Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Move

I just moved - on Oct first.  I wasn’t looking for a place.  I was quite comfortable in my cozy little flat.  But then a friend told me that the flat directly across from hers was now vacant, so I went to check it out.  The flat was far superior to mine--much bigger: 2 bedrooms instead of 1, a large salon, a real kitchen, and a view of the Golden Horn.  And it was less money.  It was definitely an offer I would have been silly to refuse.

But the move nearly done me in.  

My friend Mehmet organized two men to help me move.  I of course expected them to arrive in some sort of a moving van.  But no.  They just arrived with a lot of straps and this Turkish contraption that looks a little like a baby seat that they strapped on their backs.  They then proceeded to lash my refrigerator onto the padded baby seat of the little guy – and when I say little, I mean maybe two inches more than my tiny stature of five feet, one and half inches - and bent over like a man with a really bad case of osteoporosis, with sweat dripping down his nose, he hauled the frig down the narrow steps, out onto the street, down the block, down the three sets of steep, broken concrete steps to the street below, and then up the two flights to my new flat. 

Meanwhile the second man, tall and lean, lashed about five boxes onto his back and bent over like the number 7, holding tight to the ends of his canvas straps, he followed in the same path as the little ‘strong man.’  They were like two beasts of burden piled beyond comprehension. If they had been donkeys, animal rights sympathizers would have held a protest.

And I ran alongside them, opening the door of my new flat and then ran back with them to open the door of the flat I was leaving.  Back and forth. I felt like i was in training for the step marathon. But I was just carrying a plant or two each time.  Or a light box of something fragile.

Then a locksmith came to put some real locks on my door because the locks that were on it were made for an inside door.  I could have broken in.  A three-year-old could have broken in. 

So a friend found me a locksmith/carpenter.  In his fifties, tiny and slim, gray hair and close-cropped gray beard, in well-creased brown slacks and a striped shirt, he scrutinized my door.   “Maybe two hours,” he said in a dialect that was hard for both me and my friend to understand.  Chuckling and rubbing his beard, he asked for tea and set to work, while I rummaged through unpacked boxes searching for a cup to pour his tea into. 

Four hours later he demanded food, and my friend called the kebap shop at the top of the hill and asked if they could deliver some food. Meanwhile, I realized there was no drinkable water, so I ran out to the ‘bakkal’ to get a large bottle of water delivered.

When I returned the locksmith was continuing to gouge out holes in the door, drill, and pound.  The light left the sky.  The moon rose, and finally, he told me he had to go.  The bottom lock worked from the inside, but not the outside. 

I was a prisoner in my own home with nothing to eat other than some stale bread and tahini.

He didn’t return until the following afternoon.  He asked for his tea and again began drilling and pounding and banging and screwing.  I watched him try turning the keys to no avail, and then unscrew, hammer, bang, pound, drill, screw and try again.

The sky grew dark.  The moon rose.  Darkness descended over Istanbul.  The iman sang out his ‘Call to Prayer’ and still the little locksmith continued. 
“You can lock the bottom lock inside and outside.  I’ll come back tomorrow and finish,” I managed to decipher his strange dialect.

it took him 3 days of banging and drilling and then taking everything apart, and then trying again, over and over, until my friend arrived and made him go to a hardware store to buy a metal casing. And even then he kept screwing it into the side of the door, trying the locks, finding they didn’t match up, unscrewing over and over, until he finally got it to work.

My door looks like it was attacked by an enraged bear.  The top lock on the inside of the door just has a gauged out hole for the key.  But at least i can lock it from both the inside and the outside.

At some point I had visions of this little, elderly locksmith always being there.  Always drilling and pounding and hammering and screwing and unscrewing-- kinda like Sisyphus and his rock--and me getting older and older, sitting at my kitchen table with thick black eyebrow hairs curling across my forehead, an old lady's mustache and beard grizzling my aged, wrinkled face, and the locksmith still drilling and pounding away.


And when you move into an unfurnished flat in Turkey, there is absolutely nothing in it.  No lights.  No appliances.  Nothing.  So, in order to move in, I had to get someone to come and install lights and light fixtures so I could have some light.  But there were strange dangling wires and electrical sockets left over from the middle ages to be dealt with.

And at the end of my first day.  Filthy, exhausted, I got into the shower only to find the hot water didn't work!

And I can't get the Water Company to disconnect the water from my old flat because I need to give them a copy of my landlady's identity card.

But one day down the road, I'll look back on all this and laugh! Ha Ha! As I happily sip tea and gaze out onto the Golden Horn in my lovely new apartment.

Want to move to Istanbul?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Arambol - the third time around

By my third stay, the bizarre has become normal.  I no longer marvel at tourists adorned in a mixture of Mad Max extras meet San Francisco "be-in" hippies.  Dreads piled like top hats atop the heads of bare-chested men wearing dusty-orange sarangs; tattoed women with one side their heads shaved, attired in scanty garments that look as if they had just been ripped off some wild beast, torn  by hand, and wrapped  around their tan bodies - this is the norm.

I start my day at Mahi's yoga class.  Here classes last 2 hours.  Mahi has me wrap a canvas strap around my sacrum and invert myself.  I hang upside down, knees wrapped around the canvas swing, souls of my feet touching as if in prayer, arms dangling on the ground,  swinging like a happy monkey.

After splashing pitchers of cool water over my body in my hut, I dress and head to Mohan's.  This is where all the musicians meet.  Yesterday, I sipped sweet milky chai with the Ukranian accordian player Topor, my Turkish friend Cabbar and 3 of the U.K. based world music group, The Turbans.  Hugs and kisses all around, we sipped and chatted as the parade of colorful characters strolled by.  Cabbar told me he sleeps on the rooftop of Ava Maria "hippy-style" with 20 other people.

I am thankful for my own little room with clean white tiles and its own fairly clean by Indian standards bathroom.  It costs me the equivalent of $6 a night.

My breakfast is baji - a savoury chick pea and potato coconut curry. And of course a glass of masala chai. Across from Mohan's the coconut wallah lobs the tops off fresh coconuts.  A young woman dressed like a collision of rainbows patters by on bare feet followed by a calf.  I'm reminded of Mary and her little lamb gone neo-hippie.

Slowing down on his motorbike, a middle-aged man with a wild aura of an orange Afro shouts in 3 languages (French, Italian, and English) "Today at 3:30 - Carnival! Wear a costume! No toplessness but wearing coconut shells is ok.  Bring an instrument!"

collision of rainbows patters by on bare feet , follow