Walk #5, with: Carolyn (born 1988)
Where: Cihangir, Istanbul
When: 26 March 2016
After my partner and I separated in 2011 I bought her share of our house and my first lodger, Carolyn, moved in. I had mixed feelings about this new living arrangement, but Carolyn - a recent graduate colleague of mine, very bright, very alive, very sweet - was a delight to live with. I quickly saw that having a lodger enabled me to live 'solo', while managing to pay the mortgage!
Sadly for me, Carolyn moved on after six months because she got a scholarship to do a masters in international relations at Yale. This led to her current job, at Adam Smith International. She's currently assigned on a long-term DFID-funded capacity-building project to do with education in Syria, working mostly in Gaziantep and living in Istanbul.
Passing through NW Turkey with time to spare I decided to hop on one of Turkey's excellent buses in order to take up Carolyn's invitation to stay at her flat, which turned out to be perhaps the most memorable apartment I've ever set foot in, with huge windows overlooking the Galata Tower at the front and the Bosphorus to the rear. With Carolyn in Gaziantep during the week I barely left her apartment, seemingly relishing the opportunity to hide out in a peaceful and comfortable space whilst still getting to 'see' Istanbul (which I'd visited for the first time the previous summer).
When Carolyn returned for the weekend we met up in the hipster Cihangir neighbourhood of the city, where she tends to socialise with her new Turkish friends. We started by eating some vegetarian Turkish food including kısır and çiğ köfte and fortifying ourselves with sweet Turkish çay before our stroll. I told Carolyn I'd like to write up our walk for this blog series 'unless the conversation is really boring'; a joke, as conversations with Carolyn are never boring. We talked a bit about personal safety when 'internet dating'.
Next we crossed over the little square by Firuzağa mosque and Carolyn bought me the first flat-white I'd tasted since London, and a brownie.
As we walked past the old Galata hammam Carolyn described her ongoing quest to obtain Turkish residency, which had recently resulted in her spending a fortune on the services of a 'notary' and being accidentally assigned two tax numbers. She suddenly stopped herself: 'This actually isn't very interesting, is it?' I disagreed and we talked about the fact that very few topics are intrinsically boring when you're an interested sort of person, which we both are!
Next we turned onto pedestrianised Istiklal, always busy with shoppers and moochers, past the location of the terrorist bomb that had killed four people just a few days earlier. I'd been struck by the lack of coverage in the western media of (and lack of Facebook sympathy for) the recent bombings in Istanbul and Pakistan compared with the bombing at Brussels Airport.
We talked about language learning. I aspire to speak Spanish fluently, and Carolyn - who already speaks some French and Arabic - is learning Turkish. Carolyn explained that Turkish is very phonetic, perhaps because it was converted from the Arabic script into the Latin alphabet later on. Apparently it is pleasingly regular and extremely grammatical, with lots of cases and suffixes.
We concluded our short walk with a drink (beer for me and a rather spectacular salad-esque cocktail for Carolyn) in a trendy cafe-bar, before heading off to a house-party nearby. Thank you Carolyn for letting me rest up for the week, and for sharing your new home city with me! I shall certainly be back!