Browsing Category: turkey


Life in Istanbul continues on. And I never stop feeling like I am living in some sort of beautiful dream. For the last five weeks we have had guests in the house and now that there is a short lull in visitors, there is time to breathe, reflect and feel that more personal connectedness with the city.

Most nights we take long, windy walks going down the same streets we have walked on hundreds of times now, each time still discovering something new but now with solid footing. I still feel slightly short of breath as I walk up the hill into the main square, I hold my nose as I pass the doner kebab stands (the dark meat never grew on me), and still laugh and smile at all the performers and the almost overwhelming sense that every type of humanity can be found on Istiklal.

It may be a bit preemptive but already I am missing this beautiful city. I find myself sitting at the kitchen table watching the endless stream of boats going by and coming to terms with the realization that like those boats I am just passing and soon these times in Istanbul will be a fond memory. I get scared by the notion that life might never be better than this. Not because this is not enough. This is everything I could hope for but that instead as life passes by, I will always be looking with eyes to the past towards some definition of perfection that has already been achieved but can’t be duplicated.

But that is a negative way to look at things. Instead, I will aspire to be like Anais Nin who said, “I tend to feel negatively about nostalgia; I think we go back when we feel stunted in the present life. People who are nostalgic have known something good in the past and want to pick it up again;…I don’t have that nostalgic craving. Each cycle of my life interested me equally, but I have no desire to go back to any of them.”

Bob Dylan.

Some people complain that when they go see Dylan, he doesn’t put on a show. I had heard that he has gotten old, that he should have stopped touring because his voice is gone and that going was a waste of money. I went into the show with somewhat low expectations but I had no reason to.

Some people complain that when they go see Dylan, he doesn’t put on a show… When you are Bob Dylan, you don’t need to.

Dylan is amazing. Full stop. He doesn’t need lots of lights and costumes and theatrics because he has the music. His voice is rock solid. He gave a perfect performance tonight. I was blown away that a man who turned 69 last week can still bring it the way he did.

His songs are genius not only because of the melodies and brilliant lyrics but because they speak to something inside of you. They take you back to the first time you heard them and the thousands of times you heard them after. They tell stories that send chills through your bones and they make you believe that music is absolutely the best thing in the world.

It was an incredible feeling to be sitting in the amphitheater with the big Istanbul sky and seagulls swirling above, as we all sang along with Bob Dylan to Just Like a Woman… “But you break just like a little girll…”

Since there were no cameras or recording devices allowed in the venue, here is my only picture with Dylan. I still have a bit of afterglow!

Overall, I give the show an A++++++ but if onlllyyy he had played the times they are a-changing… i probably couldn’t have handled it!

One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul. In my first days, I struggled to learn to say basic words like hello and thank you. All around me there was the buzz of a language of which I knew nothing and every street and corner was unfamiliar.

When I first came here I thought it would be for a simple four month stay. I had come fresh off the heels of law school where I spent almost every day in the company of my friends and going to endless social activities. I came from living an hour away from my parents, 20 minutes from my in-laws and a hop and a skip away from almost everyone that played any significant role in my day to day life.

And all of the sudden it was all gone.

Through this last year I have loved and hated Istanbul. There were times when I wanted to book the next flight available back home and others where I never, ever wanted to leave. George Bernard Shaw said, “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” I had often read this quote and never understood it. Even now, I’m not sure I fully understand it but I think the growth and learning that happens while being abroad happens in the uncomfortable places, the ones that live far from familiarity and ease.

I know people who are not keen to travel. They are happy to stay within one city or neighborhood their entire lives and I think the person that has not traveled, that has had the opportunity to see the world and has wilfully not done so is a person that is missing a great deal from life. St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” How can we know anything about ourselves without knowing anything about other people? How can we read that one page and think we know anything at all?

I can understand that people might not travel because they don’t have the money or the freedom but I think that if there is any way to find that money and time, then there is no better way to spend either than on the road, in new lands and places where we are challenged to realize that there are many different types of people in the world and we must continually find ways for our individual existence to empower the collective existence.

