**My last collaboration with Aftertaste Blog was a travel guide about Lisbon. Mom and I went there together in April. If you want to read all about that, here’s the link: https://www.aftertasteblog.it/en/the-4-food-places-to-be-in-lisbon/.
December 11, 2022: Well… it’s happened again, I haven’t posted in months here to the actual Girl Meets Turkey Blog; however, I do post daily on Instagram. One social media outlet is all that I can seem to manage and even then, I often forget what I posted. Is this life as an adult? I wake up and desperately head to make coffee in the dark, then go to work among 3 forms of public transportation, give all of my emotional energy to my students, then come home… and take a nap.
But then… there are those other daily moments that shine through. Moments like when I watch the sunset over the Bosphorus on my way home from work, or when a student writes me a card that says “I love you teacher” and leaves it on my desk, or when a smiling waiter gives me free Turkish coffee at the end of a meal, and of course when I meet a friend for drinks on a rooftop that overlooks what was once Constantinople.
I always tell anyone who asks me “How did you end up here?” that this is how. I fell in love. Not with a person, but with a city. To that end, my romantic relationships over the years have made me even more aware of how much I am truly in love with the “place”. Even when relationships ended and we went our separate ways, it was this city that got me through those times. It was this place that I retreated to, healing and growing and changing, all while holding on to my life here like a hug. Istanbul for me isn’t tied to any one specific person or experience. It is tied to my heart, to my journey, and to many people who have made that special and remarkable.
I won’t lie. It’s not easy living the “expat life”. Of course it seems glamorous and it may seem that everyday is full of adventure… and well, I also won’t lie and say that it’s not like that. It is… at times. At other times it is a constant struggle between language barriers, cultural differences, and bureaucracy. I won’t go into the economic situation, only to say that it’s been up and down over the years. However, I STAY. This is home. There may come a day when I outgrow it and reach for somewhere else, but not for now.
I last posted when I was gearing down for summer break. Then there was the whirlwind that always comes with the end of the school year, getting things in order, and then heading stateside to see my family. The return and start of the next school year in the fall is equally as crazy and there’s usually a period of “crazy sleep deprived teacher” that occurs for the whole month of October.
I finally now am feeling back to “normal” and have enjoyed walking around the city in cooler weather. This is when I finally have time to stop, look around, and re-set. It’s when I have time to pause and revel in my love for this city.
I revel in my love for my “expat family” – the people who accept me as their own daughter/sister/long lost soulmate. These are friends who will walk around the city with me for hours just to try out that new restaurant. They are the friends who come over and help me study + learn an obscure recipe and then also attempt it. They are the friends who check on me and help me when I need Turkish translation. They share my experiences and ‘get’ what it’s like to live so far from ‘home’ and yet call this place ‘home’… all of whom, this city has “given” me.
I reflect on my love for the sounds of the city: waking up to the seagulls calling to each other, to the distant horns of the ferry boats, the man walking by yelling “simit!!” and the neighbors shouting their replies. I love the way the sunlight hits the water in the afternoon, and the city comes alive. I love those hard moments, when I’m so tired and it’s raining and cold, and I take myself to a restaurant to order lentil soup… and suddenly everything is better. I love the sweltering end of summer days spent on the Prince’s Islands… 30 minutes outside the city and a little piece of heaven. I love those days spent wandering the old part of the city and the smells of the Spice Bazaar. That smell is Istanbul to me.
This is my love letter to the last few months here. A collection/collage of photos around the city. Food. Places. Events. This is my life at a glance. There are so many things of course that happen in between, but these are the moments that make everything worth it.
I won’t promise to write more regularly but I will say that I’ll do my best, if I can manage to keep up with the hustle and bustle of this city.
For now- Ash