Dreaming of Life Post Pushchair (and Public Meltdowns).

Getting around Istanbul with Anton and Neve is getting the better of me at the moment. I feel despair before beginning journeys in the city and the shame of just wanting to beg Ville to stay with me when he goes to work. Getting about is slow and simple on Heybeliada but as soon as we are off the boat in the big city the chaos starts, and at least three days a week join the masses we must. Part of the problem is a massive construction project in Taksim which has closed some of the main roads of central Istanbul. The whole thing is criminally badly organised as there is no doubt that there will be death and injury caused by the dire planning. Yesterday Ville witnessed exactly such an accident in which an old man was hit by a car on a road that had been cordoned in half and made a shared thoroughfare for pedestrians, cars and diggers. You can feel the frayed nerves of people who have no choice but to tread these routes, and my (usually famously stable) nerves have resulted in large (and unfortunately public) meltdowns.

There is no way we could remain unchanged by this city and it is true that I do want to be a bit (well a lot) more assertive but I never imagined that I would be shouting obscenities at strangers or using my pushchair as a battering ram. Last week I stood on the kerb in the rain by the taxi rank sign at Kabataş wearing Neve, pushchair under one arm, clutching shopping and Anton with the other. The fact that I could not wait on the busy road with a small child enabled one person after another to look at me, realize I lacked the ability to move at the speed of a single person and jump into the taxi I was clearly and desperately hailing. One taxi after another, one inconsiderate person after another, for twenty minutes, before I began to shout. I started off in Turkish trying to explain that I needed to get a child from school and why I couldn't just wait amongst the moving traffic but my frustration soon led me to the deeply articulate 'How fudging uncivilised are you to push in front of me'! Yes, Istanbul is changing me. I would like to teach my children to be assertive as well as gentle but I am aiming for the right side of raving lunatic! I am not sure Istanbul is bringing out the best in me right now.

Yesterday on my journey to visit a friend who lives at the end of the metro line I was waiting alone with the children for the lift to ground level at our destination. Another train arrived and we were joined by a group of able bodied, pushchair free adults who immediately gathered around Anton and Neve for a cheek pinching extravaganza. When the lift arrived they all poured in in front of me leaving no space for us. A former version of myself would have shrugged her shoulders and waited but my current self just regretted that my Quinny pushchair doesn't come with optional spikes. I forced my way in. It was not pretty.

I can really see how Istanbul has changed Ville too. He is not the opaque, mild-mannered Finn he must have once been. Though still a supremely gentle man, he does however gesture like a Turk and is not afraid to slap a pushy car.

I know that a large part of the problem is that (apologies I know I have said this once or twice already) this city was never planned to enable women and children to be out. Actually it has barely been planned at all. I know that my years here post pushchair will feel very different from the days I push through now. When distances are short and safe enough for Anton to walk and Neve to be worn the city feels full of possibility again.

Today's pictures are of the corner in Beşiktaş where Anton, Neve and I wait for Matti's school transport on Thursdays (and today because I hid in Beşiktaş and cooked all day). I apologise that they are maybe a little gloomy. These streets have become a nightmare for me, I dream that I fall over, letting go of the pushchair which hurtles down the steep hill into the traffic below. I actually never have a child in the pushchair going down this hill, but have Anton picking his way down the uneven stairs, as the possibility is too real. Tomorrow we are all off to a Christmas Fair at the German School and Ville will be in charge of the pushchair so I am sure there will less grey tones.

The corner where we wait.

Street lamp.

Julia, Anton and Neve reflected in a wing mirror, waiting.

Anton keeping himself entertained.

Matti arrives.

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4 thoughts on “Dreaming of Life Post Pushchair (and Public Meltdowns).

  1. There is a special atmosphere about these pics... love the shining and the reflection! Nevertheless... great shots! Have fun at the Christmas Fair... I´m sure this will be beautiful!

  2. Sounds like a major culture shock! We recently moved from Australia to Canada, and my biggest challenge is adjusting from endless summer to cold and rainy winter! I like the moody shots, cool headlights in that first one. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day :)

  3. Julia, I have wanted to respond to this post for days, and time has run away from me. I'm afraid my words will be so inadequate to convey what is in my heart. This post brought back so many memories for me of my time in Bangkok with my firstborn who was two at the time. I could relate to so much of what you shared - the utter and complete frustration of trying to navigate, learn a new language, and the difficulties of a different culture, unkind people, and a city bringing out the worst in me. It was such a completely stressful time in my life and it literally left me broken and suffering from PTSD. I am concerned for you my new-found on-line friend. Are you okay? I mean really okay? I wasn't sure how to contact you privately. If you would like to respond privately, you can contact me through my e-mail on my blog profile, or through my FB name at the DD group. I hope I haven't overstepped, but you are in my thoughts and I just want you to know that someone cares about you and your beautiful family.
    I haven't followed your blog long enough to know what circumstances brought you to Istanbul. It sounds like it is a long term situation? I truly admire you becuase you are striving to find beauty in the difficulties, and you are creating wonderful opportunities and memories for your children.

  4. Dear Lisa, thank you so much for your care from so far away. I would absolutely love to turn up in your busy household for a cup of tea and compare notes on cities that just do nothing to help a mother! I think when I wrote this I was not ok at all. Our problem is that the reason we are here is so that we can be a proper part of my step son's life. He lives with us three days a week and his mother is here, so we must be too. He is 8 and so we know that a day will come when there will be different opportunities for us but they are some time away. After I wrote this post we decided we would move house so that getting Matti from school becomes easier and this change (though it will take some months before it happens) has really lifted me. We have also been working up to me getting a few hours a week without the children because Ville's hours and all the travelling means that I don't get any time at all. Yesterday Ville and I went out by ourselves for the first time since Neve was born and it was so good. This is in many ways an exciting place to be but I think as life is fairly unrelenting with two small children (and Matti being very full on and needing a great deal when he is here) the fact that it is so crowded and unyielding just make simple things hard. The solution for my eldest has meant paying for school in England which until recently meant that we couldn't even afford health insurance. It really kept me awake at night. But I am so proud of Ville, he has worked in human rights all this time and somehow pulled in the enormous amount of money needed to keep an impossible situation going. And we are really starting to feel the light at the end of the tunnel on our faces! I am so determined to get the most of this city and never make the kids feel that we made a sacrifice. Saying that though it is just so lovely to have someone understand the challenges I am coping with and care enough to write. Thank you so much Lisa. Big hugs.


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