Istanbul

Istanbul:

In the factory district of north Istanbul. Sanaye Mahalle. The roads are congested with big trucks, vans, cars. Jammed. A small lokanta. I sit down for some lunch. Have green beans and rice. Chick peas on the rice. Delicious sour dough bread. Then one relaxes with a small glass of tea.

At a local bank, I change some dollars. I find the post office and mail my letters. It is  Gultepe, Rose Hill. I walk along the big road and reach the old cemetery on a hill. Below a valley, houses, downscale apartments. A charming poor ghetto. Crazy hills, some almost too steep to walk down without slipping on the pavement. I go into the valley and up a street on another steep hill. Markets. Many people are shopping. An urban village full of migrant peasants from all over Turkey.

Heading south I reach fascinating areas. A terribly steep path down a hill. Not sure if I should take it. On some streets, there are steps that go down between the old poor houses. Up one hill and down another all the way. The steepest hill, Tarcin Sokak, Cinnamon street. I must stop and rest several times before getting to the top of it. It almost kills me just to get up that street on that hill. There are small shops, selling basic groceries.

It is at least five kilometers to my destination. I look at my map. See that I am somewhat west of my destination, Bilgi University, Kustepe Campus. (Bird Hill Campus). I reach the crest of Tarcin Street. Looking back east, I spot the building of Bilgi University. What a place for a university! It is in the middle of a Gypsy settlement. I love the setting. It is perfect for me.

The problem is how to cross the deep valley and get across to the university. I walk to another street and find a path down between the poor houses. There are steps and a curved walkway between the houses. This path goes down to the street. The other side is all a Gypsy settlement. I walk around through the poor Gypsy houses and find a way up the hill. Steep stair steps up the hillside. I look up between the houses and see in big letters on the wall: “BILGI”. It looks impressive. I realize that I have arrived. But I am exhausted from the five kilometer walk up and down hills and streets.

I claw my way to the top of the last hill. At the top, I am directly in front of Bilgi University.

After such a strenuous trek, the walk over to Mecidiyekoy is a snap. Almost like walking across the street, even though it is another several blocks. I come through the big bus station. Past the Shell station. To the little square in front of the pub. Altin Fici (Golden Barrel). It is right across from the big football stadium.

I am ready for a cold one or two. I loved the trip. I had met the challenge. All the way from my place to the university. It sometimes takes me more than an hour by bus. I would love to do it again with a friend who would be willing to take the punishment.

I go into Altin fici. There are several people inside on a Saturday afternoon. I get a stool on one of the high tables. I order chips and a tall cold glass of draft beer. It is a decent working-class place. The kind of place I can love.

I have a few beers. They go down easily. One, Two, Three. Up to five. I have sweat out so much, it hardly phases me. Two French guys have come and sit with me. They have just flown in from Paris this morning to see the Rolling Stones Concert in the stadium. It will be tonight.

They asked me to show them where we were on their map of Istanbul. But it was not on their small map of Istanbul. It is too far out, far to the north of Taksim, the old famous square.

I show them where we are on my big map of Istanbul. Have a beer with them. I discuss Turkey with them. They are working for a fan club magazine in France. After a little while, they leave.

A little after eight I decide to hang it up and get the bus back to my place near Ayazaga. I walk across the street to the big wild bus stop and walk into my bus that is waiting but almost loaded. There is no seat, so I stand. I am still sober enough to stand after five large beers. Even if I am not, I act sober.

Once in my place, I do some work on my computer. The beer did not affect me that much after all that walking. That was quite good for me and surprising. Before this only two beers knock me on my ass, but this time the five quickly evaporate.

Tomorrow I’ll poke around Sanaya Sitesi and write down my observations.

Next day. It is the twentieth day of September.  I start from Oyak Sitesi, an apartment complex owned by the Turkish military company.

Outside the compound, weeds along the sides of the road are dried. Pieces of a broken wall have been discarded along the road. The walls inside apartments are being broken for remodeling. A sidewalk with a tremendous amount of garbage lying along with the broken bricks. All kinds of trash. Plastic bottles, glass, plastic, paper, paper bags, cardboard, rubber hose, rusted metal cans, yellow pieces of insulation, red bricks.

Across the road, the industrial area starts. Trucks are parked, lining the road. A tractor with front loader, long pipes some eight meters long. Cars, men talking. Metal forms piled on the side. Beyond this, the wood yard starts, wood for fuel burning. To the south, the dome of a mosque and one high minaret. Three little parapets on the way up. There are rainy-looking clouds. Some blue spaces in between.

Guys come from a small shop and offer me tea.

The building to the east: Ozkaymak. The Freeway. Garbage, cement. Goods hauler, cars, buses. Cement pipes, vans. Pick ups. A truck hauling a car in the back. Many passenger cars. Down the hill, tall purple apartment buildings. A double decker bus. Oil truck.

