Tuesday, 28 July 2015

On the scales

 Today I picked up my paycheck after some wrangling over dates. I then went down to say goodbye to my drivers because they are the people I will miss the most. I enjoyed our Turklish/Kurdlish  conversations on girls, food, politics, holidays and bad bosses. After, I went to Kylyos on the Black Sea for a dip which was well-needed. The problem with the dip is at the end you have to do a sweaty hike back up to the bus followed by a nauseous twisty ride down to the metro which tends to colour the memory of the beach somewhat. It was still lovely though especially looking out to all those tankers waiting in the Black Sea for their nod to sail The Lady Boss. So sinister and exotic.
Look carefully and you can see them in the distance - promise!
I spent a lot of time thinking today and even thought it is painful for me to say it I do believe that if I were to balance the scales on my decision to come to Istanbul, I don't think it was the best one for me. Of course, hindsight is a beautiful thing and so I don't write this in a defeatist way but rather as an intention. For what I want to do is draw a long watery line across the sand today, step over it and take new steps. This is not to say that there haven't been some truly incredible things about my time in Istanbul. I mean the city itself I do love ferociously. And my laydees with their missing parts, I love them too. And Turkish breakfasts, hamam soap, the view from Suleiman's mosque, ferry boats, street animals, bargain t-shirts, Raki, The Pikap, bal kaymak, sutlac, Ataturk being everywhere, The Tortoise Trainer, Istanbul nights, hilly walks, dolphins at dusk, yok and uflamak. So many beautiful, eclectic, wonderful things. But I also come out of this experience having lost my passion to teach, feeling lost for words ( as a writer - I have published NOTHING here nor written anything of any worth) and even my confidence as a woman seems somehow to be lost a little. And perhaps the saddest part is I have also lost confidence in my ability to make good decisions and so as I now try to step out again and make new decisions for my life I feel crippled and distrustful of myself.
I remember the very first night I arrived in this city and was staying in the hole of a hotel the school had put me in. a truly fetid, ghastly place. I cried in my room but I couldn't or perhaps wouldn't do what a voice in me was telling me to do which was to get back on that plane. Take a different chance.
That chance is lost now so even the saying 'live and learn' rings hollow because I cannot learn ( nor live either) in that way anymore. But somehow I have to try and make a good decision now and the truth is I have no faith that I can. 
So may I, in these coming months, find wise, kind and good counsel both in the well deep inside myself and those with whom I choose to surround myself. 
Now is not a time for fear.
As my Persian boyfriend Hafiz once said. 

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.”

Monday, 27 July 2015

Shifting times

In other news a bomb warning has been issued for my metro, Osmanbey, which is at the bottom of the street. Nothing specific just one listed on quite a short list. This has been a truly terrible week for Turkey and I feel that things have definitely shifted...and not in a good way. It is so complicated to try and explain what I think is going on ( and probably also unwise) but today was the first day I found myself looking around at the people nearby me. Watching, wondering, planning my exit. 

