Watching Boats on the Bosphorus.

One of the things that I did to prepare for the move to Istanbul in the beginning of 2009 was read the novels of Orhan Pamuk. So, on arrival, the only the words of Turkish I knew where those that are untranslated in his texts (I still recall passages from 'My Name is Red' whenever I hear the word efendim, which, while literally meaning 'my master' is used all the time here as an invitation to speak, especially over phone) and the only facts I knew were what I had read in the Amnesty International annual report (which Ville conveniently had access to one or two copies of!). Reading Orhan Pamuk, while maybe not quite as practically useful as a language course, did give me some useful pointers on how to use my time. I knew to avoid long distance buses, and that thoughtful Istanbullites should spend many hours gazing at the boats on the Bosphorus. I knew that a certain sepia melancholia would be appropriate from time to time and was even prepared for winter journeys into an Istanbul as black (and white) as Ara Güler's. I imagined a landscape thick with books and stories. (That is not what I found.)

It is good my preparations were the complex texts of a master writer and not some chirpy advice on how to live in this city as if you were in any other. Life here quickly revealed itself to have complexities that novels have a better chance of vaccinating against the worst shocks of. Sometimes I want to shout out the absurdities of this place, but my clear thoughts quickly become as fragmented as society here, the many disparate strands of which create a web, keeping everything in its place. My outrage is too easily diluted by my fear of misunderstanding the fault lines of this city.

On Sunday, after a busy morning, Anton fell asleep just as we were pushing him past a very good place to watch boats on the Bosphorus, and, wanting to fulfil our obligation to stare absent-mindedly at the traffic, we took our chance. When I read Pamuk's descriptions of his boyhood boat watching I had no idea that I would be moving to the Island where he spent his summers and taking my place almost daily in boats on the Bosphorus. I didn't know that the rhythms he memorised, the straight steady progress of tankers, the criss-crossing of ferries, the loops of the smaller boats, would somehow calm my confusion in the surreality of life here. I just hope that  I can steer my way here with my indignation intact.

Look at the water Neve.

Two little teeth.

Boat traffic.

Sleeping Anton.

Dolmabahçe Cafe.

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3 thoughts on “Watching Boats on the Bosphorus.

  1. Such lovely memoirs.

  2. wow you write so beautifully - you should turn all this into a travel book about your time there! love the sweet sunny shots by the water - looks so relaxed!

  3. I love the cans of Coke sitting on the table, a universal drink! The picture of your little girl & her gorgeous little teeth is to die for!


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