Someone has died. Just beneath the birds’ lyrical pitch and the incessant hiccup of motors and exhausts, there is a solemn hum passing through the air, like a choir. If one strains to hear it, the hum blends into a mesmerizing, hymn-like chant. It is a funeral announcement at the local mosque; it is a much too dewey, clear skied morning for death. Continue reading “Morning”

“First we will help ourselves. Then maybe God [will].”

If there is a word for Istanbul, maybe Turkey, it is contradiction. This place is a breathing heavy heaving contradiction. On the intake it is beauty and modernity, sea, sky, relic; tradition, grit, glimmer, Islam. As the eyes adjust though, the exhale stirs those inevitable renderings and colors their second face. Here, too, there is quiet and impunity, a grim poverty beside a gross wealth, bureaucracy and apathy. Things are possible here that are rarely considered civil in other places. On the street, there are refugees tearing a single round of pide amongst them and a covered women stumbling into a white Audi in stilettos nearly trips over them, disgusted. Here, the bottom of a hill is old, sometimes tenement, with trash and clotheslines for cover, and then its top is vapid, vainglorious mansion-ry. Mini skirts and hijabs share sidewalks; restaurants observing the holy month sit beside booming bars; Ataturk nationalists and Erdogan share a constitution. Educated women attempt to foster educated girls, and other educated women tell them it is a futile exercise. There is a place for tradition and there is fear of the contemporary identity, but it is explored nonetheless. Fought for even. Suppressed. It is useless to presume anything of anyone. They are all straddling Asia to the east and Europe to the west. They are all trapped, or searching. Continue reading ““First we will help ourselves. Then maybe God [will].””

Life Is the Cat, We Are the Mice

A bomb killed 11 people in Vezneciler, central Istanbul, the morning after I arrived. It is about 7 miles southwest from where I slept and woke to find a notification on my phone that, indeed, this was the Istanbul my mother left at 18, an Istanbul of terror and grief. I rushed into a robe and slippers, still bleary, to find my aunt in front of CNN working on her laptop. She nonchalantly greeted me, günaydın, and told me about the coffee machine. I said, “But the bomb, what’s going on,” and she said, “Oh yes.” Continue reading “Life Is the Cat, We Are the Mice”