Back in Damascus, I picked up the magazine at work as my boss walked into the room. I said ‘do tell’ pointing at the picture of him with Pan Ki Moon, taken at the Secretary General’s office in New York. He shrugged his shoulders
I am reminded of this incident almost daily as I navigate the congested river of life here in Istanbul. I found work within a month of arriving here. The boss is semi-literate asshole from Denmark who worships money and constantly talks about it. Amazingly obnoxious, moody and ill-mannered creature, he’s shocked to see me leave few weeks later. He doesn’t understand how someone who is clearly in need of work can simply walk away, especially with the promise of big commission money looming on the horizon!
So I’m starting over in a new country. Don’t really mind that. I’ve done it few times before. You have to be careful at the start and not spend too much, especially if you arrived from a war-torn country having spent the past four years painting large abstracts! So I choose to live in a shared flat. The landlady rents two rooms, mostly to foreigners. The sum she receives covers the rent of the whole flat, so she gets by rent-free. I’m told this is common in Turkey. A lot of lazy layabouts love to rent an entire flat from a fellow Turk. Then rent out the smaller rooms for sums that equal or more than what they pay! It’s common practice, although morally wrong!
The landlady is an illiterate person. She speaks with the most annoying high-pitch voice, sounds incredibly phony. Also, she lies all the time.. just about everything! So this abhorrent lady is in the living room shouting at me ‘I’m the boss here. If you don’t like it, get your own place’ I manage to calm her down but again, the irony of being shouted at by a low-life like her is too much to bear!
But that’s been my life since I started; extreme highs and lows!
Case in point: I’m packing my bags and leaving, going back to my war-torn country. I receive a phone call from my friend. The next thing you know, we are at the Ramada Plaza in Antalya, talking about starting a new business venture while laying in the sun next to the pool, overlooking the Mediterranean!
Back in Istanbul, I’m meeting a business start up lawyer. He says that obtaining work permits for Syrians maybe hard because of the general view towards Syrians nowadays. He means ISIS and all that. I want to say ‘but you’re blaming the victim for the crime! Turkey facilitated ISIS. TURKEY MADE IT HAPPEN!’ but that’s common knowledge, among people who know, and I have to be nice towards my hosts. I say nothing!
Then there’s women..
and I thought French women of London were batshit crazy!
I’m at a bar in Taksim. I get talking to this lovely girl. She’s so eager she can’t help jumping up and down and moving about as we talked (either that or she badly needed to go to the toilet!). She asks ‘so where you from?’ I answer in all honesty ‘Syria’ .. her face contorts in a mixture of anguish and disbelief as she turns away and the word ‘Noooo’ escapes her beautifully shaped mouth. She never turns to look back at me. I stood there for few awkward moments to give her a chance to be civil but then I realise it’s not going to happen, so I leave
Few weeks earlier, I’m at this really cool Hotel bar in Besiktas. It’s a social networking event and I get talking to really interesting people. This Turkish dentist is sat with her friend. I sit with them for few minutes. We get talking and she tells me about this really gorgeous guy whose family owns a bank in Istanbul and how he’s been trying to court her. She is so full of herself that she’s not even aware that she’s full of it! Nonetheless, we have a quasi-pleasant conversation and she says ‘let’s hook up on Facebook’. I say ok. I send her a request two days later and yes, you guessed it, she doesn’t have time for people who arrived at the venue in a taxi (Sydney Pollack anyone? Well done!)
Then there’s the ‘Russian Experience’ which I’m all too familiar with from my days in London. Russian women in Istanbul, like in London, genuinely believe that relationships start by being a total bitch towards the prospective lover. Just be as bad as you can, don’t show any interest, don’t reply to texts or calls. Get annoyed when he doesn’t call over the weekend but if he calls get even more annoyed. I am one more time reminded of a Play I saw in London. The female character in the play delivers a monologue about the world laying flat beneath her pussy! Having a pussy is all that matters. It’s not education, creativity, life experience or even looks -the only exception here is perhaps money!
There’s a point when you say ‘this is insane’.. but then you laugh. Either way, it’s too early to tell whether Turkey would become home. Right now, it seems the crazy you know..