It has been over a month since I last posted. A month full of things to say, full of pictures, stories, a couple of weekend trips and even a couple of blog awards (that I have not forgotten). With so many things happening I don’t even know where to start.
I have now settle for over a month in my new flat – after a couple of bad house experiences I am really glad I found this place.
My time here in Istanbul is flying and I have been trying to enjoy it the best I can – I would say very successfully. The longer I stay, the more people I meet and the more I hear, the more fascinated I am with this city.
When I first arrived I was just slightly disappointed of how european the city felt. I expected being overwhelmed with this place, I hoped for an explosion of smells, sounds and colours – I imagined Istanbul as an exotic oriental place. And as soon as I arrived I was treated to an european city with an oriental touch. It was really beautiful, it was really special – simply not what I expected.
And then I started to notice a few different things. Contrary to most experiences on a different country – where you first can tell all the differences – I first could only see the resemblances. But then as you start to notice the similarities on said experience – I started to understand how different it truly is around here. And by now I can tell the amazing distinctive qualities of this city – but also a few bad ones.
When I first moved in to my first house here, the landlady was easy-going and friendly. But then, even after we talked about it, we were not allowed to have guests. For me it is very important to be able to have guests. I want to invite all my friends and family to visit me, and I want to be able to give them a place to stay. And so that meant I had to move.
While I now that this could have happened everywhere in the world, here I have heard many stories like this. Too many way worse than mine. I mean landlords calling every time a boy enter the house and charging for every visitor as well. And other weird situations.
Now a new law is coming out that prohibits girls and boys to share the same flat. It is still legal, but around the same time Turkey restarted the conversations to get into the EU, Erdogan publicly announced that neighbours should report if they knew students of different genres were sharing a flat.
The turkish mentality is still very male oriented – and while that means guys will give you the seat on the bus most of the time, it also means that you will hear college educated young men saying that a woman should be able to cook to find a husband. And you know how important it is to find a husband.
Of course this doesn’t mean everybody thinks like that. I have many turkish friends by now – all very kind and opened minded. They all are just as shocked as I am with this kind of attitudes and they too represent a big side of Turkey. But for me it was a bit of a surprise to see this happening in Istanbul.
And then we have the good part of the differences between Turkey and other places.
Where I live – a slightly more traditional neighbourhood – and usually around the older parts of town there is one incredible thing: old women living in upper floors have a basket held by some ropes. Every once in a while you will see the basket coming down and then some yelling down stairs, either to some kids or to some store owner. They will send the money down in the basket and the person will buy and bring them whatever they were asking for – usually groceries. Once I was the person called for to put a shirt on the basket – it had fallen from the third floor as she was putting it out to dry.
I don’t think this would last long in Portugal as a lot of kids would be thrilled to run with the money with no intention of doing some old lady a favor.
The same trust system happens in the mini-buses, a private company of buses where no one will ask you for money. You can get in and out without paying and no one will tell you anything. But everyone pays – if you are in the first seats expect to be handed all the money from the back to give to the driver.
If you need help to get somewhere even without speaking a work of english most people around here will get out of their way to help you. And the famous Turkish hospitality is far from being a myth – I will later on write about Bayram – where we were welcomed by a turkish family to see the sacrifice. And that is not the only example of the kindness of most Turkish people.
Before I came here many times I heard Istanbul being the point where east meets west. When I got here I didn’t understand what that meant. It took me a while before it started to make sence – but contrary to all my expectations I found that this mix can only truly be found in the details. It requires a second, more attentive look. So even if Istanbul is not what I expected, what I imagined it is definitely even better than I could think of – and more than ever I am truly happy to have chosen such a distinctive city!
For now I can only promise that it will not take another month to post again – the pictures are coming.