In addition to the usual clang-honk-chatter noises of a big city, Istanbul has three noisy facets which caught me off-guard. In no order of importance:
1. The cats
So are Turkish men handsome? Do most women wear headscarves? What kind of trees grow there? Heck, I don't know, my head is always angled to the sidewalk, gawking and cooing at Istanbul's enormous stray cat population. They sleep on cars, they leer around the fish vendors, they feast on garbage without a trace of self-consciousness. On the roof of a fruit mart across from my building, a family of cats puts on an afternoon show of romping and frolicking and whatever it is cute kittens do. It's charming. The screeching, hissing, and howling that goes on at night is less charming.
2. The call to prayer
Sheesh, was my face red the first time I heard this song and asked a Turk if it was traditional music of some kind. Of course, I knew that Istanbul was a largely Islamic nation, and that mosques would be ubiquitous, and the prayer call would be one of those things you don't even notice after a while. But a well-amped mosque lies a mere block away from my apartment, and the call is loud. This is by no means a complaint; I like it. The song is nice to listen to, and it's a nice reminder that, even in my apartment with English books and Simpsons DVDs, I'm in a foreign place.
3. My name
Just when I'd recovered from the childhood trauma of having a name that means "donkey" in French... It turns out that "anne" is the Turkish word for mother. Students chuckle when I write it on the board, and as a result, I've resorted to the naked-looking spelling "Ann" during work hours. The pronunciation is different; "an-ne" instead of monosyllabic "Anne." It's similar enough, however, to make me snap my head around every time a child shrieks out "anne! anne!" in a grocery store, on the street, outside the kebab stall. And oh, they shriek it a lot.