I’ve seen a lot here—like movies

With the beginning of school and after much administrative hoopla (mainly involving, cough-cough, Vodaphone), the regularity of a school schedule has once again put me in a digital position to be tempted into Facebook and blogging, though the small stack of Aristotle, Pessoa, and Blau across the desk are also making a worthy bid for my attention.

Seeking some quiet (though finding also a chatty-mosque attendant and an idea for a novel), I took a ferry at some point to the Asian side and wandered for a few hours around Üsküdar. A storm began rolling in from the north, approaching some smoke rising up from the horizon near the Sulemaniye Mosque, and the sudden contrast of light and dark playing out across the water’s surface was the perfect reflection of one’s mood in adjusting to a new culture.

While the mosques and museums I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks are worthy of writing about (but not yet), my main (social) activity since getting settled has actually been watching movies. The second night after moving into my current lodgings, my roommate and I watched Goodbye Lenin (in German with Turkish subtitles), which has been on my to-see list for quite some time. A few days later, !f (Independent Film)—the smallest of Istanbul’s three major film festivals—opened, and we went with some of her friends and coworkers to see 24 Hour Party People (in English with Turkish subtitles), a decade-old dramedy-mockumentary about Manchester’s music scene in the 1980s.

The following night we visited John, an American ex-pat and sometime-academic living in Istanbul, currently working on Hasankeyf. We, along with some other people, had come to meet Husayn, a Turk somewhat tired of his twenty-something-year career in television who consequently made a 40-minute guided-tour of Kagithane, an Istanbul neighborhood, which he has been showing to get feedback. The rest of the evening, we snacked on meze (appetizers) and I got some career advice.

Finally, proving the power of social media, my last day before class I met up with Cem—a Turkish student at Istanbul University who randomly friended me on Facebook, finding me through a mutual friend we have in, yes, Louisiana. After meeting in Taksim, we ducked out of the trickling rain into an Istiklal theatre which was showing Black Field (in Greek and Turkish with Turkish and English subtitles), a slow-paced film about a nun who falls in love with a janissary. Afterward, we booked it across the water to the attic of a bar in Kadiköy, where we caught the last three of several film shorts that had been playing. Afterward, we went to a fish restaurant and had some fried anchovies (which are incredibly delicious, unlike their pickled counterparts).

Thus it was that after five cities and ten weeks of winter vacation I found myself leaning on the port-side rail of a ferry back to Europe, thinking back to a device in Turkish literature wherein characters going to the Bosporus signals a transformation or turning point. — For me, that was starting school again.