Note: Wrote this about two months ago.
After a whirlwind four months which brought me from my former home base in cold, windy Anatolia, to the now well-known Gezi protests in Istanbul, to a road trip through every time zone in the contiguous United States, I am in an apartment of my own in central Istanbul while the sounds of Taksim waft up through my open window.
My neighborhood is a twisted tangle of roads and alleys, all overrun with stray cats, in which the only reliable way to navigate is by the topography underfoot–the convoluted streets and changing urban geography make any other means of navigation difficult. Even the municipal police, during the protests this past spring, supposedly got lost when they tried to chase protesters down these streets. I find my way around by the slope of the incline and glittering slices of the Bosphorus glimpsed between rows of Neoclassic apartment buildings.
At my new workplace, a number of my colleagues are expats living here because of Turkish spouses, or Turkish relatives. I am sometimes envious–I wish I had a good, clear reason to be here that would stop others from interrogating me, and me from questioning myself. Is it because I’ve dreamed of living in Istanbul ever since I first came here, 6 years ago, and this might be the last best chance I’ll have to do it? Is it because I finally found a decent, full-time adult job with a satisfying work environment? Is it to relive the experience of living in Turkey with my partner-in-crime, best friend, and now roommate? Is it because of my friends and unexpected well-connectedness in this country? Am I, like some expats here, bored of living in a relatively functional, economically prosperous advanced democracy and need to continue to spice up my life with tear gas and misogyny and bureaucracy? Or can’t I let go of the things that first struck me, and always strike me, as beautiful and wonderful about Turkey?
Either way, for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like I want to be somewhere else. Every day offers up some kind of adventure, spontaneity, unexpected encounter, or small weirdness. The restlessness of this city cancels out my existential restlessness and creates a sort of contentment. It reminds me of a small piece of writing a former of student composed, and which I keep on my refrigerator. The students were instructed to come up with a 6-word story a-la Hemingway. Hers:
I stay where I am happy.
Top photo: view from my living room looking toward the Bosphorus. Bottom photo: View of Yenicami with Bosphorus and moon.