Last night I had a dream about Han. I’ve been dreaming more and more about past almost-lovers. The one who was married. The one who my best friend was in love with. But this one I couldn’t figure out why we wouldn’t make it, the answer was revealed to me a few years later, another wife, this time in Cuba. –Oh okay so you strung me along being flirtatious and charming and texting and taking me out for coffees that could sometimes last 8 hours into the night because well we had undeniable chemistry…. I got so angry when he finally told me that I stormed out and tripped on the side walk. It wasn’t even snowing. A full blown hot mess trip.
In his text the next morning he wrote that he never meant to deceive me. I suppose he remembered all those “Im not the marrying kind” conversations differently. It was at it’s core a conclusion though. A conclusion to an almost romance weaving in and out of coffee at our same cafe. We had all the same favourite places. That’s how we met, first through a common acquaintance and then I just kept running into him. It turned out we were neighbours and our days were the same. We were both doing nothing but occasionally something. Once I ran into him at the copyers we has reading? writing? a page for his father and got very nervous when asked him questions. I didn’t press. Han never told me how he financed his lifestyle and I didn’t’ much care. He joked about starting a business exporting women’s underwear with a friend, it turns out that may have been true? Or he made it seem more true that latest time we saw each other. Han was sort of mysterious like that. I met his parents once. Again running into them at our same cafe. His mother was decadent, she reminded me of my great grandmother. Or maybe what my great grandmother would have been if they didn’t leave Germany.
I never kept contact with Han outside of Turkey. His phone number sunk with the rest of my Turkish contacts in a pool of coffee one morning in Hamburg, Germany. I threw my red samsung flip phone in the trash without even a second look. I guess he still percolates my unconscious though, I bump into him on occasion in my winter dreams.
It’s a chicken little sort of evenıng in İstanbul. The air is tense. There is a police barricade at shishane metro station. Normally they don’t get that far. (Shishane is at one end of İstiklal street, Taksim Square is at the other.) Generally the barricades stop at Galatasaray lycée which is somewhere in the middle. But tonight previous escape routes have been blocked. I had plans with two different groups of people. All are staying home. “They have rubber bullets canım, it’s serious stay home tonight” I receive via text. I’m camping out at Şımdi cafe, a classically hip spot that throws water, or rakı in the face of the hipster movement. A group of italians are toasting champagne. no one seems worried (it’s about 7pm fyi). I order a beer in defiance. Determined not to let the loomıng threat thwart my evenıng. I abhor the idea of hıdıng out at home again. Im tired of ıt. Not to mention it’s my vacation. Yet my stubbornness is overcome wıth sensibleness and I gulp down the beer a lıttle faster than usual and pay the bill. I’ve stopped ınto Aponia graphıcs in Galata. It’s off the Taksim track enough to feel secure and the coffee pleases me. Adrenalıne and deep breathing compete for prominency. It’s ın the ınterest of my ıntestınal tract to avoid stress at all cost. I pitch the shop owner a T-shirt sketch in the interest of distraction. I’ve become his unofficial intern while on holiday here, by which İ mean I shove my slogans down his throat and he occasionally asks for them. This one gets denied.
Rubber bullets what an absolute drag.
Yesterday my friend Nick said something in casual conversation along the lines of how he’d probably never really unpack if he was moving around as much as me and I responded with something along the lines of that it helps if you you don’t have much stuff. So this caught me thinking about the transient objects in my life. It’s common to talk about the people who come in and out of our lives but rarely does the same apply to objects, except perhaps after a break-in or a flood. For me its about the “stuff not worth taking” like my white marker board in Fiji. It was an impulse purchase from Cost-U-Less when everything else in my cart was either gluten- or dairy-free, that is to say transient by nature. The white board was something I wanted, something, fun, but something that I would inevitably have to give up. Does that mean it was worth buying it? My father would probably say no however I would say yes. Can I say the same about my 1950’s used book on etiquette? No, that shall remain in Turkey un-missed. This sort of evaluation I have to say comes up a lot. I think Im getting better at it though for example I’ve stopped collecting books but I’ve learned the trick of taking photos of pages I like which is especially useful for my three-pound recipe collection. So sunglasses, you’ve already been replaced, whiteboard you have not, neither have you intramural, inner-tube water-polo, beer-mug trophy.
