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Friday, 29 June 2007

Divan Intervention: Seeing the world one couch at a time - Page 4

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I’m in Istanbul and I can’t get chicken soup out of my mind. No, not the brothy kind – I’m not hungry. I’m talking about the cliché, the balm for your weary soul. I’ve found my chicken soup. Except in Istanbul the chicken soup is a couch. And despite the declamations of Ecclesiastes, there is something new under the traveler’s sun.

Before I left, Ali insisted on taking me to his office to see where he worked. I really didn’t want to do this, but agreed because his office was near the bus station. We rode along the coast and into the hills to a nondescript warehouse in an industrial section of the city. Inside were your standard engineering offices with work stations and drafting equipment and Apple computers. I sewed my backpack with a staple gun and helped Ali post his picture on the Hospitality Club website. He had just received a request to stay at his apartment from a group of Polish girls, and he wanted to know my opinion about letting them stay. He was hesitant because having girls stay with him made him uncomfortable.

Staying with Ali was illuminating and exhausting. I became a part of his life and Turkish life for a few days. Our conversations revealed a person whose perspective on life was radically different than my own. I would have preferred a little more freedom to wander about on my own, but Ali kept me close out of an Asian sense of duty to one’s guests. Despite the little inconveniences, my memories and experience of Trabzon are exponentially richer because of Ali.

On Golden Horn

istanbulThe final bus of my journey dropped me off in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. Istanbul cannot be overstated. Any description of it will be lacking. But Istanbul doesn’t concern us right now; Murat’s house does.

Murat was the last person I’d be staying with. I called him from a Sultanahmet hostel and he gave me directions to a museum where he’d meet me. I was expecting an ethnic Turk, but when I got out of the taxi a man in his late 20s with red-hair and freckles was standing there. I guess I hadn’t looked very closely at his profile picture. Murat’s house was far from the tourist stomping grounds in Sultanahmet, but it was neighbor to the Kariye Museum, home of the best mosaics in Istanbul. Murat’s house could have used some of those decorative touches. The house reminded me of a set piece on a low-budget horror film. Everything was dimly lit, paint peeling, doors creaking. The stairs appeared to be held up by nothing more than the drafts. To shower you stood in the middle of the bathroom and turned on the shower head located above the sink – there was no tub, curtain, or stall.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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