Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

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

Sunday, March 09, 2008


A month between I had such high hopes of keeping up the writing, but my job, which I simultaneously love and curse, has become increasingly more hectic and this has consistently taken a back burner.

But not today. The list of things to do that is approximately as long as my arm (and I have long arms) can wait. Today is one of those heartbreakingly beautiful spring days that you have to write about, sing about, dance to...

This morning I awoke to that unique Izmir sunshine streaming through my window. Why is it unique? I have tried and tried, but honestly I cannot pinpoint it. I just know that it is different from any sunlight anywhere in the world. Fascinating to contemplate: how just as every place has its own sights and smells, it also has its own light. I remember the blue-grey light of Paris the year I lived there. The sun rarely shone, and I was depressed most of the time. But the light was fascinating -- gray, but a unique kind of gray, tinged with purple and blue and lavender. With all the other gray European skies I've seen, I've never seen light the same as that in Paris.

And so it is here. We surely all are acquainted with that rush of joy that comes when winter finally looses its grip, the air turns soft, the breezes gentler. Today is such a day; not the promise of Spring, the tease, the dangling carrot -- but Spring itself. I fling open my window that faces to the East, and offer my face to the mid-morning sun. Its warmth fills me with a deep sense of well-being, from my hair follicles to my toes. Below me, the old man with the bicycle/display cart pedals slowly by. His pedals need oiling -- they squeak with every turn. He calls out 'Gevrek! Boyoz!' again and again, his voice echoing in the narrow streets. The woman on the balcony across from us sees him and swiftly lowers her basket on a rope, gesturing for him to place some of the fresh baked goods inside.

The birds are mad with joy. It is a riot of song in every tree, music that drifts in my window. And now, as I write this, the distant, dreamy call to prayer floats in, fluttering like my white gauze curtain in the breeze. It is a calm, meditative sound, contrasting neatly with the giddy birdsong and the bellowing of the gevrek vendor. My whole being feels unbelievably light. I turn from the window and race down the marble corridor to the living room, throw open the balcony door. Jaw-drop. The air is magnificently clear; I can see every detail of the mountains across the bay. Dozens of tiny handkerchief-sailed boats criss-cross the waters before me, narrowly avoiding an enormous cargo ship just arriving from China. The palm trees have fully regenerated since their brutal winter pruning (I had my doubts), and they now sway in the breeze. Are they, too, joyful at the arrival of spring? I think I see them dancing...

I settle into a chair on the balcony and unwrap a small paper bag I bought from a tiny shop last night. Inside are plump 'dried' figs -- although they are far from dry. They are heavy, pear-shaped and moist -- not at all like the squashed-flat, hard, dry ones one sometimes encounters. The first bite. Mmm. Luscious. They are so filled with sugar that a tiny trickle of clear syrup has run out of the fig and congealed. Figs, ancient fruit. Figs and olives, the fruits of time and myth, here in this land of myths and layer upon layer of history. I am happy here. I am happy in the way modernization hasn't taken over everything; happy in the way that life here is still simple in many ways. I find a profound pleasure in strolling the streets, taking in all the tiny shops, all the wares that the street vendors have to offer -- here, a cart with çağla, soft green almonds eaten with salt; there, a pickup truck with the tailgate down, selling artichokes on their long, torchlike stems and spinach that is the epitome of green. The streets are full of life, full of food and flowers and sounds -- chants of vendors, calls to prayer, honks and the putt-putt of old engines and the tinkle of spoons in tea glasses. The cheerful chatter of the birds; the scolding cries of seagulls. Scents of roasting meat, a hint of seaweed, the amazingly powerful aroma of the nergis, the narcissus, a regional beauty that is on every streetcorner these days. There are things to write about -- serious things, important things, like the EU issue, and the encroach of conservative Islam, and what's going to happen to Turkey...all those things are there, and probably I should write about them. But today is not that day. It is too perfect, too utterly joyful, and the only thing I can do is try to communicate that joy. I only regret that for all the amazing advances in technology we've made, there is still no way to take a perfect day, with all its sights, smells, sounds and tastes, and post it online. Now that would be a revolution.


At 2:44 PM, Blogger Hope said...

Kate, what a beautiful entry. I loved every word of it and truly wish I could be there to share that perfect day with you.

A different pace, a different feel to life - I often miss those things. But it is wonderful to read about them and know that they weren't figments of my imagination - that somewhere out there they still exist.


At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kate,
If I weren't an outsider,though been here for almost 10 years,and loving it,I'd write `are we really living in the same city?`.But those are the sentiments that pass through my mind whenever I am out,walking lazily along the water,taking the boat back home,or simply looking outside my window.You have successfully captured the essence of the city,I think.

While part of me feels I should be somewhere else,I know deep in my heart that most of the time it feels good to be here.Good to be home.
Hope you are well.banu

At 3:53 PM, Blogger monique said...

Im living in Istanbul and thinking of a transfer to Izmir because of my daughter and it seems to be a better environment than here.

Can you give me any info as to how I can find a good school to work for? And what are the general teacher salaries in İzmir?

Take care:) - you can send me an emal to this address..its faster.

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Telazac said...

Hi Kate,

It isn’t really a comment, it’s just because I didn’t find your e-mail.
I am from Brazil, and I was recently overwhelmed by the strength of the Turkish music (not few when it comes from a Brazilian guy). I was wondering if you could help me with the translation of the lyrics of “Istanbul Hatirasi”, or indicate me where I can find it. I’m thinking of that as my introduction to the Turkish culture.
My e-mail is
Thanks for your time,

At 9:28 PM, Blogger farandaway said...

hello there,
we have just got back to england from izmir and i miss it everyday.i stay in touch with your blog to be keep in touch with izmir and your beautiful style of prose..
i miss izmir for all the reasons you have just written about and if close my eyes,i can still feel that fresh,making every colour sharper light that you mention..i know exactly what you mean.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger farandaway said...

please continue to keep writing!:)misbah

At 9:30 PM, Blogger farandaway said...

sorry abt all the typos!:(

At 4:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kate,

Hope you are well. I just came across your blog. Great stuff! I am writing to you because my partner and I are launching a website that will be populated with cross-cultural information about every country in the world. We will be looking to the web community to help do this with all the information being available for free. I was wondering if you and/or members from your community may be able to help us out with the Turkey pages. We would love your input. Let me know if you would be open to this and I'll send along a brief questionnaire. Please also feel free to check out the website, become a member (it's free!) and add to the guide.

Here is a link to the site:

Thank you for your time!


Michael Landers
Director - Culture Crossing

At 8:17 PM, Blogger 日月神教-向左使 said...

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