It has been four months and several days since I moved to İstanbul. Off the top of my head, I can’t accurately account for most of the 120 days and it’s terrifying how quickly time has gone by. I’ve been really bad at keeping a record of, or maintaining this blog to keep track of, all the amazing things I’ve done and seen so far.
I returned to Singapore for a quick trip back home a month ago, which was a real eye-opener.
I had been talking, reading about and planning to move to İstanbul for a long time — almost two years — so maybe I was prepared and ready for this. I roughly knew what to expect and how different living there was going to be, compared to Singapore. But I still wasn’t all that sure how I would adjust to having so much time and space to myself, or how I would make a new life for myself from scratch (Getting a SIM card and figuring out the subsequent complicated attempts to manoeuvre around the different packages available [“No, don’t automatically deduct another TL 15 for 100 free international SMS’s again, I don’t want it next month!!”]; renting [and still searching for a better] room; orientating myself to the transport system, neighbourhoods and quickest routes around town [“Do I take one long bus ride along the coast from Karaköy to Ortaköy, or use the tram, metro and dolmuş to get there faster??”]; sorting out the incredibly tangled weave of red tape before getting my [now useless] residency permit which took a ridiculously amount of time and energy — during a scorchingly hot day in Ramadan, no less; figuring out what and where to eat E V E R Y single day for every single meal [No. I have not started cooking yet.]; figuring out what to do with every single minute of my free time without any friends, family or a TV around; making friends — and unmaking them when they turn out to have a few screws loose; negotiating around the random day-to-day craziness such as being questioned by the police while walking down the street, saying a silent prayer for my life everyday before taking the bus or getting used to the concept of flexible time over here, especially in banks and governmental agencies, sigh; and the biggest doozy of them all — DOING ALL THIS IN TURKISH!!!) and how I would feel after doing all that and then going back to Singapore just 3 months later. Would I immediately grab the rails of the luggage cart at Changi Airport upon returning, sobbing “I never want to leave Singapore again!!!!”? Would I feel nostalgic for all the things I had left behind and missed in Singapore? I wasn’t really sure.
To be honest, I did realise a few weeks into my new life here that this was going pretty well and that I had been right — this was the right thing to do, and I was happy here. And so I also realised that as much as I was excited to go to Singapore, I was also excited to come back to İstanbul. It hit me the moment the airport shuttle brought me to Taksim — my newly adopted neighbourhood.
The best part of my life here — and the most complicated — is the BF. Negotiating a whole new life, and work, here on its own was pretty intense but I was also adding in a boy into the mix. This also made it more complicated when I went back home because I had to really dig deep and ask myself why I was so sure that İstanbul was where I belonged. Did I actually want to return to İstanbul or to the BF? Was it wrong if I was doing it mostly for the BF? Could I survive choosing to stick it out in İstanbul, far away from my friends, should this fledgling relationship fail?
The answer is both yes and no.
I have been with the BF almost as long as I have been in İstanbul. Sometimes it’s hard to separate memories of the man from the city — maybe they will always be intrinsically intertwined. So I don’t know if I can, or would want to, continue living here for the absolute long-term if I wasn’t with him. But then again, there have been so many times when I’ve just stopped and looked around and just felt that deep sense of rightness, that sense that I really did the absolute right thing. I have been to many cities but I can’t imagine starting such a new life in any other place in the world. Yes it’s absolutely batshit crazy over here, but some of the best memories of my life now, and some of the best experiences I’ve had, were made right here.