In this last year I did not often think of myself as an ex-pat but as a traveler. As someone who was desperate to understand something about the country that I was living in and by extension to understand some things about myself. Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul, and I celebrate it as someone changed; hopefully better and definitely stronger. Here is to hoping for more adventures, challenges and inspiration in my last six months here.

Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow!

I have become a bad blogger. Inconsistent at posting and not really offering much of interest. It’s time to turn that ship around! One of the main reasons I want to continue blogging is because it is supposed to be good for someone who wants to be a writer to write consistently. Practice, practice, practice.

Most days I want to write about something in the blog but I think it is too stupid of a matter to discuss online or I can’t be bothered to properly articulate my thoughts on an issue. So, I suppose it is some sort of fear that prevents me from coming to this website and just putting something down.

In an effort to kick this fear in the face and to become more disciplined about writing I will now be posting Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I can’t promise anything earth-shattering or particularly exciting but I hope you will come visit anyway.

Today, I will write about snow.

When my cousins and aunts moved from Pakistan to America the snow was one of the things that struck them the most about Michigan. My one aunt would stand at the window and watch it endlessly. She loved it. She loved it’s cold, it’s white, it’s magic. I thought she was crazy.

Maybe at some point in 1988 when we moved to America, I may have felt that wonder. The complete awe that accompanies watching the world as it is hidden under a big white blanket. The inspiration that comes from watching flakes of snow under a lamp post somewhere. The exhilaration of picking up the fluff and packing it tight as you can and hurling it at your best friend while trying to wrestle away from someone who is shoving a handful of snow down your back.

But 20 years later in 2008, I hated snow. My friend’s used to always tease me about my illogical fear of snow. As soon as it would start to fall, all I would want to do is lock the door of my apartment and hide behind a massive thermos of tea until the first blossoms of spring would show themselves. It was that awful snow that caused my car to skid all over the roads, that made other cars susceptible to come flying at me, that convinced me that death was the passenger each time I got in the car. It was knee-high snow that I trudged through to get to class, it would creep into my boots, my pants and my mittens. It would surely give me pneumonia and lead to a slow, painful death in some anonymous hospital, on some anonymous bed.

My mom’s phone calls didn’t help. As soon as the first flurries would start to fall, my phone would begin to ring.

“Where are you behta?!”

“In my apartment.”

“Good! Don’t leave! Do you have food? On the news today they were talking about this lady that went out in the snow and she slipped on a patch of ice and now she’s in the hospital and they don’t know if she’ll ever walk again. So, even if you don’t have food, it’s probably not worth it to go outside.”

Snow. Stupid, dumb snow. Cold, freezing snow. Pain in the but, piling up all over your car snow.

2010. It’s been almost one year since I’ve seen snow. This week there were flurries and I was jumping around like a kid on Eid. Our office is one huge glass cylinder so when it snows it feels like you are in a massive snow globe. I have been so homesick for what was the bain of my existence. It reminds me of all those Michigan winters. When it would snow and snow until you thought even your house would get buried. And suddenly, everyone would be forced to slow down. They would see their neighbors as they struggled to keep their driveways clear and the sidewalks ice free. I remember going around Ann Arbor and helping people push their cars when they got stuck. Somehow, it brought us all together. How I wish we would get covered in it. To see all the Musjids and the Bosphorus through that magical lens of my youth and my old home. It would be something I would never forget.

Word around the office is that we’re going to get sleet tomorrow and snow on Sunday. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that forecast for the weekend!

First Day Back at Work

It is the first day back from the holiday. About half of the office is ex-pats so there was a mass exodus a few days before Christmas. Today, most people are making the big return.

The moment you walk into the office you start to hear the Happy New Years! Everyone is smiling and refreshed. They are exchanging stories of how the powder was wherever it was that they went skiing, how they miss the sun from their vacation or making jokes about relatives they are happy they won’t have to see for another year.

People are walking around the office passing out treats from the holidays, intent on keeping their own New Years Resolutions at the expense of their colleagues. (Namely, me!)

So, early in the morning, with chocolate already in my belly and still hearing stories and the chorus of Happy New Year all around me, I am grateful for this first day back, this job that I love and this city that is full of romance and mystery.

Happy New Years to all of you. I hope that 2010 shames every year that has come before it!