Mar 28, 2010

Hoşça kal and güle güle to you

Ugh, goodbyes are the worst. 

I'll be leaving Turkey in a few days. It's been ten months of learning, working, and feeling confused. According to the government office that issued my residence permit, that's all she wrote. Time's up, time to get out. It's cool, since work dries up in the summer anyway, and the Istanbul heat hits you like an oven that's never been cleaned. It's cool, since I've clenched my jaw a million times over lewd men, bonkers traffic jams, aggressive flower-hawking gypsies, and eating the same *vegetarian option* lentil soup every day. 

But that's not the way I'll remember Turkey.

I'll remember the Hagha Sophia, the gilded frescoes of the Justinian era. 

I'll remember the students, the sweet ones who would leave my classroom with a shy and practiced "thank you for the lesson, teacher." 

I'll remember hiking Cappadochia, staring at cave houses and thinking, "coooool, it's like the Flinstones!" 

I'll remember the breezes off a Bosphorus ferry. 

I'll remember the kindness. 

I've had all the classic stages of culture shock here, the frustration, the feeling of helplessness. But as I pack my luggage, folding work clothes and wrapping picture frames, those bad memories are eclipsed by sentimentality, by the really great mental snapshots of happy times in the past year. I'm getting better at this, after all, this coming-and-going nomadic routine. I know how my famously bad memory will process the past ten months.

The bad stuff, the truly bad stuff, will likely come up again, describing Turkey to friends and family back home. But with a bit of distance, maybe those epic frustrations will fizzle down into memories that are just kind of funny. The incredulous kind of funny that you endure and, later, can only shake your head and laugh about. 

(Level One class of male perverts, I'm talking about you)

(you too, traffic)


  1. Ah, farewell posts are always my favorite. :)

  2. So lovely. I got a little misty-eyed with the adorable "thank you for the lesson, teacher."

    Glad you'll be able to get off your lentil soup diet though. Can't wait to hear about the next destination!

  3. You'd think it would be a good diet, but I compensate my feelings of being culinarily cheated with beer and supermarket brownies. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. I've enjoyed being an Istanbul blog tourist and am excited to see where you are taking us next! Happy and safe travel home.

  5. Just wandered over here from the post you left on my blog. Sigh. Posts like these always make me dream of being a teacher.