Friday, October 18, 2013

Last Friday Night.

This is my last friday night, in Istanbul, Turkey. Next Wednesday I board a flight to London, then the following day, Thursday Oct 24th, I will catch a flight back to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

October is always a strange, nostalgic, melancholic time of year for me - the thinning of the veil, and all that esoteric nonsense. But truly, the veil feels thin -whatever that means. I feel everything stronger, this time of year. I feel simultaneously extra-awakened, and yet half-asleep, as though I can't quite function properly in the real world, and my head is in the clouds.

The past 10 months have been probably some of the best of my life, though my life in general has had many amazing moments, of course. Beginning with January in Lebanon, February in Ethiopia, March and April in Iran, and then from May until now, here, living in the city of my dreams, Istanbul Turkey.

I feel like the past year has been a dream, that perhaps I might awake tomorrow to realize that none of it ever happened, in particular the fact that I lived for half a year in one of the greatest cities on earth. I know that there are many beautiful places in this world, with many unique attributes, but one thing all travelers seem to agree on, is that Istanbul is a place like no other, a place truly worthy of the word 'spectacular'. My memories of Istanbul are chaotic and colourful and form a montage in my head like a grainy sped-up film reel:

The countless crazy nights in the hills around Taksim, dancing on rooftops and drinking cheap Belarussian vodka on dirty streetcorners, dodging pickpockets in dark alleys full of men lurking and Riot cops around the corner, shooting tear gas; crumbling bricks and decaying structures heaving into the night; grey street cats scurrying on the edges of buildings, dogs the colour of soot asleep in doorways, mosques glittering their ever-glowing yellow light until the break of dawn, with a call to prayer that only the seagulls seem to observe. The countless days spent walking along the Bosphorous, counting ships - Chinese Cargos, Aegean Cruisers, old suspect wooden tourboats floating along next to cormorants nesting along the edges of mossy walls, the fishermen and their plastic cups of bait roasting filets on portable BBQ's, serving up a little taste of the sea, on fresh bread for 2 dollars. The Sunday afternoons spent exploring the down-and-out, dystopian landscapes of the less-fortunate areas of the city - areas once prosperous and inhabited by Greeks and Jews, now taken over by conservative families from Eastern Turkey, and African immigrants - children playing with under-inflated plastic balls in the street, men sipping tea on smoky corners, their eyes occasionally lifting to observe you, observing them, as their wives sit on apartment stoops, in between washing carpets and hanging laundry. The overwhelming humid heat of the summer, walking endless spiral staircases, sweating, to collapse in exhaustion once opening the double-barred door to your ghetto apartment. The Cig Kofte, Dolmades, Dondurma, Fistikli Baklava, Kunefe, Mastic Kahve, Kahvalti Tabagi, Corba, Pide, Balik Ekmek and endless other quintessentially Turkish foods. Riding the ferry from Kabatas to Kadikoy, on the roof of the boat, the crisp Mediterranean air messing up your hair, as you close your eyes knowing that you are crossing from Europe to Asia; feeling most at home and happy in that ambiguous space, on the ferry, on the water, not in any actual place in particular.

And yet, living in a city requires you to just get on with daily life - buy groceries, cook dinner, wash the dishes, watch movies, go to work (when you have a job, that is), and somehow it is easy to lose sight of your surroundings, and fall into the routine of daily life.

Perhaps that is where my current melancholia comes from - feeling that no matter what, I could have seen more of Istanbul, I could have explored one more forgotten street, photographed one more shaky abandoned wooden Ottoman house, drank one more glass of tea, discovered one more secret hidden amazing place - even if I spent nearly every day out and about and actively gobbling up all the delicious history and atmosphere that Istanbul provides, it will never be enough. I can never truly carry all of Istanbul inside me, and that leads me to great sadness, knowing that as of next week, I will be gone. Even now, as I write this, even though I spent all day out exploring the ancient city walls of Constantinople and the Mosaics of the Chora Church, I feel that any moment spent inside, away from the lights and streets of Istanbul, is a moment wasted. Even though I am tired and don't want to leave the house; Istanbul makes me feel guilty for abandoning her.

I am excited to get back to my home country, and to hear my own language spoken around me again, to see my family and Calgary friends and to not have to deal with the harassment of weird men, to experience my own culture once again, but it pains me to think of how these places, these words, these neighbourhoods will become just a memory - Tarlabasi, Kasimpasa, Balat, Fener, Eyup, Unkapani, Galatasaray, Dolapdere, Mecideyikoy, Beshiktas, Uskudar, Cihangir, Tophane, Osmanbey, Ferikoy, Kurtulus...This city and its people have left an incredible mark on me, and I'm sure no matter where I go in the future, I will never forget my time here.

Thank you Istanbul, for 6 very memorable months. I'm sure we'll meet again, one day...after all, I do have you under my skin.



  1. Julia, I've nominated your blog for A Liebster Award because I love your stories and your drawings. Check it out: