I have been in Istanbul for one week.
I have read about the magic of Istanbul and I was here before but something about this place begins to intoxicate! When I first arrived I was overwhelmed by the amount of people on the streets (but there are no tourists, they tell me), and the amounts of traffic, and a bit of pollution hanging in the air. And now a week later, I have issues with finding the words to describe the magic…. the melodic call to prayer over the city enthralls me with the melody. I find myself wanting to sing the tones as they permeate the air and resonate like ripples on the water.
It’s a man’s world, as all the men seem to be perfectly coiffed all the time, most with the now trendy full beard (the lumber-sexual look). As I leave the studio, which is in Taksim at night, I am amazed that so many barber shops are still open, for a shave, a trim, a haircut, a facial masque, eye treatments, eyebrow grooming, etc… And there are men of all ages in there getting groomed at all hours!
The little markets are open too when we are returning after class to purchase fruit or veggies or miscellaneous snacks and the nuts and dried fruit guy too is still open. I have been feasting on figs, dried mulberries, almonds, cashews and raisins. How can I resist?
Cats everywhere! Did I miss this the last time I was in Istanbul 8 years ago? Or did I just forget? I think there might be more cats than people here! And these multicolored, varied sized creatures are not shy! I think they think they own the place (of course we are talking about cats!) And the turks seem compassionate or have managed to create a symbiotic relationship with them, as there is always food lying around for them to eat. In restaurants they stalk the tables to see what might be available. Sitting on a Terrace cafe yesterday having turkish tea, one tabby stalked passed our table and then actually reached up to peek to see what we were having. Funny that my tea companion did not notice! O so sly and such experts these Turkish cats!
Classes are well attended and the weather has been warm!
I’ve managed to go to a few local milongas and dancing has been fine. Like most new places it REALLY helps to know someone and have some introductions made.
The classes go a bit slowly as my partner and I both need translation, Irfan to English so I know what he is talking about and me to Turkish, so the students know what I am talking about! There are a handful of students who understand English but this seems to be working out well and Irfan and I have slowly found a rhythm with our lovely translator. We have engaged students with several topics and of course, as many of you know, I pack them with technique and specific details, hoping to improve their dancing!
I have also had the amazing luxury to be hanging out with a friend and (former) student, Zeynep Kilic, who has been to Buenos Aires with me on one of my tours, and I came with her in 2008 to Istanbul. She is an amazing woman. She is here in Istanbul for multiple screenings of her documentary, Tables of Istanbul or Sofra Sofra Istanbul. I attended one of the screenings in Turkish and was still really moved by the documentary. I firmly believe her documentary is a very important contribution to expanding people’s understanding of culture in general, and in this film, from the perspective of food. How do we perceive food in culture and how is one really attached to their home food? Maybe this is why we say nothing beats a home cooked meal! Having dated a chef, I have always perceived them as passionate and creative artists.. And many of the chefs she interviewed vibrate with passion from the screen, even in Turkish. It will be exciting to see watch the success of this film. And if you get to see it – please do!
Next up Istanbul Part 2! More stories and more people!