So my stuff is still in Istanbul. But since I’ve been the recipient of loads of great hand-me-downs I’ve been able to relax and almost settle in. It got to the point where I was even bored which is actually cool considering the circumstances. But since settling into my home town means i’m not technically an expat, I haven’t had much to write about. But even though I’ve “settled-in” Im not sure that I necessarily “fit-in.” I’ve realized that I feel at home more as an expat than I do actually at home. I’m kind of curious if this translates to all of Canada so I’ve come to Toronto to visit friends who I haven’t caught up with in 6 years and a bunch of cousins whom I’ve never met. Most of these friends are people I went to McGill with and although they’ve been able to keep in touch with each other over the years due to their close proximity I haven’t seen them since we graduated! So even though were not in Montreal anymore I’m wondering how “at-home” I’ll feel here with them. So far we’ve had a Peruvian ceviche and Pisco Sour party that felt just like old times. So here I am Toronto, let’s do this!
So I’m writing this blog at a Starbucks in Vancouver near where I’m staying. It also happens to be the nearest Starbucks to a police station so there are a couple of cops sitting at the table next to me. This is quite unusual except today it has a different affect on me. I’m sure you can guess, it’s about Turkey. As the protests continue on (I just watched a women my age get arrested at the tea garden up my block via youtube) we’re starting to find out which business are for and which are against the demonstrations. There have been calls for boycotts on some but more important support for others.
The Starbucks in Taksim square has been opening its doors to protesters, letting them use the bathroom, distributing free coffees and even administering first aid. It’s unclear whether this is a corporate decision or an action taken by the local store managers but either way it deserves to be recognized. It’s a great example of a community coming together and taking care of each other. I know from my personal experience getting caught in the tear gas that a pick-me-up coffee and a little water to flush out your eyes can be a big deal. So thank you Starbucks for being an environment that people can count on.
I seem to be getting more comfortable with this double reality thing as once again I find myself caught in the comparison between a café in my hometown in Canada where cops and civilians intermingle over lattes and my most recent home in Istanbul where the same café has become a refuge from the police. Really I think the most important thing is to find a community made up of people you have confidence in, no matter what neighbourhood you find yourself in.
This morning I had the chance to catch up with my friend Mehmet over the Internet. As usual he has been right in the middle of the protests in Turkey. He happily exclaimed “tomorrow they will re-open Gezi park.” Apparently the police were supposed to open it yesterday but there was a last minute delay. This of course sparked more protests, this time reaching even Nevizade. Nevizade is bar street just off of Istiklal where Galatasaray fans often gather before a game and there’s standing room only on weekends. I used to go there a lot since I have some friends who run a bar there. Here are some photos I took in Nevizade on June 1 (day 5 #occupygezipark). On that day the street was packed with protesters taking a break from the middle of things in Taksim.
There was no break yesterday I’m afraid, as Mehmet told me even this street was under a fog of tear gas. But as usual, the protesters have adapted; as Mehmet said “it’s ok! we got used to the tear gas, actually my body wants it when I don’t have it [appropriate emoji]” Hmmm that’s kind of how I felt about second hand smoke back when I lived in Montreal and it was still allowed to smoke inside.
So there you have it, tear gas has reached the point of normalcy at least for the protesters and those living in central Istanbul. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when they plan to re-open the park!
I contracted my first parasite in 2008 while backpacking in Patagonia after finishing undergrad. Of course I didn’t know what I had at the time. The four doctors I saw back in Canada all concluded that my symptoms were “a medical anomaly” gee, thanks. It wasn’t until a few months later when I landed in Australia for my Masters program that a doctor, who was originally from South Africa actually, figured it out. Great, problem solved! Not quite. For the next 15 months I had other weird symptoms that a Naturopath finally deduced as food intolerances to wheat, dairy, and eggs, and oh yah kidney beans (?) which developed in part from the weird combination of Patagonian bugs and ultra strong meds to kill said bugs. This all sorta calmed down until I got hit by another significant travel related illness in 2012, this time in the Fiji islands where I was working. I should have learned my lesson, which I did in part, but some how I’ve ended up sick again with some bug or another that I caught in Turkey, although my friend Hanna thinks I should tell people I got it in Italy, just for kicks, I could have I suppose.
Ok so if you’re still reading you’re probably wondering what this elaborate medical history of travel illness has to do with anything. Well, basically it’s grounded me. I was too weak to get on my plane back to Turkey on Tuesday and I wouldn’t be able to seek a specialist there (which is what its come down to) because its now classified as a pre-existing condition and travel insurance wont cover it. So all that indecision about whether or not to return to Turkey is actually a moot point; the bug decided for me. Didn’t see that happening. Sometimes life gets weird.
Growing up in North America kids often feel overwhelmed my the variety choices they get to make, as we get older these choices get narrower, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Basically I’ve concluded that my system can’t hack it in these countries which means I’ll be making a lifestyle change for sure. Now that I’ve admitted it I can get over it. I guess I’ll be starting something new. After this bug is dead, obviously.