Istanbul, An Outsiders Observations

Things I have observed and mentally noted so far about living in this city (and country). Life is a learning process and living here has sure been interesting.

  • There are a distinct lack of traffic lights. Where I live, there are none! Taxim and its more central neighbours have been bestowed with these seemingly rare commodities. This place is car ridden, the only way to get across in the wild wild West is to walk in front of a car that is moving slow enough for you to get in there before it does. You can only imagine the roundabouts. Chaos ensues.
  • The metrobus is always full. And by full I mean heaving with people. Until bursting point. When you think there could not possibly be enough space to fit another person, think again. There will always be somebody to push their way in and breathe down your neck. Not to mention the fact that a metrobus comes once every couple of minutes on average during the day, yet each and every one is still over full. Getting a seat is a skill, a self preservation strategy to be learnt at all costs. If you are at all claustrophobic don’t bother, (in fact if you are claustrophobic I’d go so far as to say don’t bother coming here at all, everywhere here is heaving with noise, buildings and people, better turn those dreams down to mute because thats the only quiet time your going to get).

metrobus

  • There are looooooads of people here! 13.85 million. No wonder the metrobus is always full.
  • Sometimes you get money back on your Istanbul Card,  (like the Oyster card in London you top this card up and use it to get discounted journeys on various modes of transport) sometimes you don’t. We were told by a colleague that you only got your money back on long journeys, but this does not seem to be the case. Just try, there are refund machines after the barriers at every metrobus/tube stop (although you will not get a refund after midnight as you scan your card through on the bus rather than the barriers so the machine has no idea where you alighted).
  • The metrobus runs all night. Good news for us living out in the middle of overdeveloped nowhere.
  • Be aware many people will try and shaft you, you silly, silly foreigner. In a shop, in a taxi, in a restaurant, as with many a country, if your foreign your going to get ripped off. Standard  procedure.
  • On the flipside of this I am going to contradict myself and say the people here are generally really friendly, helpful and welcoming. Bayram in our local cafe saw them giving us tea on the house. in a world where nothing comes for free that was nice. I also got a free guide to my meeting at a school located in an obscure place nowhere near its metrobus stop. But a few of the random acts of kindness I have experienced so far.
  • People seem to walk really slow here…. Or perhaps I walk too fast…..
  • Food here is cheap, delicious and underrated. A carnivores dream. We eat out regularly, as usually a good hearty meal costs us around a fiver. Living like a queen.
  • Alcohol on the other hand is not cheap. Whilst not being ridiculously expensive, compared with everything else here it is on the pricey side. If you want a night out in Taxim be prepared to spend at least 100 TL.
  • The fakes here are just as good as the originals for a fraction of the price. OK, well maybe not as good but thereabouts. I’d rather that my Nike Blazers are made in Turkey than a sweatshop in India by an immoral Multinational Corporation that just so happens to make really nice treads.
  • There are stray dogs everywhere. In the first instance the sight of these unsightly creatures brought to mind images of the swift onset of death that rabies brings on. Having lived here for over a month now  in a dog infested area, it seems they are harmless. They rarely bat an eyelid when a human being walks past. They also have tags on their ears, the grapevine informed me that this is due to them been sent to kennels in winter (I don’t know how true this is but it seems to make sense).

photodog

  • There are a lot of stray looking cats too. Much cuter than their howling peers.
  •  There are English teaching jobs here for graduates in abundance, just come and take a look. It is not unheard of for someone to get sacked (naming no names) and walk into a new job two days later. Thats a new job teaching, not working in  greasy spoon or supermarket (within which getting a job is still a challenge for many a UK graduate who is punching well below their weight just to earn some paper).

This post comes to you whilst planning a craft for my 5 year old class tomorrow. I’m sure I will have more to write about when I am out of planning mode but for now this will have to be it!

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