Monday, January 31, 2011

Settling in, in a once-strange land

Not long ago, I sat down to watch the popular Turkish film Issız Adam (“Solitary Man”). As the title character ducked into a small shop on the winding street where some of my friends live, or chatted with diners inside a restaurant where I’d eaten with coworkers, I felt the same warm sense of nostalgia one might experience while looking through vacation photos long after an enjoyable trip. But in my case, the stores and streets and scenic views were all still just outside my front door.

After three years of living in Istanbul, the things that so gleefully widened my eyes as a tourist – the skyline full of minarets, the man selling vegetables from a horse cart, the labyrinthine backstreets of Eminönü – have inevitably faded into the background of day-to-day life. Somehow seeing these same sights on film, contributing to other viewers’ romantic notions of the city, momentarily made them fresh again.

Settling in is not exotic. It’s not exciting. It doesn’t create the same rush of sensation as travel. Instead, it’s being handed half a mandarin to eat while I pick out my produce, or chatting with the butcher about the best cut of meat for a particular dish. It’s knowing what the latest crowd of demonstrators on İstiklal Caddesi is protesting, and being able to laugh along at some of the onstage banter at a rock show. And when I do travel, it’s realizing that all my reference points have shifted to relate to my new home.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

9 comments:

Aaron G Myers said...

Three years seems an eternity and yet passes so quickly. We too just past the mark. So many things seem normal now that used to cause excitement or fear or confusion. Anyway, glad three years has brought you to a settled place.

The Turkish Life said...

Thanks, Aaron. I don't feel so much that I'm in a settled place, exactly, but that I'm trying to find one, to have a sense of peace about where I'm at (literally and figuratively) rather than where I'm not...

jedilost said...

my mom used to live in the apartment building on the street where the guy follows the girl and gives the girl the book. i have some of the best memories about there. oh, good old days.

Natalie said...

Loved this post. While I'm not an expat, living abroad in Portugal and Germany has had me thinking along the same lines often. Sometimes I'll find myself off the beaten path. On a street lined with bakeries, bars, tobacco shops, and locally owned restaurants. I'll realize that this street, probably even the town, isn't in any guide book. If there are tourists at all, it would be me, even though I live here. It's so easy to forget where I am - an old building becomes an old building and I have to force myself to take the time to stop and reflect on how damn lucky I am to live the way I do. A friend recently pointed out how easy it is to get used to it and stop cherishing the moments - like you would be more likely to do when you are just passing through on a vacation...and just when I feel like I'm settling into a place, when I really think I can claim it, I have to move.

Emily said...

I just watched that movie, and know exactly what you mean. I really like your blog! :D

lara dunston said...

Thanks so much for entering our contest - I really loved this post!

Sorry for not leaving a note before now - I did get here to take a read, along with the other judges, but it's been a frantic month being our last weeks of our Grantourismo trip, so I forgot to leave a message. I've just realised that I've done that with a few entries this month :(

The entries were all so good this month, so thanks for contributing such a high quality post. At last - at long last - we've announced the winners of our January HomeAway Holiday-Rentals Grantourismo Travel Blogging competition. Details here: http://bit.ly/hYq2VB

Thanks again for your entry. We're announcing the February contest details a bit later today - the final contest is going to be a very easy one! Please spread the word :)

The Turkish Life said...

That's cool, jedilost! Was that Turnacıbaşı Sok. where her shop was, or the street above the steps going down into Çukurcuma? I forget the scene exactly...

Thanks for the nice words, Emily, Natalie, and Lara. I think there's definitely a satisfaction to being able to claim a place, but there does seem to be a fine line between that and taking it for granted.

I'll definitely give the last contest another go, Lara!

jedilost said...

no, it wasn't her shop. actually i'm not sure where it was right now. it is the stairs right behind the hamam and galatasaray lisesi. it leads to çukurcuma, but i never described it that way.

The Turkish Life said...

I know just the spot!