Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010 - No comments

The Shadow that Obscured the Istanbul Sun

Me, a Starbucks mug (full, ironically, of Nescafe - gasp!), a shady grapevine and the seagull-speckled Marmara Sea. The sunshine sets the ferries agleam, the autumn colours climb the city walls, and birds and cats and car horns compete for airtime....It's a proper Istanbul afternoon.

Too proper, perhaps - complete with a morning explosion in Taksim Square. We saw the news just after landing in the airport and were as horrified as the rest of the crowd pressing in to read the headlines. A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a police stand, killing himself and wounding upwards of twenty. The swarms of police and ambulances as we passed by the scene two hours later on the bus stood out in cruel contrast to the otherwise gorgeous sunny Sunday.

There is much in my heart, but not much I can write here. Riots and violence in Taksim aren't so uncommon. But a suicide bomber? As eastern wounds appear to bleed westward with greater intensity, maybe I have too rosy a view of my enchanted city. I'd like to think of this as an aberration, not a growing trend....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 1 comment

Strangers in a Downpour

I love the communal aspect of a good storm.

In Istanbul, it means a well-choreographed dance down the street, everyone dependent on everyone else to raise and lower their umbrellas at the appropriate moment so as not to gouge out any eyes.* Fogged-up ferry windows obscure the gray Bosphorus as 1500 strangers are unified in their state of soakedness and their need for a steaming cup of tea. Last week, on more than one occasion, the foreboding rumble of thunder sent me running to grab my laundry from the line, and I was amused to look out on the surrounding apartments and see a dozen other women doing the same. And here, on vacation with my mom in Kapadokya, we shared in the joy of a torrential downpour last night. With the power out and the sky falling, we rounded up some candles and enjoyed the storm from our pansiyon room window. When the rain showed no sign of letting up, we scrapped our dinner plans (no electricity in town, either) and headed upstairs to the terrace to huddle with the other guests around the woodstove and watch as the lightning lit up the unearthly Kapadokyan landscape. The chef had grilled fish for some other guests and kindly set us up with the extra food, and just as we lifted our forks, the power came back on. I almost asked him to turn the lights back off cuz we'd been excited to dine by candlelight!

Rain is a great equalizer. No matter who you are - rich or poor, student or businessman, tourist or local, getting caught in the rain is getting caught in the rain. Unless you have a generator, a car or a glass bubble you walk around in, it soaks you to the bone and interrupts your plans and offers an opportunity for unexpected delight and unforseen friendship.

*R.J. - "The Umbrella Dance"