This week one of my students is in Egypt on business, and another is just MIA, so I have an unprecedented amount of free time in the mornings and early afternoons. Plan A was to spend it all outside like I’ve been dying to do for the past few weeks. I envisioned writing on a park bench, reading on a blanket on the grass, picnics on the rocks- but the temp fell five degrees, just to the point where a walk in the sunshine is nice, but it’s too cold to hang out. Then I got really excited about just hanging out around the house. Cleaning, reading and writing on the sun porch, taking out my spring clothes…
Every spring I get so excited- about the warm weather, the sunshine, the flowers, the blooming trees, bringing out my summer frocks- that I forget two hard truths that come with every April: bugs and construction projects.
Monday I woke up to the sound of the first floor apartment being gutted.
Cruelest month indeed.
I went to the park for an hour or so. I ran every errand I could think of. I came back to the apartment and plugged into my i-pod, (which is so old and broken now it only plays one playlist) and got some things done.
By dusk there was a huge pile of drywall and pipes outside the apartment, Blonde Dog and Black Dog were gone, and I had a headache.
This morning I woke up to banging and drilling again.
It will not do.
We have to get out of the house. I don’t have any cash, so unless you want to spot me some….? No? Okay. Well, then our options are limited. More so by the fact that I have to be at work at three. We could go for a walk, I guess.
Or go to work early.
JESUS CHRIST. WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!?!? Are they cutting through support beams? Is it even safe to sleep here anymore?
That’s it. We’re leaving.
Get your coat. We’re out of here.
We’ll just go on a pointless ferry ride.
Did I ever tell you about Umut, who I used to work with? He was a piece of work. I went out for fish dinner and raki with him one night- perfectly harmless, he was married, poor woman- in Kadikoy. When we passed this statue
he asked if I knew the story of it. I said no.
“A long time ago, there was a peasant boy who loved a girl, but they couldn’t be together so he turned himself into a bull. He put her on his back and swam across the Bosporus.”
“Oh wait, I do know that story,” I said. “But it wasn’t a peasant boy, it was the Greek god Zeus. And the girl’s name was Europa. ”
Umut didn’t say anything for a minute. I would later learn that he had anger problems, and that he hated it when anyone, particularly a woman, knew something he didn’t. Once he pointed out to me that the escalator and its handrail move at different speeds. When I said “Yup,” instead of, I don’t know, “Oh my God! I never noticed that before!” (because I never used the handrail before? I guess?) he sulked. Like he was sulking now.
“I hadn’t heard that,” he eventually said, stiffly. “I heard it was a peasant boy.”
“Maybe there are different stories,” I said lamely. He didn’t respond.
But regardless, this bull, which now mostly functions as a convenient place for people to meet, or a landmark when giving directions, or a prop for teenagers to take their pictures with, is actually Zeus, who has just turned himself into a shining white bull. He’ll go to the meadow where Europa is picking flowers in a moment, and she’ll ooh and ahh over what a lovely bull he is- and so tame! and so gentle!- and when she gets close to put a garland of flowers around his neck, he’ll flip her on his back and make a run for the sea and carry her across the Bosporus to Europe. She’ll call out for someone to save her but no one will, cause, you know, it’s Zeus. And when they get to Europe he’ll rape her. It all started here, folks.
I’m pretty sure, anyway.
Here we are at the ferry dock- the next boat’s at 13:20, but it looks like we can board soon. Boarding is always a shovey experience. When getting on any form of transit in Istanbul I often find myself chanting “Be aggressive, be be aggressive” in my head and waving imaginary pom-poms around. Old ladies are the worst. They’ll cut a bitch for their preferred seat.
Here we are. Breathe the sea air. In and out. Forget about the noisy flat and everything you could be doing at home right now. Forget about the layer of demo dust that’s sure to be filtering up and settling over all your things now. Just look around at beautiful Kadikoy, with its acres of lush mini-buses,
its many, many full-sized buses,
I’m pretty sure that pink building is a sewage treatment center. There’s one somewhere around here, anyway.
And this thing might be my favorite eyesore. I mean I guess K-koy doesn’t have the most esthetic coast line but c’mon. That little jutty bit with the sea wall wouldn’t be so bad- but Turkbalon is so ugly, and doesn’t blend in with anything, and you can see it from Europe. Also, I have lived in Istanbul for nearly a year and a half, now, ten months of that in Kadikoy, and I have seen this thing in the air ONCE. ONCE. It’s ugly and it’s not even useful.
Oh! We’re off! Goodbye for now, Kadikoy. I’ll come back in an hour to catch a bus to work.
Oh, lookit that! I think these are the new trains for the new metroline! All shiney and still in their shrink wrap!
I remember back in my late teens and very early twenties, when I was babysitting, if a toddler in my charge was having a bad day, or was restless or bored, or if I was restless and bored, a great activity was to hop in the stroller and go visit a construction site. Toddlers totally bliss out staring at the big machines doing their thing, and the grumpies are totally forgotten.
I think this works well on 33 year old women, too.
I mean, how cool is all this stuff for moving cargo containers?!
Okay. Goodbye, cranes.
There’s the Maiden’s Tower. It was built 2500 years ago or so to control the flow of ships up and down the Bosporus, and rebuilt by the Byzantines as a fortress. Now it’s a restaurant for tourists. This is also where a Sultan imprisoned his daughter for many years, because a prophesy foretold that on her eighteenth birthday she’d be bitten by a snake and die. Of course, he brought her a basket of grapes to celebrate her eighteenth birthday, and didn’t bother to check them for asps.
Once I was teaching a group of high school girls. One interrupted the (not terribly interesting) lesson to ask what was my favorite tourist spot in Istanbul. I had to wrack m brain for a polite and conventional answer because- you read this blog- I don’t go to many tourist spots, but I think I came out with a strangled, “Sultanahmet! Hagia Sofia!” “Teacher, have you gone to the Maiden’s Tower?” “I haven’t yet,” I said, feeling inadequate. I really don’t do enough STUFF. You know, I still haven’t been inside the Blue Mosque? Isn’t that ridiculous? “Teacher, you must go,” the girl insisted. “Maiden Tower very beautiful. Very nice.” The rest of the students agreed, nodding and murmuring. “Do you go there a lot?” I asked. They looked startled and shook their heads. “Have you- ever been there?” “No,” said the instigator, “but it’s very nice.”
And here is a big old cargo boat.
And here are some little boats. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own little boat to cross the Bosporus in? Of course, your own little boat wouldn’t sell you simit and tea, but that’s about the only disadvantage I can think of off the top of my head.
And this is the sky today. Isn’t it nice?
And there’s Europe.
Okay and let’s go upstairs cause we are disturbing some kind of moment with our picture taking.
And this is the view out to the sea. A little hazy today, but still nice, no?
I wonder where we are?
Here’s the Halic bridge. We’re passing the Golden Horn
And here’s Eminonu!
If we had time, we could wander over the Halic bridge to Karakoy. Look at the fishermen. Dodge the unbelievably (even for Istanbul) aggressive waiters who lurk outside the fish restaurants on the lower story. Or we could wander through the spice market, which is right behind that big mosque we’re looking at. But we don’t. We’ll just exit the ship and get right back on and head back to K-koy, feeling quite a bit better about life, and exponentially less stabby, than when we left the apartment.
Rating of Pointless Ferry Ride
Cost: (with Istanbul kart) 2.75
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Cultural/Educational Value: dubious
Easy to Do: 10/10
Snack Proximity: Excellent
Good Thing to Do When You’re Cranky?: YES.