Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wandering around Istanbul

I promptly dashed into the first bookstore I saw on Istiklal Caddesi and showed the clerk the brochure from the museum my mom and I had just visited. The museum was an old house which had belonged to the Turkish author, Tevfik Fikret. He called his home the bird’s nest, or Aşiyan in Farsi. My mom and I listened to the audio tour, feeling so appreciative that it was available in English. (In my day-to-day life, I’m learning that English translations are a rare privilege.) I wondered why the museum didn’t have a bookstore. Some intellectuals and visionaries who helped design modern Turkey were referenced in the audio tour, but I always feel even more curious after visiting a good museum and expect there to be a gift/book shop at the end.

On Istiklal, the bookstore employee showed me where Tevfik Fikret’s books were, but said they weren’t available in English. I bought one of his books anyway, and I’m counting on my mom to be able to tell me what his poems are about.

Yesterday was a great day for shopping, in addition to learning about literature. I connected with my inner child and bought myself a doll dressed in traditional Ottoman clothing. My mom helped me name him Mehmetcek, which means “Little Mehmet.” She also corrected my pronunciation when I tried asking, “What is the price?” Apparently, I’ve been going around, asking merchants, “What is my fate?” and everyone was too polite to say anything.

The most surreal moment yesterday was seeing some very somber people dressed up in traditional Native American clothing on Istiklal Caddesi. Some women dressed head-to-toe in abayas with niqabs over their faces were paying to have their photos taken with them. “Where are we?” my mom asked, as if we’d just landed on another planet. I wondered the same thing.

We came home and watched Birdman and ate kumpir, Turkish baked potatoes. It was maddeningly windy outside, so I wondered if my whole apartment building might go flying. The weather will be rainy this weekend, so I’m considering a mother-daughter trip to Cyprus. Until then, we’ll try to enjoy the sun as much as possible. 

Mehmetcek and his new housemates, Olaf and Toothy. They live on a suitcase in the corner with a box of Kleenex as furniture.

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