The jet lag was pretty bad. The feeling eerily similar to the paradoxical blend of high anxiety, careless cheer, and (seemingly) eternal pain that exemplifies itself though an absurd smirk when one experiences a rather strong hangover. My palette was not quite parched, but my muscles and tendons heavy and sore to the point where it was hard to even crack a lasting smile for the first couple days, let alone make a strong effort to explore a huge, bustling city. The time-zone assimilation process wasn’t helped by the fact that we got zero sleep in the airplane as Nell is thoroughly addicted to word games and I am still too tall to repose in coach. Presently, my normal sense of well being has definitely returned, although we both haven’t quite gone back to our intestinal and digestive status quo (which in my case has always been piss-poor anyways).
As for the culture shock, it has been surprisingly minimal and twelve days into our stay any minor quakes have been absorbed quickly. Shit, the hordes of stray cats are constant entertainment, the call to prayer lets me know when I should be hungry, and the Islamic influence on women’s clothing reassures the fact that even in a global recession the scarf market is stable in some corners of the world. Even the last remaining representatives of Istanbul’s notorious street dogs are well behaved and wizened denizens of the alleyways.
Ned and Oya’s flat is in a great little neighborhood that straddles Cihangir and is alongside a sloping street that leads directly to the shimmering waters of the Bosphorus. Here on the European side one finds a constant stream of people flowing into the surrounding streets and at any time of day the main drag (Istiklâl Caddesi) is packed to a point of comfortable claustrophobia with street vendors, tourists, consumeristas, and the ubiquitous hordes of Turkish youths chanting their soccer hymns or publicly groping each other.
Our routine this week entails taking the ferry over to the Asian side and observing a few classes each day at English Time. In between boning up on verb tenses, the highlight of the short journey is the barnacle-encrusted sea wall that protects Kadiköy’s harbor and docks from the unforgiving Marmara currents. There is a healthy population of cormorants, herons, and other assorted seabirds that remains perched to that cement barrier and their prehistoric grace always puts me at ease before entering work. On class breaks we head to the nearest café to drink tea, smoke, and play backgammon. Such outings may sound mundane, but there really is no pastime better than a caffeine-powered hour of crackgammon.
We officially start working on December 13th. Nellie is heading up some beginning classes and she seems quite excited to chant the ABC’s with a bunch of eager learners. <“Dog! Cat! Muzzo!”> I have the unenviable task of teaching intermediate classes, which I’ve heard is a mixture of studious types and jaded twentysomethings that basically muck around the entire time and flirt with each other. However, being an English nerd has made it rather easy to relearn most of the grammar and I plan on being a tyrant so classroom management should not be an issue.
Well, the power is out, the water heater is taking a day off, and I’m being told I need to bathe before heading to an official English Time meeting (as some people find cleanliness next to godliness or something). So Nell has the enviable task of dousing me with pots of freshly boiled water while I cower and shriek in the cold shower. Later.