No.32 July 2003
All Will Be Well
ISTANBUL? YES, ISTANBUL
Voss No. 32 July 2003
always amuses me when I hear would-be American or other tourists
expressing nervousness about traveling to Turkey.
From the emails I get from people outside I gather that
foreigners have the impression that the fallout from Mr. Bush’s Iraqi
debacle has somehow affected daily life here, and so they worry about
whether or not it is safe for them to come.
I usually answer inquiries like that with what I hope comes
across as compassionate, understanding patience.
I explain how safe I felt here even after the events of September
11, 2002 and even before, during, and after the war in Iraq and I always
make a comparison between how I imagine life in a metropolitan center in
the U.S.–-as being very, very dangerous—and life here in Istanbul.
I mean, even when I am outside after dark here I am not in the
habit of steeling myself to be the victim of, say, a random, drive-by
shooting or a sex maniac.
morning I had to go to Bebek to the post office to pay the telephone
bill. I had a bit of time
before a 1:00 o’clock appointment and so I headed for the seaside to
enjoy a glass of tea. For
those of you not yet familiar with Bebek, there are two wonderful places
by the sea where you can have tea.
One is a very chic (but truly quite lovely) café run by the
Turkish Touring & Automobile Association.
It has wrought iron chairs with marble topped tables and plants
in important planters, you know the kind.
The other is my favorite. There
is a small boat docked to the right of the iskele
(1) as you are facing the sea and the man there makes tea, Turkish
coffee and—I think—toasted cheese sandwiches.
A glass of tea there costs a mere 400,000 TL and you can sit in a
chair next to a tiny table so close to the sea you could put your feet
in the water. And so this
morning, that’s where I parked myself for a half hour or so.
It was great. I
looked out at the boats harbored there and entertained a brief fantasy
of being the owner of an especially beautiful wooden craft that was
there (personally, I can’t stand those yachts that look like white
plastic. I prefer the
wooden ones . . .), looked very closely at two tiny sparrows who walked
around my feet for a time, enjoyed the sun on my arms and neck, and
actually smiled benevolently at one of the gypsy women who came round to
see if I wanted my palm read while I refused.
(For some reason, I felt really good this morning . . .)
Then I walked back across the street and caught the bus to Kuruçeþme
enjoying the fact that I had thereby saved 2,000,000 TL by riding on the
bus instead of in a taxi.)
short while ago I went out to the garden and wiped off the marble topped
table and shelves and rinsed the tea saucers I set out on the ground at
night and fill with beer. (Snails
are attracted to the beer and climb into the saucers and drown. Since I could never find the snail pellets you can buy in the
U.S. here—they come in a box and always looked a bit like cat food to
me, but they were easy to use—I used to use a poison powder that had
to be mixed with water but for some reason I hated bothering with that.
Recently, an American friend reminded me that beer worked, so I
tried it, and it did.) While
I was in the garden I found myself thoroughly enjoying the peace of it
and experienced a definite sense of well-being. Later, when I went inside, I found myself wandering through
the small space of the apartment, stopping now and then to touch some
beautiful object, while remembering how and where it had been acquired.
It is true, I thought to myself, that I could never afford such a
space in New York or Paris or Florence.
Where on earth besides Istanbul could I enjoy life in a large
city and still live in a garden apartment with a view of the water?
days a number of my foreign friends are taking off to visit the States
and invariably ask me if there is anything I want them to bring back.
Years ago when this happened my “wish lists” were always very
long. Now, there is the
only the odd thing I want—like Old English Scratch Polish or Rit
fabric dye. It seems that
most of everything I want any more I either have or can get here.
realize that this month’s ruminations are something like a kind of
follow up to what I touched on last month.
You see, these days I am going through the process of deciding
whether to bring a whole lot of things I have stored in a depot in the
U.S. here or not. Since I
am not at all wealthy, given the fact of the cost involved, if I do
bring the stuff here it probably means that this is where I will stay
for the rest of my life.
decision. Big. (2)
know, when I first came here I could not for the life of me understand
what looked like a fatalistic attitude toward life.
You know the way Turkish people are always talking about ‘kýsmet’
and ‘kader’ and say ‘Inþallah’
a lot? (3) I’ve come to understand that many of them have a deep
understanding of how everything in this world is not always within the
grasp of our small, finite hands. This
is not only a religious idea. Even
an atheist experiences a sense of his/her own existential finitude in
the midst of the infinitude of the physical universe.
Speaking metaphorically, it is true to say that some elements of
the pattern in the rich carpet that makes up each of our individual
lives are always going to escape us.
There simply are some things we cannot direct and we cannot plan. In the case of my arriving at a decision about what to do,
when I do decide, there will be no way I can know if I make the right
choice. No, at that point,
all I can do will be to keep in mind the prayerful reassurance of a
medieval Christian mystic named Julian of Norwich (who, by the way, was
very, very like some of our great Sufis).
She said: "All
will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be
‘Iskele’ means a
‘wharf’ or a ‘landing place.’
Here it is where the ferries stop.
To get what I mean, repeat this phrase to yourself in the same
tone Julia Roberts used in that memorable scene in “Pretty Woman”
when she went back to the store in Beverly Hills where she had been
cruelly snubbed and actually asked to leave when she first went in to
try and buy some clothes. At
this point, though, she was dressed to the nines and loaded down with
packages from expensive stores. She
asked the oh-so-snotty salesgirl if she worked on commission. The little chit nodded yes and then Julia Roberts lifted up
both hands, full of bags and said:
“Big mistake. Big.”
The word ‘kýsmet’ is used to mean ‘chance,’ ‘destiny,’ ‘luck,’
or ‘godsend.’ Here I
mean ‘destiny’ or ‘godsend.’
‘Kader’ means ‘destiny,’ ‘fate,’ or ‘eternal
means ‘God willing’ or ‘if God wills.’
Julian of Norwich was a medieval mystic who lived a solitary life
and wrote an account of a series of visions about what she believed was
divine love that came to her after a serious illness.
The visions have been collected in a book called The
|No.1- April 2000||No.11 April 2001||No. 20 July 2002||No 29 April 2003|
|No.2 June 2000||No.12 May 2001||No. 22 September 2002||NO 30 MAY 2003|
|No.3 July/August 2000||No. 13 June 2001||No. 23 October 2002||NO 31 JUNE 2003|
|No.5 October 2000||No.14 July 2001||No 24 November 2002||NO 32 JULY 2003|
|No.7 December 2000||No.15 August 2001||No 25 DECEMBER 2002||NO 33 August|
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkçe tercume
|NO 16 September 2001||No 26 January 2003||No 34 September|
|No.9 February 2001||No. 17 April 2002||No 27 February 2003||No 35 October|
|No.10 March 2001||NO 19 JUNE 2002||No 28 March 2003||No
36 January 2004
|No 37 February - March 2004||No 38 April 2004|
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