We are smitten with our little apartment in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul. In our state of feeling adrift and overwhelmed and mildly terrified of the journey we’ve committed to, it provides us safety and the feeling that we have some control when everything seems to be spinning faster than we can process.
From the clothes hanging on the line outside every apartment to the hustle and bustle at the market right below our window to the Turkish music that plays between classes at the school across the street or the lady upstairs who lowers a basket from her window for the delivery man next door to fill with fresh bread, everything delights us as we take in all of the new sounds and sights and smells.
It is amazing how quickly humans, when taken from the security of our daily tasks, create new routines of comfort for ourselves. We have done this in our new temporary home. Each morning Mason goes down to the market for bread and cheese and fresh fruit for breakfast. Sometimes he will squeeze fresh orange or pomegranate juice. We drag the table from the nook in the kitchen to the living room where we sit in the sunshine to eat.
We wash our laundry to hang on our own clothesline – a simple chore that brings me great joy. Eventually we’ll venture out for our daily excursion. Sometimes we will head down the hill to the tram to the Eminonu stop for the Spice Market or to Sultanhamet to visit a palace, mosque or museum. Other days we stroll along the Bosporus or stay in the hills exploring the little nooks and crannies of our neighborhood.
For lunch we will duck into a little café where Mason will ask or pantomime for a menu. We will look at the pictures and point and, like magic, something delicious will arrive at our table. On our not-so-good days, we will be seduced by the English menus in restaurants that cater to foreigners and we will pay too much for disappointing food.
In the late afternoon, we head back to the apartment and spend hours writing, creating smash books, journaling, coloring and trying to capture the things that we know are impossible to fully convey without experiencing – the incredibly beautiful and haunting sound of the call to prayer as it rolls over the rooftops, the way the fog and haze capture the feel of the city better than the sunshine, the distant shadows of huge freighters like dots on the horizon on the Sea of Marmara, the low couches slung with brightly colored pillows in the tea houses and hookah bars, the insistent pull of block after block of men aggressively trying to sell us carpets and jewelry and lamps, fresh fish, olives, pistachios and Turkish delight.
Inevitably, some sound on the street will pull one of us to the open window where we will observe a delivery of bread to the market or the near constant honking traffic jams up and down the narrow steep road. Sometimes the lure is simply to sit and gaze down the hill at the Bosporus and daydream.
Istanbul does this to you. It is modern and exotic, thriving and crumbling, compelling and overwhelming. I think I really understand it best only in retrospect, but there is something about it that gets under your skin. Something about those serious gray mosque domes that have withstood centuries of earthquakes, something about those Ottoman yalis (mansions) on the Bosphorus, something about the energy of a city that has seen so many re-inventions.
Time moves differently here and so it is nearly 9 at night when we gather around the table for supper. Mason has cooked us a simple delicious meal with ingredients he has found at our tiny market – egg scrambles, spaghetti, roasted vegetables and potatoes.
We tumble into bed exhausted, but still don’t sleep well. We are trying to assimilate and adapt to this new life that we’ve planned for and dreamed of for so long, but never imagined that we would have so much trouble sinking into and we are thankful for the soft landing into our own private place that will allow us the time and space to ease in and open up to the adventure that lies before us.