Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Magic Iftar Moment

Tonight something magical happened. I went to Iftar, the evening meal Muslims eat to break their daily fasts during Ramadan. Feeling exhausted after a busy day, I told my mother I wasn't in a gregarious mood and asked her not to volunteer me to tell any stories to the group, as she usually does. Obeying this wish was apparently against her nature because my mother feels it's her duty to goad me into telling stories whenever there is a listener in the room. If I say no I seem grouchy, so I usually just have to play along.

Well, for once I'm glad she prodded me to tell a story I didn't want to tell. Why, you ask, was I so against telling the story to begin with? Well, for one, all I could think about was getting into bed and falling asleep to the new Muppet movie. And what's worse, she wanted me to describe the book I'm writing. Exposing my creative process makes me feel vulnerable, but nevertheless, I described my book, which is based on a true story.The book tells the story of an enduring friendship between two women bearing the same name, but one bearing the burden of a horrific past as an Auschwitz survivor. One of the women is my friend, whom I'd spent most of this afternoon with trying to gather more information. The other, older woman passed away before I ever learned about her. I'd been feeling frustrated that I didn't know more about her. 

But as I reluctantly described my project to a woman at our table, she seemed to recognize the story. It turns out this person actually knew the woman I'm writing about. And she offered to share her memories and to put me in touch with other people who knew the woman personally. 

So just this once, being social against my will produced a delightful and magical result. Now if you'll pardon my bad manners, I really must bail on this blog entry. The Muppet movie awaits. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Going Home

This is the enchanting sound my friend Amy gets to hear from her living room window in the neighborhood of Sultan Ahmet. I’m going home to Portland, Oregon on July 24th and hearing the call to prayer will be one of the nice memories I will take with me. Perhaps I’ll replay this video from time to time to mentally transport myself back to Istanbul. I’m looking forward to going home for a visit after 15 months of globetrotting. 

I love how appreciative Turks are. If they like you, they will genuinely reflect that in their words and actions. Recently I was stopped in my neighborhood by a woman who works at a bookstore, just so she could thank me for smiling every day when I pass her store.

Amy and I hung out in her neighborhood tonight and talked about uplifting topics: love and writing, getting published and the ways in which we considered ourselves lucky. I said I regretted leaving so many great friends, including a great guy. Despite hitting it off with him, he told me early on that he didn’t want anything serious and I had to concur. Sometimes the awesome people we meet, whether they’re friends or lovers, just show up temporarily to remind us that we deserve to have terrific people in our lives.

Monday, July 9, 2012


On Friday, my friend Semiha showed me Çengelköy, a neighborhood in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul. We went to a famous café called Tarihi Çınaraltı Aile Çay Bahçesi, which, if my memory is halfway decent, means “Family Tea Garden Under a Tree,” or something along those lines. The selling point of this place and the reason for its popularity does not lie primarily in its proximity to a big tree, but in its fabulous location, right on the Bosporus.

Semiha took many pictures of me with the gorgeous scenery in the background and while she was angling my camera and playing with the settings to achieve the best shots, a strange little girl squirted her with her squirt gun. I love children, even the ones who start unwarranted squirt gun fights, and thought it was even stranger and slightly amusing that the girl's mother and her friends sat close by chatting and drinking tea, completely oblivious to the bored girl's assault on my friend.

Afterward, we took a visit to chocolate heaven, a cozy little shop where the confectioners combine Turkish coffee with hot chocolate. Because it was Friday, a holy day in Islam, they had closed the shop to go pray. So we went to the seaside and relaxed for a bit, before going back to the shop to enjoy some intense chocolaty beverages and chill out to some traditional Turkish music.