Monday, August 09, 2010


Almost all the free time I have had since arriving in Istanbul has been spent on foot, walking and walking, seeing what I can discover and learning my way around the tiny, twisting streets that run up and down hill and back and forth, creating a Dr. Seuss-like confusion. It’s an easy and wonderful place to just wander around and get lost.

The first day, I went in search of a store to buy a towel. I am staying in a sort of apartment hotel and everything but towels are provided. I didn’t find a towel store, but I did find was the Galata bridge and Suleymaniye Mosque further in the distance. I was in love. The Galata bridge is two layers, one with traffic, and below that, one with restaurants and seating areas where you can have a drink, smoke a sheesha and watch the boats pass as the sun sets behind Suleymaniye. One thing I have missed while living in Delhi, is living near water. In my opinion, it brings a magic and personality unlike anything else. During the day, kids are jumping from bridges and docks while the fishermen wait patiently for that ever-elusive bite. At night, lights reflect in the water giving the whole city an air of mystery and majesty.

The place I am staying is in the heart of the going out area. I stay just off of Taksim Square. Istiklal is the main street in Taksim, pedestrian, full of shops and cafes and crowded with people. Off the main artery of Istiklal, are tiny winding streets climbing up and down hills in all different directions, crammed with tables and people playing backgammon, which seems to be the national sport. Beer, sheesha, football games, dinner, drinks, music. Everything is happening all around and the sounds and smells are smashed together in a most delicious way.

In the week I have been living here, walking around and just seeing where I end up has become one of my favorite ways to pass the time, and there are lots of bookstores with cafes for tea to camp out in and relax.

I haven’t really made any friends yet, a few people from work and a couple out of work, but the language is definitely a barrier. That and the fact that in India, just due to the color of my skin, I never really had to initiate contact. I was always approached. Now, I go out and have no clue what I am doing. My breaking the ice skills, while always a bit lacking are now non-existent. But, speaking of my celebrity status, it has not entirely disappeared. I have been asked for my photograph a few times and have even had an indecent proposal. It was on my second or third day, and I was walking down Istiklal with what seemed like the entire population of Istanbul when this guy came up to me and started talking:

“Where are you from, my friend?”
“California. The US.”
“Oh, America. I know Fontana. You know this Fontana?”
“You like get some?”
“Get some what?”
“You want suck me?”
At this point, figuring I had heard wrong and lost something in translation replied with “what?”
“You want suck me?”
I hadn’t misheard, but was quite stunned. In any case, I said “No!”
“Why not? I think you like suck me.”
“Um, I have to go.”

And with that, I called it a night…