Unlike my little hometown, Istanbul would not wake me to the sound of sweet birdsong and soft breezes through trees. On the contrary…
From our windows came the calls of jackdaws: a clever sort of bird, black and gray with pale blue eyes.
Once they discovered that I would leave out leftover bread outside the kitchen window, they would call to me for more in the mornings, sometimes coming to the bedroom to peck the window if I was still asleep.
The dogs guarding the shops across the street were never off-duty.
They barked at the men who pulled heavy white carts.
These men scour the streets and garbage bins for anything that can be sold for recycling, and toss it into their giant cart.
And when they went down the steep hill of our street, they would lean back, using the heels of their worn shoes and the metal frame of the cart as a makeshift brake system.
Metal against asphalt screeches as they slide, the dogs chasing them along the way—barking, and nipping at their heels until they feel they’ve successfully scared away the “intruder”, and return to their station.
When there was something to celebrate, such as a wedding, everyone was to be informed (whether they wanted it or not).
Honking. So much honking by a parade of cars down the street.
Even if the traffic brought them to a complete stop below our apartment, all the cars would proceed to honk at no one and at everyone all at once.
It wasn’t uncommon for some to bring a gun, and fire into the air from their cars.
Semi trucks were regular visitors on our street.
They struggled and groaned and puffed exhaust gas as they climbed the hill to the intersection beneath our window.
The trucks would often be too big to navigate the intersection without the help of people from the street shouting directions over the noise of the truck (“Gel, gel, gel, gel, gel, gel!”) amidst the impatient honks of waiting traffic.
For the two years I would spend in Istanbul, my sensitive self would be in a constant state of overstimulation to the city.
Rather than face my discomfort of the noise and the crowds, I would stay at home.
I would miss out on what I could have explored. And Istanbul has much more to offer than one noisy street!
I wouldn’t make friends, nor improve my Turkish speaking skills, being too shy to speak with anyone.
Many people would be outraged to hear this. How dare I not take full advantage of the expat experience!
And I can’t debate them on this.
I may have traveled across the world, but I took my little bubble of a comfort zone with me. And that bubble only extended to the walls of our tiny apartment.
I didn’t become one of those inspiring stories about a shy, small-town girl being transformed by her new world into an enthusiastic explorer.
Although I deliberately tried to adapt to this new life, something in my subconscious kept me stubbornly maladapted. Unchangeable.
With all of this said, you can imagine how much of this expat life is completely against my character. And I’ve only covered the noise aspect!
I loved it.