An impenetrada

Trust pirate to stick her tongue out!
Right now I feel like I have so many topics I want to talk about, it is like a big disjointed mess. Heh Heh, kind of like how I think most days.
First of all, it is 'H-O-T warm' as my dad used to say (much to my mother's annoyance.) My room borders on unbearable because it is west-facing so it literally cooks all afternoon and then takes until dawn to cool down again. Last night I was miserable. Sweating like an ogre in my bed. I had to kick my laydees out just so I could sleep with the window open. I can't let them have free access to my window because it leads to the terrace which is four-storeys up and despite what people say about cats landing on their feet, I don't fancy their chances, especially those with three paws.
     Actually, the terrace has caused me a lot of vexation since I moved in because I simply cannot trust the laydees out there on their own. And Three-Paw proved me right just the other week when she decided to make a leap of faith from the railing ledge to the neighbour's roof whereupon she ambled right up to the peak. I missed the actual leap because I had gone inside for a split second but when I came out she was gone. I was horrified. I called to my flatmates to ask if they had seen her but very quickly I realised that she had left the terrace somehow.
I climbed up onto a chair so I could see onto the roof and sure enough there was her ample silhouette way up high. I have to say I wanted to cry. I mean she had made the leap of faith across the four-storey drop in an upward direction but trying to do it back the other way with only three paws I knew was going to be problematic. ( She, of course, had not thought this far ahead.) My flatmate gallantly offered to climb onto the sloping roof but I knew she would probably run from him if he tried to grab her and she is the most squirmy cat I have ever known in my life. So instead I was hoisted onto the roof (fueled by adrenalin and raki) and I crept up to the peak of the roof, my eyes on the prize not on the great sloping height. Three Paw, as I predicted, did not bolt from me in fact I think she said something like ' Hey mama, check this out. So cool and high and away from dat Pirate !!'
Anyway I grabbed her, incredibly tightly due to her squirm factor. It was not a pleasant experience for either of us and as I carried her back down to the roof edge to hand down to my waiting flatmate I was shouting to him that when he took her he was going to need to take her very firmly. The problem with a three-pawed cat is when they drop out of your arms they really drop, especially when they are missing their front arm. The potential for injury is great.  Luckily  he took her (with a few minor scratches) and then I came back down from the roof as well.
I was shaking. This was not something I would ever want to repeat.
I knew I would need to build an Impenetrada.  Not just to stop Three Paw's excursions but to prevent Pirate from haphazardly falling through the railings on one of her merry chase-that-fly dances where she sees nothing but the fly she is determined to catch.
So I dungareed up and went to a hardware store (the horror the horror) and bought myself some mesh and binders. Now I have and created a netting round the terrace railing with my own nimble hands. It isn't perfect. It's not going to stop the wiliest of beasts but should be enough for a cat with three paws and another one who isn't really interested in climbing far as such but likes to fly across the terrace in pursuit of bugs

And so far so good. I mean I still hover like a helicopter parent when the girls go out there but I feel a little more at ease and secretly proud of my handy-woman ways.

I would so hire me .-)

Thursday, 23 July 2015


the joy of finishing
Today was possibly, probably, potentially my last teaching day in Istanbul. My contract has finished, I have fulfilled my part, although typically my school is pleading surprise at my end date...like it was completely unexpected, sprung upon them unawares. My end date has been known since the day I signed my contract and so this tussle over pay is disappointingly familiar. I remember feeling sad when my classes ended in Switzerland. I felt genuine sadness at saying goodbye and we had lovely, intimate last lessons. The love between my students and I was heartfelt and real, Today I listened to an adult student explain to me why it was OK that he yelled at his mother for losing his shirt and that was about as emotional as it got.
I love Istanbul but I hate teaching here. It is not all the students' fault.I had a genuinely sweet goodbye from my group class last night but in general the nature of my school here has been to throw you from one situation to another so you never really connect with anyone and I have hated this. And I have felt my passion as a teacher die more each passing month.

So I finished my last class and went straight to my favorite old mans' pub where I ate cheese and drank raki and felt liberated somehow.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Don't Give It Legs

Some people say that a disappointment is just an opportunity in disguise but sometimes I think disappointments are just what they are and you don't need to spin them into something else. I think it is OK to feel disappointed and to give sound to that feeling whether that be with a few choice words, a sigh or even tears. The trick is not to give the disappointment legs so its starts following you around all day. Today I took mine on a boat trip to Asia. I didn't lose it entirely unfortunately, (this one has quick legs) but riding on the ocean, feeling the wind against my face, certainly helped me from blocking its incessant chatter.

Thanks Lady Boss.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

One glance

Even the police water cannons cannot  quench my love of da Bul
So clearly Day 7 of Da Fest da Boss had to be a day of rest since even a goddess on  a budget needs her downtime. I didn't manage to make it to Beykoz, Sile or Kylios but I plan to do these in the coming weeks.
I discovered something very wonderful out of this week though and that is I truly do love Istanbul. I love her until my heart hurts and part of me asks myself why (again) are you going to leave something that you love.  Why can't you feel comfortable enough in your own skin just to enjoy that feeling of joy without running from it. Of course, this is a very simplified analysis. My reasons for leaving are steeped in practicalities not emotions and those practicalities have not change all that much - although I do query whether there is anywhere affordable in Europe for me to live on a teaching wage.

