Rings of Familiarity

There are moments of true uncomfortableness when moving to a new country. The journey itself can be challenging. I can’t think of anyone who enjoys long lines at passport control or waiting by the baggage carousal hoping their bags pop out after about 20 hours of travel.

So when I woke up early the other morning, I was a tad disoriented when I realized the electricity was off. Who should I call? How does the phone work? How long do I wait? Is this normal or should I be worried? Where do I go if there is an emergency? Why didn’t I charge my computer last night? Where do I buy milk?  Why can’t I fall back asleep?

Although I was unable to fall asleep again, it was with great relief when the lights did turn back on about 45 minutes later. I flipped on the fan and air conditioner and started roaming around my new place. At the moment, it feels like I am staying in someone else’s apartment, or a hotel, although all of my stuff is strewn about. I am positively shocked by the amount of toiletries I have. No wonder my bags were so heavy!

I compare living or visiting a new city to dropping a pebble in water and what I call the rings of familiarity. The rock is your house and the first ring is what is initially comfortable and familiar. So for instance, yesterday I went out in my new city and I found this cute café with zero English about one block away. Again, first ringer but it felt good to be out and about. Then walking around, I stumbled upon a grocery store, big success for me although still first ring.  You see, within my neighborhood, the roads aren’t on a grid. The streets here are narrow and cobblestone, with no real rhyme or reason that I can discern at the moment. Instead of turn left, it is more like, loop around this corner and then make your way right, up some stairs. For a girl with a developing sense of direction, this can be intimidating.

Also, the other factor is that I don’t like to look lost. I mean I don’t want to look like a tourist for many reasons. Some legitimate, some all ego. But you see, the men hang out in front of their shops so there is a lot of ‘people watching’ happening. The idea of doubling back, having to pass these people again works against my independent nature. Plus, I really can’t tell if they are talking to me or not; I don’t understand Turkish so headphones are a must.

However today I met some fellow teachers and we set up our banks accounts (just don’t ask me what I signed) and we walked around Taksim Square-second ring action. It is literally up the road from my new place. Tomorrow is Istanbul Modern to become a member. However, there is a part of me that is really afraid that I won’t be able to find my way back home. It sounds kind of silly, but I don’t even know how to say my street name so if I get lost, I am really on my own. I know I can do it but it’s easier to claim jet lag then be adventurous sometimes. However, I heard there is a great coffee house down that same road, so I am motivated. Actually, if I find that, I will consider that a big success – third ringer for sure!

I have to say that so far, Istanbul is truly amazing. This afternoon, we finished eating lunch and when we walked out, I realized that I was in Istanbul. Sounds weird but it was awesome.

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  1. Debi Mauricio

    It was so great to see you while you were home. I felt I learned more in the probably 30 minutes we talked than the whole time you were in China – sad for me! I am SO excited you are in Istanbul, and can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Thanks for the first installment, and just know that those third ringers will be first ringer familiar in no time.

    1. Hey Debi! Already starting to feel like an old pro! I am really beginning to settle in… it’s so lovely here!!!

  2. Woohoo – beautiful! So, so excited for you, Claire. Go get those ringers, baby! I love you 🙂

  3. Susan Wachowiak

    Great pictures, Claire. It looks so much like someplace you will enjoy. Lucky Istanbul to have such a wonderful new lady in its midst!!!! Love you!

  4. Jude Pidgeon

    Your building looks great and you are near the water. Very good. I know you are going to love it.

  5. David Tanaka

    You probably don’t have any idea anymore how much of a stretch it would be for most people to move to a place where people don’t speak their native language, Claire. Third ring? Third ring of Saturn to me!

    I was feeling a sense of displacement because we just moved to Durango. Thanks for putting my life into perspective.

    1. Hey David! Any new place is like Saturn (good way of putting it by the way) – it’s all perspective as far as I am concerned. Still lots to learn. I hope everything is going well for you and yours in your new city!!!

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