İstanbul: My First Week

Türkiye’den merhaba!!

A few of my friends and family askunnameded how they could follow what I’m doing in Turkey, and I noncommittally responded that I might blog about my time here. This is my attempt at following through. I’m going to try to post about my adventures and thoughts every now and then. Follow along if you wish.

I’ll start with this: I’ve never been one to take risk or move forward with something without a plan. Saying yes to a 10- week nannying job overseas was therefore quite the jump for me. I’ve been taking Turkish since the fall of 2015 and have several wonderful Turkish friends, but I’ve never been to Turkey. Nor have I been overseas for longer than 2.5 weeks. I felt a lot of anxiety the days before I left, second guessing my decision and the sustainability of this journey.

I read the Voyage of the Dawn Treader over winter break, a time in which I was feeling weighed down by a lot of transitions. While my brain was half-fried from the flu, I do remember one quote in particular that was salient for me:

“Because,” said the Mouse, “this is a very great adventure and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.”

I wasn’t really afraid of Turkey; it never seemed like a place in my mind that held some unknown eminent danger. But I was anxious. At the time it seemed a new place in a large city with a language in which I’m not fluent. I was more than prepared, but my gut was in knots. Regardless, I couldn’t justify turning this down simply because it was an unfamiliar place. I knew i18698007_10209106570076648_7377590427167550804_nt was a mystery worth pursuing, as most worthwhile journeys are.

Days 1 & 2

My host families picked my up from the airport on a beautiful spring afternoon (this detail is important since spring is basically nonexistent in Texas). I was welcomed to their home with four little pairs of feet running towards me, the oldest with a handmade welcome card in hand. We went out to their balcony where you can see all of this side of the city. It’s nothing but rolling hills of apartments and mosques with a slice of the water in the distance. It’s beautiful.

I came out to this spot the next day to sit on the ledge and listened to a favorite podcast of mine. The podcast was centered primarily around the following verses from the Acts of the Apostles:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”

Looking out over the city, I found this verse to be very true. It seems that God crafted each nation with intentionality, and his breath is never farther than our own. I’m grateful to be able to see that here, that God’s proximity to us doesn’t change with our geographic location. This feels like good news.

Days 3-5.

Thursday was my fullest day yet. We started out our day by going to Emirgan Park for a picnic with the kids. This park was situated on a large hill in northern İstanbul, and was by far the largest park I’ve ever seen. Dense with trees and playscapes for children, it was a dream for any little one. When I had a moment to myself, I climbed to the top of the hill to look out over the river in the distance. I could see the Bosphorus Bridge over the river, gleaming a deep turquoise in the sun.

After wrapping up our morning at the park, I went to meet my Turkish friend, who feels more like a brother now, at İstanbul Teknik Üniversite. From there, I joined him and his friend in Taksim. We saw everything from Taksim Square to İstiklal Caddesi to St. Antoine Cathedral to Galata Kulesi. My head was spinning from all the places we visited, but I loved every second of our adventure.

After taking a break for çay by Galata Kulesi, we walked by the sahil (bay, harbor) to look out at the water on our way to get baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. Families perched on the ledge for their children to watch the waves while old men fished nearby. The water is stunning- I don’t think I’ve ever seen bluer water in my life.

Friday I recovered from exploring, and Saturday morning I ventured out with one of the moms to get a grasp on the public transportation. We ended up at  Kanyon Mall in Maslak for coffee- I’m quickly learning that malls here are generally far nicer than the nicest malls in America.

Saturday evening, I went with the mom of the other family to the bazaar. She lead me through all the people bartering and yelling out prices. As we walked, I tasted cheese, olives, and dates from the stands. Everything I tried was so fresh. The mom I was with picked up some ingredients for the meal we would eat later. Other people approached the sellers to buy ingredients to prepare for breaking their fast this evening, since it was the first day of Ramadan.

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The rest of the weekend I watched the kiddos while the families rested and ran some much needed errands. Everyday looks different here, and while it hasn’t been perfect, I’m very much in love with this place for it’s people and it’s beauty.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for tracking with me. Hopefully I’ll be able to post one or two updates a week.

Until then- görüşürüz,

Mads

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