Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Sinking Feeling

And then there's reality. Approaching Izmir from the air, the city of my imaginings collides rather messily with the gritty reality of the modern metropole.

Twenty minutes prior to landing at Izmir's Adnan Menderes Airport, you pass over parched brown hills dotted with low-lying brush and olive trees. Here and there the hills are traversed by what appear to be hiking trails or unpaved access roads, but that is the extent of civilization in these parts. Not a house or freeway in sight, only land and sea as far as the eye can see. On the coast, tiny golden smears betray isolated, probably perfect coves and beaches, inaccessible by road. To the outdoors enthusiast, a delicious spectacle...

Ten minutes outside of the city, however, something happens to the air. Tinted with a dreamy haze only minutes before, it suddenly acquires an alarming brown tinge that reaches blanket thickness by the time you’re directly over the city. Looking down at air the color of used mop-water, I am unhappily reminded of Los Angeles on a midsummer's day. But then, the day I arrive is a midsummer's day, and Izmir does support a population of close to 3 million, so the comparison to Los Angeles is apt. Add to that the fact that the city lies on the coast and is backed by mountains which help to hold in whatever particles are floating about, and the analogy to Los Angeles is complete (minus all the movie stars and latte macchiatos).

For weeks my stomach did flip-flops of anticipation every time I thought of this move. Ten minutes out, the abdominal acrobats are metamorphosing into lead balloons. As we descend into the thick brown soup I am suddenly besieged by dark visions of what my life will be here -- gasping for breath on a day to day basis, making myself actually less healthy by going out and exercising, filling my lungs with toxins until I finally fall ill with some grave and incurable respiratory illness.

Addmittedly, I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. There ensues a lengthy battle within myself, the voices of pessimism wickedly insisting that I will be laid low with TB within the year, while the sweet voice of optimism reminds me that the most beautiful and healthy people in Turkey are rumored to hail from Izmir. Since I'm pretty well committed to this ride, whatever I happen to think about it, I decide to side up with Team Optimist. Aren't olive oil, fresh vegetables and sunshine an antidote to pretty much everything? At least I hope so.


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Mum said...

Since you described the hills surrounding Izmir as dry and parched, I'm guessing that at least some of that brown haze is just dust. That may be poor consolation, however; I'm sure lungs can get clogged with dust as well as with industrial pollution.


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