Trici: Drawing on Istanbul
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Istanbul, etc.
I’m a Los Angeles digital painter who became besotted with Istanbul in 1999. I moved here in 2004. My honeymoon with Istanbul is long over, but I don’t want a divorce.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It’s to share this place that is such a secret. Most of my old friends will never get to come here, and those that will are curious. I started writing long emails to them about what it was like, and that segued into a blog. I held off until it was easy to put in illustrations. Now everyone in the world is coming to Istanbul, and many of them want to know a little bit about what they are seeing. Another reason is that Turkey is changing so fast it leaves you breathless. Many things I love are disappearing, or being irrevocably altered with renovation. I can’t do anything about that, so I document as many of them as I can. There’s a complete visual record, with these written vignettes, of life here since 1999. I think of it as a celebration.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- The Gordion Knot of History: Drawing in Museums
- Hot Crosses: Crusader Graffiti in Hagia Sophia
- The Covered Feast: Drawing in the Grand Bazaar
Tell us about the ways your new life in Istanbul differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My move here wound up costing me everything I had. It was a midlife crisis involving a catastrophic illness, a divorce, a broken heart, financial ruin, and complete metamorphosis. Nevertheless I stayed here and continue to celebrate the place in art and writing. I don’t know why it seems so important. I only know I’ve got to do it. And yes, every single thing in my life changed. The only constants are that I still create art and I still don’t drink. That’s about it.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Istanbul? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, I was not prepared. It wasn’t possible to prepare any more than I did. I made so many mistakes I lost count. Of course there are things I would change.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
A Fine Kettle of Fish by Trici Venola, published in Tales from the Expat Harem edited by Ashman and Gokmen. You wouldn’t believe it.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Istanbul?
- Talk to someone who actually lives here and has for a while, not somebody who has come back and forth.
- Talk face to face, not on the phone or email.
- And listen to them. You’re not in Kansas anymore, and your rules no longer apply.
How is the expat community in Istanbul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It’s a lifeboat, and I have become great friends with people I initially didn’t like much simply because they were here. But the thing you have to realize is that almost everyone leaves, and then you miss them.
How would you summarize your expat life in Istanbul in a single, catchy sentence?
Despite all manner of challenges I get to live on my art and I’m always inspired.