Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014 - No comments

Sunday Morning, as Experienced from My Window.

Outside my window, the world is quiet.  Sunday morning quiet.  Ramazan morning quiet.  No tinkling teaspoons or clatter of breakfast cutlery.  It’s too soon after the pre-dawn sahur meal for those keeping the fast to have woken up, and too early for those sleeping off a Saturday night on the town to have emerged, bleary-eyed, from their beds.  

A shirtless young man with a hairy chest and drawstring pajama bottoms greets the day with a stretch and a yawn from his balcony one building over.  The only other living things in sight are an orange cat curled up under a car in the parking lot four floors down and the group of seagulls dipping and diving over the cluttered muddle of red-tiled roofs that is Kadıköy.  One swoops down to rest on a satellite dish on the building opposite me, then spends a minute weaving his way between the pipe-thin soba chimneys before rejoining his companions in the gray sky over the minarets of the Söğütlüçeşme Mosque.

The soft whoosh of vehicles drifts up from Taşköprü Road behind our building.  A nasal-voiced simitçi hawks his sesame pastries in the street below, belying the fact that it’s Ramazan.  A car honks in the distance, the sound muffled by the forest of apartment buildings between here and Söğütlüçeşme Road a few blocks over.  Two short bursts of a ferry horn reverberate from the direction of the docks.  Slowly, lazily, this Asian-side suburb of Istanbul is waking up.

The wind blows a patch of dark clouds my way, bringing with them a brief shower of hurried drops, followed by a burst of sunshine and that homey wet cement smell.  The vaguely cool breeze - a relief from days of July stickiness - teases the laundry hanging from the bars of a window across the way and the carpets drying on the balcony rails beside it.  Curtains billow from open windows here and there, and a red and white Algida ice cream umbrella sways over a picnic table on the balcony two floors down from Shirtless Man’s apartment.  Up the hill, a huge yellow and blue Fenerbahçe flag tied between two buildings rises and falls on the wind.  

A wasp floats in the window, sniffs around a bit, and then drifts out again.  A cloud passes overhead, its shadow twin sliding across the beige wall of the building across the parking lot.  On the top floor, a wooden wind chime hung from a makeshift balcony roof flutters above an old couch, a washing machine and a set of white wrought iron patio furniture.  One building over, a knotted trash bag and a rainbow of clothespins bounce on the line.  Below them, an assortment of potted plants soak up the warmth of the emerging sun.

A whoop-whooping sound in the distance grows increasingly louder until a helicopter appears low in the sky on the Moda side of Kadıköy.  It slows and lingers over the square by the ferries for a minute before moving out of sight.  An odd place for a traffic helicopter to stop, I think to myself.  Must be police.  It’s early in the day, but perhaps not too early for a protest.  It is, after all, Sunday.  

From far away, another sound replaces the whir of the chopper’s blades.  An even, measured clanging.  A hammer on a construction site, perhaps?  Unlikely on a Sunday morning.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think it were church bells.  Could it be?  Maybe from the old Catholic church up in Moda?  Kadıköy is, after all, a proud little “tolerant” island in the middle of an otherwise predictably conservative sea....

From somewhere much closer by, a garbled voice comes over a loudspeaker.  A policeman telling someone to move their car?  No, he’s talking far too long for that.  Is’s definitely coming from the Söğütlüçeşme Mosque a block away.  But it’s not yet time for midday prayers....  The voice in the microphone becomes clearer.  Turkish, not Arabic, so it’s not a Quran recitation....  A Sunday morning sermon?  (Where AM I, anyway??)  Yup, he’s definitely preaching.  But it’s not Friday, and it didn’t begin with a funeral announcement, so I can’t for the life of me figure out why....

(**I later asked a “relative” of mine, who happened to be at the mosque that day, what the deal was.  Many people aim to read through - well, mostly listen to - readings through the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan, .  Apparently, it was this mosque’s turn to host a reading.  Not sure where the sermon part fits in...maybe he was explaining the meaning in Turkish?)

I head in to take a shower, and when I emerge, the imam is still preaching.  Another fifteen minutes or so and he moves into some sort of chant in Arabic.  A long, undulating wail, musical in its quality, dwindles into a low gurgle, followed by a long pause.  I don’t understand the Arabic, but the emotion in his voice weaves a somber tale.  The next line is a soulful proclamation...another pause...a passionate crescendo climaxing in a note that makes me wonder if he’ll ever take a breath.  

The mournful song gives way to part two of the sermon.  Then more chanting.  The dirge is punctuated by a set of “Allah’u akbar”s - the only words I understand besides “elhamdullilah” (“praise be to God”).  He carries on this way for over two hours, talking - interestingly enough - straight through the call to prayer. 

A few buildings away, a woman in a red strapless top steps out onto the fire escape.  She faces in the direction of the mosque as she talks on her cell phone.  The imam continues his song, unaware of her stare, the melodic recitation filling the air around her, settling heavily on her bare shoulders, and tumbling thickly down to the streets below.