Sooner or later, experiences have to be packed away. Certainly emotionally, as we move on to new places, activities and friends, but sometimes also physically. Sankar and I are in the process of selling our house, and thus packing away the “stuff” from our recent Turkish experience has become necessary.
The people that advise us on how best to market our house recommend “blandifying” it. Neutral paint colors, limited family photos and midde-of-the-road decorative objects. No knickknacks that scream ethnicity. So although we love our Latin-America-inspired terracotta dining room walls and lapis lazuli upstairs landing, they will disapper this week under a coat (or two or three) of pale yellow paint. And although we can’t wait to Turkify our new house with colorful ceramics and richly woven kilims, we will have to wait. At any rate, most of our Turkish stuff is still in transit.
The Turkish items I have here include decorative items as well as prosaic stuff that helped us during our time in Turkey. I recently put all of these into a box and placed it on a shelf in our basement.
My Turkey Box is ten inches long, fourteen inches wide, and about eight inches deep. It should be made of marble or fine wood inlayed with mother of pearl, but it is not. It is made of plastic with a tight, snap-on top that provides protection from dust and humidity.
The first thing you see in my Turkey box is a scarf. I bought this and several others at Seda Tekstil in the Grand Bazaar for my friend Karen, who visited in October. Sorry I haven’t gotten these to you yet, Karen! I loved buying scarfs for someone else because I could run wild and pick out colors that I love, but which don’t flatter me.
Next in my box are key chains, about 25 in all. Some are attached to each other in groups of ten, and others are single. I bought the attached key chains just up the hill from the Rustem Pasha mosque in Eminonu. They were 10 for 10 lira (about $6). I plan to hang them on my wall as soon as I’m not under the scrutiny of realtors.
The next items are Ottoman-themed metal business card holders and a fun bracelet. I bought these at a good price from Harem Gifts in the Grand Bazaar.
This next item looks like the Turkish tea saucer nearly everyone in Turkey uses. But it is not. It is a package of cardboard coasters made to look like Turkish tea saucers. I bought it at the clever Kagithane (Paper Place) shop in Karakoy, and I like it so much that I’m not sure I’m ever going to open the package and actually use the coasters.
I love this next item. I bought it with my shopping friends, Waverley and Rhonda, one day as we looked for fabric in Eminonu. There is a small, covered shopping area in Eminonu that is comprised entirely of shops selling bolts of fabric. After greeting the proprietors in a shop we had visited before, we noticed a neat pile of these scarves on the counter. They were made of delicate white muslin trimmed with lace that had a pleasing heft to it thanks to some metalwork. The guy told us his wife had made them by hand, and when I picked one up and prepared to buy it, he phoned her and told her excitedly that she had sold one.
The final decorative item in my box is some silk ikat fabric from Uzbekistan, again purchased from the Grand Bazaar. Ikat is a technique that involves dyeing patterns into the threads before the fabric is woven. Ikat is becoming popular in the States and is even featured in the current Pottery Barn catalog. I love the colors and the pattern of the ikat I purchased. It is narrow in width, but I hope to use it to cover a chair or two.
Also in the box are some items that made my life easier in Turkey.
Here is my Kindle, a generous gift from a friend who visited Turkey in the fall of 2010. Being a bit of a Luddite, I probably would have delayed purchasing an electronic reader for myself, but I immediately started using it, and found it invaluable throughout my stay in Turkey. I have over sixty books on my Kindle, and although I prefer reading “live” books, I have already used it here in Minnesota.
My Turkish-English-Turkish dictionary traveled everywhere in Turkey with me This is not actually my original dictionary, which was published by Redhouse, an American-owned publisher with long ties to Turkey. My Redhouse dictionary got completely beat up during my years in Turkey. Pages were folded over and torn, the binding was half off, the edges were dirty, and finally my water bottle spilled on it. I was afraid the fastidious Turks would be offended if I pulled it out of my purse one more time, so I tossed it in the garbage and used this one (it wasn’t quite as good) during my last months.
This is my Turkish cell phone. Some people in the States were surprised I had a Turkish phone, but the need for it becomes clear when you realize that people in Turkey didn’t want to make an international call in order to talk with me. I never could quite remember the phone number, so like a person with memory problems, I kept it written down on a card in my purse. But I do, absurdly, remember the code I needed to unlock it.
This is another cell phone, my musafir or visitor cell phone, along with all its paperwork. I got the visitor cell phone idea from Waverley, and it was a good one. We gave this to our guests with pre-programmed numbers so they could call us whenever they needed to. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually implement this idea until six months before we left the country.
This last item was one of my most prized possessions in Istanbul. It is my Istanbul card, still very much active.
The Istanbulkart, when loaded with Turkish lira, enables passage on any bus, ferryboat, tram or metro car in the city. I used it most often for the tram, gliding into the Old City with no concern for narrow streets or heavy traffic. My Istanbul card was my pass to explore the city, and I used it almost every day.
Thoughts about Turkey still infuse nearly everything I do, and my friends and family are patient listeners as I recount my experiences. I haven’t yet compartmentalized or packed away the emotional experience (and neither has daughter, Angela, who visited five times). But the physical items are all neatly in one place. And I am glad. These items are precious, and now I know they won’t get dirty or misplaced. And I will be needing some of them again: we are talking about returning to “the homeland” in June.