Holy guacamole. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve found the time to turn my experiences into a blog post. The last six weeks have been a transition from being a tourist to becoming a self-employeed English teacher. Each week is a flurry of lesson plans, daily adventures and meeting networking.
Here’s the shortened version of the last six weeks: attending an art exhibition, flipping upside down in carnival rides, riding in a horse carriage to the top of an island, staying up all night to watch the sunrise over the Bosphorus, spending the day at a water park, roadtripping to the Black Sea, touring the Bosphorus via ferry, visiting Hagia Sophia, attending a British Consulate soiree and saying goodbye to my best friend. I want to point out I’ve done all this amidst the chaos of the Turkish riots.
Although I would love to say that everything is back to normal after more than three weeks of protests, that would be a lie. I don’t believe Turkey will ever be “normal” again because a new sense of awareness as swept the country. The riots still erupt every few days and police continue to commit heinous crimes against Turkish citizens and others who are taking a stand against a government that oppresses its citizens. However, I’m currently living within a five-minute walk from Taksim square (the riot center) and I feel safe as can be. On a few occasions, my male roommate and I have wandered around the side streets during minor clashes and have “eaten” tear gas that clouds the air, yet we haven’t been in any real danger. As ridiculous as it sounds, these mini excursions have become more of an evening ritual than anything. Unless you’re here, it’s hard to understand just how safe one can feel during these events.
On several occasions, evenings in Taksim square have resembled more of a festival than a riot center. People of all nationalities and ages come together for an evening of live music, lighting of floating lanterns, street dancing and fireworks shows. Unfortunately media is only interested in more sensational stories so I doubt anyone in the states have seen the beauty of Taksim on nights like these.
Despite the severity of the events, the rest of Istanbul resembles normal life. People still go to work, dine at restaurants with friends, take their kids to the parks and go about life just as they always have. The difference is that Taksim square has a much different atmosphere than it had prior to the last week of May. Graffiti covers most walls and surfaces, people stand in the town square at all hours of the day mimicking “The Standing Man,” and street vendors sell Guy Fawkes masks which have become symbols of the recent events.
As I mentioned above, I’m still able to go about my everyday life with little interruption. I’m now working about 40 hours a week and travel all over the city just as I always have. Life is just as exciting as ever and I have no intention of leaving any time soon. I’m learning more Turkish every day and can now hold basic conversations with locals who chuckle at my broken Turkish and American accent.
The saddest part of the last few weeks was saying farewell to my dear friend Ashton, who has returned to the states after eight months of living here in Istanbul. She was my partner in crime and I’m now finding other ways and other people to keep myself entertained. I’m a natural networker, so it’s been easy to meet new people and forge new relationships with people from all over the world. I’m ashamed to say that before I came here, I only knew a few people from outside of America, but now I’m meeting people from different cultures nearly every day. These friendships are a constant reminder of how big the world is and how many other places I have to explore.
All in all, life is absolutely wonderful and I’m still loving my decision to move to such a beautiful city that has opened my mind in ways I didn’t know were possible. My only concern is that I may never return home because I love the experience of being a foreigner (please don’t tell my parents I said that!). I’ll try to do a better job of updating this blog more frequently so I don’t have to cram everything into a short post. Until then, I hope everyone back home is happy, healthy and enjoying life as well. Görüşürüz!
We stayed up all night to watch the sunrise over the Bosphorus
Looks like a war zone near my apartment
View of the Blue Mosque
Touring the UNO Bread factory where I work