When I first arrived in Istanbul, I was overwhelmed with the stress of being in a new country where I didn’t speak the language and couldn’t navigate well on my own. I often boarded the wrong bus, called on Google Maps to find my way and was shy about asking strangers for assistance. As month number five approaches, I’m overcome with a wonderful sense of comfort and awareness. This mix of feelings allows me to navigate my surroundings and daily interactions with the world devoid of stress. If there’s a new part of the city I want to see, a secluded restaurant that has been recommended or a special “locals only” spot, I have little trouble finding my way. What a fantastic realization. Coming from a town of 350 people to a city of nearly 15 million residence has definitely been a transition, albeit a beautiful one.
This transition took another turn today when I received my Turkish residence permit! Yes, you heard me right: I’m now officially recognized as a resident of Turkey. Over the next year, I can now exit and enter the country as I please. To test the effectiveness of this freedom, I just purchased a ticket to Barcelona, Spain, where I will visit two friends from Eugene who are embarking on a month-long Eurotrip. Barcelona is their final stop and what a better way to celebrate my five month anniversary than with great friends in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
Speaking of most beautiful cities, I returned from Bodrum, Turkey, less than 12 hours ago. Around 11 p.m. on Friday, I received a call from one of my Turkish students whom I’ve grown to adore. Our conversation went something like this: “Merhaba, Ayni! What’s your plan this week? Oh you’re free? Okay, good. I’m buying you a ticket to come see my family and me in Bodrum. Your flight leaves at 6 a.m. so pack your bags and leave your wallet at home. We’re going to cover everything for you while you’re here. We’ll see you in a few hours for breakfast.” Completely stunned, I packed my bag and boarded a southbound plane.
By 7:30 a.m., the plane touched down on the Bodrum Peninsula along the Aegean Sea. White-walled houses sat along the hillsides as we made the drive to Yalikava, where the family has a beautiful four-story beach house. The remainder of the weekend was spent sipping bottle-service wine, lying under the Mediterranean sun and admiring the marinas of Bodrum and Yalikava. We even got to see Craig David perform at the dance club on Saturday evening. Needless to say, it was an absolutely wonderful weekend that gave me a nice, big taste of the “good life.” And I didn’t even spend a single Turkish lira!
The trip complemented the last two weekends’ adventures well. Two weeks ago, my British roommate and I woke up early on Sunday morning to rent a car and head east outside the city along the Black Sea. We were pleasantly surprised to find the route was as green and lush as could be. I think Turkey is thought to be a dry, desert place. On the contrary, this region of the country has trees as far as the eye can see and winding roads that hug the side of steep, rolling hills. Our rental car climbed to the top of the hills about 1.5 hours outside the city and finally opened up to a view of the Black Sea in Sile. Steep cliffs and large rock formations in the sea were small reminders of the Oregon coast. However, unlike Oregon, the water was bright blue and crystal clear. We spent the rest of the day eating meze dishes, racing go karts, and touring the village of Agva via boat and foot. Our mini road trip was a relaxing change of pace from the chaotic streets of Istanbul.
In another attempt to escape the city vibes, we spent the following Sunday aboard a sail boat bound for the Princes’ Islands. A skipper guided our boat through the bay toward a secluded cove where I took my first dip into the Marmara Sea. The clear blue water was the perfect temperature to offset the summer heat. Our seafood lunch on the island only added to the experience. During the return trip home, our boat full of Brits (I was the only person who wasn’t British) toasted our beers in a final farewell to my roommate, Rob, who is now back in London after spending five months in Istanbul working at the British Consulate.
Because Rob moved, I relocated for the seventh time in five months. I’m now living in Ortakoy, which is the “up-and-coming” area of the city. Small boutiques and quaint restaurants are attracting upper-class folks. I have two male roommates; one who’s full Turkish and one Canadian who’s half Turkish. We had our first bonding experience at an outdoor concert near the Black Sea. The stages were set in a forested area where colorful lights illuminated the night sky and we listened to trance music while lying in hammocks hung from the trees. We spent the night there and woke up early to watch the sun rise over the sea. Not a bad first roommate bonding experience, I’d say.
What a wonderful last three weeks it’s been. Now I’m looking forward to sharing my Barcelona stories! Gorusuruz!
Mini road trip to the Black Sea