Friday, May 30, 2014

Back on the Bosphorus

I'm back in Istanbul. Returned here just over three weeks ago after a hiatus of about five months.

I was here last fall, teaching English for an outfit called New York Studio (formerly Berlitz.) But they were not pleasant people to work for: duplicitous, micromanaging. I quit and went back to California last December. Looked around for something else to do, bought a motor scooter. But then, in March, another English-teaching center here in Istanbul, English Time, got in touch with me on Skype. They were looking for some teachers. I decided to come back.  I flew from Los Angeles on Air Berlin (an airline I'd never heard of, by the way) on May 6th.

As everyone who has ever traveled to Istanbul knows, the city is divided into two sides, the "Europe" side and the "Asia" side--the continents of Europe and Asia are separated by the Bosphorus, a waterway that flows between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, right through Istanbul. When I was here last year I lived on the Asia side of the water. Now I'm on the Europe side, in a district called Beylikduzu, which is not close to anything. From here to the city center in Taksim is about a two-hour bus ride.

My roommates and I share an apartment on the 14th floor of a residential building in Beylikduzu. The Metrobus, which I take every afternoon to go to teach classes in the district of Barkikoy (45 minutes from here) is about a 20-minute walk. Being on the 14th floor has its advantages; street noise is at a minimum up this high. Also, being way up here, we often get strong breezes off the Sea of Marmara--from the windows, in the distance, I can see the water and the freighters that ply back and forth between the two seas all day and night. Sometimes the wind slams the doors, but it will be welcome, I'm sure, in a few weeks when Turkey's very hot summer arrives in earnest. Despite its proximity to the sea, Istanbul is hot in the summer and often cold in the winter. It does occasionally snow here. But I'm not worried about that right now. It's the end of May and I'm thinking about the heat coming up. This time, I brought along two African dashiki shirts that I bought when I lived in Cote d'Ivoire more than twenty years ago. They're made of very flimsy cotton (I'm surprised I still have them) and are ideal for hot weather.

Being on the 14th floor also has its disadvantages. Last weekend we had an earthquake. Not a big one, but enough to empty out the building for a while. You don't want to be on the 14th floor when your building starts doing the macarena. Also, we occasionally have power outages here, which of course make the elevator quit working for the duration. You also don't want to have to climb 14 flights of stairs during a blackout.

When I was here last fall I was so busy teaching and trying to make ends meet on a very tight budget that I didn't get to do much in the way of sightseeing. I have yet to visit either Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, two of Istanbul's biggest tourist attractions (the Blue Mosque appears in the photo above.) I hope to rectify that this time. Istanbul is a very large city and there is a lot here to see and do. We are eight hours ahead of New York and eleven hours ahead of Los Angeles, which makes following Major League Baseball on the Internet somewhat difficult, but I try to keep up. I'm currently teaching seven days a week, which doesn't leave a lot of time for much else. But since I haven't been paid yet and don't have any money, that's just as well.

More to come....