The jetlag has subsided, an apartment has been found, and I've scrounged up enough Turkish to make a purchase in a shop without resorting entirely to mime. Slowly, Istanbul is becoming home. Or at least, familiar.
Call me stuffy, but while I love exploring new places and cultures, the immediate transitional phase is a drag in my books. On trips, I'm a big fan of pre-booking accomodation and reading the guidebook weeks in advance. If I meet someone who has been to that destination, I don't let them go until they've offered some personal tips, even if it's the kind of advice I never follow ("Versailles? bah! huuugely overrated! Spend the day at Jim Morrison's grave instead.")
The same is true when I move someplace new; I'm antsy until the basics are sorted and I have a phone, a place to stay, and some confidence that I can walk out the door and find my way back again. In my new job (teaching adults at an ESL school in Istanbul), I'm in a perpetual state of anticipation, waiting for my place and schedule to be sorted out so I can get to know my classes, build a rapport, learn names, and eventually, progress to the stage where I'm not "the new teacher," but simply "Anne."
This might paint me as the opposite of the laid-back traveler type. Let me explain. To me, the joy of travel lies in the uncovering of new things. Here in Turkey, I'm giddy every time I try a new food, learn a new word in Turkish, or set eyes on the old castle walls and aquaducts that sit quite comfortably amid modern buildings and streets. All the fussy necessary details, like where to sleep and how to buy metro tokens and how to use a calling card, they take away from that glorious exploring time when I can wander and study and learn.
Some might say that the adventure lies in those fussy differences; that the little details like paying bus fare or dialing a new phone are substantial parts of cultural understanding too. In fact, a whole class discussion on culture shock derailed the other day as we discussed why foreign toilets catch us off-guard. I can understand that point of view, but personally, I'm happiest when the basics aren't so strange anymore. At that point, I can focus instead on the wonderful strangeness of new buildings and people and cultural quirks, and not waste a morning's worth of strength on the trauma of a new toilet flushing system.
Now, my first week in Turkey is over, and I'm up one apartment, a dozen odd words in Turkish, a locker in the teacher's room at my work, and a nod-and-smile level of acquaintance with a few local shopkeepers. I'm on my way.