23 January 2014

It's Been A Year Now...

One year ago today I arrived in Turkey. It was my third trip here but there was one big difference this time; I was here to stay. I came to Turkey for work; knew almost no one; spoke no Turkish; and outside Sultanahmet knew nothing about the city. So much has changed since then! I got fired in July, which isn't as bad as one might think; I have quite a few good friends now, Turks and other foreigners alike; speak some Turkish (although it could always be better); and feel pretty comfortable navigating more of this city of roughly 14 million* people.

European Fortress in Bebek
My first year here I lived in a neighborhood called Cevizlibağ. People barely even know where it is and everyone asked why on earth I took an apartment out there. The short answer was because I had a fever. I arrived in Turkey with severe bronchitis. I had a hacking cough, a fever, was leaking mucus from my eyes...it was not pretty. It was cold here and I still had to go to meetings with other organizations, project participants, and the bleeding US government. So when I told some new Turkish acquaintances what I was looking for in an apartment and there was one available in their building I jumped on it. I just wanted out of the hotel.

Rustem Pasa Camii

Living in the middle of nowhere aside, I had a pretty darn good year. In March I started taking Turkish classes. This proved really helpful because the guys in my building management office speak almost no English. We used Google translate a lot. Mostly I talk to cab drivers, waiters, and people in the market so I'm pretty good with food words and asking for receipts. I need to take my cat to a vet and get her shots and spayed. I don't know that word but I figure if I tell a vet that I don't want my cat to have babies (which I can manage) that he'd get the right idea.


St. Saviour in Chora church
And while I haven't visited as many places in Turkey as I was hoping to this year, I have got to a few key places including Ephesus (which after three visits I could guide you around blindfolded), Şirince, and Pamukkale. Pamukkale was very, very cool. I've also made it outside Sultanahmet and explored different parts of Istanbul itself, including the Prince's Islands and Eyüp. I haven't made it to Feshane or Miniaturk yet but they're on my list! I've also taken advantage of being so close to Europe and have visited Greece, the UK, Georgia, and the Czech Republic this year.

Buyukada-Prince's Islands
I am now also the happy mama of a Turkish street cat which I adopted from some friends. Last weekend some fantastic friends helped me move into a 5th floor walk up and in the process I briefly lost my cat, Sherlock. I was inconsolable for a day until I found her. She was, as they were certain, hiding in my old apartment but I'd given up hope when, after the move, I went back and still couldn't find her. All the moving fuss freaked her out.

And speaking of my move...I managed to get an apartment I first saw when some friends (I have so many of those now!) lived here. Aside from the five flights of circular stairs which will kill me one of these days (either expiring, breathless going up or falling down-likely the latter) it's a fantastic little place.

Part of what makes it so wonderful is its location. I'm now smack in the middle of the popular Istiklal street. There's a great wine bar just across the street, fantastic restaurants everywhere (even some that serve pork!), all manner of shops and markets, and my church and several of my friends are now all in walking distance!

Even Sherlock approves
And most importantly:

Aside from a few hiccups 2013 in Turkey was pretty good to me. Hoping 2014 is even better!

* Wikipedia lists the official population as 13.85 million. It's so much more than that.

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