Istanbul: Retrospective

According to Erdem, it is a Turkish custom to put a slice of bread under your pillow the first night that you spend in a new place. Supposedly there is a relationship between the bread and the dreams you have: a message about the future in the new place.
I awoke disoriented to the alarm yesterday morning, thinking I was home but knowing it wasn’t so. When the confusion settled I knew where I was and felt good about it: I am comfortable here, this next new place will be “home” for some time. I didn’t recall any dreams, my sleep was deep and restful. There were some other thoughts right when I awoke: as if I had been somewhere else but was yanked away too fast for memory to function.
Turkey – as a place I was in memory – already seems long ago: life here in the US occurs at such a fast pace in comparison. The stories I have told most since returning have to do with the people I met and the quality of the interactions we had. I was asked how I knew so many people there…the thing is, I didn’t! I met people, or – people met me. “I can just imagine Steph on the street going up to strangers, “Hi, I’m Steph!” Some clown-friend of mine concocted this fantasy. 🙂 In fact, I was approached much more often than I approached others. I think, in part, that I connected with so many people because I was open to being connected with, but there is a deeper cultural element as well. It has something to do with collectivity ~ perhaps this is a characteristic of the “Asianness” of Turkey?
My temporary roommate bachelor buddies quizzed me about this as something distinctive from the US. Their initial experience and continuing observations as international students from India regard the loneliness of US culture. Lee and Donna also commented on this based on their own travels, that one just wouldn’t be taken in by Americans like I was by so many Turks. Such openness and reaching out, making sure a stranger is ok, doesn’t often happen here (certainly not to the same extent, and not on such a personal level).
The last three weeks of the visit was amazing. I established a home base at the World House Cafe, a hostel I highly recommend. (Tip: providing cookies for the staff is a surefire way into their hearts.) The view of the Galata Tower is amazing:

world house view of Galata Tower.jpg


In addition to the warm, caring, and considerate staff (everyone, i should say, except Coksun, who had the nerve (!) to poo-poo my parting gift), there was also the clientele. I met several fantastically wonderful people there. 🙂 We had a great “last” night out (my second-to-last night ~ almost The End of My Journey), spontaneously beginning at midnight (oh how different than Amherst!), including live Turkish music at Munzur then in Nevizade. We ate melon and drank raki. Talked (some serious). Laughed. 🙂 I learned that Yilmaz Gûney was a famous Turkish director (a large poster of him hangs in Munzur in parallel with Che Guevera) and heard a favorite folk song, Deniz Koydum Aldini, roughly, “I named my baby “the seas'”. (Wait until I can get the notes from this night scanned in here!)

yilmaz and che.jpg

One thought on “Istanbul: Retrospective”

  1. “My temporary roommate bachelor buddies quizzed me about this as something distinctive from the US. Their initial experience and continuing observations as international students from India regard the loneliness of US culture.”
    my ex was an international student from Morocco and absolutely struggled with the “cultural” difference.. he saw people here as being cold and unfriendly. it was difficult to connect with people here.. when I went to Morocco, I was taken aback by how dramatically different it was. hitchhiking lead to invites to dinner, going out meant meeting new people, quite something. I’m not sure why the US is this way, but I think its mostly regional rather than the entire country. a friend of mine who has gone to live in Ireland swears the US is a friendly warm place, and she’s from Virginia or WV.

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