June 11, 2017
I dreamed of being stuck in traffic on an İstanbul highway (çevreyolu). I almost rear-ended the car in front of me several times. After I parked my car in Sarıyer, I took a long look at the Bosphorus. My mom then showed up behind me and we walked together by the water.
I have a main objective for today. I aim to understand Şişli (my hotel was in Nişantaşı). Why do this? So that in the near future, I can take friends and family through its neighborhoods, its best places to eat, its best places for tavla and nargile, and its best places for good views. It is another way of understanding my surroundings. Perhaps I will find a mosque to pray and relax. I do not know the good mosques in Şişli.
I found a park in Şişli and continued to read my book. I read about the poor economy of İstanbul leading up to World War I. I then read about the city’s chaos following the Ottoman Empire’s loss in the war. People’s properties were lost. The city’s pride was insulted with foreign occupation. Thieves and bandits grew in number. And, most importantly, the loss of power of the Ottoman Sultan led to an undesirable power vacuum. No wonder my great grandfather left İstanbul. Yet also, no wonder everyone else stayed.
There was a time when a Greek found Athens to be a foreign place. Instead, İzmir was the Greek’s home. At that same time, a Turk found İstanbul to be foreign; that Turk preferred to call Salonika (now Thessaloniki) home. An Armenian found İstanbul to be home and Yerevan to be too far away.
Places that have experienced conflict have experienced some of the greatest episodes of collaboration. Anthony Bourdain, my favorite chef and one of my role models, said invasions bring good food. One can argue that nationalism gets rid of some good food. Today, much like how Lebanese-Americans take heritage tours of Lebanon, I am taking a tour of my heritage. I am passing through my heritage trails.
The world entered, arguably, its most amazing collaboration era after World War II. Some people call it The Long Peace. It is the first time that all major powers have not declared war on each other since the fall of the Roman Empire. May the stories of fathers and mothers from past generations convince us to continue this Long Peace to the point that we forget how long it is and will be.
I hung out with a good friend of mine who always reminds me of how much work has to be done. She asked me to help her find a good master’s program in the U.S. and be a part of her future studies in Middle East marketing. One slight fault of our time together was her insecurity around the language barrier (she did not speak much Turkish). This led to nervous talks with taxi drivers and waiters and a lot of miscommunication about whether she wanted one thing or another. This frustrated her, and she showed it. I need to find a way to help people like her in ways that do not put them down while also keeping our company as comfortable as possible. Some ways I can do this include: improving my own Turkish, keeping in touch with her to ensure all is well, and that I better orient myself with the countless neighborhoods of the city. That way I can catch the malicious taxi drivers (i.e., pretty much all of them from my experiences) and know what the best part of a menu is.
Got home, had a midnight snack. No plans for tomorrow. My mind will wander with all the heavy thoughts I cycled through its mills. It is the İstanbul effect.