Looking back with fond memories to time in Turkey
Trip Start Oct 03, 2002
20Trip End Jun 30, 2003
I was working in a summer school where foreign children learnt English and took in all that is English on some day excursions, when I met Suzan Akman. Suzan was an English teacher and still is and during her holidays she would often come to the UK to teach even more, she's a great teacher and a wonderful woman. I had told her that the monastery in Sri Lanka did not accept me and then IBM in China; I had my third choice and offered to me was Istanbul in Turkey - a contract for nine months. Suzan was so excited, telling me all about Istanbul and she just simply said you will love it Charlotte - the people, the culture, the food everything, Suzan said, you will adore Istanbul. So I accepted and that is how I was recommended to stay in Istanbul.
This could be one beginning, as were when I stepped off the plane into Istanbul Attaturk Airport to be greeted by a contact who would take me to my first accommodation.
This was simply known as Maslak, a rich business district amongst the skyscrapers was a student dorm building. Full of Turkish boys, I slept in a bunk bed with five other girls! The experiences here included bathroom havoc, the urinals - I would be cleaning my teeth and one of the boys would bleary eyed come and relieve himself to the sound of the bristles against my teeth - I got used to it after some time and would feel it normal. There was of course Nadia, blonde and slim from Ukraine.
Nadia, I remember on returning from her walking and jogging around Maslak - where there were not many green areas, I do not remember any in fact it was the business district! Blood spots on her jogging pants, she was out of breath as expected and I asked if she was ok. She replied yes-fine thank you. There were many occasions she returned late into the evening and then sometimes the next day and I would feel like a sickened with worry mother waiting for her to return. Nadia could have changed her name to Natasha the amount of times, the two names followed in the same breath when talking about Nadia. In the 1980s after the Berlin Wall was toppled, a flood of women searching for new life and work from many Eastern Europe countries came to Istanbul. They soon found no work and with their fare skin, lighter shade of hair they were a demand that led to an exceeded supply. They were the Natashas. 'Natasha' broke up a family, soon many married the Turkish men and divorce was ripe in Istanbul, they caused a social revolution Turkey had not seen before. Unfortunate for Nadia, she was looked upon as one of those Natashas, here to find a better life... to find her husband.
From Maslak to Kasimpasa. All Turks know that little song about Kasimpasa, people laughed when I told there where I had now moved to in Istanbul. The dorm building on the ground floor windows had thick iron bars on the outside, to protect us or prevent us from seeing the going ons in the night? Who knows, but we were now in the Harlem of Istanbul. From the temporary accommodation, this seemed more permanent and along with the security guard on the main door and all the Turkish boys with us - this time there were a lot more and new ones too, boys that had never even been in a shared house with girls, let along foreign girls. I can tell you they were rather excited at us 'foreign girls' being there. I had managed to conquer a room where only two of us shared. Anna was from Ostrava, Czech Republic's third largest city - she was very proud to tell people this. Anna had the misfortunate looks of Nadia, fair skinned, blonde and a pretty face - she drew attention from even the women in the street and it was something that bugged her so much, she did though go on to become immune to it, to not care. Istanbul was a place that taught you such things, to rise above and to keep going, keep having fun when things and people around you are not going on so well. Experiences here were vast, and often it was very non-eventful too! The people sitting in the corridor was a bane to my time there, I could not sleep with Adriani from Greece speaking like she was fighting with someone all the time, they say the Greek language sounds like cats and dogs fighting, often this was a fitting analogy for Adriani and her relationships!
Kasimpasa had its own stadium and plenty of watchful eyes when Nadia and I ran there sometimes.
I am glad I did not see it, but it was something probably I could have walked past so easily, was the time Australian Kelly returned to say she had just seen a stabbed man, blood oozing from him. He was wrapped up in white cloth and taken in the back of an unmarked car - men stood all around watching and whispering. The place this man met his death, was 700 metres from where I slept each night. The iron bars had kept us safe, I had realised.
The showers we used were located at the bottom of the building, a corridor at the back led down to our safe and unseen passage to these showers. That was until they installed the dryers in the same room - so whilst we are taking a shower unlocked doors, I think the boys would inform, scurrying and telling the others I can hear them saying 'hey the foreign girl is taking a shower, let's go dry some clothes'.
Football was a passion of the boys that lived in this dorm, so was it a passion, blood running through each Turkish veins. England playing Turkey was a special occasion and I had friends supporting the opposition whilst I cheered on England - it was all fun, and the young uni boys asked me questions about England, football and Beckham - I even had a poster of him up in my room much to the laughter of Anna who very patriotically had on her side a poster of Czech Republic with all of the locations of castles illustrated onto the map. I felt this ironically reflected the stereotypical English person, but I was only living up to that stereotype.
Next stop, Bakirkoy, I had moved there by December just before Christmas time.