Saturday, June 21, 2014

Back in the "Bul" - and The Decision to Leave

Yes, that is what expats refer to Istanbul as... "the Bul".  I think it's kind of silly given the thousands of years of history and the dignity that this city has earned over time... but there it is... all of the world reduced to three silly letters...bul.  The nickname expats cutely assigned.  When I moved here, one of my loved ones coined the phrase.... "Conniestantinople"... just as clever and just as trite.  Istanbul.  She has her own singular reputation, and in spite of mans' desire to reduce the city to a manageable mouthful...... she is too big, too incredibly deep to ever be managed or described by words.  No.  Istanbul has to be experienced, felt, lived for one to even begin understanding this place, that for all intents and purposes, could be a country unto itself.  As a matter of fact, given the current political situation in Turkey, it might be a great solution to turn Istanbul into a city state where we can all live in peace according to our hearts.

Even now...  I realize that while I have referred to this place in the feminine... "she"....but Istanbul sort of defies gender.  Someone visiting commented that they saw mostly men in the restaurants, on the streets, on the buses and trams and in the metro.  That is true.  Men do dominate the streets, the cafes and the businesses, but the women dominate the scene.  In their high heels and high fashion and high brows... they own the air.  Even the bescarved ones garner their share of the cultural phenomenon that is Istanbul.  I watched out of the corner of my eye today, as a young couple, she in full cover garb and he in regular street clothes, boarded the tram. He let her take the last seat and stood talking to her, the two of them laughing at some private joke and several times he lovingly stroked the part of her cheek peeking out from the scarf, tilted her head up gently and treated her with the sweetest deference. Love and affection passing between them. I have seen this often in Istanbul, the demonstration of love and
understanding between couples.  Even older couples often walk the streets gently clinging to one another.

So then Istanbul is gender-less, timeless, sometimes senseless, and often rudderless, but definitely not loveless.  I have spent the past two years exploring the tourist sites, the wonders, the scenery, the famous and much written about.  I have photographed the Hagia Sophia and snapped shots of the Sulyman Mosque.  I have photographed hans and hammams and souks and the spice bazaar.  The places that one comes to see... I have visited.   But now... as I begin to make my way away from this city, this romantic, crazy, beautiful, deep,. frenetic, historic setting... I feel a pang of bittersweet longing.  Longing to stay.  Longing to remain a part of the culture and being and day to day interactions of this place.  As I walk to "my" waterfront neighborhood.... Ortakoy... I notice things I have never been aware of before.  The color of a door.  A side street that features an alley pet store.  A new vegetable stand.  The men sitting on low benches sipping tea.  The old ladies greeting one another with kisses and laughter, and I am sad.  Sad to be leaving ... Istanbul.

I returned from my centering sojourn in Greece, recommitted to escaping the injustice I felt I had been done at my place of work in Istanbul.  I cast my crumbs upon the waters and... suddenly... another country was interested in having me come live and work for them.  Deciding was a difficult process with much ambiguity.  Would I be hired, would I have an offer before contracts came out, was this the place GOD wanted me to go, would I be happy there?  So many questions.  So many concerns.  In the end I prayed for the door that I was to walk through to be opened.  On April 17th... I was offered a position that I wanted in Casablanca Morocco.  I took the weekend for more prayer and introspection and accepted the job on the following Tuesday.  No panic this time.  Just a sense that I was headed where I needed to be.

Now here I am... a few months later.... one bag packed and one month left to savor Turkey and Istanbul and Ortakoy.  I continue to take pictures on the streets of this city.  Scenes that interest me and shots that I think capture my experience in this dreamworld so far away from the familiar.  I know that Morocco will be lovely and exciting and the journey of discovery there will be amazing.  But nothing will ever compare to "The Bul...".

    And now... comes the time to finally finish this
current blog entry.  The month has passed quickly and I am here on the eve just before departing this          
magnificent city.  I am aggrieved to leave this place.
I wanted to call Istanbul home for a longer period of  time, but this was not to be.  So I am leaving.  My bags are almost all packed.  My little apartment has been stripped bare of all that made it mine.  I am once again traveling into the unknown.  I have celebrated, feasted, drank and cried with many friends.  I have been prayed for at my church.  I have kissed many cheeks and said many goodbyes and now it is time to close out this chapter in my life.

I leave with a few favorite shots of this city... this place that I was graced enough to inhabit for a short period of time.

I will miss the smell of chestnuts roasting on Istiklal, and the quiet of Sunday morning coffee before the city wakes.  I will miss the sounds gulls crying and the horns honking and the ferry engines running.  I will miss the shopkeepers hawking their wares, and the plaintive echo of the hazan.  And...I will miss the people.  Oh how I will miss the people.

Farewell Istanbul.........

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Teşekkür ederim!


  1. I've got to read more of your writing. Excellent!

    1. Thank you much. I appreciate the comment... encourages me to get back to it.