Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sequestered Expat Life in Suburbia

Thought I might get to some stargazing in the absence of being able to sleep last weekend.  Conveniently, last weekend was the peak timing to witness the Perseids meteor shower as Earth passed through a band of particularly dense comets in the ALL of space.   Only after about 3 AM did I realize that I live in Istanbul.  Fat chance, even on the dustiest outskirts of town!  I shouldn't fool you, I never grew up with firm roots in the land.  But I have often felt an intrinsic tie between my own self and the world around me.  I suppose because so much of my formative years was spent in a non-urban setting, I now feel a distinct longing for country landscapes.  Since my trip to Cappadocia in February, I've been sequestered to the suburban life
of an expat in Turkey's largest metropolis (in fact one of the world's largest).  It's not all skull and cross bones, though, I met the most breathtaking girl of my life and she's taken a liking to me as well!
These times holed away in the cul-de-sac of culture have left me time to explore and get to know my new neighborhood of Başakşehir.  Restaurant owners from Urfa invited me to join them at their nightly iftar of pilav, tavuk kanat, and kızarılmış biber (rice, chicken wings and roasted peppers).  That's a meal, consisting of whatever you like, which breaks a Muslim's fast at the end of a day in the holy month of Ramadan.  It all starts with a simple "hello and bon appetit to you!"
Despite being much younger than all the shopkeepers, once they learn that I'm a teacher at the local primary school, they are quick to bestow me the title of hoca.  Literally, this translates to teacher, but is also commonly used as a term of familiar respect.  Conversations range anywhere from the annoyances of the green grocer to my opinions on the obligatory military service policy.  I can't say I mind it, in fact I'm quite intrigued by the excitement that I stir up.  Ego-inflating as it may be, the convenience store employee who never fails to compliment me on my "beautiful Turkish" also never fails to receive my smile and handshake.  I'll certainly never turn down a chance to connect with some fellow human souls, if it is in some way fulfilling, even at such a topical level.

Accompanying poem to follow shortly.

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