Moving from Privet Drive (j) felt tender. I'd only been there (in the cupboard under the stairs) for a total of 5 days (if you count a day as a 24-hour period). Yet, I was starting to get to know my neighborhood and my hotel-mates.
At maybe 02:00 (2 am... the wee hours of Thursday morning) I left a note on the hotel common table, asking folks to meet Thursday evening on the rooftop. "Bring your own dinner and I'll bring a bottle of wine," I had written. The weather forecasted rain for the day, stopping by 20:00. So, 20:00 (8 pm) is the time we would meet.
Later that day, I shopped in the rain for wine, pistachios and cashews, and sundried tomatoes and grilled green olives. I ordered my favorite eggplant dish from Old (or New) Balat restaurant. Knowing these items were for a sweet occasion, I felt a warm inner smile in my heart while shopping in the cool rain on a gloomy day. At home, when I headed upstairs to the kitchen, I brought food and wine, and added to the mix the paneer I had in the fridge. At 20:00, I headed up to the rooftop with my hotel-mates.
We all shared what we'd done during the day. Michel was a 21-year-old student from Germany. He scoffed at Starbucks when Yukari and Atsushi shared that that's where they'd been during the day, working, teaching Japanese online. When Michel asked if they had been teachers in Japan, they said, "No," hesitated, and added, "We both worked at Starbucks." I was hysterical. Michel shared that he had spent the whole day at a Turkish office tied up in Visa paperwork. I shared that my day was... "interesting."
Before I'd gone shopping in the rain, I stopped for breakfast (at 02:00... 2 pm). I walked up very colorful steps to a cafe on the left and entered. I sat at a little table at the edge of their little deck. I noticed a little lighter by the little ashtray on the little table. Note: There are ashtrays of all sizes on all kinds of tables in all flavors of restaurants and coffee shops. There are ashtrays available everywhere in Istanbul. Unlike the States... ("Oh, US... just wanna say... I'm grateful for your no-smoking in public places policies. Thank you") ...smoking in public places in Turkey is most acceptable.
I saw that little lighter and didn't think much of it. And then, a man now standing behind me, looked over my shoulder, and then sat at the little table in the corner behind me. "Oh," said I, "were you sitting here?" He waved me off, as if to say, "Yes, m'lady, but... I'll sit here now." I invited him to sit at his original little table, with me. He said, "Yes," and joined me.
Ritesh was a 31-year-old from northern India. Three years ago he began learning boxing in Thailand and since, has been training and fighting in different places around the world. As part of his training, Ritesh had walked an hour and a half to explore this neighborhood. He said he would like to move into this neighborhood. I told Ritesh I lived in the neighborhood and would be moving out tomorrow. He liked the sound of my Harry Potter room and asked if he could see it. I suggested he contact the Airbnb host, and also, invited him to join our little rooftop party (later that night). We connected on WhatsApp so he could let me know if he wanted to join. Not too long after that point, I came to find out that Ritesh was looking for a hook-up. It didn't seem to matter that I was a 64-year-old woman. Was I flattered? Was I weirded out? To both questions the answer was: "Yes," yes I was. After we finished in the little cafe, I invited Ritesh to join me shopping for wine and olives and things. He wanted to go to my room. I walked in the direction of the shops. He suggested we slip into an alley. I stayed the course and Ritesh left.
From the moment I finished sharing my recap of my day with my hotel-mates, they all (especially Michel) referred to this younger man I'd met for a moment in a little cafe in my neighborhood as, "your Indian boyfriend." At one point, he was referred to as my "Indian lover."
I don't think I've told you that I call Yukari and Atsushi "Curry and Sushi...my delicious friends." They have come to like, laugh about, and adopt these nicknames. At one point, after we'd all come down from the rooftop, Curry and Sushi left the party. Curry shared that she was teaching an online student at 06:00 (6 am in the morning). Michel and I continued to hang out at the kitchen table.
And then my phone dinged. It was Ritesh. I looked at Michel, pointing to my phone. I put Ritesh on video-speaker phone and it ended up, the two young men had a lot to chat about.
Friday I did some writing, showered, and did laundry. Turns out the mysterious door in the basement by my toilet room door, leads to our hosts office, storage, and the washer and dryer. I also needed to get cash. I needed to pay rent to my new host in cash. He asked me to do this - to skip the Airbnb fees, and I had agreed. I looked online for "how to get Turkish Lyra near you" and added "with an American debit card."
While shopping in the rain on Thursday, I had tried to get Turkish Lyra (cash) from an ATM. The problem was that I could not navigate the ATM machine. I used my translator to try to understand what the screen said (in Turkish) and could not (understand). After surfing and researching the net for the solution, I decided to ask Michel if he had time to help me. He did. He was in online in class, and would be available later.
While rainy-day shopping on Thursday I had also purchased 2 eggs. I went to the kitchen and cooked a breakfast that might match those of the local restaurants. I added sundried tomatoes and paneer to the omelet, topped the omelet with warmed eggplant, and threw grilled green olives on the side. I brought this delectable delight to the rooftop and ate my last meal (there).
Later, Michel and I walked up our hill to an ATM machine that was more modern than the one I'd tried the day before. This one offered English. That was very helpful. It must have been a popular ATM because men and women, who looked and sounded local, were lined up. Michel and I hung out in line and, when it was my turn, I got me lyra.
We also got a gelato, and helped an older man carry a table up a hill. It was a good day. And then I moved.
After settling into my new digs, I wandered the new neighborhood. There were lots of rooftop restaurants. I went up one and met a waitress from Uzbekistan. She saw my earrings (that I had bought from Experienced Goods - the Hospice thrift store in Brattleboro, Vermont - back in May, before leaving for Turkey the first time). "I like your earrings," she said, "did you get them in Uzbekistan?" "No," said I, "but I just came from Tashkent." And so, navigating through Uzbek, Turkish, and English, a new friendship budded. I will have to have dinner there. But not that night. That night, I was exploring.
I went to another rooftop restaurant. It reminded me of my old home... of 5 days, that I left that morning. I took a picture and sent it to Michel. "I miss my rooftop buddies," I texted, "But I will eat here and think of you all."
Still, I wasn't ready to eat and moved on. I walked by two men in front of their restaurants who came on to me. Two. How is this? Let's see... a single woman... smiley... who may be hungry. Yeah, Ok, it's reasonable.
I headed back to my immediate neighborhood to eat. While sitting, I noticed two things. One, young men on phones. This phenomenon is common, it seems, possibly everywhere.
Two, cats. Everywhere, all over Istanbul, there are cats...