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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Monday, July 20, 2009

Life in Istanbul II

So, I started branching out a little bit this weekend, exploring neighborhoods that upper middle-class Turkish people told me were dangerous, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found a really nice park, with a relatively nice basketball court (the hoops are decent, the ground is gravel) in a neighborhood (Kasımpaşa I believe) that is a lot more down to earth than the one I live in. There are even more people on the street. Elderly women hanging in windows looking at people, kids playing with bottle caps, lots of women with head scarves and in general a crazy amount of kids. Definitely a bit poorer (probably even drastically so) and (yesterday, Sunday, at least) by a gigantic street market (kind of like the one in Neukölln, only more Turkish people, drastically less non-Turkish ones, and virtually no one that speaks English, French, or German).

In spite of the (exaggerated, I feel) warning I had received I felt really comfortable in the neighborhood. An interesting sub-aspect of this feeling of security is that not everyone recognizes (or acknowledges) that I am a foreigner. There are enough Turks who have a rather light skin (sometimes even red hair) for me not to stick out too much. My clothes sometimes give me away (shorts and sandals are something popular with the westernized crowd mainly), but I can get by without even being (too obviously) looked at most of the time.

Related to this surprising racial diversity (well, a lacking complete racial homogeneity describes it better I believe), which seems to me a remnant of the Ottoman Empire's far reach (or it might not, I have no idea really, but I feel like the explanation does sound good), is the occasional presence of black guys (I have not seen a woman yet) who are quite obviously Turkish and regularly integrated into local culture as far as I can tell (based on them sitting in tea houses with all the other men basically). These guys usually seem to be part of a poorer strata of Turkish society, yet make an impression of not being recent immigrants but accepted individuals and long-established members of that very society - one never sees them in groups for example, which would imply a more recent common immigration background.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

I added your blog to my google reader account awhile ago. While I skip entries posted in languages #1 and #3, I've really enjoyed reading about your newest location. I bet you could have guessed what sparked this comment, though - red heads!!!! Hope you're doing swell :)