I think of the French poet's words - Alphonse de Lamartine


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Day 6: Back to Adalar

So now that I have officially re-mermaided myself, I decided I should return to Adalar for a swim. A different island though. My favorite one - Burgazada. It's small with a picturesque port and a rambling, wild, far side awash with flowers and butterflies. It has churches, mosques, beaches, dogs, cats and gin and tonics - what more could Da Fest da Boss possibly require.
I began my day by walking though Macka Park down towards the Kabatas ferry terminal. Some folk have been known to refer to it as Stabby Park but all I saw was happy cats sunning themselves on benches and enjoying the feeding stations where food is given to animals when people push recycled rubbish into the top receptacle. Genius!

I love the ferry trip out to the islands. On the one side you can see the city fading into the background ( and all the stress that goes with it) and on the other side are these wonderful humps of land - like green whales, beckoning us to come play.

View of Burgazada as the boat pulls in
View of Istanbul - far enough away that you can feel your breath deepen.

Once I arrived on the island I did what I usually did.  Acquire a companionable street dog and wander round to the back of the island along the coastal path.

A few hippy Turks have set up a little cafe at the back now where you can buy beer and a toasted sandwich. I bought my dog a sandwich and we sat on the beach and regarded the view like two old souls who have finally cracked the meaning of life.  I love this beach. It isn't the nicest to swim at. Very weedy but relaxed, private and above all safe from pounding rocks. 

They have even built a dog castle! I love the bones over the entrance!

After a swim and laze, I left the dog snoozing under an umbrella to prevent any howling at the port later on. ( Not the dog -  me!) 

I passed some time sobbing in the bushes (street animals break my heart even though this lovely dog was quite old and she seemed happy and plumpish around the haunches) and chasing butterflies.

I finished the adventure with a raki at my favorite restaurant nestled between trees at the back of the island. 

What a view!!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Day 5: Facing the devil and the deep blue sea

Today I decided to devote Da Fest Da Boss to braving the sea again.
The last time I went swimming in Istanbul I nearly drowned in a very graphic smashed-up against the rocks kind of way. At the time I thought it was some sort of freak swell or perhaps a passing freighter that had caused the waves but I have since observed that there seems to be these sudden vicious surges that rise up in the water with no reason or warning. When I see one now I instinctively back away from the shore and my hearts starts racing.

Now even though I wanted to get back on the seahorse so to speak, I didn't want to return to the scene of last year's crime (Heybeliada on the Princes' Islands) so I decided to go up Da Boss towards the Black Sea. I chose Rumeli Kavagi which is right up the top on the European side and has a sandy beach with a view of the third bridge. It is beautifully soporific sort of place. Even the fish were napping. I'm not sure if this was because of Ramazan or is the general mood of the town - I suspect the latter.

I had a late breakfast by the water's edge which was a very slow ( sleepy?) affair. Slow service doesn't actually bother me and especially during Ramazan - fair enough! But Grumpy service does. Grumpy service and menus filled with items that are not available. Imagine if I taught like that. Turning up grumpy and crossing off all the grammar topics that I would prefer not to serve. Sorry I'm all out the Present Perfect Continues and Participle Clauses...can you choose something else? Fortunately there was no grumpy today only sleepy :-)

Later I joined the Turks down by the sea. It was a little chilly to be honest but it felt good to wade in and feel swallowed by the sea once again (but not in a I'm-gonna-spit-you-right-out-again kind of way!). I lounged down there for a while and read Lady Chatterley's Lover . Occasionally, when I tired of Michelis' premature crises, I would watch all the Turks frolicking about in the ocean. It made me joyful. Poor Turks have very harsh work conditions and their holiday breaks are very small. Happy indeed is a holidaying Turk.

Me, the third bridge, da Boss and my other two laydees
After my paddle, I decided to walk back to the next town of Sariyer which took me past the boatyards, over a hill and down amongst all the wonderful wooden yalis. 

In another life I would like to have fallen in love with someone, moved into one of these old yalis and together we could have wrinkled like the figs in our garden.
Still time, I suppose.