Yesterday, as I was walking into my cold little apartment (winter has wrapped her long fingers around our greying city, and I have yet to figure out how my heating system works), I was thinking to myself while switching on the hallway light, "I'm so thankful to have electricity."
Not 10 minutes later, as if on cue, I found myself in pitch black. Yes, the electricity had gone out. I fumbled for a lighter and a fat candle, and had a good laugh. This was reminiscent of the time when in the shower, I thought to myself how grateful I was to have good water pressure, only to find the very next day that my shower hose had busted. If there ever were a divine force of mischief, I do believe he or she would live in Istanbul.
Istanbul, Istanbul. I know that on Harika, I focus on the bright side of living in Istanbul, frankly because I feel that the positives far outweigh any negatives— and who the hell needs or wants to hear anyone else's whining? My life has been a series of international moves, of learning to adapt, and to appreciate different cultures and ways of living. I love this; I love all the differences that exist in everything between the concept of personal space, to how bank tellers behave. The differences make this world a fascinating and colourful place. I am not trying to paint a rosier picture of life here, I truly love living in this city— even when the power goes out, or I am stuck in two hours of traffic. Ok, maybe I don't love the traffic so much.
This brings me to something that has been irking me for some time. Every once and I while, I stumble upon an expat blog which starts a boiling inside me. I will never consider myself an expat— I actually despise the term if used in reference to me (I have nothing against actual expats). I am a patriot of no nation; I am a nomad. Every land is my land, and I both belong to and am foreign to every soil I step on.
Often, these expat blogs will share the wonders of discovery and differences, and offer insight into such a challenging and wonderful lifestyle. Leaving your home and attempting to make a new home in a new culture is not easy— there isn't an experience quite like it. To do it successfully, you have to have an open mind, and an open heart. Many expat blogs are wonderful examples of open people celebrating adaptation and lessons learned, and these are the ones I enjoy reading. However, I have come across quite a few blogs which are nothing but tirades of endless complaints. I understand that not everyone is going to like it here, but is it necessary to rip apart something that is just different? So people bump into you on the street— the concept of personal space on the street does not exist here. So people stare— staring is not considered rude here. So your bakkal doesn't sell artichokes out of season, or the peanut butter sucks— get creative and try making your own. So you got a little ripped off today at the market— perhaps you should have learned a little more Turkish in order to get a better bargain. I grew up around expats. Some fully embraced the local culture, and others isolated themselves from the country they lived in, only interacting with people from their homeland, only looking for products they were familiar with, and shying away from anything "foreign", when in fact, they were foreign.
So to those expats I say: please dive fearlessly into the culture you are in, and stop complaining. Negativity only creates more negativity. Istanbul will never be Dallas, Toronto, Sydney or anywhere else. Istanbul is, and will always be Istanbul, and there is a reason why people have flocked here for centuries. There is nowhere on this planet like Istanbul, nowhere like Turkey— just look at that Bosphorus!
When I peeked out the window this morning, I found a big hole in the street, which no doubt has a connection to the darkness in my apartment. As I turned to look at the other windows across the way, some veiled with lace, some crammed with plants, I met the eyes of a young woman behind one of those curtains, who I had never seen before. She pulled the curtain aside to show her face, and smiled.
Wherever you live in the world, you will encounter a degree of hardship, and there will always be challenges.
If you focus on the big, ugly hole in the street, you'll never see that smile.