Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I have been here in the city of seven hills for 1 week now.  It is difficult to come up with the right words to explain the complicated beauty and surreal atmosphere of this place.  Istanbul sprawls herself over 7 steep and expansive hills.  This crossroads location and her inhabitants are both friendly and guarded.  The language (related to Hungarian) is not intuitive and is quick but poetic.  The streets are moving constantly with both speed and leisure, cars and buses careening up and down hills, around curves at breakneck speed dodging one another politely.  No one seems to ever become angry for long.  Or terribly concerned.

My apartment is wonderful, but a bit hot.  I have light and room and have been pleasantly pleased with the accommodations, particularly the lovely blue clear pool just outside my block.  The school grounds are beautiful and I have only a 2-3 minute walk to campus.  I like everyone I have met.  My new friends are Canadian, French, Spanish, English, Irish, Indian, South African, Turkish & Maldievian.  The Turkish people are fantastic!  Men give up their chairs on the buses and trams, strangers offer to help you find what you are looking for, clerks are patient and kind with my jerky Turkish.  Gracious people who seem to have adopted a live and let live attitude.  Burkas and Bustiers share the same space and no one seems to mind much.

I have come to love the calls to prayer that ring out over this city.  There is something ethereal about a city of 18 million inhabitants being corporeally reminded to recognize their maker.  While Islam is a faith of law & works, and Christianity is a faith of grace, I think each learns from the other in this place.  That brings me to the magnificent 8th wonder of the world.... the Hagia Sophia.  This structure built for worship has passed between the netherworld of competing faiths several times.  Built in a time before machinery to honor GOD, it now stands as a museum where frescoes of Christ, Mary, and the Angel Gabriel are neighbor to Koranic script.  It is a stunning place that inspires still... worship and deep emotion. 

 We also visited the Blue Mosque where worship still continues.  For me, the Hagia Sophia was stunning and moving, and it's sheer size brought me to tears literally, but for beauty and a sense of the sacred, the Blue was special.  I particularly loved the children playing on the carpet prior to prayer call.
I have taken so many lovely pictures, and missed out on some others because at times, it seems rude to snap a recording of a moment.  The very very chic young woman dressed from head to toe in Muslim dress, all pink, standing on the train platform,  the old Turkish couple walking slowly hand in hand with one another down the boardwalk, oblivious to the youthful action around them, the weathered fisherman who set his bucket of fish down on the floor of the bus...the young Turkish men who stand around smoking and guarding the bar where we go for staff gatherings.. all of these intimate snapshots in time of a people I already love.
This man for instance, who comes in the cool of the evening to  smoke and quietly observe the teams of people streaming by his spot on the hookah porch.
One little bit of absurdity to my life right now, here in Istanbul Turkey... I am sitting at a Krispy Kreme because my internet is not yet hooked up to my flat.  The grocery store attached to the donut shop has valet parking.  Across the table from me is a Spanish woman who has become a friend.  We are surrounded by feral cats... they are everywhere in Ortakoy.  In a bit I will lug my laptop back up an extremely steep hill, past a guard who will nod at me and I will return to my 4th floor flat, make some dinner, drink some Turkish wine, and dream of the end of Ramazan, when these streets will flood with families celebrating the end of fasting by giving one another copious amounts of candy while the prayer call goes out.  I love Turkey. 

There was nothing to worry about in the end, GOD is still in charge.

                              This man was sitting on his porch,
                              waiting patiently for sundown. 
                              He is my neighbor.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I look forward to more of your sharing. We so enjoyed our time in Germany and came back with an appreciation of how young this country is and how little we know as a society. There's just something about being somewhere that is not America that is so growing and the realization of how deep the roots are in the old country. Enjoy!
    Love you my friend!