“Brain Bilgisayer Okullari” (Brain Computer Schools)

An old truck for hauling a bulldozer. Kids, urchins.

Lutfen Camiye Girerken Cep Telefonuzu Kapatiniz. (When you enter the mosque, please close your cell phone.)

More businesses. Bogazisi Yemek Fabrikasi (Bosphorus Feed Factory).

A meat restaurant. Kervan Et Lokantasi –Sanayi Mahallisi.

(Meat restaurant, Factory District)

The walls have wood below. Paper above with yellow squares and roses. There is some kind of plastic that covers the walls. There is a chicken rotisserie in front roasting chickens. Several types of dishes. Pilav, Kofte, Et doner, Pepsi. A cooler. Along the wall are Islamic plaques with verses from the Koran in Arabic.

Bread holders on the tables. Big square of clear plastic. On the table, Toros Limon Suyu. Toros Uzum Sirkesi. The tables are wooden, painted blue.

The chairs are a tacky color, blue green. A blue green stand with glass on top for the cash register in the front. A metal-glass counter for food. A ceiling fan. Florescent lights along the wall.           

A woman comes in to beg. They give her 100,000 tl. (It is 50 cents) Offer her food and bread. A fan above the door and across the way.

Snack shop. Cinar Kuruyemis.

The cemetery. It is on the side of a hill. A rather scenic area, but poor houses down in the deep valley and beyond to the next hill. The workers have painted the fence around one plot green and have thrown the three paint cans over the fence. There is a deep valley below and all around the hill. One sees several mosques from the top of the hill.

To the left one sees the two Sabanci Towers, modern office buildings. Obscene accumulation of capital. One can look down on a road and houses with tile roofs. Houses with laundry hanging outside. Four and five story old buildings. At the top of the opposite hill, a large mosque. A dome with one spire.

A nazarci (cemetery worker) approaches and sits down next to me. A graveyard keeper. He starts to talk. He works with marble. Makes grave stones. He sticks to me like glue, as if I am his new-found friend. He wants to know what I have in my bag. He starts to look inside. I don’t think that he is out to steal anything. Just a curious peasant. He just wants to be friendly.

I show him my cell phone. He has one too. Almost everyone has a cell phone in Turkey nowadays. I go with him to the place near the mosque where he cuts the stones. He suddenly calls his friend and asks me to go to the bazaar with him.

I am not ready for that, so I shake hands with him and thank him. He asks me for my telephone number. I don’t know why.

Back home, I see a beautiful rainbow outside my window over Ayazaga.

Near the mosque was a large Imam school. There is a Fazilet Party banner, the religious political party.

I go back up the street and dodge into a small shop just as it starts to rain quite heavily. I buy a Magnum ice cream and start to eat it. The young guy attending the shop also gets hungry for ice cream and starts to eat a magnum with me.

“These Magnums are good” he says. He pulls one out of the cooler and starts to eat it.

When the rain eases up, I head up the small street. It was pretty wet under foot. I walk back through the factory district taking a different route. I get lost but keep going. When I get to the top of the hill, I see the complex where my apartment is. I come out pretty close to the mosque and again walk through the wood yards and cross the freeway. There are massive piles of wood, which shows the extent of rapid deforestation. I do not think the forests are being replaces at the rate they are being depleted. I also think of the tremendous amount of wood that it takes to produce the Turkish newspapers.

Back home, I feel lazy and take a nap.

The next morning, a scavenger comes to collect cardboard and whatever other things he can find to recycle from the trash. His big bag on wheels is already full when he arrives but he keeps collecting more. He stakes his claim to it when he comes upon a stash of cardboard. He will not leave it for someone else to take. It is clear that he has been out since early morning earning a living this way. I do not think he is going to get rich. He also collects plastic. Lots of plastic. It will all get recycled.

Now he is in a dilemma. He has discovered such riches and his dilemma is how to take it all on his cart. One cannot understand how he will be able to take all that. He is the enterprising poor. More plastic. He will not leave the riches he has found behind.

Two young, very fashionable girls come out of their apartment. They are beautiful, some skin showing, dressed in black. They get in their big foreign sedan and light up. They take their time, in leisure in their BMW.

The poor old guy is tying down his cardboard and plastic on his hauler. His tattered and dirty clothes appear to all be from the trash too. And his old tennis shoes. He is wearing a dirty old blue jacket. A guy comes along in a black suit, apparently a businessman of a professor on his way to work.

The scavenger has black pants, a black and white checkered shirt, which may be wool. His hair is partly gray. He continues to try to tie down his load. He tries to take the cart, but it tips over. It is off center. Again he starts to pull it. He will try to pull it up the long hill. He is a little donkey pulling an enormous load up the hill. He is so tiny and the load is so huge behind him. He is a draft animal. A human horse.

A middle class resident comes along in sun shades walking his dog.    

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