breathing in an obscene amount of bus exhaust, pollution, and a pack of someone else’s cigarettes. The air in Istanbul is quite filthy.
Next, Turks do not wear deoderant. Koreans don’t wear deoderant either, but they don’t need it—and let me tell you, the Turkish people need it. From what I can gather, the deoderant aversion may have something to do with protecting the environment. A student of mine responded to an environmental essay question on a test by stating that deoderant was a principle cause of global warming and ended the short, dramatic essay with, “The animals are dying.”
Finally, the traffic is unreal. Not only are there more Renault’s and tiny European cars crammed into narrow streets that could not have accommodated the traffic of the Byzantines much less of today, but the citizens of Istanbul have the typical driving skills of Europeans. (ie Americans follow traffic laws surprisingly well while lanes, laws, lanes, traffic lights, lanes and general and reasonable amounts of caution are completely lost on fellow drivers on the other side of the Atlantic). Add in complete and utter ambivalence about the overuse of the horn, and that’s Istanbul traffic in a nutshell. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the city is split in half by the Bosphorus and the intercontinental bridge (lovely and large as it is) cannot handle the amount of commuter traffic in the city. Despite these few issues I have with the city, it is a lovely city and I hope to see all of you here soon!
Visitors are always welcome!